As the 4-8 Chicago Bears prepare to head north to Green Bay for Sunday night’s game against the Packers at Lambeau Field, Brad Biggs takes a spin through the weekly Bears mailbag.
Among this week’s topics: a rebuilding timeline, Alan Robinson’s hamstring injury and why on earth the Bears-Packers game is in prime time.
Realistically, how long will it take for this new rebuild to produce a playoff berth? With pay-limit conditions, aging players and limited draft choice and a whole new plan on both sides of the ball, are there enough building blocks to change that fast? two years? — @donaldguy2
This is a great question – a series of questions really – with a ton of unknowns. Many, many variables are at play, and decisions will directly affect others in the chain. There’s no way to tell what kind of organizational changes the Bears will make at the end of the season and how deep it will go. It’s impossible to figure out how any newcomer would feel about the roster’s core. The Bears will have a decent amount of cap space after the season and the ability to make up extra room with a few moves, and according to Spottrack.com, only 27 players are currently under contract for 2022. Set up four players to be exclusive-rights free agents and three restricted free agents, and that creates a ton of flexibility for a potential new regime. It also points to a situation in which the cap space can be quickly increased if the team makes some big signings to fill in some big signals such as wide receivers and cornerbacks.
If Justin Fields develops into the franchise quarterback the Bears hope to become, a reboot of the franchise will happen sooner rather than later. Elite quarterbacks have a way of leveling the game of everyone around them and hiding areas of the roster that might not be as strong. Right now there’s no way to tell if Fields will be that guy. If it is somewhere in the middle, the process will take longer. If the field isn’t the long-term answer, well, the Bears are right where they’ve always been: trying to find their way into a league in which it’s nearly impossible to compete on a regular basis without an elite quarterback. The Bears have some building blocks for the future and some young players who should continue to improve, but they don’t have too many game changers – players who can consistently tilt the ground for them on Sundays – and that’s it this season. Shown again and again.
Pinning the whole thing on the fields isn’t fair and not an accurate way to describe the situation, but when you’re talking about the Bears’ potential for roster and playoff spots, that’s absolutely the most important piece of the puzzle. . His rookie season has been up and down, and the Bears desperately need to get better aggressively in 2022 if they want to win. While they do so, they have to focus on a defense that is a shadow of the time Matt Nagy came on board in 2018. There’s still a lot of work to do, and while I can provide more definitive answers than I want, a lot of unknowns loom over the future. In the best case scenario, the Bears are a threat in 2023 with young players giving them the chance to grow and improve. With a shortage of draft capital in 2022, it will be challenging.
What compelled the NFL to hold the Bears-Packers game to prime time? Why didn’t the league flex the schedule and put better games in that slot? – Doc C., Roselle
Short answer It’s a particularly bad weekend of matchups. The league does not have a complete list of sports to choose from. Thursday (Steelers-Vikings) and Monday (Rams-Cardinals) games are closed, and this is the final week in which teams say goodbye: Colts, Dolphins, Patriots and Eagles. So that’s eight teams out of the mix. The only game Sunday between the two teams with the winning record is the Bills at the Buccaneers, at 3:25 p.m. on CBS. Fox and CBS get a certain number of games each season, which they can “lock” the league into to prevent them from moving into prime time, and it would be a stunner if CBS had a number of Bills-Bucks games ahead of the season. does not protect.
The rest of the slate is meh with some one-sided matchups. Bears-Packers is one of six games that had a point spread of 7½ or more on Tuesday morning. The Ravens at the Browns is an AFC North battle with postseason implications, but NBC only had the same pairing two weeks ago. Washington went on to win four games in a row to reach 6–6, and host the Cowboys (8–4), but those teams are scheduled to play in the NBC slot on December 26. The Chiefs are hosting the Raiders this week and the network loves to feature Patrick Mahomes. But the Chiefs were on NBC last week, and on November 14, the Chiefs-Raiders game also aired on NBC.
Basically, there isn’t another game on the schedule that was even semi-lucrative for the NFL, so the league stuck with the largest television market that only has one team – Chicago. The Packers always do well with the audience in prime time.
