Bears Grades: Four units earn failing marks

539443.jpg

Bears Grades: Four units earn failing marks

Sunday, Sept. 18, 2011Posted: 6:21 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com Bears Insider Follow @CSNMoonMullin
The Bears generated 165 yards of offense in the first half and had the Saints within reach early in the third quarter at 16-13. But the offense netted just 81 yards for the second half and collapsed repeatedly, failing to come up with not only big plays, but even vital smaller ones, converting just two of 12 third-down opportunities, 0 for 6 in the second half.

QUARTERBACK: C

Jay Cutler survived but did little else. He was sacked five times in the fourth quarter alone, managed to avoid throwing any interceptions, and netted 244 yards with receivers dropping too many passes. Difficult to evaluate his play, although he continues to hold onto the ball deep into plays behind a line that is stretched to its max. Cutler completed only 19 of 45 attempts and was forced too often to go with check-downs to Matt Forte against a defense that blanketed his receivers.

RUNNING BACK: B

Forte accounted for 118 of the Bears 165 yards of offense in the first half, 166 for the game (out of the Bears 246) and produced another outstanding effort that only served to underscore his value the Bears as presently constituted. He was not the primary receiver on the majority of his 10 receptions but repeatedly turned lost causes into positive yardage. His 42-yard run in the first quarter was his only effective carry, as he had just seven yards in his other nine carries.

RECEIVERS: F

Dane Sanzenbacher forced a Saints LB into a holding call in coverage, then capped a first-quarter drive by catching his first NFL TD pass, an eight-yarder from Cutler. With Earl Bennett out early with a chest injury, Sanzenbacher received extensive playing time, did well enough but dropped a key third-down pass that would have given the Bears a first down in the third quarter and caught just three of the seven passes on which he was targeted. Devin Hester had a key drop as well and caught one of his nine pass opportunities.

Kellen Davis missed block on DE Turk McBride got Cutler sacked and caused a fumble that led to a New Orleans TD. Davis missed a block last weekend in the Bears end zone that caused Cutler to take a huge hit as he released a pass.
OFFENSIVE LINE: F
Gabe Carimis knee injury late in the first half is a franchise concern, although Frank Omiyale performed adequately at first when pressed into service in one of the NFLs most difficult venues. But Omiyale was overmatched under pressure and the line could not handle the looks and blitzes overall. Cutler was hit 10 times in addition to the six sacks, and the Saints were credited with seven tackles-for-loss. Chris Spencer started in place of Lance Louis at RG. Besides Fortes 42-yard carry in the first quarter and a 12-yard Cutler scramble, the offense picked up six yards in its other 10 rushing attempts.
DEFENSIVE LINE: F

Against a pair of Pro Bowl guards (Jahri Evans, Carl Nicks) and one-time Pro Bowl center Olin Kreutz, pressure was difficult to get. Israel Idonije sacked Drew Brees in the second quarter and that was about it for the pass rush. Julius Peppers got a pressure on Brees but Idonije and Amobi Okoye had the only QB hits initially credited. Henry Melton, after two sacks and six QB hits against Atlanta, did not make the initial stat sheet with so much as a tackle assist. The Saints picked up five rushing first downs and rarely were under duress from a front that owned the Falcons a week ago.

LINEBACKERS: C-

Lance Briggs had a game-high 11 tackles, 10 of them solo. But Brian Urlacher and Nick Roach were too often invisible against an average Saints rushing game that netted 118 yards at a 4.1-yards-per-carry clip. Brees was able to force the LBs to cover in space and then took advantage of them underneath, and run support was rarely there until backs were in or through holes.

SECONDARY: F
Major Wrights breakdown and failure to protect deep resulted in a 79-yard TD pass on third-and-long from Brees to Devery Henderson. Brandon Meriweather, starting for Chris Harris, was late to react on a 31-yard toss to the tight end. Wright was late in covering tight ends throughout and was injured in the third quarter on a hit on 260-pound tight end Jimmy Graham. Charles Tillman forced and recovered a fumble in the fourth quarter too late to matter.

But Brees was able to complete 26 of 37 passes for 270 yards and a rating of 118.1 and the Saints 50 percent conversion rate on third downs through three quarters, 8 for 17 for the game, was fatal.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-
Robbie Gould salvaged points from two possessions with 42 and 38-yard field goals, the only Bears points in nearly the final 52 minutes. He converted all three of his attempts. Adam Podlesh averaged 43.6 net on eight punts and was about the best offense the Bears had all day. Sam Hurds silly interference with a fair catch in the second quarter cost the Bears 15 yards, field position and fueled growing New Orleans momentum.

