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  • 10 Most Important Bears of 2019: #3 The kicker
    by Lester A. Wiltfong Jr. on July 18, 2019 at 2:00 pm

    Ryan Pace (probably): “How are you on field goals 43 and in?” | Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images For the 11th straight year, I’m bringing you who I believe will be the ten most important Chicago Bears for the upcoming season. At #3 is the kicker (whoever that may be), so GM Ryan Pace better hope he gets it right this year. While a member of the Chicago Bears, Robbie Gould made 85.4% of his field goals. Since the Bears parted ways with him before the 2016 season, Chicago kickers have gone 76%. It has been a parade of ineptitude that went from Connor Barth to Cody Parkey with a little Mike Nugent and Cairo Santos mixed in. The Bears went through an exhaustive kicking try out this offseason and they’ve settled on two contenders for training camp, but you can bet they’ll be watching the waiver wire looking for any better options that could pop up. The way it stands now, Bourbonnais will have Elliott Fry battling Eddy Pineiro for the right to kick for the defending NFC North champs. Fry was last seen kicking in the AAF where he made all 14 of his field goals, and Pineiro was last a member of the Oakland Raiders where he missed all of 2018 while on injured reserve. Neither of these guys have stood out this offseason according to the beat writers that have been allowed to cover the team, but kicking is a weird discipline. All it could take is a tweak here or there and all of the sudden they become money. Sometimes all it takes is putting in the extra work to get that muscle memory firing to become NFL worthy. This is why the percentages from NFL kickers almost always jumps up from when they were in college. Gould only made 53.8% of his field goals as a senior at Penn State, but has gone on to a fantastic NFL career. Baltimore’s Justin Tucker has been over 90% as a pro for seven years, but as a senior at Texas he only made 81% of his FGs. Free agent Matt Bryant, whom some Bears’ fans want to see come to Chicago, was 80% at Baylor in 1998, but as a pro for the last 17 years he’s kicking at an 86.2% clip. Either Fry or Pineiro could win the job for the Bears and go on to a splendid career, but with the team sitting in a legit Super Bowl window this is a big gamble. General manager Ryan Pace has done a fantastic job rebuilding the Bears since the Phil Emery / Marc Trestman era, but the one glaring gaffe on his resume has been figuring out the placekicker position. You can bet his pro scouts will be all over the 31 other teams just waiting to pounce if anyone decent is cut loose. I’m putting the kicker position at #3 on my list this year, but this could very well also be Pace as he’s tasked with getting the job done right this time. […]

  • Are there 13 head coaches better than Matt Nagy?
    by Lester A. Wiltfong Jr. on July 18, 2019 at 12:00 pm

    Photo by Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images According to NFL.com, the Chicago Bears head coach comes in at number 14 among his peers. When it comes to compiling these “best of” NFL lists, it’s all usually based on one man’s opinion, so I don’t get to riled up about them. Occasionally one will pop up that really pisses me off, but I can usually see the subjective reasoning behind them. The real point of these lists are to get a commentary going with fans, so if that’s the end game, then this latest from NFL.com Analyst Elliot Harrison is going to spark some talk amongst Chicago Bears’ fans. Harrison recently ranked the head coaches in the NFL and he had Chicago’s Matt Nagy in 14th place. Most of the head honchos on the list have had much more success than Nagy, so making an argument for them isn’t very difficult. Here’s who they have ahead of the proprietor of Club Dub. 1) Bill Belichick, New England Patriots 2) Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks 3) Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints 4) Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs 5) Doug Pederson, Philadelphia Eagles 6) Sean McVay, Los Angeles Rams 7) John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens 8) Anthony Lynn, Los Angeles Chargers 9) Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers 10) Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings 11) Dan Quinn, Atlanta Falcons 12) Frank Reich, Indianapolis Colts 13) Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers And here’s what he said about Nagy at 14. Matt Nagy more than delivered in his first year as the Bears’ head coach, taking Chicago to the postseason for the first time since the 2010 season. What’s interesting about Nagy is that his side of the ball is offense, and prior to getting hired by the Bears, he was known for his work with quarterbacks in Kansas City. Yet, it was Vic Fangio’s defense that did most of the heavy lifting to get Chicago to the playoffs. A head coach does much more than run one side of the ball, though. In fact, some of them don’t do that at all. They run the office, in some respects. Nagy clearly set a tone in the building, so to speak, which should not be taken lightly. Nor should Nagy’s work with Mitch Trubisky, who showed improvement from Year 1 to Year 2. Why is Reich ahead of Rivera but not Nagy? Well, Nagy has yet to achieve postseason success and had stronger personnel than Reich did in 2018. Each guy on the list above Nagy has had a taste of postseason success, so I’m fine with this ranking. The only thing that will get Nagy a boost in these head coach rankings is winning in the playoffs. Are you guys good with Nagy’s placement this year? […]

