We threatened you. We warned you. And because no one told us no, we’re going to do it. We’re bringing our madness to the Chicago Bears. Because you know they deserve it. So today, we introduce you to our troika of misfits that are going to take this on: Brian Schmitz, Wes French, and Tony Martin. LET’S KICK THIS PIG!
So with vets reporting today, what are you guys looking for in B0urbonnais, other than no one getting hurt?
Brian Schmitz: I personally cannot wait to see Robbie Gould back in a Bears jersey. Too soon?
Defensively, I want to see how how well the players transition from Vic Fangio to Chuck Pagano. The Bears are so talented on defense that a lot a alignment and assignment mistakes will be covered up by pure athleticism. Offensively, I can’t wait to see who is the first reporter to declare what a great camp Adam Shaheen is having. I’m also excited to see if a healthy Anthony Miller will get more looks. This guy has the skills to be a #1.
Tony Martin: I’m with you on Anthony Miller. Dude is a beast, and I think if he recovers from his shoulder injury he could be a dominant wideout.
I’m actually interested in seeing if any major names don’t make the team as the Bears start looking towards future salary cap constraints. If Danny Trevathan gets cut I’d be shocked, but if Taylor Gabriel were to be released I wouldn’t be nearly as blown away. I’m super interested in seeing if Kerrith Whyte Jr makes the squad and how he’d be used. If some of these draft picks pan out, the Bears offense could look like a Madden playbook I created while high at 3am, with like spread formations with four running backs and a tight end on the field.
Brian: Trey Burton is another guy who needs to have a good pre-season. The organization isn’t exactly happy with the way he ended last season and at this point, it’s more than fair to label him as unreliable and soft.
Tony: I think Burton is the most likely candidate to win “Starter from last year who is cut this year”, but that also implies Shaheen has a good preseason, which isn’t a given.
So, does Matt Nagy take the next step and open up even more of the playbook this year? I’m all in, let’s get weird. If Akiem Hicks is running for touchdowns in year one, what sort of bananas shit can we expect to see? Calling it now: Khalil Mack catches a touchdown this year, from someone who isn’t Mitch Trubisky. You heard it here first.
Wes French: I’ll start on defense, where I agree I’m interested to see the shift from Fangio to Pagano, but I want to see if anyone slips/steps up under the new boss. Will we see Roquan Smith become the defensive centerpiece/signal caller he was at Georgia or will that take another season or so under a new coordinator? Quan seemed pretty well ready to take over the defense late last year…Was Vic a “whisperer” to any major contributors to the defense that could fall off under the new boss? Will anyone clash with Pagano/his style? I think we’ll get that answer sooner than later with how camp starts on that side of the ball.
Count me as the third amigo/musketeer/likely dipshit that’s beyond sold on Anthony Miller as a sure star. Get him the ball, do it often…but will there be enough touches to go around? I also agree Nagy and Co. will get weirder (in the best way) this year, and the guy I am most intrigued by is Corderelle Patterson. He lined up at RB for half his touches in Foxboro and I have to think the versatility is going to bring some funky ass sets this year. 3 RB/2TE? 2RB/3 TE? I can guarantee you that man will be in motion pre-snap basically every time he’s on the field.
The biggest question about the myriad options with the personnel and playbook is at the center of it all: Mitch. They made the playoffs last year with their signal caller playing WILDLY inconsistent. How, and more importantly if, Mitch has progressed with a full year/offseason under Nagy’s watch is going to be the real driver of this campaign. All the fun that they draw up won’t matter if Mitch keeps sailing balls to wide open targets or missing open reads. I love me some Mitch, but this is a massive year for him and his GM that staked his reputation on Trubs tapping that potential of his.
Brian: I’m honesty glad and proud of each of you for not mentioning the placekicking situation in your early emails. Thank you for that. It’s such an overblown and ridiculous storyline that lazy ass media members continue to talk about only because it’s low hanging fruit and requires no prep work or research.
We are all in agreement that Nagy will continue to get creative in the regular season. Are we also in agreement that he will continue to shit down his leg in the playoffs and choke games away? Asking for a friend.
Tony: Yeah, the kicking game is not really much of a concern for me, it’s literally a meme at this point. Thanks a lot, Cris Collinsworth. Does the lack of a solid kicker worry me? Of course it does, but there’s plenty of time to see who does well this preseason both in Bourbonnais and in other camps and bring them in.
I’ll also go on the record saying the one downside to having a team that people want to watch on prime time is how many times I’m gonna have to hear Collinsworth or Joe Buck call a game. I’m so used to Fox’s C-level announce team that I want Kenny Albert to do the play by play at my funeral.
As for Nagy, I think having the ability to use more of his playbook will be a good thing. That “next step” phase that we’re all looking to from Mitch also needs to apply to play calling. Sometimes on 3rd and 3 you need to be able to feel confident in your teams ability to get those yards without having to resort to some play that looks like a deleted scene from Little Giants. I’m not that old school meatball fan who screams about running the ball up the middle the entire time, but I think the offense is good enough to not need to run a triple option to pick up a crucial first down.
