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: Week 11 takeaways, quick tidbits, and more

andy dalton, bears

Currently, in the middle of a five-game losing streak, the Chicago Bears now look ahead to week 12 for a Thanksgiving Day matchup against the Detroit Lions. But first, let’s recap week 11.

1) There are two players of the game in this one, both on defense. Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith kept the Bears in this one, especially with the defense missing Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, and Eddie Jackson. Props to Quinn for turning in such a monstrous performance with 3.5 sacks, five tackles, three TFL, and four QB hits. Smith had 17 tackles on the afternoon, the most by a Bears linebacker since 2009.

2) Regarding Justin Fields, who has bruised ribs, the Bears have a decision to make. If it were in Fields hands, he’d be dressing up on Thursday afternoon against the Lions. Ultimately, with seven games remaining, the Bears should play it safe with Fields and sit him in a meaningless game. Give the future of the franchise a little over 10 days to get right before the Arizona Cardinals come to town on December 5th. It’s better for the Bears to have Fields healthy for the final six games of the season, a stretch that includes playing the Seattle Seahawks, Green Bay Packers, New York Giants, and Minnesota Vikings (twice).

3) The Bears got away from the running game early in this one and it showed. Khalil Herbert had just one carry for zero yards while David Montgomery had 14 carries for 58 yards, averaging 4.1 yards per carry. Keeping the ball out of the Ravens’ hand should’ve been a goal of the Bears but Chicago failed to do so consistently throughout the afternoon. The Bears coaching staff needs to realize that neither Fields nor Andy Dalton can fully the offense, which means knowing your limitations of what skill position players can and can’t do is vital when it comes to offensive philosophy.

4) At times, it may not have looked like it but wide receiver Darnell Mooney had a game. Mooney’s quickly establishing a reputation as a big-play threat in the Bears offense. With five receptions for 121 receiving yards, averaging 24.2 yards per reception, the second-year wide receiver made his presence felt all afternoon, especially on a 60-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Andy Dalton.

5) This was what you could consider the Marquise Goodwin breakout game. Goodwin added to the Bears’ explosiveness on offense, with four receptions for 104 yards, including a 49-yard touchdown pass to give the Bears the lead late in the fourth quarter. This game needs to serve as an example of how the Bears can continue to utilize Goodwin moving forward.

6) The Bears struggled to execute consistently but another issue is playing good situational football. Matt Nagy needs to understand the Bears aren’t getting the job done right now and much of it is due to coaches being able to react in situations. An example of this is when the Bears burned a timeout with 1:41 left to go in the fourth quarter after failing to convert a two-point conversion.

7) The Bears also struggled to get off the field on third down in this game. Baltimore was 7-for-16 on Sunday afternoon, with the game’s biggest play coming on a 3rd-and-12 where Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley hit wide receiver Sammy Watkins for a 29-yard gain with just 0:33 left in the fourth quarter. The Bears defense has struggled to consistently get off the field on third down this season and it’s only going to get harder over the final seven weeks of the season with Mack being out.

8) Speaking of giving up a big gain on 3rd-and-12, guess what? The Bears’ secondary isn’t very good without Eddie Jackson but Jaylon Johnson had a nice showing. Second-year CB Kindle Vildor got rocked all afternoon while Deon Bush and DeAndre Houston-Carson were beaten as a result of miscommunication. The entire unit needs an overhaul in 2021 with just Jackson and Johnson guaranteed to start.

9) What does this loss mean for the Bears? Well, Chicago’s final seven games are against NFC North opponents. But understand the Bears were on the outside looking playoff-wise heading into week 11. This latest loss digs the Bears even deeper into a hole that’s getting harder to get out of.

10) For the rest of the season, nothing matters for the Bears except seeing what sticks on the wall for 2022 and beyond. Essentially, for the Bears, 2022 has already started despite 2021 not being over yet. The Bears’ future is already on the roster in Fields but the front office needs to figure out who’s staying in 2022 in an effort to build around Fields. That means taking a hard look at players and more importantly coaches.

Chicago Bears: How can the Bears win in week 11?