COACHING: C-

Mike Martzs play design overall found openings and mismatches against a hyper-aggressive New Orleans defense. He isolated Dane Sanzenbacher against a linebacker, and maneuvered Sanzenbacher and fullback Tyler Clutts into wide-open situations behind all-out blitzing fronts. But with the Bears trailing by six points at halftime, he abandoned the run increasingly through the third quarter. The game spiraled out of control in a venue where the need was to force New Orleans to respect some kind of run game.

The defense was exploited too often but breakdowns appeared to be more a factor of slow reactions to balls and situations. The Bears had the Saints in 17 third downs but allowed conversions on eight of them.

The Bears were penalized fewer times (six) than the Saints (seven), a hint of some reasonable preparation for one of the NFLs most difficult places to play.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

Bears: One-time starter Christian Jones willing to forge a new role in changing D

Bears: One-time starter Christian Jones willing to forge a new role in changing D

What’s wrong with this picture? Or maybe, what’s right?

Over the past two years, no Bear made more tackles than Christian Jones’ 196 – a total accomplished in spite of being shunted around in a death-spiraling 4-3 scheme under the Marc Trestman staff in 2014 and then moved inside as part of the John Fox/Vic Fangio 3-4 last season.

An undrafted free agent picked up by the Phil Emery regime out of Florida State, Jones also was third in special-teams tackles (11) in 2014 and contributed four last season along with four pass breakups and four quarterback pressures.

Then this offseason Jones could only watch as the Bears made replacing him (and Shea McClellin) a priority, signing inside linebackers Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan. And suddenly Jones finds himself in a battle for a roster spot. He even saw his number (59) taken to one of the new guys (Trevathan).

It is not often that teams put replacing one of their leading tacklers high on their offseason to-do lists. But there it was.

“You can’t really get surprised,” said Jones, still among the most upbeat players to be found anywhere on the roster. “It’s the NFL, and they brought in two good players, and that’s going to help the team, the defense. I was all in for that.

“So it’s taking my role and doing the best I can with that.”

The trouble is, that “role” is fluid.

[MORE: Bears now losing players to rampant stomach virus]

Coaches came to Jones early in the offseason and said they were moving him back to the outside. Fine. He was comfortable there before. Except that since the start of training camp, Jones has been something of a “Where’s Waldo?” character – inside, outside, try finding him.

If there’s an irony, it lies in the fact that not finding Jones a clear role sets him up as a piece of roster versatility that teams crave.

“We went and signed two inside linebackers in free agency and moved him to outside, and now we’ve kind of moved him back inside, so he’s kind of a hybrid,” said coach John Fox. “And sometimes you have to be that.

“There’s the old adage, ‘The more you can do… ,’ and there are a lot of those hybrid guys in different spots. It gives him an advantage, too, as far as offensive recognition.”

Fox and the Bears staff have placed a premium on attitude as well, and Jones has continued to be a factor on special teams, something not every three-year veteran and former starter embraces.

Jones thinks clearly: “You want to have a job,” he said, laughing. “That’s the main thing.”

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

The bumping around between positions has not set Jones’ development back. Indeed, “I think it’s been somewhat smooth, and playing both, I’m getting a sense of the defense,” Jones said. “That helps a lot. It’s a good thing to know both spots because you never know with injuries, so in the long run it helps me and helps the team.”

When Jones was tasked with calling defensive signals in McClellin’s absence last season, it did not go overly well. Jones was benched by Fangio in Week 15 for inconsistency.

Indications are that something has changed. “I think there is a maturity difference, in my opinion,” Fox said.

Not enough injury woes? Bears now losing players to rampant stomach virus

Not enough injury woes? Bears now losing players to rampant stomach virus

John Fox could be excused for wondering if someone somewhere is sticking voodoo pins in a Bears doll. If it weren’t for bad luck, the 2016 Bears might have no luck at all. And now things have gotten worse, not better.

The Bears coach has overseen the M*A*S*H unit working to look like an NFL team while dealing with a sick bay situation that some days has made it seem easier to list the Bears who ARE practicing rather than the ones who aren’t.

Besides the injury tsunami that has beset them, the Bears this week are dealing with a flu/stomach virus that has hit as many as a dozen players, some more severely than others, and had one Bears higher-up facetiously (or maybe not) reaching for the Walter Payton Center door handle with his hand covered.

“We've got about six illnesses,” Fox said Wednesday, a list that included rookie cornerback Deiondre’ Hall, right tackle Bobby Massie and fullback Darrel Young for the first time.

