Tag Archives: Jordan Howard

Chicago Bears: Mid-Season Report Card

The “Monsters of the Midway” entered the 2017 season knowing it is in the middle of a rebuild.  This isn’t a team that was looking to “tank” though.  The Bears’ rebuild consist of trying to be competitive throughout the season.  It’s a way of “filtering out the excess fat” from their roster.

Quarterback:

Entering the season, the Bears faithful knew they’d be in for some nonsense.  Signing Mike Glennon in free agency and moving up in the first round to draft quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was a recipe for disaster from day one.  Glennon was never going to get a fair shake, as the fans wanted to see the younger player and the media made Glennon’s spot on the team seem useless.  Glennon’s play on the field didn’t help to quiet that noise either.   Mike Glennon had a completion percentage of 66.4% but that was because he seemed to scared to throw it downfield and basically dumped it off to running backs and tight ends all day.   Ultimately his 8 total turnovers did him in and got him benched, which of course led to the starting of rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky.  Things didn’t get much better.  Trubisky’s completion percentage is under 50% and in four games he has two touchdown passes and four turnovers.  Glennon and Trubisky don’t have a lot to work with in terms of coaching or talent (keep reading) but in just looking at production from the position a solid D minus even seems generous.

Running Back:

If it wasn’t for Jordan Howard, the Bears wouldn’t have much of an offense this season.  With that being said, it’s not as if he’s putting up “elite-RB” numbers.  His 83 yards a game coupled with his 4.1 yards per average is consistent work at least and you can’t knock him considering he’s being run into the ground.  In the eight games he’s played, he’s already carried the ball for 162 times.  Bears fans fell in love with Tarik Cohen and his 5’6″ frame in week one. Then after that, there hasn’t been much to applaud him for.  He seems to try to do too much when he has the ball now and the Bears just aren’t creative enough on offense to devise schemes for him.  The Bears should look passed Cohen on the depth chart and start handing the ball off to Benny Cunningham more.  Cunningham is more of the traditional back, who can take some of the pounding off of Jordan Howard.  Because of Howard’s toughness alone, and him alone in this backfield, you have to give it a grade of a B.

Wide Receiver/Tight End:

Nothing to see here folks.  Even if Kevin White and Cameron Merdith didn’t suffer season ending injuries, it’s hard to believe it would be a much better group of wide-outs than the one that’s currently presented.  Sometimes it’s hard to figure out if they aren’t getting opportunities because the play calling is so bad, or if they’re just not that good.  The loss of Zach Miller was not only horrific to watch but also took away the most reliable target on the team.  Rookie Adam Shaheen was supposed to be one of those “sleeper picks” in the draft, and so far he has one catch which was a two-yard touchdown reception. . .yay.  Hopefully the acquisition of Dontrelle Inman will help boast this group but it’s pretty pitiful.  Easy grade of an F.

Offensive Line:

Glennon and Trubisky have combined for 19 sacks this season but when watching the tape, the blame isn’t all on the offensive line.  This is a tough group led by Kyle Long and Josh Sitton.  Cody Whitehair slips up once in a while but all in all he’s continuing to be a solid contributor.  The Bears have the third most rushing yards in the league and the backs are averaging a respectable 4.3 yards a carry.  If healthy this is a good offensive line who’s grade is a B.

Defensive Line:

If there is a mid-season MVP for this Bears team, I’d have to go with Akiem Hicks.  Hicks leads the team with 7 sacks, demands attention and is the player on this defensive front who offensive coordinators must plan around.  His All-Pro-Like play has opened up more opportunities for Leonard Floyd and Eddie Goldman.  The Bears are allowing on 3.9 yards a rush this season and most of it is due to this defensive front that finds itself in the opposition’s back field more times than not. Grade A.