  • The Bear’s Den, July 18, 2019
    by Ken Mitchell on July 18, 2019 at 10:00 am

    Sox trade RHP Matt Nagy to the Cubs for a player to be named later and cash | Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images Today is the last Thursday before the Thursday before training camp starts... BEAR DOWN, CHICAGO BEARS, BEAR DOWN!!!! BEARRRSSSS Zeglinski: Matt Nagy and the burden of expectations – The Rock River Times - A good, personable Bears coach in front of a good, personable Bears team in Chicago is the equivalent of a beloved Pope making a visit across the pond. Both make numerous appearances at sporting events (and other public gatherings, of course). Both note the intangibles behind the legends in their professions. Both are revered in incredibly delicate terms. Most importantly, both have a similar and relatively untouchable celebrity status in the Midwest. Bears WR Cordarrelle Patterson puts Super Bowl win in the past - Bears Wire - Chicago Bears free-agent WR Cordarrell Patterson has moved on from his Super Bowl win with the Patriots Chicago Bears pass rush ranked No. 10 in NFL by Pro Football Focus - Bears Wire - The Chicago Bears pass rush was ranked 10th in the NFL by Pro Football Focus, despite the presence of Khalil Mack on the edge. We gave @ChicagoBears head coach Matt Nagy the Statcast treatment for his first pitch at Wrigley! ⚾️ : https://t.co/ewSoAyZNHs pic.twitter.com/RHhekVs4Ls— Cubs Talk (@NBCSCubs) July 17, 2019 Chamberlain: Avoiding this one penalty explains success of Bears offensive line - Bearmaven - The Bears don’t hold, and it helped explain how inconsistent passing and running games could get to the end zone. Chamberlain: Bears need to see Adam Shaheen’s developmental period end quickly - Bearmaven - The Bears have the makings of a decent tight end group, but it hinges on Adam Shaheen’s production. Training camp position preview: Receivers - ChicagoBears.com - When the Bears report to Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais for the start of training camp next week, they’ll do so with one of the NFL’s deepest and most talented receiving corps. Matt Nagy Threw An Absolute Rocket Strike Before the Cubs Game - Bleacher Nation - Our coach throws nothing but gas. New Bear Cordarrelle Patterson On Last Year’s Super Bowl Win: “That Don’t Mean (Bleep) To Me” - Bleacher Nation - Cordarrelle Patterson is all-in with the Bears and their championship dreams. Medina: Getting to Know the 2019 Chicago Bears - Quarterbacks - Bleacher Nation - It’s Mitch Trubisky’s world. We’re just living in it. Hughes: Gambling on Young Legs is Risky Business for Pace, Nagy - Da Bears Blog - When one peruses NFL.com for statistical information regarding the only two kickers on the current Bears roster – Eddy Pineiro and Elliot Fry – one is met with a disconcerting sentence: POLISH SAUSAGE PFT 2019 storyline No. 8: Is Father Time closing in on Drew Brees? – ProFootballTalk - The Saints have had, over the past two years, heartbreaking exits from the postseason. Coach Sean Payton has expressed confidence that they’ll be able to return to 0-0 and climb once again. Vic Fangio: A little improvement from Von Miller goes a long way – ProFootballTalk - In his first press conference after being hired as the Broncos head coach, Vic Fangio said he thought