There have been 252 sleeps since the Chicago Bears last played a regular-season game of importance. Here’s hoping that you’re well-rested for tonight.
• It’s the first Sunday of the NFL season and I’m thinking about how wild this weekend would look had the offseason shaken out differently on the quarterback front:
Inside the trade talks that landed the Rams their QB: https://t.co/QsGZYvHOxT
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 12, 2021
One of the many reasons why the 49ers traded up to the No. 3 spot in this year's NFL draft was their belief that the Patriots could trade up to No. 3 and beat them to Alabama QB Mac Jones, league sources told ESPN. Pats didn’t – but still got their man.https://t.co/16vgPQ8qx6
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 12, 2021
• There’s some good perspective in the pieces above as we take one last look back before springing forward. We knew the Bears were into the Matthew Stafford sweepstakes, even if they would’ve been paying a premium to pull off an intra-division trade. But them not landing Stafford put so many different things in motion. And how about Panthers pushing a competitive offer on the table, only for Stafford’s insistence on wanting to go to Los Angeles win out? Elsewhere, could you imagine how much the NFL Draft would’ve changed had the Pats pulled off a trade to get Mac Jones before the Niners could? On second thought, I’d rather not. Because I have minimal interest in an alternate reality where the Bears don’t end up with Justin Fields. Even if the rest of the offseason was an eyebrow raising experience.
• But with Fields on the sidelines to start the year, the Bears are going to battle with this guy:
• Few players have as many motivating factors going for them the way Andy Dalton does going into the year. Dalton, 33, is on a one-year “prove it” deal after spending a bridge year as Dak Prescott’s backup/placeholder in Dallas. And that came after the Bengals pushed him aside to tank for Joe Burrow. Dalton knows he isn’t the Bears’ future. But he also knows that by making the best of his situation in Chicago, it could springboard him to a better gig next year. So … we’re rooting for Andy Dalton to be at his absolute best tonight (right?).
• The Bears unveiled their uniform schedule for the 2021 season. If you go through the slideshow, you’ll note how they’re wearing their navy blue tops in each of the first four games. Can’t say I’ve ever seen that before. There are also cameos featuring the orange tops (Dec. 5 vs. Cardinals) and alternate white fauxbacks (Oct. 17 vs. Packers, Dec. 20 vs. Vikings) at home. I still miss the blue tops with the block orange numbers. In fact, I was hoping those would make a surprise appearance. They didn’t. Well, unless the surprise is forthcoming later in the year. But don’t expect me to hold my breath.
• Speaking of uniforms, Justin Fields has the fourth-highest-selling jersey since the start of August:
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 9, 2021
• Chicago’s backup QB is out-selling a guy who is just one year removed from winning the NFL’s MVP award. Facts are facts, man. I’m just sharing them.
• Whether it’s Andy Dalton or Justin Fields slinging it, they better get Cole Kmet into the action early and often. Kmet, a second-year player out of Notre Dame, is taking over TE1 responsibilities on the depth chart. And after an offseason that had him fine tuning at TE University, the Bears are hoping a major second-year leap is in store for Kmet. For what it’s worth, Kmet feels like he’s been ready for quite some time. “I always felt like I was ready, but it’s part of the process of coming in as a rookie,” Kmet said, via The Athletic’s Kevin Fishbain. “You’ve just got to stay ready and prepared. I think from their perspective, they kind of evaluated and saw where I was at and I was gaining trust with them. From there, it took off for the rest of the season.”
• It is worth underscoring how Kmet saw an increase in usage down the stretch Starting in Week 10, Kmet was in on at least 70 percent of the team’s offensive snaps in each of Chicago’s final seven games. He was in on at least 78 percent of the snaps starting in Week 11. In other words, the Bears began the transition away from Jimmy Graham last season. During this stretch, Kmet had 22 catches, 164 receiving yards, and a score. Extrapolate those numbers over 16 games and it’s a 50-catch, 375-yard, 2-touchdown season. Not quite what one would expect from a player with the type of draft hype Kmet came with upon arrival. But maybe this year’s increase in playing time comes with more targets, catches, yards, and touchdowns.
• On the other side of the ball, this post got me thinking about first-year defensive play-caller Sean Desai:
The era of the Vic Fangio-Brandon Staley defensive model is here.
How should offenses respond?
I asked Aaron Rodgers, Sean McVay, and others for the answer. https://t.co/ZTZw04jeMj
— Robert Mays (@robertmays) September 10, 2021
• Firstly, it’s great to see Vic Fangio finally get his flowers. Fangio was a defensive coordinator for the Panthers (1995-98), Colts (1999-2001), Texans (2002-05), 49ers (2011-14), and Bears (2015-18) before finally getting a shot at being a head coach. And now, everyone is trying to jack his style, emulate what he does, and stop today’s high-power offenses. Secondly, seeing former Bears assistant Brandon Staley successfully put his own spin on the Fangio way gives me hope that Sean Desai – another Fangio disciple – can do similarly with the Bears. Desai won’t work with a full deck the same way Fangio did back in 2018, but this is where scheming can do wonders to bridge the talent gap. Good luck trying to do that while at game speed against an offensive guru such as Sean McVay.
• Getting unexpected contributions from the Bears’ secondary could do wonders and help matters. Over at the Tribune, Brad Biggs recounts how second-year corner Kindle Vildor spent time watching game film with notorious film-room junkie Kyle Fuller. Combining intense film study with NFL instincts and ability pushed Fuller to another level among pro corners. And, evidently, the Bears believe Vildor can handle starting duties after cutting Fuller this offseason and not replacing him with a premium draft pick or free agent signing. Vildor has minimal starting experience after Buster Skrine and Jaylon Johnson were dealing with injuries at the end of last season. So at least he isn’t making his starting debut tonight. It’s just that he has a ways to go before solidifying his spot at the top of the depth chart.
• With Eddie Goldman unavailable, the Bears are promoting Damion Square from the practice squad to fill a roster spot. This makes now a good time to remember some practice squad rules:
Teams can do this with each player twice, and if they want to bring him up more than that then the team must sign him to their active 53-man roster.
— Lester A. Wiltfong Jr. (@wiltfongjr) September 11, 2021
• Now, that is how you invest in an offensive line:
Eagles’ OT Jordan Mailata is signing a four-year, $64 million extension that could be worth up to $80 million and includes $40.85 million guaranteed, per source.
His agents, Jeff Nalley and Graylan Crain, just confirmed the deal to ESPN.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 11, 2021
Between Jordan Mailata and Lane Johnson, the #Eagles have $95.5 million in guarantees dedicated to their left and right tackles. The final number in earnings from their deals will be well north of $100M
That noise you hear is Jalen Hurts clapping.
— Josh Tolentino (@JCTSports) September 11, 2021
• Are the Texans setting the groundwork for a midseason trade?
From @NFLGameDay: #Texans QB Deshaun Watson will be a healthy scratch today and going forward, though talks may pick up around the trade deadline. Story (https://t.co/cz50N6Aqwo) and video 👇🏻👇🏻👇🏻 pic.twitter.com/UBvTuywNtU
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 12, 2021
• College football after dark gets weird when the Pac-12 is being showcased:
USC's kicker just got disqualified for targeting on the very first play of the game 😅 pic.twitter.com/VxxM1nCSbM
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) September 12, 2021
— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 12, 2021
• Grade-A trolling by Arkansas, which will soon be sharing a conference with Texas:
Not this time. pic.twitter.com/tWRzlZuFh8
— Arkansas Razorback Football (@RazorbackFB) September 12, 2021