Linebackers/Secondary:

A healthy Danny Trevathan is a welcomed sight to this defense.  He leads the team with 52 total tackles and definitely has added that “aggressive nature” the Bears defense has been lacking in recent history.  Rookie safety Eddie Jackson came out of Alabama with a lot of talent but also a history including injuries so many were wary of him.  He could prove to be the safety the Bears have been needing for years if he keeps playing at the level he’s been playing at.  Even if you take away that game when he had two pick-sixes he’s still been playing like one of the steals of this year’s draft.  His pairing with Adrian Amos can be the building blocks for rebuilding a secondary.  Fans want Kyle Fuller to be “the guy” – but I don’t see it.  Ever.  Regardless, this is a physical group of players from the linebackers to the secondary who will get a grade of B plus.

Coaching:

First the good:

Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and defensive backs coach Ed Donatell both get an A for their efforts this year.  Donatell has really got the young guys in the secondary playing with confidence and as mentioned above they seem to be developing quickly into legit NFL talents.  Fangio has been one of the NFL’s best defensive coordinators for years and it’s his defense that has kept the Bears in games, even when the offense is trying to give them away.

Now the bad:

Head coach John Fox, quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains all get a D at the midpoint of the 2017 season. The offensive play calling is as predictable as a New Year’s hangover.   “Run, Run, Pass, Punt,” appears to be the offensive call to arms, especially since the team made the switch to Mitchell Trubisky.  Trubiksy has displayed some arm strength and the ability to throw on the run, but the Bears refuse to open the playbook for the struggling rookie.  This all falls on John Fox, and seriously nobody even knows if he’s mentally checked out already or not.  Rumors have been floating around since the draft that he’s a lame duck coach this season and they’ll be looking to change the culture next season.  Bears fans everywhere hope so.

After calculating the grades, the Bears get an overall mid-season grade of a C.  That is both a surprising and “not-so-bad” grade for a team with a 3-5 record who at the beginning of the season was looked at as an NFL “doormat.”  The last 2-3 years saw a Bears team that would quit, especially defensively.  The re-emergence of the Monster of the Midway can give the fan-base hope.  Just imagine if this team had a decent offense what they could look like. . . They’ll be lucky to finish the season with seven wins, but if they keep playing like they are, there is definitely a core here to build on.

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

 

 

Chicago Bears 2017 Outlook

It’s that time of year for Bears fans.  You know, the premature-Doomsday talk for the Bears’ up-coming season.  The annual and agonizing punchlines about the Bears weak front office, past draft mishaps and the whole “Jay Cutler” era.  And in 2017, lets not fail to mention the touch of awful comedy bestowed upon the Bears: how a team who won three games last year ended up with one of the toughest schedules (on paper) this year.   It’s business as usual for Chicago as it appears they will once again be expected to be bringing-up-the-rear of the NFC North.

Vegas is giving Chicago a chance to be better than last year, which isn’t saying much after a 3-13 season.  The over/under for total wins is set at 5.5, which seems just about right considering this team’s secondary and wide out group.  Something that the Bears do have in their favor this season is that they are only traveling an estimated 8300 miles this season, which is the fifth lowest in the NFL this year (in some kind of Chicago Bears luck, they play all four teams who travel less than they do this year).  With a young team, this should work out in their favor more than not.

But aside from ridiculous positives this writer is trying to find, let’s look at this offense.   The Bears did some pretty confusing things in the off-season but when you sit back and think about it, they did it right. . . at least you’d hope.  They signed free agent QB Mike Glennon to a three year $45 million dollar contract, consequently outbidding nobody for his services and then months later they moved up in the draft to take QB Mitch Trubisky out of UNC.  A one year starter who the Bears say won’t see the time of day this season.  And let’s not forget they went and signed everyone’s favorite klutz, Mark Sanchez.  Aye.  Best case scenario is that Glennon puts up decent enough numbers and doesn’t get hurt all year.  The Bears signed Sanchez for two reasons: to not have Glennon worry about his starting job and to help mentor (yes mentor, look at how good he was as a cheerleader for Dak Prescott in Dallas last year) the young Trubiksy.