linebacker Von Miller had room to improve and that message hasn’t changed over the last six months. Free agent Rashard Robinson suspended for 10 games - NFL.com - Former 49ers and Jets cornerback Rashard Robinson has been suspended 10 games with a substance abuse violation after missing several tests, per NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport. KNOW THINE ENEMY Daniel Jeremiah: Detroit Lions TE T.J. Hockenson is the best blocking TE I’ve ever evaluated - Pride Of Detroit - That’s some seriously high praise for the Lions’ first-round pick. An 18 game schedule is really dumb - Daily Norseman - Just another bad idea in the Roger ‘Bud Selig’ Goodell era Will Aaron Jones break out in Matt LaFleur’s passing game? Not so fast - Acme Packing Company - Much has been made of Matt LaFleur potentially adding his running backs to the passing game in a way Mike McCarthy was reticent to employ. Would that even be a good idea? IN CASE YOU MISSED IT ON WINDY CITY GRIDIRON Sunderbruch's NFC North Roster Comparison: Linebackers - Windy City Gridiron - The Bears have a tradition at linebacker, and they have a pair of impact-level players trying to live up to that tradition. How does the entire corps stack up in the division? Wiltfong's 10 Most Important Bears of 2019: #4 Akiem Hicks is still underrated - Windy City Gridiron - For the 11th straight year, I’m bringing you who I believe will be the ten most important Chicago Bears for the upcoming season. Next up at #4 is the engine that makes the defense go, Akiem Hicks. Wiltfong: Talking Bears, Media, and Chicago Sports with Author Paul M. Banks - Windy City Gridiron - In this episode of T Formation Conversation, Lester interviews long time Chicago media member Paul M. Banks about the state of sports media today, the legacy of Jay Cutler, the Bears’ Top 100 player lists, Sharknado, Mongo and more. WCG CONTRIBUTORS BEARS PODCASTS & STREAMS Windy City Gridiron Podcast Channel which includes Bear With Me from Robert Schmitz, Bears Over Beers featuring Jeff Berckes & EJ Snyder, and T Formation Conversation from Lester A. Wiltfong Jr.; Steven’s Streaming Twitch Channel from Steven Schweickert; and Robert Zeglinski’s The Blitz Network THE RULES Windy City Gridiron Community Guidelines - SBNation.com - We strive to make our communities open and inclusive to sports fans of all backgrounds. The following is not permitted in comments. No personal attacks, politics, gender based insults of any kind, racial insults, etc. The Bear’s Den Specific Guidelines – The Bear’s Den is a place for Chicago Bears fans to discuss Chicago Bears football, related NFL stories, and general football talk. It is NOT a place to discuss religion or politics or post political pictures or memes. Unless otherwise stated, the Den is not an open thread, and profanity (including profanity only stated in pictures) is prohibited. Click on our names to follow us on Twitter: WCG Contributors: Jeff Berckes; Patti Curl; Eric Christopher Duerrwaechter; Kev H; Sam Householder; Jacob Infante; Aaron Lemming; Ken Mitchell; Steven Schweickert; Jack Silverstein; EJ Snyder; Lester Wiltfong, Jr.; Whiskey Ranger; Robert Schmitz; Robert Zeglinski; Like us on Facebook. […]

  • NFC North Roster Comparison: Linebackers
    by Josh Sunderbruch on July 17, 2019 at 10:00 pm

    Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports The Bears have a tradition at linebacker, and they have a pair of impact-level players trying to live up to that tradition. How does the entire corps stack up in the division? Chicago has a special relationship with linebackers. Some of the true Chicago legends played linebacker--George, Butkus, and Urlacher to name the most obvious, but the list is long. Once upon a time, off-the-ball linebackers were the heart of a defense, and they helped to define a defense in a way that currently falls to edge rushers and hybrid ‘safety-backer’ types. The actual number of linebackers who see the field varies dramatically, regardless of whether or not the system is designated a 3-4 or a 4-3, because as I mentioned in the Interior Linemen article, the concept of a Base Defense is more or less antiquated. The true base defense in the NFL these days is a Front 6 in some combination (with five defensive backs on the field). This distinction matters slightly less in this series, though, because the entire position group will be evaluated, not just the nominal starters. First, though, I feel the need to give some context. For 2018, an off-the-ball linebacker led the entire league with 38 defeats. This was actually the fourth time that linebacker, Luke Kuechly, was in the top ten. Another off-the-ball linebacker came in second with 37 defeats, and that was Darius Leonard. Leonard, who was named a 1st-team All-Pro, was a rookie last year, having been drafted 36th overall. At this point, I have to point out the following gem from Bleacher Report just after the draft: “The Indianapolis Colts’ selection of South Carolina State linebacker Darius Leonard with the fourth pick in the second round was one of the draft’s worst moves. They took four second-rounders, so they had plenty of room for error, but this one stands out as a head-scratcher.” Yikes. Justis Mosqueda probably wants that call back. I can’t pretend that I had any idea exactly how good Leonard was going to be, but I did like Tremaine Edmunds, also taken in the 2018 draft. Edmunds had 23 defeats (7th for his position), which was still 4 more than any linebacker in the NFC North. In short, the truly dominant linebacker play in the league is not in the NFC North at the moment. That might change for 2019, however. 1). Minnesota Not listed on Football Outsiders’ defeats total for 2018 is 4-time Pro Bowler Anthony Barr of Minnesota. He only played in 13 games in 2018, and despite some potential for him to move on, he is back in Minnesota. He is supported by Erik Kendricks and (occasionally) Eric Wilson. Kentrell Brothers and 5th-round draft pick Cameron Smith round out the linebackers that are probably most notable in this group, but I might be selling Ben Gedeon short. One way or another, the Vikings basically have one excellent linebacker (Barr), one pretty good linebacker (Kendricks), and some solid depth around them. Interestingly, Pro Football Focus thinks that Barr and Kendricks are the fifth-best linebacker tandem in football. That seems generous to me, but I have to admit that I’m not willing to give PFF any money to read the rest of their list. By most measures, the Vikings have a slightly stronger one-two punch than the Bears, but they also have just a bit more depth than Chicago. Either one would probably be enough for me to make excuses and move the Bears up to #1. Both, together, and I just have to be honest. 2). Chicago After too long in absence, Chicago has developed a solid one-two punch with their off-the-ball linebackers, and as someone accustomed to watching Urlacher and Briggs, that just feels right. Roquan Smith held his own in the middle of the pack for linebackers with 18 defeats (the same as Green Bay’s Blake Martinez and one less than division-leading linebacker Jarrad Davis). In other words, he’s an impact player, but he’s not a star yet. Smith is likely to continue developing, and right now he is already very good, but he’s not on Barr’s level. Nor, for that matter, is Danny Trevathan. Trevathan was a versatile chess piece for the Bears last season, and he has left his own mark on the defense. In fact, Trevathan is a good answer to Minnesota’s Kendricks. As a simple head-to-head with Kendricks, Trevathan holds his own. Over the last four years (since Kendricks came into the league), the Viking has played in 7 more games. In that time, Trevathan only trails him by 3.5 sacks and a Pick-6. He also has 7 fewer quarterback hits. He does have an extra interception, but his total passes defended is down by 1. When adjusted to a per-game basis, however, the two are functionally on the same level. Trevathan’s on-field leadership is probably enough to make up any difference, though a Minnesota fan might disagree. Unfortunately, after their starters, Chicago’s choices thin out dramatically. Kwiatkowski is a serviceable enough rotational piece, but Joel Iyiebuniwe really only intimidates people trying to spell his name correctly. There are a number of players with little to no experience on the roster churning around behind these two, but they are more likely to make for good camp stories than to make an impact on the field. So Chicago has two very good linebackers and very little behind them, and their best linebacker has yet to prove that he can hold his own with Minnesota’s best. 3). Detroit Detroit’s 2017 first-round pick, Jarrad Davis, managed 19 defeats (19th for his position), which was still enough to put him in first place among linebackers in the NFC North, one ahead of Blake Martinez and Chicago’s own Roquan Smith (18 each). Davis led his defense in snaps played, as well, being on field for 98.89% of the plays. The Lions maintained a solid linebacker rotation, though, with Devon Kennard and Christian Jones on the field 88% and 65% of the time, respectively. Kennard is probably a step above a journeyman player, having been transplanted from the Giants and recording 7 sacks in his first season for the Lions. Jones is familiar to Chicago fans as a guy who manages to play decent football most of the time, but in his first season with 16 starts, he did not exactly cause Fangio and Nagy gnash their teeth in regret for letting him go. I am sort of curious to watch the development of Jahlani Tavai. He had a late-round grade on him from most of the sources I saw that graded him at all, but the Lions took him early in the second round. In short, the linebackers for the Lions consist of a remarkable newcomer, a pair of replacement-level contributors, and a rookie who might have been overdrafted. That’s not enough to place them in the top half of the division, unless one of their prospects really emerges soon. 4). Green Bay Blake Martinez has outplayed his draft position, and while he has not yet earned a Pro Bowl nod, he is a really solid player. After Martinez, the Packers fall back on Reggie Gilbert and Antonio Morrison. Um...okay. Beyond that, Green Bay invested so heavily in improving their edge rushers that they left themselves very little room to improve an already thin linebacker corps. There are some prospects who might develop (Ty Summers comes to mind), but this is a group that is going to need the improved edge rushing unit, and the secondary, to get some work done. Given that Green Bay ran Dime or Dime+ defense over 40% of the time in 2018 (down from 42% in 2017), it’s obvious that the roster is constructed to work without depending on linebackers. Next up is safety, where things get really interesting. Note: All stats come from Football Outsiders and Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted. When possible, I used roster information directly from the teams’ own websites. […]

