Grading Bears at The Break: Triumph and Failure

Gene Chamberlain

One of the favorite refrains of all NFL teams is they know what's going on while everyone else doesn't.

They consider football rocket science, and the media and general public could never comprehend what's really going on with each play on either side of the ball.

To their credit, this coaching staff hasn't hung that over anyone's head with one one major exception, and it came back to bite them -- a big old chunk bite, like from a shark.

Coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace insisted Mitchell Trubisky was drastically improved and operating the offense at a higher level. Teammates insisted this. Trubisky said so, as well.

Media members watching offseason work didn't see it.

At training camp, media members saw more of the same, and fans at camp expressed similar opinions via social media after seeing interceptions daily.

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

The Bears knew what they were doing. They wanted Trubisky throwing all those deep balls and getting picked off in practices, because it doesn't really matter in practice. It's like, practice, man.

As it turns out, the emperor really hadn't bothered to get dressed.

Trubisky is playing the way he looked in practice. It's been a major obstacle for the offense and also the defense to overcome.

Here are the Bears' grades at the break.

What do they mean coming from a non-football person, someone in the media? The Bears might tell you they mean little.

Then again, they also told you Trubisky was operating a 200-level offense.

Quarterbacks

There has been no apparent steady, incremental improvement, or Trubisky would have looked better running the offense. Instead, he looked worse than he did last season and all of his statistics reflect this. He had two bad games and one great game against a really bad defense, much like he did often last year. The only area Trubisky looks better at is interception percentage, but that's to be expected when he hasn't been willing to throw it downfield for big gainers. Only in the Redskins game did he have respectable yards per pass attempted (7.45). Trubisky hasn't even made up for his passing shortcomings with his legs, because he's been unwilling to run. He has only five rushing attempts for 21 yards. Chase Daniel played exactly as he did last year, catching the Vikings by surprise like last year against the Lions, and then making too many mistakes against Oakland like against the Giants last year. When your quarterbacks average 5.5 yards per pass, losses are sure to follow. Both QBs made a big, late interceptions on throws they didn't need to make and cost the Bears their two losses. Grade: D +

Running Backs

Tough to grade on this one because the numbers aren't there but how much is due to circumstances? David Montgomery at times has appeared to willing to bounce it out of pack when blocking is starting to form, but then again the blocking hasn't really formed much. You can't fix all of the blame for 3.3 yards per carry on the line, and Montgomery also has only nine receptions for 72 yards. The Bears had said they wanted a running back who can catch passes, and that was part of the reason they ditched Jordan Howard. The circumstances surrounding Tarik Cohen's unproductive start in the offense have been different. He hasn't been given the opportunity to run. He has 17 rushes, 15 fewer than at this point last year. He's been turned into a slot receiver and punt returner, pretty much. Mike Davis has had even fewer opportunities when it was promised he was part of a back rotation. There have been only two runs by backs of 10 yards or longer in the first five games. Grade: C

Receivers

Allen Robinson has elevated his play just as it looked like he would during training camp. He's on the way to a possible personal high in receptions with 31. Taylor Gabriel just started to get hot with three TD passes in a quarter against Washington but suffered a concussion. Anthony Miller has been a predictable non-factor, after missing offseason work and almost all of preseason and training camp due to rehab and injuries. The tight end position might be the most disappointing. Trey Burton's groin injury continued holding him down as a receiver and Adam Shaheen has made virtually no impact with seven catches. J.P. Holtz and Ben Braunecker have been bit parts and the move to put Bradley Sowell at tight end only deprived the team of an experienced backup tackle because he hasn't contributed at the new position. Before marking down a B, consider the Bears are tied for third in dropped passes this year. Last year they ranked top five almost all year in fewest drops. Grade: C+

Offensive line 

The last thing you want when four players on the line have been given contract extensions is for everyone to get satisfied. There have to be questions about their desire, though, after they have struggled to do anything in terms of run blocking. You also have to wonder if James Daniels is comprehending line changes that have to be made in blocking assignments. Maybe a switch back to Cody Whitehair at center would help. Put it this way, it couldn't hurt. They had 650 yards rushing last year at this point. They have 403 this year. One thing they do have more of is penalties. Charles Leno Jr. has eight penalties to lead the league, including four holds. The starting offensive line has eight holds in five games total but during the entire 2018 season the starting line had five holds. Only average to above average pass blocking prevents this from being a flunking grade. Grade: D

