Chicago Bears

Kickoff changes could actually benefit Bears

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Kickoff changes could actually benefit Bears

Friday, Sept. 9, 2011Posted: 11:30 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com Bears Insider Follow @CSNMoonMullin
Maybe everyone is looking in the wrong direction with respect to the new kickoff rules. More than a few analysts and observers think the moving of the kickoffs from the 30 to the 35 may in fact benefit the Bears.

A lot.

The Bears dont have Danieal Manning anymore, Johnny Knox of 2010 (22.8 yards per return) was well short of the Johnny Knox of 2009 (29.0 ypr). Devin Hester is a threat anywhere anytime but hes returning punts and only handled 12 KORs last year. So the loss to the Bears kickoff-return game.Well see.

But look beyond that one phase.

As good as the Bears were returning kickoffs, they were among the NFLs worst at giving opponents field position after kickoffs: average start, 28.5 yard line, 27th in the league. Now, given Robbie Goulds leg strength, take, say, three kickoff returns and turn them into touchbacks. Starting point, the 20.

Put another way, every touchback Gould causes nets the Bears 8.5 yards of field position, using last years numbers for illustration purposes only.

And put into a bigger context: The Bears defense allowed a total of eight drives of 80 yards or longer last season. Every defense and its coaches will always take opponents starting at their 20-yard line.

Take this a step further: Every touchback theoretically starts those offenses 8.5 yards farther back, meaning that every defensive stop forces teams to punt 8.5 yards closer to their own goal line. And when they do punt, guess whos waiting 8.5 yards closer to the other guys end zone:

Devin Hester.

Bears considerations

Another reality to consider in the whole kickoff thing:

This years Bears coverage teams are young. No, they are young.

We may have four rookies starting on each phase kickoff returncoverage, punt returncoverage, said teams coordinator Dave Toub. Thats a lot.

Unreturnable kickoffs by Gould then cut down the chances for mistakes, breakdowns and other misfortunes that befall NFL newbies in any position.

Toub shakes his head a little and manages a half-smile as he says that. To put this in perspective, the 2011 Bears offense has one rookie (Gabe Carimi) starting. The defense has none.

So Toub is tasked with staffing his units, where every play is potentially a highlight-film score, with NFL kids who wont be allowed to be kids very long. Not at all, in fact.

Those will likely include Chris Conte, Dom DeCicco, Tyler Clutts, Mario Addison and others.

I played it all through college, DeCicco said. I stayed on kickoff and punt coverage every year. So its something Im comfortable with.

So who has more anxiety going into Sunday, Toub or the rookies?

The rookiesll be fine, Toub said, laughing, then adding the clincher for who will be the stress leader. I think.

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.

Marcus Cooper, Bears move on from viral mistake: ‘We’re not firing him’

Marcus Cooper, Bears move on from viral mistake: ‘We’re not firing him’

Marcus Cooper’s viral mistake on Sunday was so blatantly embarrassing, did special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers even have to say anything to the Bears cornerback on the sideline after it?

“Sure,” Rodgers said. “Score."

That'll do from a brevity standpoint. Continued Rodgers: "I mean, there's not much to add. He knows he made a mistake and he obviously knows the rules.”

The Bears aren’t dwelling on what Cooper did at the end of the first half against the Pittsburgh Steelers, partly because it didn’t cost them a win. It very well could’ve, though, and is one of those things that never should’ve happened, to say the least. 

“With a loss, maybe it’d be a lot worse,” Cooper said. “But (I need to) just finish the play and make sure Thursday we come out and play (well).”

Cooper, for what it’s worth, responded well in the second half with a few pass-break ups. Even with Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara playing well, the Bears didn’t consider benching Cooper — or, drastically, eating $8 million in guaranteed money to cut him — after his gaffe. 

“I mean, we’re not firing him,” coach John Fox said. “He’s too much a part of our team.”

How the Bears' receivers helped beat Pittsburgh while only catching one pass

How the Bears' receivers helped beat Pittsburgh while only catching one pass

Mike Glennon didn’t complete a pass to a wide receiver until he found Deonte Thompson for a nine-yard gain with just under six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter on Sunday. That was the only of Glennon's 15 completions that went to a wide receiver in a 23-17 overtime win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

But the Bears’ receivers weren’t necessarily invisible on Sunday, frequently showing up on tape delivering solid blocks that helped spring second-level gains by running backs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. Most notably, Deonte Thompson was key in making a path for Howard to score his game-ending touchdown in overtime. 

“We got a rule in our room, make sure your guy doesn't make the tackle,” Thompson said. “… We take pride in it. Our coaches make sure we take pride in blocking. We just go what we gotta do to win. Whatever the job description is, we do.”

This isn’t to say that everything is fine with the Bears’ receivers because they can block. Their primary jobs are to get open and catch the football, and this unit hasn’t done enough of that through three games. In total, Bears receivers are averaging about 14 targets, nine receptions per game and 98 yards per game. Since the beginning of the 2016 season, 26 times has an individual wide receiver had at least 14 targets, nine receptions and 98 yards in a game (including Cameron Meredith last October). 

And being a productive receiver doesn’t have to mean that player isn’t a good blocker. SB Nation listed familiar names as its best blocking receivers: Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans, Los Angeles’ Robert Woods, Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald, Miami’s Jarvis Landry and New York’s Brandon Marshall. 

But for the Bears, if Sunday’s offensive plan — for a game in which the team was never losing — is what future wins could look like, this receiver unit will be asked to do quite a bit of blocking. 

“We haven’t won as much as we want to around here, and when you see that (blocking effort), you see these guys are fully invested and they care, and they care about the guy next to him,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said, “and not about their own individual stats because it would’ve been real easy to sit on the sideline and pout and say hey, I’m not getting the ball — like, one receiver caught a ball in the whole game out of 22 passes, 15 completions, one guy catches a ball. But you know what, they’re a huge part of those wins.”

Howard had seven carries of five or more yards that went toward the sideline, while Cohen had two explosive gains into the second level and beyond. Runs like those are where blocking from guys like Thompson, Bellamy, Kendall Wright and Marcus Wheaton are important. 

“Those are the blocks that spring us to the next level,” Cohen said. “Without the receiver blocks, there would be a lot of 10-yard gains, 9-yard gains, but the bigger gains are the receivers blocking down field.”

The Bears still need more out of their receivers, but their blocking success on Sunday was a contributing factor to beating one of the better teams in the AFC. And it didn’t go unnoticed inside Halas Hall, especially the block Thompson threw to end the game. 

“They know who we have in the backfield, they know who we’ve got up front,” offensive lineman Kyle Long said. “And they know that if we want to have success at an elite level running the ball they need to do their part too and that’s just what he was doing. He was doing his job.”