More Play Action, Linemen on the Rise, Vrabel's Blueprint, and Other Bears Bullets

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More Play Action, Linemen on the Rise, Vrabel’s Blueprint, and Other Bears Bullets

Chicago Bears

Watching the break-in scene in “Home Alone” with children who had never seen it before was an all-time fun moment that can never be duplicated. Unfortunately, I think they’re a few years too young for the “Die Hard” movie experience. Maybe next year?

•   One could make the argument Christmas came early for the Bears when GM Ryan Pace was able to successfully trade up and draft Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields in the 2021 NFL Draft. And while Fields’ rookie season has been a rollercoaster, there has been enough to allow us runway to dream big:

 

•   A view from the other side:

•   It’s almost as if the Bears should’ve been implementing more play-action in their offense:

•   I, too, am excited about Fields’ future. How could you not be? Hope spring eternal. And Fields’ athleticism and arm talent makes it easy to be hopeful. Now, let’s get clear of a nagging ankle injury that kept him out of Thursday’s practice and see what he can do Sunday in Seattle.

•   Also missing from practice was Akiem Hicks, who was put into COVID protocols. Here’s hoping MNF wasn’t the last we saw of Hicks in a Bears uniform.

•   On the other side of the line of scrimmage, some notable young players are trending upward:

•   It was probably fair to conclude (based on Teven Jenkins’ college tape) that he could run block. But giving him a week’s worth of starters reps seems to have been helpful in getting him more comfortable in pass protection. Jenkins still has work to do in rounding out his game. He needs to show he can build on this performance. And stack quality games one-after-another. But this feels like a good base level to build from moving forward. Just three more games to put as much good tape out there as possible.

•   On the other end of the spectrum, I don’t love that number next to Cody Whitehair’s name. That’s not what you’d expect to see from a veteran at what should be his best position. Don’t get me wrong. Whitehair is a mostly cromulent blocker. However, expectations are higher when you’ll have a cap number of $12.3 million in 2022. That’s just the nature of things at the intersection of “the game” and “the business.”

•   And if you’re thinking about clearing Whitehair’s salary to create some cap room, think again. Unless, of course, you’re considering a post-June 1 cut that could create $8.1 million in cap space. That would come with a $4.2 million dead cap hit, but there could be some short-term gain. Otherwise, Chicago could cut Whitehair at the cost of losing $200,000 in cap space while being hit with a $12.5 million dead money charge. In other words, thanks … but no thanks. Deal with what you can while you can and hope Whitehair can bounce back. Or, at minimum, provide a bridge to 2023.

•   Even though Darnell Mooney has fallen short of reaching the highs of being a true WR1, the second-year receiver has put himself in the conversation of being Justin Fields’ go-to-guy. More on Mooney’s climb:

 

•   Here is some good news from the COVID front — the Bears are getting their play-caller back:

•   I regret not starting A.J. Brown during championship week. How was I supposed to know I could trust a player in his first game back from injury:

•   The Titans are a perfect example of how it matters less what side of the ball your head coach comes from, and that a good coach (no matter their background) will excel in putting his players in the best position to succeed. From there, everyone wins.

•   Vrabel’s Titans are 39-24 since the start of 2018. They’ve won nine games twice, and are rolling with consecutive 10+ win seasons. And they’ve done so while losing key top lieutenants. After the 2018 season, the Packers hired away Matt LaFleur. And Bears fans know all too well how that has gone for the Packers. Fast forward to 2021, and Arthur Smith – who replaced LaFleur – was getting poached by the Falcons. So, not only are Vrabel’s teams thriving, he is doing something right when it comes to hiring assistants who can be groomed into future head coaches.

•   I suppose it’s worth noting, but Titans Offensive Coordinator Todd Downing is one of those young coaching prospects worth keeping tabs on when we get into the hiring cycle. And for whatever it is worth, the Bears have some familiarity with Downing because he was on the organizational short-list of candidates for the QBs Coach gig back in 2018.

•   Slowly continuing to convince myself this is a good deal:

•   The Bulls are game-changers:

 



Author: Luis Medina

Luis Medina is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at@lcm1986.