  • 10 Most Important Bears of 2019: #4 Akiem Hicks is still underrated
    by Lester A. Wiltfong Jr. on July 17, 2019 at 7:00 pm

    Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images For the 11th straight year, I’m bringing you who I believe will be the ten most important Chicago Bears for the upcoming season. Next up at #4 is the engine that makes the defense go, Akiem Hicks. I know Akiem Hicks finally received some national recognition by making the Pro Bowl, but the big Chicago Bears defensive tackle still doesn’t get the credit he deserves for being one of the absolute best in the game today. The more I watch Hicks play, the more impressed I become, and the more I realize just how important he is to the Bears’ defense. If football is won and lost in the trenches, then Hicks is the the engine that makes Chicago's defense go. Bears’ GM Ryan Pace calls him the “catalyst” for what they've built defensively in Chicago. Everything starts up front and Hicks can do it all. As a run defender, he’s equally adept at playing in one-gap or two-gap scheme. He has the agility to get past blockers, but also the strength to hold the point of attack if doubled. There’s nothing that makes me more giddy than seeing Hicks absolutely engulf ball carriers with his 6’5”, 332 pound frame, but with his quickness and tenacity, he’s also of the best interior pass rushers around. If you haven’t watched this video of Hicks yet, take the time and do it. You’ll come away smarter and with a deeper appreciation of what big #96 brings to the team. Hicks has played the best football of his career during his three year run in Chicago. During that time he hasn’t missed a game, starting all 48 of his appearances, and he has averaged about 55 tackles a year, around 8 sacks per, 18 quarterback hits, and 13 tackles for loss each season. He not only fills the stat sheet, but he does all the little things you need a defensive lineman in a 3-4 defense to do. He’s a regular contributor on special teams and he’ll even answer the call on offense if needed. Hicks is a leader through and through for the Bears, both on the field and off and that’s a big part of why he’s number four in my 10 Most Important Bears of 2019. […]

 

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