Currently in the middle of a four-game losing streak, the second half of the Chicago Bears season will begin on Sunday afternoon when the Baltimore Ravens come to town. The Bears, who have won two straight games against Baltimore dating back to 2013 will have another opportunity to get in the win column.

On paper and on the field, the Ravens are just as good as advertised. Led by MVP candidate Lamar Jackson, the offense features a number of weapons, including wide receiver Marquise Brown and tight end Mark Andrews. On defense, Baltimore is one of the most talented in the NFL, a unit that features defensive lineman Calais Campbell, Justin Madubuike, LB Patrick Queen, and defensive backs Marlon Humphrey, Jimmy Smith, and Anthony Averett.

To slow the Ravens down, the Bears will need to slow Jackson down. That means consistently blitzing Jackson while also having a linebacker spy him at all times. The Bears could be forced to turn to reinforcements, as Akiem Hicks, Khalil Mack, and Eddie Jackson did not practice on Wednesday due to injuries. However, luckily for the Bears, Baltimore is coming off a loss to the Miami Dolphins, with a template for how to slow down Jackson and the Ravens offense.

“Give them different looks and get pressure, said CB Jaylon Johnson via the Bears official YouTube Channel. “I thought they did that pretty much all game was sending constant pressure making the ball come out high, making them really go through their route progression. I mean it’s kind of hard to do that when you got six and seven people coming so I mean it, really they just I mean had a good game plan the Ravens didn’t adjust.”

What’s noteworthy is the Bears haven’t won a game out of the bye week dating back to at least 2013. Being 0-3 under head coach Matt Nagy doesn’t bode well either for a HC who’s fighting for his job at this point. The Bears will need to complement the defense’s game plan by being able to consistently move the ball efficiently on offense in order to have a chance on Sunday afternoon.

Chicago Bears: Will short-handed defense rebound in week eight?

Trevis Gipson, bears

With the Chicago Bears returning home in week eight to take on the San Francisco 49ers, there is a high likelihood that Chicago is without pass rushers Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn. Add in a groin injury for defensive lineman Akiem Hicks and Chicago’s defense could be missing three integral pieces from its front seven.

If Hicks, Mack, and Quinn don’t suit up for the Bears, Chicago will need to rely on depth to beat San Francisco, who is averaging 22.5 points per game, good for 19th in the NFL. While the Bears defense allowed just three points in the second half of week 7 in a loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, another noteworthy stat from week 7 is that Chicago also failed to record a sack for the first time all season.

The Bears are hoping to redeem themselves in a big way on Sunday afternoon. A win against the 49ers on the heels of a solid defensive performance before what is expected to be a tough road matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers would be a confidence booster heading into the bye week.

“You know, that’s part of this NFL, is, it’s a long season and that was week seven and obviously the result wasn’t what we wanted from a team perspective and certainly from a defensive perspective,” said defensive coordinator Sean Desai via the Bears official YouTube channel. “But having said that, there’s also some things that we can build off of, off that tape. And there’s some things of swarm and particularly in the second half where the guys play with tremendous energy and good technique and fundamentals that we’re going to continue to build on.”

Chicago will need to get creative when it comes to putting together a good enough game plan. Can cornerbacks Jaylon Johnson and Kindle Vildor forget a shaky performance where both defensive backs allowed a combined four passing touchdowns while the front seven gets back to sacking quarterback? A win could certainly alter the trajectory of the Bears season.

Chicago Bears: Week 3 wrap up, quick tidbits, and more

After a week three loss the Chicago Bears will officially turn the page and look forward to week four against the Detroit Lions. But before Chicago welcomes Detroit to Soldier Field for a divisional showdown, let’s look back at week 3.

 

1) First things first, let’s talk about first downs. The Bears had just six, which is the fewest of the Matt Nagy era. Not a good showing for a team that’s led by an offensive guru at head coach.

2) Some positives? The Bears pass rush duo of Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn got going, combining for 3.5 total sacks. Quinn now has more sacks in three games with the Bears than he did all of last season. Chicago is finally seeing the returns that the franchise hoped when signing Quinn to a five-year deal worth $70M in free agency in 2020.

3) “I obviously as a head coach did not do a good enough job of getting this offense ready to go, to be able to play and win a football game,” said Nagy after the game. “It starts with me, it ends with me and it’s as simple as that.”

