Moon: Angelo wants Forte; Bears will win division

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Moon: Angelo wants Forte; Bears will win division

Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011Posted: 11:04 a.m.

By JohnMullin
CSNChicago.com BearsInsider Follow@CSNMoonMullin
The Bears schedule is a little nastier this year because of their winning the NFC North. The obvious rough opening three games Atlanta, New Orleans, Green Bay has been well chronicled.

Actually, its worse than you thought.

All three (Falcons, Saints, Packers) ranked in the top 11 for points per game. The Saints (No. 3) and Falcons (No. 4) were among the elite at keeping their quarterbacks un-sacked; the Packers didnt protect Aaron Rodgers as well as that, but the Packers seemed to manage just fine anyway. Green Bay and New Orleans ranked in the top 10 for yardage.

The Bears ranked no better than 21st in any of those departments.

But then it gets even more surly.

The Falcons (fifth), Saints (seventh) and Packers (second) all stand among the NFLs defensive elite as well. The Bears were fourth in scoring defense but ninth in yards allowed vs. Green Bays No. 5 and New Orleans No. 4.

Just to be clear...

The Bears offer to running back Matt Forte wasnt enough to get Forte to nod OK. But the Bears are not closing any doors even though GM Jerry Angelo told ChicagoBears.com that there are no current plans for negotiations before the end of the season.

And Angelo was explicit long-term: We want to have Matt play his entire career as a Bear. That was our intent when we started negotiations.

Reasonable assumption, but...

Mike Florio at ProFootballTalk.com has the Bears finishing out of the playoffs. Thats a very reasonable conclusion and Mike is among the best at assessing league-wide situations.

But as Mike said Wednesday on his 10 a.m. check-in with Dan McNeil and Matt Spiegel on WSCR-AMs The NcNeil and Spiegel Show one of his and others fundamental underlying assumptions is that the Green Bay Packers have to be the pick to win the NFC North. They won the Super Bowl and theyre getting a lot of injured guys back.

But Ive gone the other direction and picked the Bears to win the division again, in part because of the last 10 Super Bowl winners, only four have even won their division the following year. Life and the NFL dont always go in the straight line they look to be following.

As for specific Bears issues, Mike said he was concerned about the offensive line as a work in progress. Thats significant if the defense has trouble winning games for them early. And Mike admitted to the feeling shared by a lot of Bears fans last year.

I just feel they got lucky in early 2010 and the defense carried them through a lot of those games.

Well see. Mikes not alone in his take here. I do have a hard time seeing lucky getting you to 11 wins, though. Guess thats why they play the games.
Rostering

If you wondered whether fourth preseason games matter and teams pay attention to who does what, the Bears replenished their fullback larder Wednesday with the signing of jumbo blocking back Tyler Clutts from the practice squad of the Cleveland Browns the Bears opponent in that fourth warmup game.

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 numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

In doing some post-season wrapping up of my Nerdy NFL Notebook as we begin turning the page to the 2017 season, part of it involves compiling where each team finished in big-picture team offensive and defensive categories: overall ranking (total yards), as well as team rushing and passing ranks on both sides of the ball.

So if the Bears wound up ranked 15th overall in total yards gained and allowed, they should've finished…oh, 8-8, right? It adds to the deception of some of the deeper issues that focus on a lack of playmakers, which tied into their inability to make plays when it matters most. In John Fox's 9-23 start, 18 of those games have been decided by six points or less. They've won just six of those games. 

Offensively, the Bears ranked higher in total offense than five playoff teams: Kansas City (20), Detroit (21), Miami (24), New York Giants (25) and Houston (29). They wound up 17th in rushing offense, better than four teams who advanced: Seattle (25), Green Bay (26), New York Giants (29) and Detroit (30). And their 14th-ranked passing offense ranked better than the Giants (17), Kansas City (19), Dallas (23), Miami (26), Houston (29).

On the other side of the ball, they'd be even better off before allowing 109 points over the final three losses. Their total defense ranked better than Detroit (18), Green Bay (22), Kansas City (24), Atlanta (25), Oakland (26) and Miami (29). After being gashed for 558 rushing yards the last three games, they fell to 27th in the NFL against the run (better than only 30th-ranked Miami). But the seventh-ranked pass defense, despite collecting a measly eight interceptions (among only 11 turnovers), was better than nine playoff teams: Miami (15), Pittsburgh (16), Kansas City (18), Detroit (19), the Giants (23), Oakland (24), Dallas (26), Atlanta (28) and Green Bay (31).

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

What do all the hollow numbers indicate? A lack of complementary, opportunistic football, playmakers on both sides of the ball, a minus-20 turnover ratio, and a lack of quality and continuity at the quarterback position — to name a few. All of those playoff teams have more impact players (or kept more of their impact players healthy) than the Bears in 2016.

While some of the numbers aren't that bad to look at, and some even raise an eyebrow, there's still a deep climb from the most significant numbers: 3-13.

Bears' best rookies will have another learning curve

Bears' best rookies will have another learning curve

There's a sense of irony and, to a certain degree, concern about what changes the Bears' coaching staff has undergone.

Think of the best of Ryan Pace's 2016 rookie class: Leonard Floyd, Cody Whitehair, and Jordan Howard. They were brought along under the position group tutelage of outside linebackers coach Clint Hurtt, offensive line coach Dave Magazu and running backs coach Stan Drayton. The latter was the first to depart, shortly after the season ended, to return to the collegiate ranks on Texas' new staff.

He's been replaced with former 49ers and Bills offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins (also serving as that position coach in Detroit, Buffalo, Arizona and Kansas City). Howard certainly adapted to the NFL game well, more than anyone expected, as the NFL's second-leading rusher. One would think Drayton played a part in that.

Longtime John Fox assistant Magazu was also let go after the season despite the impressive move of second-round pick Whitehair to center the week of the season opener after Josh Sitton was signed following his release by Green Bay. Whitehair was sold as a "quick study" following his selection out of Kansas State, where he was a four-year starter at three different positions (but not center).

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Like Howard, he wound up making the All-Rookie team, but whether he remains in the middle of the line or not, he'll be getting his orders now from Jeremiah Washburn.

Rounding out the trio of All-Rookie selections was Floyd, who was brought along by Hurtt. He impressed Fox enough to be kept around from Marc Trestman's staff, and moved from defensive line to outside linebackers.

That's where he assisted Willie Young in morphing to a foreign role, yet still managing 14 sacks over the last two seasons. The Bears have yet to name a replacement for Hurtt, who's joined the Seahawks in taking over one of their strengths in recent years, the defensive line.

These three were already good, and the jewels of last year's draft. But if they're to grow and ascend into impact contributors if and when this team becomes a regular playoff contender, it'll come from new faces, new voices in their respective classrooms and position groups.