Chicago Bears

Bears' grades: Defense and special teams

959803.png

Bears' grades: Defense and special teams

When the Bears defense allows just 248 yards, 160 of those after an initial drive, and the Bears lose, the problem was not the defense (again). But a third straight touchdown drive of 80 or more yards (the last two vs. Seattle and Minnesotas first on Sunday) rocked the Bears on both sides of the ball.

In road games coach Lovie Smith typically prefers to have his defense on the field first in order to take home crowds enthusiasm down. He was handed that situation Sunday when the Vikings won the toss and elected to put Adrian Peterson and that offense out to start the game.

The game was dangerously close to be effectively over with less than six minutes played after the defense was trampled by Peterson, who had a franchise-record 104 yards in the first quarter. The unit rallied and did not allow a score over the final 54 minutes of the game but it was not enough with the offense giving Minnesota help in the form of two interceptions that resulted in scores.

The problem with evaluating this side of the ball in this game was that the numbers were generally in the Bears favor but one good Minnesota drive was one too many.

DEFENSIVE LINE B-

Corey Woottons sack of Christian Ponder was a major momentum bump in the first quarter after Minnesota had scored twice. But it was one of the few times the front four got any real pressure on a shake-able quarterback, who took just one official hit in the game.

Julius Peppers played one of his more active games in recent weeks, particularly with little time off. Peppers led all defensive linemen with four tackles, one for loss.

Being without starting nose tackle Stephen Paea hurt the run defense. Shea McClellin missed a TFL of Peterson that allowed a 14-yard gain in the first quarter. McClellin and Henry Melton (for a while) were out with injuries in the first half, forcing the rest of the group to play heavy snaps and Israel Idonije to spend more time inside at tackle.

The lack of work on Ponder was a significant failure.

LINEBACKERS C

The Vikings went right after fill-in Geno Hayes on the first play and were able to gash the front seven and Minnesota schemes got linebackers on wideouts too often in the first half.

Lance Briggs played a superior game, all over the field in coverage and the Vikings backfield. Briggs finished with 11 tackles, one for loss.

Nick Roach had nine tackles two for loss and performed serviceably in the middle in place of Brian Urlacher. Hayes had three solo tackles, one for loss.

But the overall of 154 yards for Peterson, which started with 51 on the first play of the game, was possible because of both sloppy tackling and some late fills into gaps, allowing Peterson to get up speed and pick up additional yardage after first contact.

SECONDARY C

Kelvin Hayden missed a tackle in the hole that allowed Adrian Peterson to break loose for 51 yards on the first play of the game. Hayden was victimized with a second missed tackle in the first quarter for another first down.

Major Wrights interception late in the second quarter ended a threat and gave the Bears an energy boost going in at halftime.

The group was without Tim Jennings (shoulder) and lost safety Craig Steltz in the third quarter. Charles Tillmans unnecessary roughness penalty in the fourth quarter was simply stupid, a late hit into a pile of down players.

COACHING D

The scheme to stop Adrian Peterson was strangely adequate despite the big yardage total. Missed assignments were repeatedly apparent in all areas, not something that falls to the coaches.

However, the Vikings were able to get wide receivers, particularly Jarius Wright, matched up on linebackers in coverage too many times. Christian Ponder was allowed to be an efficient 11 of 17 even for a pedestrian 91 yards and the Bears were not able to harass him even with blitzes.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Losing kicker Robbie Gould during pregame warmups was a setback but did not figure in the outcome. A lack of impact returns did, however. And Bears special teams had three penalties assessed on the unit.

KICKING B-

Robbie Gould appeared to injure his left calf in pregame, forcing Adam Podlesh to handle kickoffs. Podlesh, whose last kickoff came in his first NFL game in 2007, managed to get a touchback on his opening boot. Podlesh averaged 37.5 yards on his six punts, four placed inside the 20 to assist the defense.