The issue here is, if Glennon struggles – and there’s a good chance he might – the Bears fans will be screaming for Trubisky or head coach John Fox’s head.  Fox is saying Trubisky will remain number three on the depth chart but Fox is also coaching for his job this time around so if Glennon struggles, he’ll likely put his future in the hands of Trubisky rather than Sanchez.

The Bears offensive line, if healthy, can prove to be one of the better surprises of the 2017 season.   As of right now Cody Whitehair remains at center for the Bears, but Hroniss Grasu is healthy now and he was slated to be the starter in 2016 before he got hurt.  Whitehair is versatile enough to move around the line and the Bears have shown that they will put Kyle Long, and his intensity, pretty much anywhere along that O-Line.  Anything can happen here, and the depth is the most legit that it’s been in a long time.

Jordan Howard enters his sophomore season behind this offensive line and he is looking to prove that his rookie season of over 1300 rushing yards at 5.2 yards a clip, was no fluke.  The depth at running back is interesting – Jeremy Langford who not too long ago was thought to be their guy moving forward took a step back last season.  Kadeem Carey who writer Kevin Fishbain  of the Athletic pointed out “has never rushed for 160 yards in a season” may struggle to be anything more than a special teams coverage guy, and rookie Tarik Cohen, all five foot, six inches of him – is a fan and camp favorite.

The wide outs on the Bears are a collection of under achievers looking for one more shot.  Kevin White, Markus Wheaton and Kendall Wright all had promising careers at one point but either due to injury or just “not being as good as advertised” – things haven’t worked out their way.  Folks love Cameron Meredith, but I’d be careful to fall in love with an undrafted rookie out of Illinois State who probably wouldn’t get a chance to play wide receiver on just about any other roster than this one in the NFL.  The Bears know their wide outs are more boom than bust which is why they signed free agent tight end Dion Sims who. . . oh yeah that’s right, he’s a bust too.  Zach Miller has been okay at the tight end spot, but everyone expects the Bears to showcase rookie Adam Shaheen early and often.

Defensively, it’s all about what this front seven can do.  General manager Ryan Pace didn’t think too hard in the first round of last years draft and went with the obvious choice in Leonard Floyd who should – excuse me – will be a defensive star for years to come in this league. Veteran Willie Young has kept himself in Floyd’s ear, pushing him all through camp, apparently.  Young is a versatile defensive OLB who should probably get a lot more credit than he gets. Defensive end Akiem Hicks is primed to have a big season this year, which should do wonders for the likes of Jonathan Bullard who needs to come on strong early this year.  Jerrell Freeman is in his second year in this defense and will find his footing in it as well.  Injuries to Pernell McPhee and Danny Trevathan bring Bears fans close to tears because if those guys were added onto this front seven, it becomes one of the most formidable in the league.

The secondary though. . .

Can we just stop waiting on Kyle Fuller?  The corner back had two good games in his rookie year and people treat him as if he’s the next Charles Tillman. Enough. The Bears signed veteran safety Quintin Demps to a three year $13 million dollar contract, with five million guaranteed.  It took Demps 8 years to have his best season and he did it with a great defense last year (Texans) – he doesn’t create for himself but is opportunistic.  Rookie safety Eddie Jackson from Alabama could be a legit steal in the draft if he can stay healthy.  He has all the tools to be a starter in the NFL but injuries in college made his draft stock plummet.  There is really nothing to get excited about at the moment with this Bears secondary.  There is a lot of youth fighting to get on this squad.  Hopefully, at least one of these kids can be like catching lightning in a bottle.  The front seven can help make this secondary look a lot better than they actually are.

At the end of it all, Bears fans have got to stay focused on what’s really important here.  Developing the youth, and looking toward the future.  This season is tough, Minnesota’s a good team and Green Bay is Green Bay. . . The Bears have to focus on the win-able games and build from there.  Six wins – maybe even seven are not out of the realm of possibility for this team. Expect a stronger second half of the season from this team and a positive look into 2018.

 

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio