Chicago Bears

Bears free-agency analysis: Ryan Pace overhauls secondary

Bears free-agency analysis: Ryan Pace overhauls secondary

This is the third in a series analyzing the Bears' decision-making during the 2017 free-agency period.

From 3/13: Bears free agency analysis: Alshon Jeffery non-deal left an understandable void

From 3/14: Bears free-agency analysis: Offseason OL pattern holds with Tom Compton

When the Bears opted out of the spiraling bidding for free agents at two of their critical-need positions — cornerback, safety — the obvious reason was that the prices for A.J. Bouye and Stephon Gilmore at corner and safety Tony Jefferson, the reason was simple: The "whoa" factor.
 
"I guess I should say nothing surprises me anymore," GM Ryan Pace said, then laughed, "but there's a handful of things that you're like, ‘Whoa!'" 
 
Amid the aftershocks of one of the most aggressive Bears starts in their history with free agency — six new players signed in the span of less than 48 hours — is the conclusion that the Bears correctly took passes on players on whom a knee-jerk market was overheating, even allowing for a higher salary cap, and simultaneously upgraded primary need positions.
 
The Bears wanted additions at cornerback. They were linked to Gilmore and Bouye, who were signed by the New England Patriots and Jacksonville Jaguars to five-year deals worth $65 million and $67.5 million, contracts for a one-time Pro Bowl alternate (Gilmore) from a pass defense ranked in the 20's (Buffalo, 2015-16), and for a one-year starter (Bouye) with 19 career starts. The guaranteed money for Gilmore reached $40 million, and $26 million for Bouye.

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The packages exceeded the ones for the likes of Janoris Jenkins and Aqib Talib and approach the ranges for Patrick Peterson, Darrelle Revis and Richard Sherman.
 
Prince Amukamara has had health issues, but is on a prove-it deal at one-year, $7 million. Marcus Cooper projects as an upgrade over Kyle Fuller in the latter's current diminished state, and his three-year deal averages $5.3-million-per, for a starter with 4 interceptions and 11 pass breakups last season in 13 starts.
 
And Pace was clear that the draft always factors into free-agency.
 
Quintin Demps represents an upgrade at safety, with a player who netted 6 interceptions last season as a member of the Houston Texans secondary along with Bouye. At age 32 Demps might better be viewed as a veteran bridge in the deep middle that has been a black hole since the better days of Mike Brown.
 
With the No. 3 and 36 picks of the draft, the Bears are expected to address the secondary with players that their personnel evaluators view with greater upside than what the spiraling dollars of free agency could offer a team building for a future.

Why Ben Roethlisberger's perspective on young QBs (like Mitchell Trubisky) is worth keeping in mind

Why Ben Roethlisberger's perspective on young QBs (like Mitchell Trubisky) is worth keeping in mind

If Mitchell Trubisky takes over as the Bears’ starting quarterback this year and has some success, keep Ben Roethlisberger’s perspective in mind: It’ll take a couple of years before he’s solidly established in the NFL. 

Roethlisberger said even after his rookie year — in which he won all 13 regular season games he started — he still was facing defensive looks he hadn’t seen before in Year 2 and 3 as a pro. So saying someone is and will be one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL after a productive first season is, for Roethlisberger, too early. 

“I think it takes a couple years,” Roethlisberger said. “That’s why I’m always slow to send too much praise or anoint the next great quarterback after Year 1. I think people in the media and the 'professionals' in some of these big sports networks are so quick to anoint the next great one or say that they’re going to be great; this, that and the other. Let’s wait and see what happens after two to three years; after defenses understand what you’re bringing; you’re not a surprise anymore. 

“I think it takes a few years until you can really get that title of understanding being great or even good, because you see so many looks. In Year 2 and 3, you’re still seeing looks and can act like a rookie.”

The flip side to this would be not panicking if Trubisky struggles when he eventually becomes the Bears’ starting quarterback. For all the success he had during preseason play, most of it came against backup and third string defenses that hadn’t done much gameplanning for him. Defensive coordinators inevitably will scheme to make things more difficult for a rookie quarterback with normal week of planning, and it may take Trubisky a little while to adjust to seeing things he hasn't before. 

“They’re not going to line up in a 4-3 or a 3-4 base defense, they’re going to throw different looks at you, different blitzes to try and confuse you,” Roethlisberger said. “The confusion between the ears part is really one of the biggest keys to it.”

The “it” Roethlisberger referred to there is success as a rookie. The former 11th overall pick was lucky enough to begin his NFL career with a strong ground game headlined by Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis, a balanced receiving corps featuring Hines Ward, Plaxico Burress and Antwaan Randel El and a defense that led the NFL in points allowed (15.7/game). Trubisky, as the Bears’ roster currently stands, won’t be afforded that same level of support. 

Roethlisberger, though, had a chance to meet and work out with Trubisky before the draft (the two quarterbacks share the same agent) and, for what it's worth, came away impressed with 

“I thought he was a tremendous athlete,” Roethlisberger said. “I thought he could throw the ball. I thought when he got out of the pocket and made throws on the run, his improvising. I got to watch some of his college tape. Just really impressed with the athleticism. The ease of throwing the ball; it just looked easy to him when he was on the run, when it wasn’t supposed to be super easy. So I thought that those were the most impressive things that I got to see; obviously not sitting in a meeting room and knowing his smarts or things like that, but just the athleticism.”
 

For Bears' receivers and Mike Glennon, dropping the ball misses the point

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USA TODAY

For Bears' receivers and Mike Glennon, dropping the ball misses the point

The Bears classified six of Mike Glennon’s incompletions against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as drops, something coach John Fox used to bolster his argument that the entire offense needs to be better, not just the quarterback. Had those six passes been caught, Glennon would’ve finished with 37 completions on 45 attempts for probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 330-350 yards with at best a touchdown or two more than the one he threw.  

But that misses the point: Glennon still threw two interceptions and lost a fumble. Whether he completed 69 or 82 percent of his passes wouldn’t have really changed anything. And it leaves out when those incompletions happened, too.

Only one pass that could possibly be classified as a drop happened in the first half — that when Glennon threw behind running back Jordan Howard, who couldn’t contort his body and hands to make a catch in the second quarter. But that was an inaccurate throw from Glennon. Could it have been caught? Possibly, but the ball placement could’ve been better. 

Other than that, the rest of the drops came in the second half — when the game was well out of reach. Wright, Bellamy and Deonte Thompson didn’t drop anything in the first half, and each made some solid catches in traffic. 

That doesn’t absolve anyone here, though, and that most of those drops came late in the game reflects poorly on the team’s effort level, even if that wasn’t necessarily a problem. 

“You could make a number of excuses,” tight end Zach Miller said. “You get late in the game, it’s playing down in a different environment, heat — it doesn’t really matter. You’ve just got to catch the ball.”

Four of those six drops were egregious, with accurate passes hitting receivers Kendall Wright, Josh Bellamy and Tanner Gentry in the hands only to have the ball wind up on the ground. All of those came in the fourth quarter. 

Fox did bring up the two passes the Bears dropped from inside the five-yard line in Week 1 against the Atlanta Falcons, which are more relevant for evaluating Glennon. Had Bellamy or Howard caught passes that hit them in the hands — Bellamy in the end zone, Howard at the one-yard line — the Bears likely would’ve been 1-0 heading to Tampa. But had any of those six balls been caught on Sunday, it only would've served to pad Glennon's already-flawed stat line.