This is only the third time since the start of the 2010 season that the Bears will play in prime time with a record of four or more games below .500. They were 1-5 when they went to Green Bay in a 26-10 loss on October 20, 2016. They were in ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” the following week and defeated the Minnesota Vikings 20–10 at Soldier Field. It was Jay Cutler’s last win as the Bears started quarterback.
How does the defensive backfield grade out compared to the rest of the league? — @paulbau80770126
It depends on how you look at it. Overall, the number of beers is good compared to the pass. They are sixth in the league, with 207.8 passing yards per game and 21st on 7.01 per attempt. They are No. 1 in sacks per game with 9.27%. They are ranked 22nd in opponents’ completion percentage at 67.1% and 28th in opponents’ passer ratings at 103.0. They are tied for ninth by allowing 34 pass plays of 20 or more yards, and breakdowns affecting the secondary have become less common at the start of the season. Jaylon Johnson has played really well and continues to improve, while fellow cornerback Kindle Wildor struggled to the point that he had to be sold. Free defense Eddie Jackson has certainly helped pass defense, and I think strong defense Tashun Gipson has been average or fine when you consider what he is getting paid for.
The Bears need an upgrade on the nickel position and the secondary really entering the off-season will have to be watched closely. Could it be better? Yes. Does it need to be better? No question. But given what defensive coordinator Shaun Desai had to work with – we knew depth would be an issue early in the season – I think the pass defense has been as good as could have been expected. One issue absolutely plaguing the defense is the lack of takeaways. The Bears are 28th with only 11 takeaways, and not coincidentally they are 29th on the turnover gap at minus-8. With a struggling offense, it’s hard to win football like that.
Have we seen the last of Alan Robinson? It’s starting to look like he has a “business hammy” and will keep it for the rest of the year in anticipation of free agency to save himself from injuring himself. Idea? — @twashington1029
I understand what you are saying, and of course experienced players going into the open market are prone to injury and don’t want to put bad tape in there if they are playing but not close to 100%. However, I don’t quite understand how Robinson is wired. Is she happy with how things are going with Bear? No, he would have preferred a massive contract extension to play under the franchise tag this season. But as Robinson said, that’s all the situation was under his control. Robinson has always come across as an outstanding professional, and he’s probably working as hard as he can behind the scenes to be available before the season ends. He was injured at the end of the November 8 game in Pittsburgh, and depending on the severity, hamstring injuries sometimes take more than a month to heal. Unless the injury was significant – and if it were, the team probably would have kept him in injured reserve by now – I think we’ll see Robinson in action sooner than later. With a little good luck, he could be on the field against the Packers on Sunday night.
What draft do the Bears have in 2022? – Cliff D., Chicago
Round 2, 3, 5 and 6 have your choice of beer. He has an additional fifth-round pick through the Houston Texans as part of the Anthony Miller trade. The Bears are without first- and fourth-round picks to complete a deal with the New York Giants and draft quarterback Justin Fields. He sent his seventh-round pick with Miller to the Texans to advance two rounds.
So the Bears have five picks – two of which will likely be in the top 75. The beer is not anticipated to be awarded any compensatory draft picks.
One thing I noticed during a Bears-Cardinals game was that most Bears receivers chose to drop the gloves due to the rainy weather, while most Cardinals receivers kept theirs. The Bears had a drop problem and the Cardinals less. How do you think both teams ended up using opposing perspectives on the same issue after each team was awarded gloves? Does it depend on the player’s choice, or does each equipment manager help with the decision making? — Jacob K., Chicago
fair question. But it seemed to me that almost all Bears skill-status players were wearing gloves. Tight end Cole Kemet had the gloves on, and he had the game’s most significant fall in the red zone that led to a 77-yard interception return for Cardinals safety Budda Baker. Darnell Mooney was wearing gloves. Jakim Grant had gloves in his hand. So did Damier Bird. This is a personal choice for the players, and some people will wear gloves no matter what the weather. Select based on certain conditions. I don’t think gloves – or the lack of them – were a factor in the game.