COVERAGE A-

The Bears lost a huge opportunity by forcing a fumble on a second-quarter KOR but failing to find the ball in time to make a recovery at what would have been inside the Minnesota 25. Zackary Bowman flipped a ball back out of the end zone to Eric Weems to put the Vikings at the Minnesota 1 late in the third quarter.

The Vikings fair-caught five punts and the sixth was downed. Their only kickoff return was for 20 yards.

RETURNS C-

Eric Weems handled kickoff returns, not well to just the 17- and 11-yard lines. Devin Hester was part of a mixup fielding a 2nd-quarter punt that went out of bounds at the Chicago 3.

Matt Spaeth nullified a long Weems return with a holding penalty in the third quarter.

Hester averaged 11.6 yards on five punt returns but Weems had no kickoff runback longer than 18 yards and averaged 14.8 on his four returns.

COACHING B-

The punt coverage plans were exceptional, with lanes maintained and the Vikings able to do no damage on any returns. The penalties on the unit reflected some lack of discipline but the unit did nothing to hurt the overall for the day.

History shows Week 5 or Week 6 could be when Mitchell Trubisky makes his first start

History shows Week 5 or Week 6 could be when Mitchell Trubisky makes his first start

The question of when Mitchell Trubisky would make his first career start was always going to be a storyline this year, but Mike Glennon’s rough showing in Week 2 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers brought it to the forefront of Bears-centric debate this week. 

Coach John Fox doesn’t want to deal in hypotheticals, and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains shot down a question Wednesday about if Trubisky was taking snaps with the first-team offense in practice: “Mike Glennon is the starter.”

But when will Glennon not be the starter and give way to Trubisky? History shows you might want to circle Week 5 or Week 6 for Trubisky’s debut. 

Since 1997, there have been 33 quarterbacks taken in the first 10 picks of that year’s NFL Draft (we’re using top 10 here as a rough cutoff point for drafting a guy expected to be the future of the franchise). Trubisky and Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes haven’t played yet. Among the 31 quarterbacks who have played, three waited at least one year to make their first start (Carson Palmer, Philip Rivers and Jake Locker). Of the 28 remaining quarterbacks, there’s an even split: 14 started from Game 1 of their rookie year and 14 made their first starts sometime between Games 2 and 17. 

Of those 14 quarterbacks who didn’t start immediately, they on average made their first start in their team’s sixth game of the season, which for the Bears would be Oct. 15's trip to face the Baltimore Ravens. The median of that group is Week 5, which is the Bears' home Monday night game against the Minnesota Vikings. 

Interestingly enough, none of them started their first game immediately after a bye week or even with an extra day of rest (i.e. the week of a Monday Night Football game). The Bears have 11 days off between facing Green Bay on Thursday, Sept. 28 and Minnesota on Monday, Oct. 9. 

Quarterback Draft year (pick) First start game # QB rating
Tim Couch 1999 (1) 2 73.2
Donovan McNabb 1999 (2) 7 60.1
Akili Smith 1999 (3) 5 55.6
Michael Vick 2001 (1) 8 62.7
Joey Harrington 2002 (3) 3 59.9
Byron Leftwich 2003 (7) 3 73.0
Eli Manning 2004 (1) 10 55.4
Alex Smith 2005 (1) 5 40.8
Vince Young 2006 (3) 4 66.7
Matt Leinart 2006 (10) 5 74.0
JaMarcus Russell 2007 (1) 16 55.9
Blaine Gabbert 2011 (10) 3 65.4
Blake Bortles  2014 (3) 4 69.5
Jared Goff 2016 (1) 10 63.6

Most of these quarterbacks didn’t have success parachuting in during the middle of a season — the highest quarterback rating among the group (Matt Leinart’s 74.0) is lower than the average quarterback rating for the 14 players who were starters from Week 1 (75.4). The three quarterbacks who waited at least a year to start had an average quarterback rating of 81.1, though that’s a small sample size. 

