There were few positives to take away from the Chicago Bears’ 38-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 7, and that’s reflected in this week’s Bears mailbag.
Brad Biggs takes a swing at questions about Ryan Pace’s and Matt Nagy’s job security, Justin Fields’ body language — and the rarely seen white-on-white uniform combination.
Will the Bears be sellers at the trade deadline? — @rickcwik16
The 3 p.m. Tuesday trade deadline is quickly approaching, and over the last five years or so we have seen an uptick in deals. But the NFL remains far behind the other major sports in terms of in-season player movement. It would be great if the Bears could add draft capital for 2022. Currently, they are without their first- and fourth-round picks as part of the trade with the New York Giants to draft quarterback Justin Fields. They are also without their seventh-round pick, which they packaged with wide receiver Anthony Miller in a trade with the Houston Texans. That deal netted them the Texans’ fifth-round pick, so the Bears currently own five picks in the 2022 draft — only two of them before the fifth round.
I’m skeptical the Bears will be sellers for a couple of reasons. First, if general manager Ryan Pace is doing everything in his power to put the team in position for success this season, it wouldn’t make sense for him to trade away any players who can help make the roster competitive. Along those lines, the Bears traded a 2023 seventh-round pick earlier this month to acquire returner Jakeem Grant, a move to bolster this year’s roster. I don’t see the Bears doing a 180-degree turn and trading away players at this point. Who goes from buyer to aggressive seller in less than a month? Directionless franchises.
It would seem illogical to demand the GM and coach to show progress this season and then order a sell-off the week before the deadline. If Pace felt he was on steady ground, perhaps he would entertain the idea of trading some older players or guys in the final year of their contracts, but I’m not sure how he can feel entrenched for 2022 and beyond. If Pace is trading players in the days ahead, that could signal he feels very good about his job security after this season. Does anyone believe he is on steady ground with the team’s record at 3-4 and the offense ranking near the bottom of the league in oodles of key metrics?
The other issue is which players on the roster would have value elsewhere and could fit under other teams’ salary caps? Some have suggested the Bears could find a taker for wide receiver Allen Robinson, who is ticketed for free agency after the season. Robinson has produced little through seven games — 23 receptions for 250 yards — but the depth chart behind him and Darnell Mooney is barren. Get rid of Robinson and then whom do you turn to with the hope that Fields can develop and the passing game can begin to show life? Robinson’s lack of production wouldn’t excite any team looking to boost its pass production. The franchise tag at $17.98 million means any team acquiring Robinson would be on the hook for $9.98 million for the remainder of the season. That’s a lot of money and would require just as much cap space. As much as Robinson surely would welcome the opportunity to join a contender, that seems highly unlikely.
The Bears restructured the contract of outside linebacker Robert Quinn earlier this month to create cap space needed to operate in season. They converted $4.55 million of his base salary to a bonus, freeing a little more than $3.4 million in cap space. That pushes higher cap commitments to Quinn into the future. Quinn, who is on the reserve/COVID-19 list, has been a bright spot this season and one of the reasons the defense has been better.
Defensive lineman Akiem Hicks is in the final year of his contract at $10.4 million, so he’s not as pricey as Robinson, but Hicks has missed two of the last three games with a groin injury. Questions about his availability would surely affect interest in him. The Bears have restructured the contract of outside linebacker Khalil Mack twice, so trading him is impossible at this point as that would be crippling from a cap standpoint.
It’s far-fetched to think anyone is in the market for quarterback Nick Foles. No one would want high-priced inside linebacker Danny Trevathan. There just aren’t a ton of parts that would be appealing to competing teams in search of help, and as much sense as it makes to say the Bears should take anything they can get at this point to help build for the future, the organization demanded to see progress from Pace and Matt Nagy this season and I don’t envision ownership coming to them in Week 8 and saying, “Sell.”
It is evident that Matt Nagy’s trademarks are an undisciplined and unprepared team, disastrous penalties, game management errors. No plan to cure long-term offensive woes. Why should he be trusted to develop our QB? — @davidlevenfeld
I think you’re getting distracted when looking at the current situation and summarizing the problems facing the Bears. Their biggest issue, bar none, is the inability to score points. Period. Undisciplined? They’re right in the middle of the pack in terms of penalties this season. Want to vent about some bad and untimely penalties? Fine. That’s not undermining the operation. Unprepared? Sure, that’s a fair assessment anytime you have a 38-3 loss like the one the Bears are coming off of Sunday in Tampa or the previous 26-6 disaster in Cleveland. Game management? OK. That’s a nitpick for every fan base criticizing its coach.
