Chicago Bears

Report Card vs. Seattle: Stong grades for victory

Report Card vs. Seattle: Stong grades for victory

Sunday, Jan. 16, 2011
5:48 PM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

The quality of opponent in 8-10 Seattle will be questioned but the Bears put up 28 straight points with consistent execution in a game that needed momentum for them early. Playoffs are about great plays but first they are about avoiding mistakes, and the Bears made few of them in allowing their talent advantage to carry the game.

Quarterback: A

Jay Cutler began his NFL playoff resume with a 58-yard TD strike to Greg Olsen and supplemented it with a 6-yard TD run early in the second quarter. He finished with two TD passes, two TD runs, passing effectiveness to the tune of a 111.3 rating in his first postseason appearance and threw zero interceptions while completing 15 of 28 passes for 274 yards.
Running backs: A

Chester Taylors 1-yard TD run put the Bears up 14-0 in the first quarter. Matt Forte tossed an interception out of a wildcat formation, a curious play call in the game situation unless it was to give the Packers something to think about. But Forte rushed for 80 yards and caught three passes for 54 more. Taylor broke several strong runs to finish with 44 yards on 11 carries.

Receivers: A

Greg Olsen burned the Seahawks for a TD on the Bears third play from scrimmage and set up the second TD with a 33-yard catch, finishing the first half with a career-best 113 yards. Johnny Knox led the Bears with four catches and tight end Kellen Davis added a TD on one of his two catches. Receivers struggled to get open at times but provided solid downfield blocking to add yards on runs by Cutler and the running backs.

Offensive line: A

The Seahawks sacked Cutler three times and were credited with four additional hits but the protection overall was outstanding, with the sacks resulting primarily from coverage by the Seattle secondary rather than breakdowns up front, which had been the problem in the teams first game. The Bears controlled the ball more than 37 minutes largely because the OL controlled the point of attack and minimized Seattle penetration.

Defensive line: B

Tommie Harris collected two sacks of Matt Hasselbeck and two tackles for loss, and Julius Peppers pressured Seattle LT Russell Okung into a pivotal first-quarter holding penalty. But no other defensive lineman had high-impact plays with any regularity. DT Anthony Adams provided some pressure up the middle but the defense overall let down in the fourth quarter, understandable given the way the offense was playing and Seattle wasnt, but the group was not at top playoff level.
Linebackers: A-

Brian Urlacher was credited with a team-high seven tackles, all solos, and had one for a loss. Lance Briggs was second to Urlacher with six as the Bears filled gaps and stuffed the Seahawks with 34 total rushing yards on 12 carries, 13 of the yards coming on one end-around to Golden Tate.

Secondary: A-

Charles Tillman was strong in a one-on-one matchup vs. Mike Williams, with Williams catching just four of the 13 passes on which he was targeted and managing just 15 total yards on his catches. Chris Harris went out with a hip pointer and rookie Major Wright filled in with a pass breakup and two tackles. Nickel back D.J. Moore finished with five solo tackles and Tim Jennings broke up two passes.

Special teams: B

Brad Maynard dropped three of his five punts inside the Seahawks 20, helped by Corey Graham downing two punts inside the Seattle 5-yard line and recovered a Seahawks on-sides kick in the fourth quarter. But kickoff coverage allowed a 62-yard return by Leon Washington, who finished with a 28.6-yard average on five returns.

Coaching: A

Adjustments were made to prevent Seattle from establishing any sort of rhythm early and aggressive play-calling produced big plays early to take the heart out of the Seahawks. The Bears were mentally prepared after their season-ender in Green Bay and what clearly was a well-focused bye week. Schemes were kept simple to have the Bears playing fast against an out-manned team and the Bears played under control without allowing Seattle big plays to recover momentum.

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.

The 5 Bears players with the most to prove in training camp

The 5 Bears players with the most to prove in training camp

1. Mike Glennon

Glennon is, for now, the Bears’ unquestioned starting quarterback — a role the Bears made clear he wasn’t going to lose after drafting Mitch Trubisky with the second overall pick in April. It would take a monumental effort from Trubisky — and a disappointing one from Glennon — for that to change. But Glennon has only attempted 11 more passes in the NFL than Trubisky since the beginning of the 2015 season, leaving plenty of uncertainty heading to Bourbonnais. Glennon’s three-year, $45 million contract is structured so the Bears could cut him for $2.5 million next spring, and with a highly-touted player developing behind him, he may not have as much leeway as his contract would appear to give him. As Glennon put it in May: “This is my year. There are no guarantees in the NFL.” The 27-year-old is well aware this year is his best opportunity to prove, either to the Bears or the rest of the league, that he’s capable of being a successful starting quarterback. That process begins in earnest this week. 

2. Mitch Trubisky

While it remains unlikely that Trubisky will be the Bears’ Week 1 starter, if he proves to be better than Glennon at the end of August…why would he not be the starter? It’s not a simple yes or no question, given Trubisky has to learn a largely different offense than the one he ran in college (unlike Philadelphia’s No. 2 pick, Carson Wentz, a year ago) and only started 13 games since leaving high school in Mentor, Ohio. But it’s the job of John Fox and his coaching staff to win games, and if they come to a consensus that Trubisky gives them a better chance of winning, then it would make sense for him to start. What’s more likely in reach for Trubisky during training camp is showing enough to the coaching staff to lay the foundation for him to play in 2017, either as a substitute or as a starter later in the season. 