Among the last 10 top-10-picked quarterbacks, only two made their starting debuts in the middle of a season — Blake Bortles in the Jacksonville Jaguars’ fourth game and Jared Goff in the Los Angeles’ Rams 10th game — while Cam Newton, Ryan Tannehill, Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston and Carson Wentz started from Week 1 (Locker is the 10th guy here and started his first game a year after being drafted). So Trubisky, in not starting immediately for the Bears, would be somewhat of an outlier in recent history.

The Bears will have to hope that Trubisky is an outlier, too, in terms of initial success among quarterbacks who make their debuts mid-season, too. 

Why Yoan Moncada's hot streak is important for the White Sox confidence and his

moncada.jpg
USA TODAY

Why Yoan Moncada's hot streak is important for the White Sox confidence and his

HOUSTON -- Don’t think the White Sox front office isn’t enjoying every second of Yoan Moncada’s tear.

Everyone can breathe a little easier knowing there are fewer questions for baseball’s top prospect to answer headed into 2018. Pleased as they’d been with Moncada’s patient plate approach, the club desired a breakthrough before Oct. 2 for the confidence boost it would provide him alone. Moncada continued a torrid run on Wednesday night that should have him bristling with poise when he arrives in Glendale, Ariz. next February. He homered as the White Sox fell 4-3 to the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.

“We’ve been looking for him to continue to try and make adjustments,” manager Rick Renteria said. “There was probably a point there where people were a little concerned. Truthfully, when you see some of the talent these kids have, you recognize that their skillset is going to play up, it’s just a matter of getting the repetition.”

The White Sox have been impressed with Moncada’s improved awareness as he gains more experience.

One area in which Moncada has made the most gains is pitch recognition. The book has been that second baseman has had trouble with offspeed since he arrived in 2016, hitting .154 against sliders and .238 against curveballs entering Wednesday, according to Brooksbaseball.net.

But Moncada is trending upward. The first-pitch slider from Astros starter Brad Peacock that Moncada ripped for a go-ahead, two-run homer in the fourth inning was his fifth hit of the trip on a slider or curveball in 11 at-bats. On the trip, Moncada -- who has 209 plate appearances this season -- is hitting .415/.477/.683 with three homers, eight RBIs and 12 runs in 41 plate appearances.

[MORE: Jose Abreu's gift to Yoan Moncada just keeps on giving

Given Moncada’s struggles in a brief 2016 tryout with the Boston Red Sox, having success is certainly helpful as he won’t head into another offseason wondering when it might happen for him. Moncada doesn’t compare the two situations because of playing time -- he was limited to 20 plate appearances over a month in 2016. But he agrees his recent play is good for the psyche.

“It’s important for my confidence, especially thinking about next year,” Moncada said through an interpreter. “With this run, I have been able to have more confidence and believe in myself and my talent, and I think that’s something I can carry into next season.”

“This offseason is going to be different because I’ve been able to play almost every day. I have more confidence in myself. I know the game better. Last season I had an opportunity to be at this level a little bit, but it wasn’t the same. This year is the opposite because I’ve been playing a lot and have been able to handle good and bad stretches at this level.”

While a reduction in strikeout-rate is still needed to be more effective, Moncada has begun to establish himself as a major league hitter. It’s exactly how teammate and mentor Jose Abreu hoped Moncada would spend his time this season.

“He has to get to know a lot of things at this level,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “The game, the pitchers, the culture here -- there’s a lot of little things he has to get to know here. The way you can work through it is give your best every day and try to learn as much as you can and try to use all your knowledge and to pool your knowledge on each play in the game. That’s the only way you can get results and you can build on those results and this experience for the future. I think he’s finally doing it and that’s important for him and for us thinking of the next season and beyond.”

Renteria not only likes the pitch recognition but the way that Moncada has tried to hit through the shift several times against Houston. Though the White Sox never wavered, they’re certainly happy to see Moncada produce the way they thought he eventually would.

“He’s starting to slow it down a little more,” Renteria said. “He’s starting to see more of the landscape and making adjustments in general. It’s been a good run for him. We thought he would show signs of growth at the end of the season and he’s doing that.”