What to watch for Chicago Bears

Preseason Edition

Justin Fields Progress

Coming into the season Justin Fields was asked what’s been different this year over last & the first thing he spoke on was being the unquestioned starter at QB, no more splitting reps with Andy Dalton & trying to learn everything with the limited reps he did get. He’s taken the bull by the horns this off-season & had become a leader on the team even meeting with Darnell Mooney & Cole Kmet this off-season to work on chemistry & timing. When the bears drafted Velus Jones in the 3rd round Velus’second phone call was from QB1 congratulating him on being drafted & excited to get to work with him. I think we see big steps from Fields this season, Luke Getsy is catering his offense to what Justin does best we have a year or two to see if Justin is the guy before he gets a massive record breaking contract as QBs do in this league.

Who are the playmakers on this team

Many bears fans wanted the bears to make a big move this off-season, however GM Ryan Poles told us he was looking for young hungry guys with something to prove. He did exactly that, throwing money at the problem doesn’t fix it, just look at the Jacksonville Jaguars resetting the WR market with Christian Kirk or even go back further to the team in our nation’s capital that threw a bunch if money at Albert Haynesworth. I like the approach that Poles took. The biggest upgrade we got was a better scheme than the Matt Nagy curl route heavy offense that drove Allen Robinson out of town. Getsy brought St. Brown with him from Green Bay & he has a bit of a sibling rivalry within the division with younger brother Amon-Ra having a good year in Detroit last year. Poles brought in Byron Pringle from that Kansas City offense giving him a larger role here in Chicago. Darnell Mooney has taken steps & put in the work to be the #1 WR for this team even staying at Halas hall until midnight working on route running & getting extra reps with Justin Fields to build chemistry & timing. I have high expectations for Cole Kmet who has worked with Mooney & Fields this off-season to build a formidable trio of weapons in this offense. The bears used a draft pick on Velus Jones, the rookie our of Tennessee is a YAC (Yards After Catch) Monster & looks to build on that and be used in multiple facets of the offense. There has been a lot of talk about his age being a 25 year old rookie, but 2 factors that get glossed over is he’s never had a major injury history so we shouldn’t see one develop at the next level & he’s only 6 months older than Devin Hester was as a rookie & I think we all remember Hester working out just fine in Chicago. That brings us to the RB room led by David Montgomery. Coming off a season where he combined for over 1100 yards in an offense that didn’t really run the ball at all, bears fans remember Nagy lining up his offense in empty backfield shotgun at the 5 yard line last season. Montgomery looks to build off that & earn a contract extension. He shares the backfield with Khalil Herbert who saw some snaps last season and took advantage of his snaps looking to give a nice 1-2 punch in the backfield. The bears also brought in a RB in free agency in Darrynton Evans from the Titans he’s a versatile back that can run between the tackles or bounce it outside & has pass catching abilities. They also brought in Trestan Ebner late in the draft out of Baylor & the speedy RB has already turned heads at training camp. Last but not least the Chicago bears brought back a lost position. THEY SIGNED A FULLBACK!! This will get many bears fans who have fond memories of Walter Payton running with Matt Suhey. They signed Khari Blasingame also from the Titans & maybe Getsy will use him like the 49ers use their Uber talented FB in San Francisco, but at the very least that should help with those short yardage situations. I guess I should also mention that the bears traded a future 7th round pick for Nkeal Harry from the New England Patriots. The former first round pick was brought in to fight for a roster spot in the hopes that a change of scenery could help him out, unfortunately it seems he’s dealing with a high ankle sprain that has a history of being a lingering issue. If it doesn’t work out the bears aren’t out a high draft pick so this was a low risk high reward move my Ryan Poles.

Who will emerge on the offensive line

The offensive line was a huge issue last year as the bears led the league in sacks given up with 58, edging out the Ravens by 1 & the Bengals who’s offensive line was their Achilles heel last season by 3 sacks. So the bug question was how do we improve. Can former 2nd round pick Teven Jenkins bounce back from injury & live up to his draft status? Who’s filling James Daniels’ shoes at RG who left in free agency? Will we be calling another 40 year old tackle off his fishing boat to play LT? The bears went into the draft & many fans wanted one of the 2nd round picks to be used on the offensive line, however after watching 9 offensive lineman come off the board before the bears were on the clock they decided to play the board and pick the best available player. Kyler Gordon a first round graded CB out of Washington that I saw in the top 20 of most mock drafts. The bears trusted their scouts & continued to play the board as it fell to them, they finally drafted their first offensive lineman in Braxton Jones in the 5th round & Jones may be a diamond in the rough out of Southern Utah. The Chicago media & bears fans alike were a bit shocked when they saw Braxton Jones lining up at Left Tackle in training camp & at practice with the first team offense even taking on the Bears season sack record holder in Robert Quinn & holding his own. Many people wanted the bears to make a big swing on Terron Armstead in free agency, but the former 3rd round pick out of Arkansas Pine-Bluff has never played a full season & Ryan Poles didn’t want to overpay for him. Thise same people who wanted Armstead have downplayed Braxton Jones’ ability regardless of the history. The bears stayed focused & disciplined in the draft bringing in a total of 4 offensive lineman including hometown favorite Doug Kramer from the University of Illinois who is predominantly a center & I believe can beat out Sam Mustipher for that position. They also brought in a pair of guards in Zachary Thomas & Ja’tyre Carter respectively. When Dakota Dozier (projected starting guard) went down with an injury in training camp the bears went to free agency to bring in Riley Reiff & Michael Schofield to build depth. Reiff was expected to take over the left tackle position, but Braxton Jones has fought him off & held that position down so Reiff was flipped to right tackle & Schofield seems to have locked down the right guard position early in camp & practice. While Ryan Poles didn’t go out & get a future hall of fame or anything he has built competition within that offensive line & brought in guys who can improve and grow. The biggest move he made was bringing in Lucas Patrick from Green Bay to help teach the younger guys Getsy’s offense whilst locking down the starting center position before suffering a hand injury that should be healed up by September 11th when the 49ers come to town for the season opener, but this may not be a terrible thing as that allows younger guys to get snaps in the preseason. I will be watching this competition intently & bears fans should be watching it too, you heard it here first if Braxton Jones turns out to be a huge steal in the draft.