You’re taking too much time to get to the point, and that is the Bears are 30th in the NFL in scoring. They have 101 points through seven games, matching where they were at the same point in 2000 and 1997. To find lower scoring outputs for the Bears through seven games, you have to go back to a different era of the NFL: 1980, 1970, 1974, 1979, 1966, 1982, 1967, 1969 and 1975. Nagy is in charge of developing Fields only for now. It’s becoming increasingly evident the team probably will reach a crossroads at the end of this season. There is a lot of football left to play — 10 games — but there aren’t any indications the Bears can dig out of this hole on offense. The line is struggling, particularly in pass blocking, and the skill-position players aren’t helping as much as they can. It’s a mess. But don’t lose sight of the target. This is about the lack of offensive production.
What role did Ryan Pace play in the Bears’ decision to retain Matt Nagy for this season? If significant, as I suspect it was, shouldn’t he be terminated at the end of the year when the inevitable happens — Matt Nagy is fired? It was clear to the fan base last season that Nagy was not the answer to the long-term success of the Bears. This conclusion is being validated this year with embarrassing blowouts to good teams. Pace’s mixed results evaluating talent should be the added nail to his coffin. — Jim A., Plymouth, Mich.
My interpretation at the end of last season was that ownership decided to bring back Pace and Nagy for the 2021 season, likely linking the two men if they weren’t already. The Bears are 19-20 since the start of the 2019 season, and that’s a reflection on the work of both men. The Bears don’t have a history of making major personnel moves in season. George McCaskey always has waited until the end of the season to make a complete review. Considering that track record, I imagine that is what will happen again this year. The blowout losses and lack of offensive production are no doubt unsettling to him.
I understand that Justin Fields is a rookie and was up against the Super Bowl champs, with the greatest QB to ever play the game and on his home turf. It was a bleak situation, but Fields should never have sat on the bench with his arms folded and a pouty face when the Bears defense was on the field. He’s the new leader of the Bears and should’ve been standing up and on the sideline setting an example for his teammates. Easy for me to say, but I saw enough of a pouty-faced QB when Jay Cutler played for the Bears. — Dan M., Itasca
Generally, quarterbacks sit on the bench while the defense is on the field or they huddle with coaches and teammates. You don’t often see a quarterback standing on the sideline watching the defense play. So that’s probably not a fair assessment. I did get a number of questions this week about the sideline camera shots of Fields, with people making the same comparison to Cutler. Fields looked angry. Who wouldn’t be? I’d be way more concerned about what he’s doing when he’s on the field — not the sideline. It’s easy to draw conclusions by reading body language from what often are still shots on the sideline. Fields is engaged with coaches between possessions. He’s taking coaching. The Bears don’t need a cheerleader on the sideline. They need to be better on offense.
Are the McCaskeys privately taking these recent humiliations seriously? I know they’re not the type of owners to talk to the media often, but any indication that they’re as appalled as the rest of us? — @bears_fan_pete
Given how driven George McCaskey is to see the Bears succeed, and considering his long-standing belief that his job is to carry on the legacy of his grandfather, George Halas, I can assure you without doubt that he’s just as rankled by the team’s offensive woes as everyone watching from the stands or on television. It would be nice if McCaskey was available regularly like Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who believes he sets the tone for the organization and the brand by being so public, but he’s not. We’ll have to wait to hear from McCaskey the next time he’s available, but I can’t imagine any of what’s happening on the field is satisfying to him entering Week 8.
