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Chicago Bears February Scouting Report
On January 10th, Bears chairman George McCaskey finally did what he shouldâ€™ve done a year ago: fire HC Matt Nagy and GM Ryan Pace. After an exhaustive search, McCaskey and his search committee (which inexplicably still included team president Ted Phillips) hired Chiefs executive director of player personnel Ryan Poles to be the new GM on January 25th. Poles, who the Bears once signed as an undrafted free agent in 2008, apparently has a keen eye for talent (of course, virtually every new hire is praised on the first day). He will now report directly to McCaskey instead of Phillips (not sure how much of a difference that will make). After taking over the coaching search, Poles didnâ€™t take long to find his man as he hired Colts D-coordinator Matt Eberflus to be the Bearsâ€™ new head coach two days later on the 27th.
If you had asked me what kind of coaches I wanted after the Bearsâ€™ 2021 finale, I wouldâ€™ve said an innovative (but proven, unlike Nagy) offensive mind at head coach and an aggressive, blitzing defensive coordinator. Once Sean Payton (my pipe dream candidate) retired, I (and many Bears fans) hoped for Brian Daboll. As it turned out, Daboll and the blitzing D-coordinator I wanted (Wink Martindale) both wound up in New York with the G-Men. Once I saw the Bearsâ€™ list of three head coaching finalists (Eberflus, Jim Caldwell, and Dan Quinn), I wasnâ€™t enamored with any of them, but I preferred Quinn because of his experience. So when Poles hired Eberflus (who reminds me of Robert Patrick from "Terminator 2"), I basically said, "Meh." With Eberflus at the helm, the Bears will be switching back to a 4-3 Cover 2 defensive alignment with an emphasis on hustling to the ball and forcing turnovers much like we saw during the Lovie Smith era. While it will be Eberflusâ€™ defense, he wonâ€™t be calling the plays. That will be the job for new D-coordinator Alan Williams, who came over from the Colts with Eberflus.
With a defensive head coach in place, the most important hire became the offensive coordinator, and the Bears oddly looked up north of all places and hired Packers quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator Luke Getsy to be the new OC. In terms of his offensive philosophy, he said that he wants to focus on what the quarterback does well, then marry that with what the other offensive players do well (essentially the opposite of Nagyâ€™s rigid philosophy). Getsy also preached the importance of protecting the quarterback (somewhere, QB Justin Fields breathed a sigh of relief). "If you can run the ball and you can play (-action) pass, youâ€™re going to have an opportunity to protect your quarterback," Getsy said.
So the Bears now have another first-time GM named Ryan, another first-time head coach named Matt, and first-time offensive and defensive coordinators. It would be easy for a cynic to say that this will be dÃ©jÃ vu all over again. Who knows how this will turn out, but all we can do is give it some time and see what happens. In the meantime, letâ€™s have a quick look at the current roster and team needs:
The only decision the Bears will have here is whether they want QB Nick Foles to be the backup or not. Fields spoke briefly at the introductory press conference for Poles and Eberflus, showing his importance to the franchise now that he is undoubtedly the man at quarterback. As mentioned earlier, the offense will be built around him, which is exciting. Obviously, if Getsy has success with Fields and helps turn him into a star, the former Cheesehead will likely get a head coaching gig at some point. That was part of the argument for hiring an offensive head coach. But on the other hand, itâ€™ll be nice for Fields to have an OC who can fully focus on him and the offense and not have to double as a head coach. Eberflus, with his defensive background, can provide feedback to Fields about what opposing defenses are trying to do against him. And if Getsy helps the Bears win a Super Bowl, he can go and do whatever the hell he wants afterward. I was four years old when the Bears won Super Bowl XX, so I have no recollection of it. I just want to see the Bears win at least one in my lifetime.
With RB David Montgomery and RB Khalil Herbert on board, there isnâ€™t much need here. RB Damien Williams is a free agent. RB Tarik Cohen may be a cap casualty, whether heâ€™s fully recovered from his torn ACL or not.
With only WR Darnell Mooney and WR Dazz Newsome under contract for 2022, the need here is obviously sky-high. The Bears simply must get Fields more fast, dynamic playmakers. Davante Adams? Forget about it. The odds of WR Allen Robinson returning are about the same as me winning an Olympic gold medal in figure skating (big props to Nathan Chen), so the team will need a new #1 receiver. The problem? Some of the top names in this yearâ€™s free agent class will be trying to come back from major injuries. Chris Godwin? Torn ACL. Michael Gallup? Ditto. D.J. Chark? Fractured ankle. If the Bears are thinking of signing one or more of these guys, theyâ€™ll really have to do their homework on their medicals. Mike Williams would be a nice fit, but he may get franchise tagged by the Chargers. Christian Kirk or JuJu Smith-Schuster could be options as well. Chicago will also likely have to draft at least one receiver.
TE Cole Kmet is fine as a starter, but the Bears could use another weapon here if they can find the money. Zach Ertz, Dalton Schultz, or Mike Gesicki would be my top names to look at. Maybe itâ€™s time to give TE Jesper Horsted more of a look. TE Jimmy Graham is out of contract.
Poles has emphasized the importance of the O-line since his hiring. The big question here: how does he feel about the Bearsâ€™ projected starting tackles? Are T Teven Jenkins and T Larry Borom starter-quality, and if they are, should they be playing tackle or guard? Nagy really hurt the Bears by not playing Jenkins more down the stretch in 2021. Teven needed more snaps, and the Bearsâ€™ next regime needed more tape. If Poles deems tackle a need, Cam Robinson or Terron Armstead could be options if they hit the open market. The team also needs to figure out whether to re-sign G James Daniels or not.
Lovie Smithâ€™s 4-3 Cover-2 scheme helped the Bears get to the Super Bowl in the 2006 season, but they had elite players at important positions. Brian Urlacher in the middle. Tommie Harris at 3-technique. Lance Briggs on the weak side. Peanut Tillman outside. Mike Brown on the back end. Those were the days... This current roster has three studs in DE Khalil Mack, DE Robert Quinn and LB Roquan Smith and a potential future stud in CB Jaylon Johnson, but a lot of question marks otherwise. Can DT Bilal Nichols (if the Bears re-sign him) be a disruptive 3-technique? Is there any possibility that the team brings back DT Akiem Hicks? Who will be the new man in the middle? LB Danny Trevathan is likely gone. Chicago also needs a couple of starter-quality corners and a safety to start opposite S Eddie Jackson. Some of these answers will come in free agency, some will come in the draft. On special teams, it would be great if the Bears could bring back Pro Bowl return man WR Jakeem Grant.
PK Cairo Santos is entrenched here.
More to come next month!
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