Not all of practice was a study of absenteeism. Kicker Robbie Gould capped off Wednesday’s indoor session with a 57-yard field goal, consistent with his standing as one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history.

Gould has converted a respectable 83.2 percent of attempts in the wind tunnel known as Soldier Field. He has converted 90 percent of his kicks in NFL stadiums with either a dome or retractable roof.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Tight end Zach Miller and wide receiver Eddie Royal practiced again on Wednesday wearing don’t-hit-me red jerseys throughout practice, emblematic of their return from preseason concussions. They represent critical elements in the Bears’ passing offense, with Royal signed to put in place a steady veteran for three-receiver packages.

“We’re at a point now where we’re like, 'hey, we’ve got some time here with you guys; let’s get you guys back to 100 percent,’” said quarterback Jay Cutler. “We know what they can do on the field. It’s just a matter of us getting into game week and getting them back in the flow.”

How did Royal look coming back from his missed time? “Fresh,” Cutler said, smiling. “As he should be.”

Three Bears making strides with unfortunate opportunities from injury epidemic

Three Bears making strides with unfortunate opportunities from injury epidemic

Injuries will remain a swirling Bears story until the start of the regular season in Houston on Sept. 11, at which time the injuries will be separated from what coach John Fox termed “owies” on Tuesday. Players are trained to know the difference between pain (which you can play through) and injury (which you can sometimes worsen by playing on) and the next couple weeks, more than Saturday’s preseason game No. 3, will see all that play out.

In the meantime, however, projected roster decisions are being affected by what a handful of Bears are revealing about themselves in the vacuum created by injuries to front-liners.

These three do not automatically translate into changes at the top of the depth chart. Players lose jobs, not because of injury, but because their replacements play better than they were, and that hasn’t necessarily happened. But a team looking for quality depth is getting glimpses of some while starters are sidelined.

1.   Jeremy Langford/Ka’Deem Carey down, Jacquizz Rodgers rising.

Over the past couple weeks, the Bears’ running back committee has been expanding even as certain key figures have coped with injuries. Carey was put in the concussion protocol after a hit on special teams during the Denver game, and Langford was in a walking boot from a minor foot injury suffered in the New England game.

Rodgers, the senior member of the running-back committee, may have been an outsider in a roster squeeze, particularly after the drafting of Jordan Howard this offseason. But Rodgers has materialized with the No. 1 offense with increasing frequency, even with Carey back.

“You know 'Quizz was a big part of what we were doing early last year and then he got injured, he broke his arm,” said coach John Fox. “You know he's a real pro's pro as far as he approaches the game. He's a leader in that running-back room, you know he's a big contributor on 4th down as well as a guy who can go in and tote the rock. 

“But we didn't get a lot of looks at that last year and I've liked what I've seen this year.”

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

2. Grasu/Long down, Cornelius Edison rising.

First it was center Hroniss Grasu going down with a torn ACL. Over the past week it has been right guard Kyle Long sitting out with a worrisome shoulder injury. The first occasioned installing Ted Larsen, edged out at left guard by rookie Cody Whitehair, at center. The second sent Larsen to right guard and moved Cornelius Edison up into the center spot with the No. 1 offense.

Edison, who’d spent part of his rookie year on the Bears’ practice squad, went undrafted out of Portland State and was far from a player to watch when camp began, even mistakenly ID’d as a linebacker in team literature.

Not anymore. Long is expected back at some point and Larsen the presumptive starter at center. But Edison has earned time with the No. 1 offense and done enough with it to be a serious candidate to stick on a roster in need of interior insurance.

“[Edison] is athletic,” Fox said. “He doesn’t have quite the experience that Ted has but he’s a good young prospect and the more snaps he gets [the better]. He got quite a few snaps Thursday night in New England and I thought he performed pretty well.”

3. CB’s down, Kevin Peterson rising. 

Kyle Fuller required knee surgery a week ago. Bryce Callahan has been hobbled and held out of practice. Jacoby Glenn started at New England but went out with a concussion. All are favorites for roster spots, but their absences has allowed Peterson onto the field and into situations where he has played his way into position to surprise when final cutdowns are done.

An undrafted free agent out of Oklahoma State, Peterson is an obvious prospect for practice squad. “He's been here all through the off-season and into training camp,” Fox said. “He hasn't had a lot of opportunity until we got nicked up at the [cornerback] position. So [the Kansas City game] will be a big opportunity for him as well as the final preseason game against Cleveland.”