It wasn’t a very good week to be a Bears fan if you follow some of the national football writers, especially at CBS Sports and ESPN. Known Bears-hater Jason La Canfora went after the beloved twice this week, and ESPN published its annual power index — a points-based predictive model — and its algorithm designated Chicago as the NFL’s worst team. Both sites show little love for the moves rookie GM Ryan Poles has made so far.
La Canfora actually doubled down, starting with a stinging analysis of the Bears’ chances in the upcoming season. Some have labeled La Canfora an “NFL Insider” but to me, he’s just a guy with a big mouth who struggles with grammar. Reader beware, he didn’t pull any punches.
“Do they have a discernible direction? They are basically rebuilding, except, well, don’t you dare ask about Robert Quinn after they shipped off Khalil Mack,” La Canfora wrote in a piece naming the league’s five worst teams of 2022. “Justin Fields has been handed a crap sandwich in terms of skill players around him and the offensive line for that matter. Not sure I would be inspired by the hires they have made, especially given the way things ended with the last regime. Not much there, but an awful lot of hopes and prayers. Is there anything this team seems to be poised to be particularly good at? Has ownership gotten anything of note right anytime recently? What are their strengths? Generally, the Bears just leave me dazed and confused and I don’t see much reason to expect anything less than a limp and tepid-at-best season from them. Even in the suspect NFC. Maybe they scratch out five or six wins. Godspeed.”
The Baltimore-based La Canorfa also posted an unfounded rumor that Quinn had requested a trade. He did not provide a quote from the Bears’ reigning Defensive Player of the Year, nor did he link to any textual reference. He basically said “he keeps hearing things.”
“I continue to hear that Quinn wants out of Chicago – and who could blame him? ” La Canfora wrote in a piece about players with ongoing contract issues. “And there are a host of interested teams. [The] Bears brass has told everyone he ain’t [sp.] going anywhere, but they will keep asking and that’s not lost on the veteran defensive end. The Bears look hapless, they dealt fellow veteran pass rusher Mack already, and Akiem Hicks doesn’t seem likely at all [sp.] to be back. [The] team is in transition under new management, Quinn is coming off a monster season with 18.5 sacks. He just turned 32 and wants to win, and he is also an absolute steal this season ($13M); if he gets dealt the next team would likely sweeten the pot with incentives if nothing else. If the Bears are as bad as I expect, this will only fester, and he could be the prize of the trade-deadline market if nothing else (fetching more than Von Miller a year ago I believe).”
If that wasn’t bad enough, the nerds over at ESPN believe the Bears will be worse than the Jets, Jaguars, Falcons Texans, and God forbid, the Lions this season. The Falcons don’t even have a capable quarterback after trading Matt Ryan. Right now, Marcus Mariota tops Atlanta’s depth chart. Seth Walder provided a synopsis of Chicago’s chances based on the site’s power index.
“We’ve got a brutally close race for the favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the 2023 draft, but the Bears edged out the Jets for the honor,” Walder wrote. “ESPN’s FPI is down on Fields after a pretty brutal rookie season in which he finished with the worst QBR among qualifying quarterbacks in the league. Edge rusher Khalil Mack and receiver Allen Robinson are both gone, and while there are still a few good players remaining in the defensive front — including edge rusher Robert Quinn and linebacker Roquan Smith — there [aren’t] a whole lot other strengths on the Bears’ roster.
“Per FPI ratings, the Bears have a 14% chance to pick first next April, followed by the Jets (14%), Texans (11%), Jaguars (9%), and Falcons (9%).”
Clickbait? Definitely. The Bears aren’t likely headed to the playoffs this season, but I’d bet the house they don’t get the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft unless Fields gets hurt.
Bears News & Notes
- At least Josh Shrock of NBC Sports Chicago has the Bears projected as better than the Lions.
- Vic Tafur of The Athletic predicts the Bears will win six games or less in 2022 (subscription required). Let’s wait to see what the 53-man looks like, please, and thank you.
- Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus wrote that Poles had a very pedestrian offseason.
- Don’t expect rookie WR Velus Jones Jr. to be used the same way that Tarik Cohen was when he was with the Bears. If you are looking for a better example, watch tapes of the Packers from last year and the year before, not Cohen in Matt Nagy’s offense. The two systems are worlds apart. VJ2 will be deployed in a manner similar to Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who has rushed a total of eight times in his career. If you really want an ex-Bear comparison, try Cordarrelle Patterson.
- The Bears want Jones to contribute as quickly as possible, including on special teams.
