Hope you were able to take advantage of the late afternoon Bears start time by sleeping in. Or were you one of those watching Jets-Falcons at 8:30 a.m. because FOOTBALL!? Not that there’s a wrong answer here…
• Late last night, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Khalil Mack was expected to play Sunday against the Raiders. As if Mack was a going to miss *THIS* game. Mack himself said as much during his Friday media availability. There was nothing (short of a catastrophic injury) keeping out of action today. Which brings us to one final (?) re-hashing of the Mack deal:
Return of the Mack.
As Khalil Mack prepares to face the #Raiders – and he will play Sunday – the '18 trade is quite lopsided.
— Brad Biggs (@BradBiggs) October 9, 2021
• At my core, I still believe both teams could consider themselves winners because both were given what they were searching for in the deal. The Bears landed the fearsome pass-rusher who could elevate the defense. Back west, the Raiders rid themselves of future contract considerations and were given draft capital in the process. But what makes this a net win for the Bears is what they’ve done since the acquisition.
• Two playoff appearances in three years is nothing to sneeze at if you’re a Bears fan who isn’t old enough to appreciate the peak era of the 80s, but is old enough to have lived through coaching regimes that struggled to make one postseason appearance, let alone two in aa three year stretch. Meanwhile, the Raiders chose to use their draft capital on a running back (Josh Jacobs) whose heir apparent (Kenyan Drake) joined the team this offseason and a cornerback (Damon Arnette) who hasn’t established himself just yet. The Bears will see Jacobs today, but Arnette won’t play due to injury. In the end, Biggs nails it — if the Bears truly want to stake claim to victory, they’ll need to cash in with aa big postseason run. Full stop.
• Sometimes, NFL players are just like us:
Robert Quinn on Khalil Mack: “I don’t know who would ever trade him.”
— Jason Lieser (@JasonLieser) October 7, 2021
• The Ringer’s Danny Heifetz writes how the Mack trade’s legacy still hovers above Jon Gruden, whose poor handling of the situation upon arrival still lingers to this day. You’ll want to give that some time if you’re feeling extra petty.
• Last time these two teams met, the Raiders threw the kitchen sink at Mack. The expectation is they’ll do the same this time around. Not that Mack cares:
Khalil Mack on facing Jon Gruden, thinking back to Gruden trying to scheme him out of the game and now imagining a repeat plan Sunday:
"I don't care what they do. I'll be ready for it."
— Jason Lieser (@JasonLieser) October 8, 2021
• Mack is off to a rip-roaring start, collecting 4 sacks, 4 tackles-for-loss, and 5 quarterback hits in four games. His tag team partner, Robert Quinn, has 4.5 sacks, 3 TFLs, and 6 QB Hits in four games, too. In other words, Gruden can throw everything at Mack — but it’ll come at the risk of allowing Quinn to roam free. Pick your poison, Jon.
• On the other side of the field, Bears Offensive Coordinator/Play-Caller Bill Lazor has his work cut out for him when it comes to getting this offense in gear. The team put up 24 points last week, but needs more in order to keep up with this Vegas bunch. Perhaps the inclusion of tight ends will help elevate the offense’s play. Chicago will be short-handed here, with J.P. Holtz and Jesse James among this week’s inactive players.
• Tom Thayer goes into detail as to how TE production isn’t all about catches and scores:
• And for what it’s worth, Head Coach Matt Nagy has an affinity for that position group:
Matt Nagy said that the TE target rate is lower than he would like.
"I love tight ends," he said.
— Patrick Finley (@patrickfinley) October 8, 2021
• I’m unsure why to make of Cole Kmet to this point of his career. Not that I’m looking to make grand proclamations after just 20 games. It’s just that I wish there was a way to get a better grasp as to what the Bears are working with now (and in the future). For instance, this thread from Twitter user @BShulkes paints a positive picture:
So I watched Cole Kmet for entire first drive just because of all the slander, and…he spent most his time being a key blocker and essentially quasi right tackle. Helped spring Mooney big play and the 4 seconds fields had to throw (1/2) pic.twitter.com/4ydbECuRne
— B (@BShulkes) October 5, 2021
• Kmet needs to contribute as a blocker, but must also make an impact as a pass-catcher at some point. And he needs to do both with some sort of consistency, preferably sooner and not later. Kmet ranks 46th in run-blocking and 51st in pass-blocking, per PFF’s grading to this point of the season. That simply isn’t good enough. He’ll need to put together more reps like the ones BShulkes highlights above.
• Maybe playing the Raiders will help matters? Both Nick Kwiatkoski and Denzel Perryman are Vegas linebackers who have allowed QBs to post passer ratings north of 100 when targeting them in coverage this season. And for whaat it’s worth, the Raiders have given up the ninth-most fantasy points to tight ends this season (per Yahoo!). Jared Cook and Donald Parham Jr. both found paydirt for the Chargers last week. Just saying.
• On the other side of the coin, the Bears are giving up the seventh-most fantasy points to receivers through four games. Jaylon Johnson, who earned NFL first-quarter All-Pro honors from PFF earlier in the week, has his work cut out for him. As does Kindle Vildor, whose climb to the NFL could add a new chapter if he can build on some of his early season successes:
“Now that I’m here, I still have that chip on my shoulder every day”
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) October 9, 2021
• Perhaps giving up play-calling responsibilities allows Matt Nagy to see the trends, then allows his assistants to exploit them in preparation throughout the week. At minimum, at least Nagy should have a clearer mindset on game day:
Matt Nagy said of relinquishing the Bears' play-calling duties Sunday: "During the game, it was the most connected I've felt to all three phases. It felt good."
— Chris Emma (@CEmma670) October 6, 2021
• College football was a treat last night:
OT. Game-winner. Roll Damn Salukis!
— Funky Cold Luda (@lcm1986) October 9, 2021
This game is a classic. pic.twitter.com/XMpJelshC7
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) October 10, 2021
what a game. what a day. what a call. https://t.co/bWBY6FpgbU
— Bleacher Nation Bears (@BN_Bears) October 10, 2021
Nevada senior QB Nate Cox is 6-FOOT-9 and he can do it all!
He can throw. He can run. He can PUNT LEFT-FOOTED and KICK FIELD GOALS RIGHT-FOOTED?!?! pic.twitter.com/gzHSsYyijJ
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) October 10, 2021
• Look who’s on his way back:
— Bleacher Nation Blackhawks (@BN_Blackhawks) October 9, 2021
• One thing I love about preseason – no matter the sport – is when a player stands out for all the right reasons:
So How About Those Javonte Green Minutes?https://t.co/tOGf9Ccpmv
— Bleacher Nation Bulls (@BN_Bulls) October 8, 2021
• When it comes to the Cubs’ future expenditures, this feels like one of those “I’ll believe it when I see it” situations:
The Cubs will be active. The Cubs have money to spend. The Cubs might even look at big names! … but I’m still not expecting it. https://t.co/41w1xEXmLN
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) October 9, 2021