What is going on with Roquan Smith?!?

Roquan Smith is a former top 10 pick & the latest in the long line of great linebackers in the city of Chicago, he’s also the best draft pick from Ryan Pace by a mile, however the self represented LB isn’t new to holding out, or holding in in this instance as he did this same thing with his rookie contract, typically your agent takes on all of the drama behind the scenes of contract negotiations, however, since Roquan doesn’t have an agent he took advantage of the only way he saw possible of gaining leverage on the situation by releasing a statement through Ian Rappaport of the NFL network stating he felt disrespected by the organization & the new regime not negotiating in good faith, he also claimed that they were working a take it or leave it sort of approach. Ryan Poles talked to the media the day this statement came out & talked about historical pieces in this contract, both sides standing their ground respectively, but the bears organization has the most leverage as Roquan Smith is still under contract, they even placed him on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list to keep him from being fined while missing practice, this also kept the coaches from talking about it to the media as they don’t have to talk about “injured” players as well as injured players not being available to the media allowing the negotiations to take place behind closed doors. Ultimately I think both sides come to an agreement, but I do worry that Roquan Smith values himself higher than the organization does, if he had an agent the agent could probably work out a fair deal for both parties on his behalf. Ryan Poles is going into a rebuild & I’m not sure he wants to tie up a ton of money in a weak side linebacker in this scheme especially with a possible QB contract coming up in a couple of years. The contracts that the previous regime worked out has left Poles a bit hamstrung with dead money on older players because Ryan Pace would push money back into later years if contracts pushing them closer to the salary cap for older players with deteriorating skill sets. Just get the deal worked out so bears fans have something to look forward to this season.

Without Khalil Mack, who’s rushing the passer?

Last year Robert Quinn set the bears sack record for a single season. Very surprising in a city that’s always prided itself on defense, especially when Ryan Pace made a big swing at Khalil Mack that didn’t exactly pay off. Last year Mack went on IR after playing in 7 games recording 6 sacks & 19 tackles, but he had been nursing an injury even before the season ending injury. He wasn’t practicing through the week but would be active on game day. This allowed former 5th round pick Trevis Gipson to get a lot of reps in practice & eventually taking over Mack’s position. In 9 starts last year Gipson recorded 7 sacks & had 4 forced fumbles, the bears will lean on him more this season & expect him to take a big step this season earning a long-term contract & keeping some homegrown talent in. Chicago. They brought in Al-Quadin Muhammad from Indianapolis with new head coach Matt Eberflus. Muhammad is a 27-year-old pass rusher who has 11 career sacks, but he brings good depth & knowledge of the new defense that the Chicago Bears will be deploying this season. They also attacked the position in the draft bringing in a raw talent in Dominique Robinson who was a converted WR in college & is still learning the position, but the bears hired good coaches that pride themselves on being teachers. Robinson may be one of the guys we see a lot of in the preseason. They’re taking a fresh legs approach to the pass rush as opposed to putting all the pressure on 2 guys to produce game in & game out.

What will this new defense look like under Eberflus

The Chicago Bears have run a 3-4 defense (3 down lineman with 4 LBs) since Vic Fangio came. With Eberflus coming in from Indianapolis they’ll transition back to a 4-3 base defense. This would move Roquan Smith from inside LB to weakside linebacker, the position played by Lance Briggs in past bears defenses. This will be a good thing for season sack record holder Robert Quinn who’s only job will be to hunt QBs. No longer will he be in coverage with an RB or a TE. The bears used their highest draft assets to help shore up the defensive secondary by drafting Kyler Gordon & Jaquan Brisker in the second round. If anyone watched the bears get torched in week 1 last year by the Los Angeles Rams, it’s no secret that they desperately needed help in those positions. Kyler Gordon is a versatile CB that can play inside at the nickel position or outside, Jaquan Brisker is a hard-hitting safety from Penn State that will allow Eddie Jackson to play the center field position he played so well in 2018 coming up with 6 interceptions including 2 pick 6s. Eberflus has brought a H-I-T-S philosophy with him to town, they’ll pride themselves on Hustle, Intensity, Taking the ball away & playing Smart situational football. There are already reports out of camp they’ve been practicing the patented peanut punch that should make a lot of bears fans happy to see come back into the fold. I think this young defense has the opportunity to surprise some teams even without well-known veterans like Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks & Danny Trevathan, all of whom they’re looking to replace this season.

Bottom Line

The Chicago bears have come into this season with little to no expectations from the fan base & the Chicago media alike, I’ll be watching this preseason to see how all the new pieces look & fit together. This is the beginning of a full rebuild minus maybe the QB so the preseason is where you’ll see what young pieces, they can hold onto for the future of the Chicago Bears.

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