Chicago Bears: Week 12 takeaways, quick tidbits, and more

Trevis Gipson, bears

After a Turkey Day snoozefest that resulted in a win for the Chicago Bears, it’s time to recap week 12 for the Bears.

1) A win is a win, no matter what circumstances surround a team in the NFL. The Bears got the job done against the worst team in the NFL, which is clearly positive, and at the end of the day, the Bears snapped a five-game losing streak. After the game, head coach Matt Nagy did sound relieved but also thanked players and coaches for what was a tumultuous week at Halas Hall. The Bears battled hard for Nagy in this game, despite what you believe.

2) Darnell Mooney continues to emerge as a big playmaker for the Bears’ offense. The second-year wide receiver had five receptions for 123 yards, averaging 24.6 yards per reception. During Allen Robinson’s absence, Mooney’s emergence is a positive for the Bears, who will revamp the wide receiver in 2022 with Mooney being the face of the position.

3) Staying with Mooney, the Bears 2020 draft class made an impact in this game. Tight end Cole Kmet and cornerback Jaylon Johnson both had big games, while pass rusher Trevis Gipson had two tackles, and a forced fumble. This draft class is quietly forming the foundation for the Bears roster for years to come, which is big for the Bears, who had no first-round picks in 2020.

4) The Lions have little to no pass rush but the Bears did a good job of keeping Andy Dalton upright all afternoon. Dalton was sacked just once and while Chicago’s offensive line did just enough to give Dalton time to make something happen. Overall, this was a game where the Bears OL made some progress, especially rookie fifth-round pick Larry Borom, who’s solidified his job as the starting right tackle.

5) The Bears running game wasn’t successful. Chicago averaged just 2.3 yards per attempt while David Montgomery had just 46 rushing yards. Overall, this wasn’t an encouraging performance for the Bears, with rookie Khalil Herbert falling to make any sort of significant impact for the second straight game. For the rest of the season, Nagy has one job: Figure out how to utilize Montgomery and Herbert to keep defenses guessing.

6) Give the Lions some credit. Sure Dan Campbell’s squad is winless but on the field, the Lions played and battled till the very end, something you always appreciate about any NFL team. It may not be pretty right now but Campbell’s passion and competitive spirit is prevalent every single game. Not saying the Lions are about to be an immediate threat anytime soon but a head coach always needs to sell his vision and get the players buy-in to begin building a successful program.

7) Let’s talk about injuries for the Bears. The Bears walked away from what you could consider a meaningless game banged up. Linebacker Roquan Smith (hamstring) and wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (foot) left the game and did not return. While the Bears have not yet released any information about Smith or Goodwin, linebacker and wide receiver are incredibly thin when it comes to depth. Chicago will need to rely on players like Christian Jones and Isaiah Coulter to pick up the slack.

8) Quarterback Andy Dalton wasn’t bad but wasn’t great either. Dalton was about as middle-of-the-pack as it could get but throwing for 317 yards should be considered a positive. With Justin Fields’ status for week 13 uncertain, Dalton will need to prepare to face a tough Arizona Cardinals team that’s looking to rebound big that’s gone .500 over the last four weeks.

9) Veteran Jimmy Graham played 20 percent of the Bears snaps on offense. Graham has been an afterthought for the Bears this season but considering how involved he was against the Lions, it’s clear the Bears are using the veteran tight end at will. Graham won’t be on the Bears roster in 2022, his days are numbered despite his usage being wildly inconsistent.

10) Final point here but it’s clear the Bears are who they are at this point. This team doesn’t have the makings of being able to make a run in December, nor at least continue to remain competitive. Hopefully, the Bears do have some December magic in them but it may be time to start looking ahead to 2022 and this game was a major indication of that.

Chicago Bears: Chemistry with playmakers was prevalent in week nine

Allen Robinson, New York Giants

A lingering issue for the Chicago Bears since naming rookie quarterback Justin Fields the starter in week four was a lack of chemistry with wide receivers. After spending all of training camp as the Bears backup, Fields was forced to learn on the fly with starting wide receivers Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney and tight end Cole Kmet.

Against the Pittsburgh Steelers in week nine on Monday Night Football, the Bears opted to run a more balanced gameplan, with Fields going 17-for-29 with 291 yards and one touchdown. The 11th overall pick also had a passer rating of 89.9 while rushing eight times for 45 yards, averaging 5.6 yards per attempt.

“As we’ve gotten more reps with Justin and you know kind of having had him at the helm and things and whatnot, things just naturally been getting better and kind of having a feel for each other,” Kmet said via the Bears official YouTube channel. “Not only me but I think the other receivers as well and you know we’re just kind of getting better in that so I think that’s going to keep progressing as the year goes on.”

