I’m still not over the end of Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Nope. Not when J.R. Smith made a bone-headed blunder so big, it gave me (and others) flashbacks of Marion Barber running out of bounds, which gave birth to the Tim Tebow thing that had no business getting started in the first place.
- Relevant and topical:
When someone tries to tell you the Bears aren’t going to the playoffs in 2018: pic.twitter.com/K8W0FN3MIY
— The Ten-Yard Line (@TheTenYardLine) June 1, 2018
- There is a sensible part of me that wants to pump the brakes on playoff talk in May, but that guy can take a backseat to excitement and optimism for now. Sure, backup quarterback Chase Daniel told the Chicago Tribune that Matt Nagy is slow-playing some things, saying: “We’re not going to try to run before we walk. We need the details of every little thing we do, and then we can add from there.” Baby steps. Got it. Don’t like it, but I understand it. I still think the Bears’ offense is going to be significantly improved from what we’ve seen in recent years.
- Further, I fully expect Jordan Howard to do a ton of the heavy lifting if the Bears are going to do what seems to be unthinkable and somehow squeeze into the playoffs. Over at 670 The Score, Chris Emma writes the Bears’ top rusher is starting to get comfortable in Nagy’s offense. That’s a good sign, especially after hearing Nagy’s explanation of how difficult it can be to give an honest assessment of the running back position because of how drills in OTAs skew toward pass-heavy at times.
- Howard wants the ball, as well he should. Since the start of the 2016 season two running backs have gained more rushing yards, five have gained more yards per game, and four have posted a higher rushing average (min. 300 attempts) than Howard. Unfortunately, Howard doesn’t have the touchdowns to show for it (just 15 in 31 games) but part of that is a product of the Bears offense’s inability to get into scoring position in the first place. If the Bears’ passing game can pick up the slack, there is no doubt in my mind that Howard will be the beneficiary and will score some touchdowns as a result.
- Good things happen when you get a talented running back the ball in Nagy’s offense. Just take Kareem Hunt for example. The Chiefs were 6-0 when Hunt touched the ball at least 25 times in a game and the offense averaged 30.8 points per game. Now, Kansas City’s offense was good enough to win four games when Hunt was a relative non-factor. HOWEVER, the points per game average dipped to 23 points per game. A touchdown here and a touchdown there can add up if you’re not careful. And since we all know how things fell apart in the playoff game where Hunt touched the ball just 14 times, it feels important that the Bears get the ball to Howard early and often.
- Much like Howard, Hunt was a tough dude to bring down. So seeing Hunt on this list makes me feel good about Nagy finding a way to get Howard the ball so he can do some damage:
No one forced more missed tackles in the run game than Kareem Hunt! pic.twitter.com/0Re20xUj23
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) June 1, 2018
- To be clear, Howard isn’t Hunt … and as JJ Stankevitz of NBC Sports Chicago points out, he doesn’t have to be. The Bears are working on getting Howard to improve on his weaknesses as Nagy plots to create an offense that plays to the strengths of his players. It’s a novel concept, and one that will go over well with fans if they start putting up numbers. Howard might lose some snaps to Tarik Cohen so the Bears can better utilize his pass-catching and open-field skills, but it doesn’t mean Howard is going to be on the sidelines as a spectator a majority of the time. There is a unique balance Nagy has to strike with this offense, and it’s one of the challenges he’ll face as a head coach as opposed to when he was just a coordinator. Here’s hoping he’s up to the challenge.
- Speaking of challenges, The Athletic’s Kevin Fishbain checks in with Harry Hiestand as he takes on an offensive line that is working with its fourth offensive line coach in five years. Hiestand might be the best under-the-radar hire of the offseason. The Bears have experience on the line, but Kyle Long is the oldest member and he isn’t even 30. This group also has depth and some youth that has upside. All of this makes Hiestand the perfect coach for this particular position group at this time. You couldn’t have created a better hire in a lab. Hiestand will be able to draw on his experience working with young players from his time at Notre Dame and Tennessee, while also reaching back to his first go-around with the Bears. I’m a bit of a dork when it comes to offensive line play, so that’s definitely one of those things I want to watch play out at training camp this summer.
- Speaking of which, you can start picking up tickets for the 11 open practices this summer. And they’re all free, which is always something I love to see.
- I’m not mad about these poll results. I’m just disappointed:
Sooooo who’s going to see the Bears at training camp this summer?
— The Ten-Yard Line (@TheTenYardLine) May 31, 2018
- An awesome read on ex-Bears running back Matt Forte over at The MMQB. Forte looked back fondly on a productive Bears career, but had one thing he wishes could’ve happened differently. “If I could rewind time and go back and make something happen, I wish we would have kept Coach Lovie (Smith) and added in the draft and free agency and maybe hired a new offensive coordinator,” Forte said in the story. Forte was right in describing this situation as a missed opportunity, especially since the Phil Emery-Marc Trestman era crashed and burned as quickly as it started.
After 10 seasons, Matt Forte remembers every detail of his first game, including his 50-yard touchdown run and a crushing 'Welcome to the NFL' hit from Bob Sanders.
— The MMQB (@theMMQB) June 1, 2018
- Anybody hungry? Because it’s never too late for donuts:
- Soon enough, we’ll be waiting all day for Sunday Night:
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) June 1, 2018