Nagy’s quote is merely a head coach who’s taking the bullet while being open and honest. But there’s still a lot of work to be done. Everything does start and end with Nagy, which means he’ll need to cater gameplans to Justin Fields skillset, something that wasn’t done in week three.

For anyone who’s trying to get #FireNagy trending on Twitter, good luck. Bears ownership has been clear about how firings are handled. They’ll wait till the end of the season to make a decision on Nagy’s future. The Bears are also 1-2 so far, so Nagy has more room to breathe than most people think.

4) By the way, don’t blame Fields at all. For a rookie making his first start in an incredibly tough environment, Fields got no help from the Bears. If any quarterback deserves a pass for a bad performance this week, it’s Fields, who was sacked nine times, while continuing to remain composed and operating with what the Bears were giving him.

5) Figuring out what the Bears are doing with the offensive line is a tough task. Jason Peters and Germain Ifedi aren’t the tackles of the future, that distinction is reserved for Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom but this game showed that the interior of the offensive line (James Daniels, Cody Whitehair, and Sam Mustipher) needs to get better at communication too.

6) Tons of credit to defensive coordinator Sean Desai. After getting punched in the mouth on national television in week 1, Desai and the defense have adjusted nicely, putting together two solid performances. Desai may not have a talented secondary but the defense is looking better each week, a positive for the Bears.

7) No idea what the Bears are doing with the running game. After two strong performances, David Montgomery was shutdown on Sunday, with just 10 carries for 34 yards, averaging 3.4 yards per carry. That’s the lowest mark of Montgomery’s career since week 17 of the 2020 season. Matt Nagy panicked and got away from the running game way too early, something that’s also been an integral part of the offense when everything is clicking.

8) Jaylon Johnson wasn’t bad but he wasn’t great either. Tasked with shutting down Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., the second-year cornerback had some bright moments, showing us all why he’s a rising star in the NFL and one of the most underrated players at his position across the league.

9) We’re all still waiting for the big Darnell Mooney breakout game to happen. After 61 receptions as a rookie, Mooney had just one reception for nine yards on Sunday. The fifth-round pick did have six receptions for 66 yards in week two but has yet to find the endzone this season. Hopefully that changes with the Lions coming to town next week.

10) Khalil Herbert has done some nice work as a kick returner on special teams. After averaging 23.8 yards per return on Sunday, the Bears need to get Herbert involved in the running game, hoping he can provide some sort of spark.

 

Looking Ahead to Week Four

The Lions may be 0-3 but there’s a catch: Two of Detroit’s three losses have been by a combined 11 points. Bears fans like to make fun of the Lions on social media but head coach Dan Campbell at least has this team playing hard when it matters the most.

Perhaps the strongest positional group on the Lions is the offensive line, which features two first-round picks in Penei Sewell and Frank Ragnow. Watching Detroit against Green Bay on Monday Night Football in week 2, it was clear that the Lions’ OL was good enough to allow quarterback Jared Goff to at least have a fighting chance on every play.

The Bears will need to account for the Lions running back duo, Jamall Williams and D’Andre Swift. Both have impacted games heavily as receivers this season, with the stat sheet on Sunday being a major example. Swift and Williams combined for nine receptions for 85 yards. Detroit may not have a star wide receiver on the roster but Williams and Swift have quickly become Goff’s best friends.

 

Despite questions, Ryan Pace sees CB as a strength for Chicago Bears

When the Chicago Bears announced a flurry of roster moves on Wednesday afternoon, cornerback was among the key positions that raised major eyebrows for many. The Bears moved on from veteran Kyle Fuller this offseason while opting to keep just five cornerbacks: Artie Burns, Xavier Crawford, Jaylon Johnson, Duke Shelley, and Kindle Vildor.

In a pass-happy league, investing in cornerbacks is a necessity. Chicago’s front office will rely on talents like Johnson and Vildor to keep the team afloat but the Bears still need to do some due diligence on the cornerback market, especially as the dust begins to settle with rosters being fully trimmed across the league.