3. Kevin White

Aside from the quarterbacks, it’s hard to think of a player with more to prove than White. It’s too early to label White a bust, given those two leg injuries limited him four games in his first two years, but the Bears at least need him to be healthy this year to start to figure out what they have in the former seventh overall pick. White was targeted 36 times before suffering his season-ending injury last year and averaged 5.19 yards per target, which was the third-lowest average among receivers with at least 35 targets in 2016. That's surprising for a guy who was drafted with such good speed, so not only will White have to prove he can stay healthy, but he'll have to prove he can be more productive within the Bears' offense. 

4. Leonard Floyd

While White may have the most to prove, Floyd probably has the highest expectations placed upon him in 2017. Floyd’s 7 1/2 sacks last year were promising, and he appears to be past the scary post-concussion malaise he suffered in January and February. If Floyd grows into a double-digit sack guy for the Bears this year, he could be the catalyst for some significant improvements for the entire defense (a better pass rush begets more opportunities for interceptions, etc.). But he’ll also have to prove the issues that led to those two concussions last year — chiefly, poor tackling form — are a thing of the past, and that he’s able to make that Year 1 to Year 2 leap the Bears think he can. 

5. Kyle Fuller

Fuller faces an uphill climb to make the Bears’ 53-man roster, so what he’s trying to prove may be of more value to finding a post-Chicago landing spot. Vic Fangio’s pointed comments about Fuller’s willingness (or lack thereof) to play last year cast doubt on his future, but he’s still still here after being neither cut nor traded in the offseason. The Bears declined Fuller's fifth-year option earlier this year, though, so training camp may be Fuller's last chance at sticking in the NFL, either with the Bears or elsewhere. 

Bullard a prime example of how, why and where Bears can improve

Bullard a prime example of how, why and where Bears can improve

This Bears rebuild has taken longer than expected. Ideally, in year three of a GM/head coach tandem, they should be contending for the playoffs. 

That’s not to say the 2017 Bears can’t. It’s just unlikely. They don’t have enough players opponents have to gameplan for. They don’t have the depth to overcome key injuries. When franchises get on a winning roll, it’s when they have enough of those studs on both sides of the ball, and have the depth to avoid as many emergencies as possible. And that happens when second- and third-year players make a jump in their play.

Offensively, we saw an impressive jump by Cam Meredith, but another left leg injury still have us wondering exactly what Kevin White is, and how good he can be. Jeremy Langford’s growth was stunted by his ankle injury. Second-year center Hroniss Grasu missed the entire year. On the defensive side, we never got to see if Kyle Fuller could’ve proven his first-round status in his third year. Safety Adrian Amos started another full season, but is now in a battle to do the same a third straight year. We can see star qualities in Eddie Goldman, but how much of a difference-maker can he be by remaining on the field? We’ll learn the same about Leonard Floyd if he can do that this fall. And there are a handful of other second-year players we’ll be watching, from Deon Bush to Deiondre Hall to Cre’Von LeBlanc. There’s also 2016 third-round pick Jonathan Bullard, who learned what it took to become a 3-4 defensive end in the NFL.

“It was okay. I got about 17 snaps a game,” Bullard said of his rookie season during last month’s minicamp. “That’s not what I wanted coming in. But it is what is. I want to move on to the next year and hopefully be able to help this team in a big way.”

Rookie seasons for every player lay the groundwork. How high their ceiling goes starts to get established in year two, between the player’s effort, and getting coached-up correctly.

“They asked me to gain a few pounds. I was like 282 last year, and right now I’m at 296, so hopefully that helps me, said Bullard. “I’m just trying to make all this solid and not lose my burst that got me here. So I’m looking forward to it. I got a year under my belt now, I know what they expect. I’m gonna be ready.”

Part of Bullard taking things upon himself was hooking up with a former defensive end, from the same alma mater, who happens to be fourth in franchise history in sacks (albeit in a 4-3 scheme): CSN’s very own Bears analyst, Alex Brown.

“We saw each other at the Florida spring game and we kind of linked up and put in some work at his facility down the road,” Bullard explained. “We’ve met up quite a few times, just working on little things. He’s just trying to give me a better understanding of the game, and some of the veteran things he knows that I want to incorporate into my game.”

So what kind of a teacher is Alex?

“He’s alright. I make him him jump in there. I tell him he’s not that old.”

And while Pace didn’t make the big splash in free agency as he tries to match up salary with his grades for players, Bullard has to prove he’s now better than last year’s starter, Mitch Unrein, as well as a hungry fellow former Gator, Jaye Howard, who was brought in on a “prove it” one-year deal after being cut just before the draft by Kansas City.

“As far as him being a Gator, it’s exciting. But it’s a competition. He’s gonna come in and try to win the starting job, and I’m gonna do the same. It’s just gonna have to be a friendly competition when training camp comes, and may the best man win.”

Let this, and many other Bourbonnais battles, begin.