Much of Fields’ early-season struggles was the result of poor ball placement and timing with receivers. Fields showed the ability to consistently hit the deep ball on Monday, including a 39-yard pass to Robinson on a third-and-two in the fourth quarter. Just one play later, Fields would connect with Mooney for a 16-yard touchdown pass.

“I felt so awesome Mooney made a great catch on that play, we were on the same page so was it was awesome,” Fields said.

For an offense that’s beginning to find its rhythm, Fields and the rest of the Bears playmakers have proven that everyone being on the same page can help the Bears passing game significantly improve. For head coach Matt Nagy, this is a positive step in the right direction as Nagy hopes to develop a pass-first offense.

Chicago Bears Biggest Questions at TE entering the 2021 Season

cole kmet, bears

Recently, the folks at PFF released their annual tight end rankings in preparation for the 2021 NFL Season. Zero Chicago Bears out of the 32 position players listed. Considering that at this point last year, the Bears had a whopping TEN tight ends on the roster, you would assume that at least one of them would make the cut, right? Wrong. Whether you like General Manager Ryan Pace or not, you cannot deny his spotty record when it comes to tight ends. Consider the failed Adam Shaheen project, and numerous attempts at finding long-term option fans were rewarded with Jimmy Graham, Cole Kmet, and Demetrius Harris.

With Jimmy Graham’s future clouded in mystery, Cole Kmet being used as a swiss army knife, and Demetrius Harris just being there for a couple of plays before being cut, this Bears fan is wondering the following questions:

#1 What are we doing with Jimmy Graham?

Jimmy Graham anchored the Chicago Bears’ red zone offense in 2021, leading the league in touchdowns amongst tight ends in the 2021 season with seven. Graham seemed to have an age-defying season with the Bears after following up a disappointing season in Green Bay that saw him haul only three touchdowns. If Graham can continue his dominating performance in the red zone, why would the Bears be willing to part ways so soon?

Salary Cap. The Chicago Bears currently have the second-worst cap situation in the NFL, with only $219,852 sitting in the bank. According to Overthecap, Jimmy Graham’s contract currently costs the Bears $10M. Cutting Graham after June 1st would free $7M in space.  Deciding whether or not Jimmy Graham is worth the $10M in cap space must be a top priority for Ryan Pace and the rest of the Front Office.

#2 Are we going to let Cole Kmet shine?

Chicago loves Cole Kmet. Cole Kmet loves Chicago. Bears fans want to see the hometown kid shine in the national spotlight. I think Cole Kmet has every tool necessary to take a major step forward in 2021. Kmet is an ideal “Y’ tight end, but his athleticism allows him to play in the flex if he wanted to. Nagy seemed to have taken a slow and steady approach in introducing Kmet to the NFL, relegating his abilities to the “H,” essentially an extra blocker. However, as the season progressed, fans could see a little more of what Kmet has in his repertoire.

Cole Kmet could benefit from his new QB, Justin Fields. Bears fans need not forget that the current QB/TE dynamic duo of Mahomes/Kelce. Matt Nagy crafted the relationship between the league’s most fearsome QB/TE duo. It’s a bit of a stretch, but with Nagy’s coaching history and the similar skill set of both Fields and Kmet to Mahomes and Kelce, we very much could be witnessing the birth of a new dynamic duo in Chicago.

Ultimately, Kmet needs to be used more in the passing game. If the Bears are confident he has taken the next step, they might feel comfortable releasing Jimmy Graham. I’m predicting that if we see a Graham release, we will see more of Kmet.

#3 Are we going to get help?

We love to throw names around from a fan’s perspective and pretend that they fit into our offensive scheme. Fortunately, as I state above, we have a head coach who loves tight ends. The Bears relied heavily on 11-personal in 2020, meaning one tight end and one tailback. In fact, 56% of all play calls were in this personnel scheme, according to Sharp FootballStats. This reliance on the 11 personal stayed steady. A small increase in the 12 personal (adding an extra tight-end) occurred in the second half of the season.

With this in mind, if Nagy doesn’t scheme for multiple tight-ends, what’s the point of having so many? Obviously, we would need a solid backup if Cole Kmet gets injured. But do we need to stack for talent at the tight-end position when the offense relies on one?

J.P. Holtz and Jesper Horstead remain on the roster. Both players are solid “H” tight ends. Ideally, I hope to see Kmet and Graham used as passing options while Holtz and Horstead are used primarily as blockers.

All in All

The Chicago Bears sure have some work to do in the TE position. I hope we see Graham stay, and I think his performance in 2020 can continue into 2021 if he’s willing to play. His cost is worth the potential reward in a basic cost-benefit analysis. Regardless of performance this season, I’m confident the Bears will draft a TE in the 2022 NFL Draft. Names to watch in this college football season are; Charlie Kolar (Iowa St.), Jalen Wydermyer (Texas A&M), Isaiah Likely (Coastal Carolina), and Jeremey Ruckertt (Ohio St.)