What are your thoughts on Cole Kmet’s play? I don’t want to be premature, but it’s hard to ever see him being a difference maker in the passing game and seems like yet another second-round pick squandered on a frustrating tight end. — @tylernol93
I think Kmet can and will be a solid, productive player for the Bears. I also believe his college career at Notre Dame and his standing as a local guy from Arlington Heights led a ton of fans to exaggerate his abilities. Kmet never will be the next Travis Kelce or Zach Ertz or Darren Waller as a big-time receiving tight end. That being said, he can be effective, and it’s fair to wonder if he has the skills of someone like Kyle Rudolph. It’s especially difficult to evaluate any of the team’s skill-position players right now because the passing offense is a disaster. Kmet had a drop against the Buccaneers, but he has nine receptions for 92 yards over the last two weeks — more action than he had been getting. I still think Kmet can help the Bears a great deal. Just be realistic about his ceiling.
I think it’s quite clear that Justin Fields isn’t ready to play, but the current trend in the NFL is to throw rookie QBs out there and have them take their lumps. However, many fans remember the days when rookie QBs sat and watched that first year. I remember Matt Ryan getting the nod as a rookie back in 2008 and being surprised by Atlanta’s decision. Is that when things started to change or do you remember an earlier example? — Jacob K., Chicago
When the Falcons went with Ryan in 2008, the same year the Baltimore Ravens started first-round pick Joe Flacco, that did begin the trend of rookies being pushed into action sooner. The next year Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions and Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets started their teams’ season openers. Yes, it happened on occasion previously. David Carr started in Week 1 in 2002 for the Houston Texans. Kyle Boller started in Week 1 in 2003 for the Ravens. There are plenty of other prior examples. But most teams would wait, when possible, to push highly drafted quarterbacks into action. Now it’s the norm for rookies to play in Year 1. The hope is Fields can grow and develop as he sees more defenses, but it has been a rough go and those who were clamoring for the rookie to get on the field right away haven’t seen anything they were hoping to see.
Given Alex Bars’ play on Sunday and some impending returns from injury (Larry Borom), is there opportunity to reshuffle the O-line in the coming weeks? Does it make sense to shift James Daniels or Cody Whitehair inside to center and let Bars get a look at guard? — @swan_song12
I think Bars has a pretty good chance to start at right tackle this week against the 49ers if Elijah Wilkinson isn’t cleared from the reserve/COVID-19 list in time. Borom will be designated to return from injured reserve, but three practices won’t be enough time to get him up to speed after five weeks of dealing with a high ankle sprain. Bars helped calm things down a little bit after Lachavious Simmons was exposed in the first six series against the Bucs. I wrote about shuffling the offensive line in the mailbag last week, and I think the Bears have learned the hard way that moving Whitehair and Daniels leads to issues for them. Whitehair is playing at his best position, left guard, and I can’t tell you how many questions I got when Daniels was playing center from people demanding the Bears play him at guard. Injuries, as you know, can lead to different combinations, and you’d think Bars has an increased chance for playing time.
I think the Bears’ best chance to win games this year is to try to be like the 11-5 2005 team that had rookie Kyle Orton at quarterback. Run the ball, limited play action and play defense. Why run plays that invite blitzes against a depleted offensive line and rookie quarterback? — @mike__chicago
I think that’s what they are trying to do. They have the only offense in the league with more net rushing yards (917) than net passing yards (871). They didn’t abandon the run at Tampa Bay even as the score got out of hand. They’re trying to get better at play-action passing. The current defense isn’t as good as the one they had in 2005, but I think they’re doing what they can in an effort to play to their strengths or minimize their weaknesses. They have to drop back and let it rip on occasion — and they have to be better when they attempt that. Big plays can happen, too, when you can pick up the blitz and hit a guy in one-on-one coverage.
I’ve always loved our home navy blue uniforms with the white pants, but I really miss the road uniforms (with) white jerseys and white pants. How come they never wear white on white anymore? — Vic G.
Good question. The Bears wore white jerseys and white pants for road games in 2008. I don’t believe they have used that combination since, but I also don’t keep a handy reference guide for this information. The white/white combination has sort of come and gone over the years. The Bears had two road games in 2006 with the white/white combination and they also used it on the road in 2003. Any style points the Bears are winning with uniform combinations are being lost once some of these games begin.
Will Ryan Pace be a seller at Tuesday’s trade deadline? Has Alex Bars earned more playing time? Are the McCaskeys as appalled as fans are? – Reading Eagle Source link Will Ryan Pace be a seller at Tuesday’s trade deadline? Has Alex Bars earned more playing time? Are the McCaskeys as appalled as fans are? – Reading Eagle