Sunday serves as proof Bears schedule gets tougher

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Sunday serves as proof Bears schedule gets tougher

Sunday, Nov. 21, 2010
6:25 PM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

The Philadelphia Eagles are the immediate concern for the Bears but what was happening a little further down the schedule was startling. General manager Jerry Angelo said last Thursday that he thought the Bears didnt necessarily have to get any better this season to be successful, just be as good as they are now but do it consistently.

But the Bears themselves might concede that theyll have to keep their game at its highest level in the face of whats coming in the next six weeks after Michael Vick and the Eagles:

New England (Dec. 12)

New England scored touchdowns on each of its first three possessions against the Indianapolis Colts and very methodically was doing business at the Colts expense. Then Peyton Manning began doing what Peyton Manning does.

Missing receivers and running backs and working with a patchwork offensive unit, Manning brought the Colts virtually back from a three-score deficit before throwing his third interception with Indianapolis nearly within range of kicking a tying field goal (sound vaguely familiar?).

The Patriots have won seven of their last eight, with only that head-scratcher in Cleveland cluttering up the run. Nasty observation: New England has scored no fewer than 23 points in any game this year and put up 30 or more in six of their 10 games.

New York Jets (Dec. 26)

New York blew a 16-point lead in the fourth quarter against Houston, then scored a winning TD to down the Texans 30-27 in what longtime Houston Chronicle NFL guru John McClain called the second-worst collapse ever (the first being Houstons vs. Buffalo a long time ago in a playoff nightmare bad enough to get D-coordinator Buddy Ryan to take a sideline swing at offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride).

Mark Sanchez continues toward elite status among NFL quarterbacks, engineering the Jets final TD drive with precision throws and finishing with 315 passing yards and 3 TDs vs. just one INT.

The Bears last shutout before the one Thursday in Miami was against the Jets in 2006. Just a guess, but Im not seeing another shutout when the Jets show up in Soldier Field the day after Christmas.

Green Bay (Jan. 2)

Green Bay spotted the Minnesota Vikings a 3-0 lead in the first quarter, then obliterated Brett Favre and the rest of that spiraling team, 31-3. The drama playing out with Favre and Brad Childress may be interesting copy, but what the Packers have done since losing consecutive OT games a month ago is significant.

Since edging by the Vikings 28-24, the Packers have beaten the Jets, Dallas and now Minnesota again, allowing 0, 7 and 3 points. Aaron Rodgers is making the highlight films; the defense is officially becoming scary.

The Packers have allowed 146 total points. Same as the Bears. The Bears-Packers difference? Green Bay has scored 252 to the Bears 191.
Missing Moss

Is anybody charting Randy Moss impact on the Tennessee Titans offense? The guy that some observers thought the Bears simply could not prosper without has caught exactly one (1) pass for Tennessee and it did not come in Sundays overtime loss to the Washington Redskins.

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.

Can Leonard Floyd break out in 2017? The Bears like the early signs

Can Leonard Floyd break out in 2017? The Bears like the early signs

The Bears believe Leonard Floyd will make the leap from being a promising rookie to a breakout second-year player, the kind who can be a centerpiece of a defense as soon as this fall.  

The Bears in 2016 totaled 37 sacks —12th in the NFL — despite dealing with a rash of injuries and not having a standout player in terms of getting to the quarterback. Willie Young led the team with 7 1/2 sacks, which tied him for 31st in the league last year, while Floyd and Akiem Hicks each had seven. 

Sixteen players recorded double-digit sacks last year. That’s not the end-all benchmark for Floyd in 2017, but for a former top-10 pick with elite skills and, as his coaches and teammate said, the right mentality, it’s not out of the question. 

“With most players, you go from your freshman year to sophomore or rookie to second year, … it slows down, they understand it, they're not thinking, they're reacting,” coach John Fox said. “And so I'd expect that and I've seen that already even in the off-season.”

Floyd, earlier this month, talked about how much more comfortable he feels after a full year of practicing and playing at the NFL level. 