- Bryan Perez of The Draft Network penned one of the better post-draft reviews of the rookie wide receiver.
- For those who think Jones is a little old to be a rookie, Cooper Kupp was also a 24-year-old, third-round selection in 2017. Just sayin’.
- Tajae Sharpe and Dante Pettis are low-key wide receiver additions who may provide greater impact with the Bears than they have at previous stops just because of the opportunities that exist in Chicago.
- Darnell Mooney has been undervalued a bit this offseason, but barring any additions, he’ll enter camp as Chicago’s WR1.
- Poles announced a number of staff promotions, including one for area scout Brett Ackley, who will be the team’s assistant director of college scouting going forward. Larry Mayer of ChicagoBears.com broke the announcement.
- Ackley is responsible for the selection of guard Ja’Tyre Carter in this year’s draft, who could be one of Chicago’s best under-the-radar picks and a potential starter before the end of the ’22 season.
- Chicago is banking on rookie defensive backs Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker to improve a secondary that was among the NFL’s worst in 2021.
- Matt Eberflus said Gordon “has been lighting it up” during the team’s first two OTA practices, per Mayer.
- Speaking of the defensive backfield, the first-year head coach called cornerback Jaylon Johnson, who is expected to be a starter, “a work in progress.”
- Center Lucas Patrick is embracing his role as tone-setter in the Bears’ offense.
- Chicago has improved its offensive and defensive lines this offseason, and Patrick is a big part of that. Still, the Bears’ line depth will be tested, especially on the offensive side of the ball, where Coach Eberflus will be counting on a number of rookies.
- Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com listed the Bears’ potential starters for this season, along with those of their divisional foes. Chicago’s secondary has the highest ceiling according to Rosenthal.
- The Mack trade was listed as the fourth-most impactful deal of the offseason.
- Robinson is amped up to play for head coach Sean McVay of the Rams.
- Former third-string quarterback Nick Foles is reportedly close to signing with the Colts.
There’s a Flag…On the Play
I’m also expecting a big year from Cole Kmet in Luke Getsy’s offense.
We can't use Cole Kmet's 2021 box score (0 TDs) as proof that he can't score, say, 8 TDs in '22. The #Bears, as a team, had 16 TOTAL passing TDs. It was a disaster of a season. If you believe in Justin Fields, then you believe that TD number will go up. Kmet will be a reason why.
— Bryan Perez (@BryanPerezNFL) May 21, 2022
Remember: Cole Kmet ranked 12th in TE receiving yards last year. To be that close to a top-10 yardage TE with the disaster that was the #Bears offense IS impressive. If you believe in Fields' talent and Getsy's playcalling, there's no reason not to believe in Kmet's rise, too.
— Bryan Perez (@BryanPerezNFL) May 21, 2022
Minnesota: FOX Sports analyst Shannon Sharpe doesn’t think Vikings’ signal-caller Kirk Cousins is a top-10 NFL quarterback. He even listed Kyler Murray and Joe Burrow ahead of the 10-year veteran. Cousins threw for 4,221 yards with 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 2021.
NFL News & Notes
NFL owners are “counting votes” for the potential ouster of Commanders’ owner Daniel Snyder.
The league offices would like to meet again with new Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson. A decision on any possible suspension could come in June or July. Though their cases are certainly different, it’s worth noting that MLB suspended pitcher Trevor Bauer for two years.
Prices are surging, yet fans remain content to pay top dollar to watch live sporting events.
Three Yards and a Cloud of Dust
- Will any Bears receiver get at least 125 targets in 2022? Keenan Allen, Davante Adams, and Travis Kelce are the only players with a minimum of 125 over the past three seasons. I’m banking on Mooney this year.
- Shaq Thompson sacked QB Colt McCoy in 1.87 seconds during week 10, the fastest sack of the ’21 season.
- Frank Gore got his first win as a boxer last week.
“When people watch football, they look for fun things.” – John Madden
Justin Fields is a good athlete pic.twitter.com/OhdRLez1ie
— Christian Williams (@CWilliamsNFL) May 15, 2022
From the Podium
- “I mean, there were a few throws [Fields] made today where [the] ball — it’s like it keeps getting faster in the air. He’s soaking everything up. Whether it’s coaches, me, or stuff he’s telling me, it’s really good. Couldn’t have a better start to a working relationship.” – Patrick
- “Kyler [Gordon] has been lighting it up the last two days. I’ll just tell you that. The guy’s got tremendous ball skills. He’s been playing the defense the right way and we’re very impressed with him.” – Eberflus
Running Out the Clock