“What’s neat about that is there’s a mixture of young guys and vets,” said Bears general manager Ryan Pace via the team’s official YouTube Channel. “So you think about the corner position with Kindle Vildor, like we’re excited about where he’s heading and how he’s playing. Excited about Artie Burns and then obviously, Jaylon Johnson, he’s going to be a really good player for us for a long time. That’s not even getting into the nickles.”

Pace isn’t wrong. There is a mixture of young guys and veterans at the CB position for the Bears. Bruns is a former first-round pick who missed least season due to a torn ACL. Meanwhile, Johnson had 15 pass breakups as a rookie, setting the stage for what will be an intriguing sophomore campaign. Vildor has been praised by defensive coordinator Sean Desai throughout the offseason as a player who’s earned the right to play in the NFL.

Pace’s vote of confidence in the cornerback room is merely a general manager who’s willing to back and trust every decision that was made this offseason. Fuller’s release to save salary cap space while going all-in on a room filled with mostly day two and three picks will be a key point of conversation throughout the regular season, especially if younger players don’t continue to develop at the rate that the Bears are hoping they will.

Chicago Bears: Jaylon Johnson sees 2021 as a prove-it year

Youth can be a word used to describe the Chicago Bears heading into 2021. The Monsters of the Midway feature a number of second and third-year players on both sides of the football that are expected to take another step forward in 2021. Among the biggest names to watch include cornerback Jaylon Johnson, a second-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, and the team’s presumptive CB1.

Johnson isn’t your typical “next man up” candidate. He’s expected to fill shoes left by veteran Kyle Fuller who was released during the Spring after a seven-year run that included being named to two Pro Bowls and a First-Team All-Pro. With the Bears secondary struggling at times throughout the preseason, how Johnson plays throughout 2021 will set the stage for how Johnson’s career could potentially pan out.

“Personally, I wouldn’t say last year was a success for me,” Johnson said via the Bears official YouTube Channel. “I’m not going to say it was a bad year but it wasn’t what I wanted. Just the goals that I set out for myself, I didn’t reach more than I reached.”

From a coverage standpoint, Johnson had 15 pass breakups and allowed just 44 completions last season, including a completion percentage of 56.4 percent. Throughout the 2020 season, Johnson continued to progress, setting the stage for a breakout season in 2021.

“This year it’s really just about doing the little things I can do to really checkoff each and every one of my goals,” Johnson said. “Giving up touchdowns, that’s not something I do. I know it comes with the game but just from my standard, I try to limit the big plays.”

Heading into 2021, Johnson’s progress should be under the microscope. As Chicago’s defense continues to get older, Johnson is just 22 years old and has an opportunity to become another face of the Bears secondary alongside veteran Safety Eddie Jackson.

31 questions for Chicago Bears camp: Is CB the biggest question on the roster?

With the calendar officially turned to July, we are just weeks away from the start of Chicago Bears training camp, which means that the 2021 regular season is approaching faster than ever. Cornerback was a positional group that underwent significant changes this offseason with  veterans Buster Skrine and Kyle Fuller being released.

The release of Skrine was justified but releasing Fuller led to questions about priorities on the Bears defense, despite Fuller’s cap hit of nearly $20M for the upcoming season. In a pass-happy league, the Bears opted to release a two-time Pro Bowl cornerback, now leading to questions about the state of the position heading into 2021.

Outside of 2020 second-round pick Jaylon Johnson, Chicago does have some veterans in Artie Burns and Desmond Trufant. Add in rookie Thomas Graham Jr., and second-year CB Kindle Vildor with 2019 sixth-round pick Duke Shelley and Chicago has a number of options at the position.

Trufant and Burns are the most experienced players in the Bears CB room, with both being first-round picks in 2013 and 2016 respectively. Johnson was a second-round pick in 2020, with Graham Jr., Vildor, and Shelley being day three picks.

Bears CB’s will have a fair share of star wide receiver’s to face in 2021. An already tough schedule is even tougher when tasked with facing individual talents like DeAndre Hopkins, Davante Adams, Justin Jefferson, Odell Beckham Jr., and Jarvis Landry. Add in having to face the defending Super Bowl champions, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and it’s clear the Bears will need to rely on veteran safeties Eddie Jackson and Tashaun Gipson to cover up an unproven CB group.