Defensive line

They've had to fight through two Akiem Hicks injuries, a Bilal Nichols broken hand and an oblique strain to Eddie Goldman. The reserves came through earlier but couldn't handle Oakland's physical and sometimes dirty blocking scheme. Roy Robertson-Harris and Nick Williams have stepped forward. Hicks was his usual disruptive self before the injuries. Goldman had been quiet dominance stopping up the middle until the Raiders started chop-blocking him. Grade: B

Linebackers

Khalil Mack and Danny Trevathan bring it every single down, with tenacity and leadership. Mack continues to go for the ball every chance he gets. Trevathan has the defense lined up right and is a key in stopping the run. He even had a good game making tackles when they were trampled by the Raiders. Leonard Floyd has gone back into milk carton side mode. He hasn't been seen since the opener. Last week he got butt-blocked by one of the Raider linemen and was taken out completely trying to come off the back side to make a tackle, sort of a backside-backside block. Floyd had two interceptions against Green Bay and hasn't had one since. At least Floyd has been on the field. Roquan Smith can't say that. No one knows why he missed a game except the Bears, but his spotty play has been obvious to all. He had a decent opener, then Matt Nagy himself said Smith didn't have his best game the next week. He missed the Minnesota game and last week seemed out of sorts, unwilling at times to get up into the gap and deliver the hit. Grade: B+

Defensive Backs

Neither Ha Ha Clinton-Dix nor Buster Skrine has been a liability as some imagined. Clinton-Dix got his first career pick-6. Skrine hasn't been flagged in pass coverage as he had so often in New York and Cleveland. Kyle Fuller hasn't stepped off in coverage at all and is tied for the team lead with two interceptions. Prince Amukamara has been giving up about 75 percent completions, which is off from his normal performance. He allowed a big play that got the Packers started to the game's only touchdown in the Bears' opening-night loss. Eddie Jackson forecasted he'd have more trouble making interceptions because coordinator Chuck Pagano told him people will stop throwing his way. He was right. The interceptions haven't been there. But it's been that way for the entire secondary. They are down in interceptions but have had three of the defense's league-high six fumbles recovered. Grade: B+

Special Teams

When punt returner Tarik Cohen leads the league (14.9 yards a return), kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson averages just a yard below his career average of 30 yards a pop, kicker Eddy Pineiro is 8-for-9 with two from 50 or longer, and punter Pat O'Donnell is at his career high of 47 yards a punt, much is going right for special teams. The kick coverage team has struggled, though, and ranks last in the league. It hasn't been a huge factor now but when they aren't getting as many touchbacks it could burn them. Patterson's coverage as a punt gunner has been surprising and admirable considering he's basically an offensive player. Pineiro's gutty kicking despite an injury adds bonus points for a solid group. Grade: B +

Coaching

Matt Nagy made a few in-game mistakes, the biggest being the refusal to kick a field goal against the Packers from 50 or 51 yards. Pineiro was more than up to that challenge before his knee injury, and proved it the next week. His reluctance to run, or to call non-RPO plays to take the decision out of Trubisky's hands earlier was a mistake. Trubisky wasn't ready for whatever coaches planned for him this year and that's been obvious. Beyond that, the rash of penalties calls into question attention to detail. Concern over Pagano's effect on the defense hasn't been valid. He blitzed only slightly more than Vic Fangio did last year and the results have been similar. One thing he and the defense need to do better is handle leads in the fourth quarter. They've blown two so far and for a while struggled with Washington in the second half. Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor deserves some blame for Kevin Pierre-Louis' huge running-into-the-kicker penalty Sunday against Oakland. There was no reason to be sending anyone close to the punter when they were getting the ball back with a lead and 5 1/2 minutes remaining. Then it seemed no one could stop the fake punt and some players were surprised by it when it was obvious they'd do it. Grade: C

Personnel

Ryan Pace backed the thought Trubisky is improved, which obviously was wrong. His 2017 first-round pick isn't panning out. His 2016 first-round pick, Floyd, hasn't done anything in four games. The 2018 first-round pick missed a game for unexplained reasons and isn't performing well. The 2015 first-round pick isn't here anymore. Nor is the 2015 second-round pick. The 2017 second-round pick, Adam Shaheen isn't working out. The 2019 third-round pick is stuck in gear right now. It's a good thing Pace has had free agency and the third day of the draft. Grade: C-

Overall: C+

Defense and special teams are carrying this team. Isn't that something we've all heard in Chicago way too many times in the past?

Twitter@BearsOnMaven

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