Center Cody Whitehair has struggled through a sophomore slump, and it’s unlikely that playing three different positions along the interior of the offensive line has helped matters. His 61.9 grade at Pro Football Focus ranks him 19th among 36 qualifying centers and represents a significant drop-off from his 85.9 grade as a rookie. But Whitehair turned back the clock with his performance last Sunday, earning an 89.3 grade and a spot on PFF’s Team of the Week.
The Bears ran for 222 yards, with PFF noting that 35.6 percent of the yards came from either side of Whitehair’s point of attack. Whitehair didn’t allow a quarterback pressure either, which might be a sign he is back on the right track.
- If you browsed through PFF’s list of best performers in Week 11, you’ll see Alshon Jeffery’s 86.7 grade was the second highest among receivers. He has been a quality target for quarterback Carson Wentz and a key cog in the Philadelphia Eagles’ offense. Do the Bears miss Jeffery? Absolutely. Does hindsight suggest the Bears should have kept him? Definitely. But as ESPN’s Jeff Dickerson points out, the Bears lacked foresight in their decision-making process regarding Jeffery.
- Not retaining Jeffery by using the franchise tag was a mistake, but not properly replacing Jeffery’s production made things worse. The Bears entered the year banking on Cameron Meredith building on a breakout 2016 season, Kevin White being healthy through a 16-game schedule, and some combination of free agent additions (Victor Cruz, Markus Wheaton, Kendall Wright) picking up the slack. The Bears’ receiving corps had a low ceiling entering the year, but the floor collapsed underneath them when Meredith and White suffered season-ending injuries and the team hasn’t ever recovered. Wright has been a nice security blanket in the slot, but Cruz didn’t make the team out of training camp and Wheaton has missed five of the Bears’ 10 games this season.
- I wonder if Jeffery’s lack of availability in GM Ryan Pace’s first two years with the Bears played a factor in letting the Pro Bowl receiver walk. Jeffery missed 11 games in his final two seasons with the Bears due to injuries and a PED suspension. There wasn’t a good case to make for allowing Jeffery to leave, but if there was, it probably started with injury concerns.
- While we’re trying to make cases for things, Parker Hurley of Fansided’s Bear Goggles On has an angle pushing for undrafted free agent rookie Isaiah Irving to start in place of Leonard Floyd on Sunday. Floyd’s knee injury landed him on injured reserve and left the Bears with Pernell McPhee, Sam Acho, Isaiah Irving, and practice squad addition Howard Jones as the team’s only healthy edge rushers. Irving was one of the most impressive pass rushers in the preseason, albeit against lesser competition. Still, he has been impressive on special teams and could force his way into the lineup. Irving might not start because John Fox tends to give veterans a bit of a leash, but Irving getting some looks shouldn’t be out of the question.
- BearsWire’s Bryan Perez sees the team’s addition of DeMarcus Ayers to the practice squad as an intriguing one. Ayers was a seventh-round pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2016 who played two games (one start) as a rookie. He didn’t make their team out of camp and spent some time on the New England Patriots, but didn’t last long there. Ayers was a breakout performer in his junior year at the University of Houston when he caught 97 passes, gained 1,221 yards, and scored six touchdowns. His inclusion on the practice squad should make for some intense competition with Tanner Gentry, Mario Alford, and Nelson Spruce. The Bears are trying to rebuild their wide receiver corps from the bottom up, which I suppose is what happens when you let a Pro Bowler walk away for nothing.
- As if hanging with the Eagles wasn’t already going to be a tough task, their offense will be at full strength as ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweets kicker Jake Elliott passed the NFL’s concussion protocol and will play in Sunday’s game against the Bears. Elliott’s improved health might not keep Philadelphia from trying its hand at a few more two-point conversion attempts. Head Coach Doug Pederson told reporters earlier in the week he would not rule out going for two in certain situations, but it seems like the team won’t need to go to extreme measures if Elliott is a full-go on Sunday.
- Did you enjoy Thursday’s slate of Thanksgiving games? I did (somewhat) until I realized one of the day’s biggest playmakers was someone the Bears had right underneath their noses this winter:
We had a decent look at Desmond King, who came up with that pick-6 for the Chargers. He was on the Senior Bowl North Team coached by John Fox.
King went in the 5th round (151st overall) … 4 picks after #DaBears chose OL Jordan Morgan.
— The Ten-Yard Line (@TheTenYardLine) November 24, 2017
- It’s not like the Bears’ coaching staff didn’t get a good look at King when he was on the Senior Bowl North Team coached by John Fox. And it’s not as if King wasn’t a legitimate prospect. King was a prime-time performer for the University of Iowa as a cornerback (14 interceptions in his sophomore, junior, and senior seasons) and return specialist (1,458 kick return yards in his junior and senior seasons). That he fell to the fifth round is as surprising now as it was on draft weekend. And that the Bears missed a chance to draft a player capable of making an impact as a rookie stings, especially knowing the team’s top two corners (Prince Amukamara, Kyle Fuller) will be free agents at the end of the year.