Versatility is a quality that exists within Chicago’s CB group. Vildor, Shelley, and Burns can play on either the inside or the outside, giving the Bears multiple options when evaluating the position throughout training camp.

“We’re excited about developing some of these guys right now,” said defensive coordinator Sean Desai on the Bears official Youtube page. “We like the volume and depth we got there. We got to play football.”

As Chicago prepares for training camp, what happens at CB should be of immense interest. If someone such as Vildor or Graham Jr. emerge, it’s fair to cross off CB from the list of needs Chicago will have to address next offseason.

The Chicago Bears Might Have a Cornerback Problem

The Chicago Bears front office had a fantastic offseason. From high praise at the draft to some solid free agency signings, there seemed to be little holes in Ryan Pace’s plan to ensure the survival of his tenure as general manager. However, as we rapidly approach the regular season and begin to look at the rearview mirror, hindsight begins to kick in. The Bears brought in talent to fill several gaps on the roster yet didn’t fill the most glaring hole: the vacuum left by Pro Bowl cornerback Kyle Fuller’s departure. For all the great work the Bears did in the 2021 offseason, one has to wonder, what is the front office thinking in their handling of the cornerback position?

Fuller’s departure from the Bears had to happen. Unfortunately, Pace had little to offer Fuller to keep him in Chicago as an extension would cause a $20M cap hit and the organization was struggling, shrinking cap space. As a result, Fuller was officially cut from the organization on March 20th, 2021.

When you let one of the best talents on your roster go, common sense would reason that you look to replace that talent. To replace Kyle Fuller, the Bears brought in Desmond Trufant. You read that correctly. In a free-agent cornerback market that carried affordable talents such as Desmond King III, Malcolm Butler, Breshaud Breeland, and Xavier Rhodes, the Bears brought in Desmond Trufant on a 1yr $1.075M deal. I won’t take our cap space as an excuse to bring in a different talent as none of the names listed signed a contract above $4 million.

Scheme Fits

Fuller is a textbook zone cornerback. Finding an abundance of success under Vig Fangio’s secondary zone schemes, things were a bit different when Chuck Pagano came into town. No, the Defense didn’t see that much of a change, but the personnel did. The Bear’s current cornerback room is very much “man” oriented. For example, former Steelers and second most veteran cornerback Artie Burns primarily dominated man coverage during his time at the University of Miami. Still, he struggled in heavy zone schemes in Pittsburgh.

Rookie standout Jaylon Johnson and Bear’s 6th round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft Thomas Graham Jr. also excel at man coverage.

Desmond Trufant has played both man and zone effectively, although he struggled in a man-heavy scheme last year in Detroit. At the same time, Kindle Vildor struggled at man coverage but found his step in zone.

There’s an interesting mix of coverage strengths in this group of cornerbacks. Some speculate that new defensive coordinator Sean Desai will blow up the previous regime’s zone schemes for man coverage. However, considering the Bears’ talent at the safety position, It may not be a terrible idea to rely on Trevis Gipson and Eddie Jackson more. Regarding Desai’s defensive scheming, Jackson saw shades of Fangio. It is any fans or analysts guess how Desai schemes his secondary – that is until we see it in action.

The Bears are resting a lot of confidence in Jaylon Johnson and the young core of cornerbacks assembled on the roster. Bringing in Trufant was most likely nothing more than a move to add a much-needed veteran voice to assist the development of potential prospects. Regardless, we must hope that these prospects can develop quickly, as the Bear’s schedule in 2022 has them facing off against a selection of the league’s best passing attacks.

Wrapping it up

Fuller is gone. Our lockdown outside zone corner is back with Vig Fangio and that amazing group of cornerback talent in Denver. The current arms race in the NFL is centered on speed at the wide receiver position and lock down ability at the cornerback position. The Chicago Bears have the second cheapest cornerback room in the NFL. Hopefully, this low financial risk with a high potential reward pays off shortly. However, if it doesn’t, and the Bears secondary struggles to perform, it will not be surprising if the cornerback position is the Bear’s top priority entering the 2022 off-season.