Chicago Bears

Bears Week 1 grades: Long looks needed for Mike Glennon, secondary

Bears Week 1 grades: Long looks needed for Mike Glennon, secondary

Quarterbacks: C+

Credit is due for Mike Glennon given what he did on the Bears’ final drive, even if it didn’t get in the end zone. With Atlanta head-scratchingly playing plenty of off coverage against an offense that barely tried to stretch the field throughout the game, Glennon took what was given and marched the Bears within five yards of the end zone with time running out. And Glennon, for what it’s worth, could’ve been a hero had Jordan Howard not dropped his pass and backed into the end zone on second-and-goal (more on that later). 

Another point in Glennon’s favor: Not only was he not intercepted on Sunday, he didn’t make any cringe-worthy throws that could’ve easily been picked off. 

But the Bears’ offense until late in the fourth quarter was “fine” at best, save for some flashes of brilliance from Tarik Cohen (again, more on him in a bit). Glennon was 7/9 for 41 yards at halftime, and the Bears ran 20 plays between completed passes at one point during the second and third quarters. 

Running backs: A-

Tarik Cohen was outstanding, sparking the Bears’ offense with a 46-yard scamper and a 19-yard touchdown when the team needed it the most (both those big plays came after Atlanta had scored a touchdown). Jordan Howard had 52 yards on 13 carries, but his drop on the 1-yard line of a possible game-winning touchdown with 12 seconds left in the fourth quarter lowers this unit's grade a bit. 

Wide receivers: D-

This unit was targeted by Glennon only two more times (14) than Cohen (12) was, and the only deep ball Glennon threw was to the speedy rookie running back. The production just wasn’t there for this group, which combined to catch nine passes for 82 yards as it struggled to get open on deeper routes. Kevin White, prior to his injury, had a rough drop on a quick slant. Saving this group from an F: Kendall Wright and Josh Bellamy combined for four catches and 45 yards — so about half the unit’s total production — on the Bears’ final drive. 

Tight Ends: C

Zach Miller received the second most targets of any player (six) and had four catches for 39 yards, and Dion Sims caught two passes for 31 yards. This unit can be better, especially with the Bears possibly without their top two receivers in White and Cameron Meredith, but also didn’t do a lot wrong on Sunday. 

Offensive line: C-

Even if you allow for Glennon missing a protection here or there, the offensive line bears the most responsibility for the four sacks Atlanta totaled. None were more important than the last one, when Brooks Reed raced around Bobby Massie to sack Glennon (Massie, arguably, wasn’t overtly beat on it, but Glennon didn’t have room to step up — overall, the Falcons were able to sustain good pressure on the play). 

Cody Whitehair committed two penalties that put the Bears behind the sticks, which was a tough place for an offense lacking the ability to stretch the field, and a low snap while Glennon was in the gun led to a wasted play in the fourth quarter. There shouldn’t be a long-term concern about this unit — especially when Kyle Long returns — but it struggled at times on Sunday. 

Defensive line: A-

Akiem Hicks had two sacks, Roy Robertson-Harris generated some good pressure and batted down a pass and this group led the effort to hold Devonta Freeman to only 37 yards on 12 carries. Hicks in particular played at an elite level a day after signing a four-year contract extension, though the roughing the passer foul he committed in the third quarter led to a Falcons field goal. 

Linebackers: B-

This unit was the other half of the equation to stopping the highest paid running back in the NFL, with Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan both doing well to mute the run. Freeman did well in covering tight end Levine Toilolo late in the fourth quarter, preventing what would’ve been a game-clinching touchdown. Leonard Floyd didn’t get much pressure on Matt Ryan but broke up a pass and was solid as a tackler. 

Defensive backs: C-

The Bears allowed an 88-yard touchdown pass, and Austin Hooper’s 40-yard gain on third-and-10 late in the fourth quarter was rough (Kyle Fuller and Eddie Jackson missed tackles on that play). On the 88-yard score, the Bears were still getting set right up to the snap, and it looked like linebacker Jerrell Freeman thought he could hand off Hooper to a safety, but Quintin Demps went toward the far sideline to help Fuller with Julio Jones, leaving Hooper wide open over the middle. After the game, Demps took responsibility for the broken coverage. 

This grade isn’t completely ruined by those plays, though, because Marcus Cooper and Fuller combined to do well in limiting Julio Jones to four catches for 66 yards — and Matt Ryan only looked Jones’ way five times during the game. Even if Jones was merely a decoy on some snaps, that’s still a solid showing for these DBs against one of the best receivers in the NFL. Not only did Cooper and Fuller throw plenty of different looks Jones’ way, but they succeeded in making those looks successful. An example: with Atlanta facing a third-and-goal from the 10-yad line, Fuller re-routed Jones and took him out of a play that ended with an incompletion. Another one: Cooper came awfully close to a pick six in the fourth quarter when he aggressively jumped a throw toward Jones, settling for a pass break-up. 

Nickel Bryce Callahan deserves a mention for solid coverage and, on a blitz, drawing the attention of right tackle Ryan Schraeder, which freed up Hicks to envelop Ryan for his second sack of the game.