“Everything was just fast when I got here last year,” Floyd said. “This year’s it’s way slower and I feel like I’m doing pretty good this year.”

There are two issues with Floyd that won’t go away until he proves they’re not problems in the regular season, though: His weight and his concussions. 

The weight issue is one Floyd has heard for a while, joking with reporters during veteran minicamp that he was surprised it wasn’t the first thing he was asked during his session with the media. He said he “definitely gained some weight” without revealing how much he’s put on, only saying he feels like he’s in much better shape now than he was as a rookie.

“It’s like night and day compared to last year,” Floyd said. 

The concessions are a far more serious — and scary — issue given it took Floyd two months to fully recover from the second concussion he suffered in 2016. 

The Bears believe Floyd’s concussion issues are correctable, though, given they were the product of poor tackling form made worse by collisions with Hicks. The crown of Floyd’s helmet was too low, so he and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio worked with tackling dummies and sled machines in an effort to fix that issue. 

The hope is that Floyd can stay healthy and marry his skills with a better knowledge of the game to put together a breakout year in 2017. His teammates sounded confident during the offseason program that everything was falling into place for the former ninth overall pick. 

“He’s a great competitor,” Hicks said. “Great energy, fast, athletic, he’s everything you want in an outside linebacker, right? Nonstop motor — I can give you all the cliche terms, but I just feel like as far as the defensive line or an outside linebacker, another year under his belt is only going to make him better.”

Added linebacker Jerrell Freeman: “That guy is going to be good for a while.” 

Are Bears better than Texans, Broncos, Dolphins and others? Pro Football Focus says yes

Are Bears better than Texans, Broncos, Dolphins and others? Pro Football Focus says yes

Pro Football Focus has more than its share of both supporters and detractors of how it goes about grading NFL players. They break down every snap for every player, and while there are general agreements on what's seen by naked, untrained eyes who don't put the time and investment into its system that PFF does, there are other evaluations that seem to come out of the blue. While there's occasional guesswork on a player's particular assignment on a given play within its scheme, those of us who've watched and studied nuances of the game, or those who've played it, can usually identify how many jobs were done correctly.

Tuesday, PFF released its rankings of all 32 NFL rosters but in essence focused on the quality of each team's starting lineup, listing the Bears — are you sitting down? — 18th in the league. That's ahead of the likes of the Ravens, Saints, Texans, Dolphins, a Jaguars franchise that's had tons of high draft picks in recent years, as well as the Broncos and Lions (whom they rank 28th). The top five are the Falcons, Patriots, Titans, Packers and Steelers (the Bears play three of those teams in September alone). Among other Bears opponents, they rank the Panthers 10th, Vikings 12th, Buccaneers 13th and Eagles 15th.

[BEARS TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

Their evaluation is based on each player's final score from last season, "elite" and "good" being the top two levels, followed by "average" and "below average" to "poor." The only Bear earning elite status was inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman. Another nine Bears finished with good grades: Jordan Howard, Zach Miller, Josh Sitton, Cody Whitehair, Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Danny Trevathan, Adrian Amos and Quintin Demps (who earned his grade in Houston).

Those earning average grades were Cam Meredith, Kendall Wright, Kyle Long, Charles Leno, Jr., Pernell McPhee and Prince Amukamara. Below average: Mike Glennon (in mop-up duty in Tampa Bay), Kevin White, Bobby Massie, Leonard Floyd and Jaye Howard. The only Bear earning a poor grade among projected starters was tight end Dion Sims (with Miami). The other potential flaw is that PFF lists Kyle Fuller (no grade) and Bryce Callahan (average) as starters when Marcus Cooper and Cre'Von LeBlanc likely have the inside track to start at cornerback and nickel back, respectively.

How did the Bears get to 18th, above three playoff teams and another that won the Super Bowl two years ago? Well, all of those other teams have more elite players at certain positions, but it's offset by a number of spots occupied by more players with poor or below average grades. The Broncos (25th) for instance, had four elite players, just another four falling under the good grade, but five players listed as poor.