Connor Barth

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. 

What can the Bears get out of Roberto Aguayo?

What can the Bears get out of Roberto Aguayo?

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. — Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, nine kickers have been top-60 draft picks. Some had long, successful careers, like the still-active Sebastian Janikowski (17th overall, 2000) and Jason Hanson (56th overall, 1992). Others, like John Lee (32nd overall, 1986) quickly flamed out of the league.

Roberto Aguayo is one of those nine highly-picked kickers, who came into the league with a lot more pressure — and a lot less competition — than most rookie kickers face. He missed nine of his 31 field goal attempts last year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and also missed two PATs — hardly the level of success the Bucs thought they’d get out of someone who was so good at Florida State. 

After a shaky start to training camp, the Bucs waived Aguayo last week, and on Sunday, the Bears claimed him (HBO's "Hard Knocks" reportedly will air Aguayo finding out he was released Tuesday night). He was in uniform, wearing No. 1, for Monday’s final training camp practice at Olivet Nazarene University, and said he’s excited to put his experience in Tampa behind him. 

“It’s unfortunate,” Aguayo said. “What we both wanted, — it just never flourished. I’m excited to be here with the Bears and I'm excited for this fresh opportunity and a new start.”

Perhaps a fresh start is what Aguayo needs to re-gain the confidence he built up at Florida State, where he made 88.5 percent of his field goals and didn’t miss a PAT. For the Bears, claiming Aguayo was a low-risk move — coach John Fox said the money they took on wasn’t “significant enough to not take a look.” A week after cutting undrafted rookie Andy Phillips, there’s no competition again for veteran Connor Barth — who came to the Bears after losing his job in Tampa to Aguayo after the 2015 season. 

Barth is familiar with how competitive kicking jobs are during training camp, having made stops in Kansas City (2008), Tampa (2009-2012, 2015) and Denver (2014) before making 78 percent of his field goals for the Bears last year. 

“I don’t think I’ve ever been in training camp without competition, no matter when I signed a new deal with Tampa or whatever, they always brought in competition,” Barth said. “It’s something I’ve always dealt with. … You always hear the old saying, for our position, you kind of competing against yourself. It doesn’t really matter what Roberto does because if I don’t kick well, then I won’t be anywhere. 

“So you just gotta kind of trust what you’ve been doing, focus on yourself and if you make your kicks, whether it’s here, you’re obviously competing for 31 other teams. So you just kind of got to have fun and see what happens.”

On Aguayo’s first day with the Bears, Barth made every field goal he attempted in practice, which didn’t go unnoticed by Fox. 

“Connor had a great day,” Fox said. “We had a field goal day today and he was 100 percent in all of his kicks. So I think that competition is good for our football team.”

The challenge for Aguayo, then, will be to prove he’s more reliable than Barth in about a three-week window of opportunity. That’s a limited timeframe, though it should still be long enough for the Bears to know who their best kicking option is coming out of the preseason. 

“At the end of the day, they’ll decide,” Aguayo said. “It’s out of my hands. I just go and do what I’ve gotta do, focus and hone in. Excited for the fresh start, new scenery. Excited to be here.”

What you need to know from Bears camp: With Roberto Aguayo claimed, a kicking contest is back on

What you need to know from Bears camp: With Roberto Aguayo claimed, a kicking contest is back on

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. — The Bears claimed placekicker Roberto Aguayo on Sunday, which likely will re-open a competition that seemingly closed a week ago.

Aguayo starred at Florida State and was a second-round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last year, but only made 71 percent of his field goal attempts (22/31) as a rookie and missed two PATs, too. Connor Barth, who was replaced by Aguayo in Tampa Bay after the 2015 season, hit 78.3 percent of his field goals last year (18/23) and missed one PAT.

The Bears waived undrafted free agent Andy Philips last Monday, leaving Barth as the only placekicker on the training camp roster.

At the least, Aguayo will provide competition for Barth — but at best, he shakes free of the pressure he had with Tampa Bay and is able to re-gain the form he had at Florida State (69/78 field goals, 198/198 PATs). Bringing him in makes sense and seems to be worth a shot.

Trubisky finishes Sunday strong

On Tuesday — the Bears’ last padded practice before their preseason opener — Mitch Trubisky ended practice with an interception in the end zone during a red zone drill. He finished practice on Sunday — the Bears’ first padded practice since Thursday night — on a much higher note.

In a two-minute drill in 11-on-11 work, Trubisky did the following on his final three plays: A long completion to wide receiver Tanner Gentry, a touchdown to tight end Daniel Brown and a run into the end zone for a two-point conversion.

With Mark Sanchez not participating (his ankle ailment is considered minor, and he’s expected to play Saturday against the Arizona Cardinals), Trubisky worked with the Bears’ second-team offense on Sunday. But that’s not an indication he’ll continue to get second-team reps in practice or in preseason games, with coach John Fox saying that reps — no matter with what unit — are the most important things for the young quarterback.

“You saw Thursday night that we kind of hold that in high regard, getting him opportunities to play,” Fox said. “I’ve watched a lot of young quarterbacks starting, going back to Marino and Elway, how they did it, how they progressed. We got a good plan. A big part of that plan is getting him playing opportunities.”

From the sick bay: A bad break for Wheaton

Markus Wheaton was back in pads Sunday for the first time since his appendectomy, but fractured his left pinky trying to make a catch during practice.

“Hopefully that won't be too big of a setback,” Fox said. “He's a great kid, he works really hard, he's a great teammate and he does have downfield speed that we saw early in the offseason and hopefully we'll get to see here really soon.”

Defensive ends Jaye Howard (hip injection) and Akiem Hicks (sore Achilles) did not participate, and defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris left practice with a concussion. Tight end Dion Sims and offensive lineman Tom Compton were both limited with shoulder bruises, though Fox said Sims could’ve participated had it been the regular season.

Linebacker Danny Trevathan participated in seven-on-seven work and, like offensive lineman Kyle Long, is slowly being worked back into practice.

“Whether or not they ever see a preseason game, don’t know at this point,” Fox said. “We’ll just continue to gain confidence and get them reps eventually in a ‘team’ setting to get them ready for the season.”