Special teams: B

Connor Barth tied a career high with a 54-yard field goal, his only non-PAT attempt of the game, but it’s enough to boost this grade. Deonte Thompson fumbled a kickoff late in the fourth quarter that the Bears, fortunately, recovered. 

Coaching: B

This was a relatively clean game for the Bears penalty-wise, though the three committed (two on Whitehair, one on Hicks) certainly hurt. Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains deserves praise for hiding Cohen during preseason play — he wasn’t even targeted in three games — and unleashing him against a Falcons defense that looked caught off guard by the running back’s skillset at times. And the Bears responded well to Atlanta delivering what were two gut-check touchdowns, equalizing the game at 10 after Atlanta scored in the second quarter and getting within three points after the 88-yard calamity in the fourth. 

Perhaps Fox should’ve called timeout with the defense struggling to get aligned properly before Hooper’s touchdown, but he said after the game it wasn’t clear the coverage was going to be a problem until after the play began. 

Can Markus Wheaton fix what ails the Bears’ offense?

Can Markus Wheaton fix what ails the Bears’ offense?

Markus Wheaton was a full participant in practice on Wednesday and wasn’t on the Bears’ injury report Thursday, signaling that the 5-foot-11, 189 pound speedster will make his Bears debut Sunday against his former team, the Pittsburgh Steelers. He’s not the solution for the Bears’ offense, but he could be part of it. 

For an offense that’s woefully lacked someone who can reliably stretch the field, Wheaton can at least provide the threat of going deep. Two years ago, while with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Wheaton averaged 17 yards per reception. Mike Glennon’s longest completion this year went for 22 yards. 

“It definitely adds another dimension,” Glennon said. “It’ll be great having Markus back.”

But Wheaton only played in three games last season (four catches, 51 yards) and, at his best, averaged 48 catches, 696 yards and four touchdowns a year from 2014-2015. Is it fair to expect Wheaton to be a big part of the Bears' offensive solution given he hasn't played much recently, and was limited to only a handful of reps in training camp and preseason practices due to a pair of freak ailments?

Maybe not, but with the Bears 0-2, he's the best hope they have at a skill position. 

Wheaton needed an emergency appendectomy the first weekend the Bears were in Bourbonnais — “I thought I had to poop,” Wheaton said, maybe providing too much information, before realizing the excruiating pain in which he was in was something worse. Shortly after returning to the practice fields at Olivet Nazarene University, Wheaton fractured his pinkie finger in gruesome fashion (he said the bone was sticking out) when he was awkwardly grabbed while trying to catch a pass. 

That Wheaton broke a finger wasn’t only significant for his ability to catch passes. Consider what his former quarterback — Ben Roethlisberger — had to say about what makes Wheaton an effective deep threat:

“He’s got a very good ability of using his hands,” Roethlisberger said. “When you’re trying to stretch the field, you’ve gotta have some little techniques to help you get open because DBs can run as much as receivers can. So you gotta be able to use your hands to swim, kinda, get some swiping, get the hands off, I thought that he really had some good technique when it came to the deep ball and getting away from DBs.”

Roethlisberger and Wheaton shared a good rapport in Pittsburgh, with the quarterback clearly communicating to the receiver what he expected timing-wise in his routes. It’s been a challenge to develop something similar with Glennon given the lack of practice time, but Wheaton said putting in extra work after practice has helped. 

If Wheaton and Glennon can get on the same page, perhaps that can lead to at least some deep ball attempts. The Bears have to find a way to prevent opposing defenses from stacking the box and focusing on stopping Jordan Howard, who only has 59 yards on 22 carries this year. 

“We're going to face overpopulated boxes, we know that,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “There's going to be seven, eight guys in the box every time and we have to execute better and it comes down to that.”

According to NFL’s Next Gen Stats, only three of Glennon’s 85 pass attempts have traveled 20 or more yards beyond the line of scrimmage. The only completion of those was Sunday’s garbage-time touchdown to Deonte Thompson, which was caught near the back of the end zone. 

The threat of Wheaton going deep won’t be enough, though. Glennon still has prove he can complete those deep balls — the last time he completed a pass of 25 or more yards was on Nov. 2, 2014 (though he’s only attempted 96 passes since that date). 

But Wheaton feels ready to go and is confident he can do his job — which, in turn, could, in a best-case scenario, help his other 10 teammates on offense do their jobs, too. 

“It’s been a long time coming,” Wheaton said. “I’m excited and hopefully this is the week.”

Kris Bryant is all aboard the Mitch Trubisky bandwagon

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AP

Kris Bryant is all aboard the Mitch Trubisky bandwagon

Count Kris Bryant among the Chicagoans who are calling for Mitch Trubisky to start at quarterback for the Bears.

OK, that may be a bit extreme as Bryant simply said he would supporting giving Trubisky a "shot", but still:

After a rough game for incumbent starting QB Mike Glennon last week, most of Chicago has been clamoring for the No. 2 overall pick to get some snaps under center.

Why wouldn't the crown prince of Chicago baseball get in on the noise?