You guys have mentioned a few guys on offense you’re watching closely, and you’ve mentioned Pagano as well. Is there a player on defense you’ll be watching closely, either for a breakout season indications or possibly be a surprise demotion or cut?
Brian: The Bears thought enough of John Franklin III to bring him back again this year. This guy is arguably the most athletic player on the roster and is trying to make the transition from a lifelong quarterback to a DB – to make this position change at the NFL level, you have to be special, and I believe the organization thinks he is. Depending how impressive he is in camp, he could, at the very least provide some insurance for the old and oft-injured Prince Amukamara; and at best, be a value replacement for the 30-year-old who, while having a solid season in 2018, has been on the downside of his career for a while now.
Wes: Whoa, hey, I wanted to get in on the kicker talk since it’s all anyone seemed to care about in the Spring! Not really, I think it’s pretty embarrassing that the mini camp was basically devoted to coming up with wild scenarios for guys to kick meaningless FGs in. They’ll have some rookie or camp cut rookie/vet and that’ll be that. I won’t be shocked if they burn through a couple kickers by seasons end. I can’t help but notice no one has mentioned the new backfield savior, David Montgomery, either. Maybe we’re already tired of hearing about how great his character is and what a steal he’s set to be. To me this screams of future disappointment, but I guess we’ll find out soon enough.
I’m watching the defensive backfield closer than other position groups at camp. Pagano made his money coaching up the Ravens secondary through their years of dominance and I’m interested to see how everything settles with the DBs. That’s the only group that sees new faces in starting roles, so the easy answer is will Buster Skrine/Ha Ha Clinton-Dix come in and keep the status quo or better, or will we see some troubles early on replacing the stud nickel Bryce Callahan and the under appreciated Adrian Amos? The Skrine signing was met with some raised eyebrows and Ha Ha is already on the PUP so we’re off to a very Chicago sports start on that front.
An individual I’m keying on is probably in direct competition with your boy J Franks the 3rd – Stephen Denmark. If you’re not familiar with the 2019 7th Rd pick, he’s got a pretty winding path to the DB group as well. Denmark is quite new to the defensive backfield, having lined up only one season there at Valdosta St. after playing wide out his whole career prior, with a lot to be desired. You won’t find many 6’3″ Corners around the league, and there’s no guarantee that Denmark sticks there, but he’s got the bloodline (father, three brothers all played some level of D1 college or pros) and the athleticism to make a stand out impression, be it at corner or safety. I’d guess the Bears try to stash him on the practice squad and develop him for the year, but if he shows the kind of promise discussed out of the draft the vultures could circle to pluck him off the squad.
I’m going to add a player on offense here as well because I’m five hours behind on vacation and feel a bit left out, and there’s nothing you can do about it, Fels (besides edit it out and make this all just wasted time). Riley Ridley seemed like a guy that should not have been around in the late 4th Rd, but there he was and the Bears made him a luxury pick given what they’ve spent on the WR position in the last two seasons. I believe he’s well worth it, though, as an elite route runner dropped into a system predicated on receivers being in the right spot, every time. Someone up there mentioned Taylor Gabriel as a possible shocking, albeit mildly, cut. Thanks to our friends at Over The Cap you’ll see that cutting Gabriel now would have zero cap savings and $6.5M in dead money, but say another team thin at the position or sees a string of camp injuries at wideout and a trade for a future pick materializes. Trading Gabriel is much more palatable with a little under $2M in dead money against almost $6M in cap savings. If the WR room gets crowded this Fall because Ridley, Miller and any one of the many WR fighting for special teams reps force the issue, I’d look for Gabriel to get dealt on the cheap before anyone gets outright cut.
Tony: I could see Gabriel as trade bait, for sure. In terms of next steps being taken, Bilal Nichols is going to be a beast this year. I don’t see Jonathan Bullard breaking out, but I think this year finds Nichols and Roy Robertson-Harris stepping up in a big way.
The David Montgomery hype is getting to me, tbh. Let’s see this man suit up and play before he’s anointed the next great Bears RB, ya know? He has to learn the offense, and his scouting report via PFF lists his receiving ability as a weakness, something that might limit his snap count.
At the end of the day, I’m interested in what sort of formation/personnel wrinkles we’ll see in the new defense. Is Pagano going to consistently use his front 3/4 to generate pressure, or is he going to utilize the greatest buzzword in all of football: “exotic blitzes”. Is Eddie Jackson going to be asked to continue to roam the middle of the field and read the QB, or will he have less freedom in this new system? There’s no doubt that Bryce Callahan is a beast at nickel corner in a Vic Fangio defense, can we even be sure Chuck Pagano will ask Buster Skrine to do something similar? The fit between scheme and player was ideal last year, and I’m hoping this year is more of the same. I think Ha Ha will play well and earn that multi year deal somewhere else next year.