This week’s forecast calls for opening up the windows and airing out the house. And while this would’ve been on tap for last week, it didn’t happen due to circumstances out of my control. Time to let in some fresh air to clear out the old mess. But I better take my allergy meds first.
• With the dust having settled from draft weekend, we find ourselves with the Bears having a defensive-leaning head coach (Matt Eberflus) with a defensive coordinator (Alan Williams) running his own version of the boss’ defense (Sun-Times), multiple notable returning players (Robert Quinn, Roquan Smith, Jaylon Johnson), and Eddie Jackson, and a pair of Day 2 draft picks (Kyler Gordon, Jaquan Brisker) who make up what might be the most improved unit on the team.
• On the one hand, it feels like a “new year, same Bears” kind of vibe is prevalent. Especially when you consider that the defense and special teams (The Athletic) were seemingly points of emphasis that were addressed this offseason. But on the other hand, the shakeup in the secondary is too eye-opening not to address with an expanded set of thoughts:
APRIL ➡️ MAY
Jaylon Johnson ➡️ Jaylon Johnson
Kindle Vildor ➡️ Kyler Gordon
Duke Shelley ➡️ Tavon Young
Eddie Jackson ➡️ Eddie Jackson
DeAndre Houston-Carson ➡️ Jaquan Brisker
I’m not sure we’re talking enough about how much this draft class improves the secondary.
— Bleacher Nation Bears (@BN_Bears) May 7, 2022
• I’ll take some responsibility, but we — as a collective — haven’t said enough about how this offseason improved one of the weakest parts of this team. Yes, I realize the rookies haven’t played a snap in the pros. But would you argue that Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker aren’t significant upgrades at their respective positions?
• Suddenly, the base defense is better. Throw in the free agent signing of Tavon Young to man the slot corner spot, and now we can say the nickel package is better. The Brisker pick moves DeAndre Houston-Carson — who has starting experience — into a role where he can thrive in any number of different positions in the dime package. Two picks and one free agent signing should be enough to take this secondary out from the gutter. And so long as the NFL is a pass-happy league, building a secondary that teams well with a strong pass-rush should be a high priority. At minimum, it is better than the group we saw Kirk Cousins torch in Game 17.
• But on the other hand, the “new year, same Bears” feels aren’t going away because the offense still looks like what it has been for a few years now:
Former NFL QB Dan Orlovsky said on ESPN that he’s expectations for Chicago Bears QB Justin Fields for this season is low and that he’s in the worst position out of all of the second year QB’s.
Orlovsky said the Bears offense is a bottom 5 unit in the league.
— Daniel Greenberg (@ChiSportUpdates) May 9, 2022
• There will be those who drill ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky for setting a low bar. And there isn’t much of a fight to put up that Justin Fields is in the worst position of the second-year quarterbacks. But for what it’s worth, if the Matt Nagy scheme was as problematic to Fields’ development as it was made out to be, then simply getting out of that system and making corrections on mechanical hitches that were limiting the QB as a rookie, then the Bears will be in a better spot. There were plenty “if only Fields was out of Nagy’s system, things would be better” arguments made last year. I’ll be curious to see how much truth was in those statements. Only time will tell.
• This doesn’t make me feel any better, but it raises an eyebrow seeing the Patriots and Jaguars as teams who Maurice Moton (Bleacher Report) opines let their second-year quarterbacks down on NFL Draft weekend. Long-time draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. (ESPN) ranked the Patriots class last with a C+ grade. The Jags were slightly better with a B- grade. Meanwhile, the Bears slotted two spots above the Jags with the same B- grade. But as you would expect, Kiper chimed in to add: “I just don’t see this class helping Fields enough.”
• Then again, Velus Jones is doing everything in his power to manifest a connection with Fields:
#Bears rookie WR Velus Jones Jr. says he's texted and Facetimed with Justin Fields so far.
— Zack Pearson (@Zack_Pearson) May 6, 2022
Very cool: Rookie WR Velus Jones Jr. shows his locker being right next to Justin Fields in his latest IG story.
— Bleacher Nation Bears (@BN_Bears) May 5, 2022
• Fun fact: Jones was the 14th receiver taken off the board in the 2022 NFL Draft. ESPN had him as WR17 on its prospect board. The folks at CBS Sports put Jones as WR16. WalterFootball.com listed Jones as WR18. Through that lens, maybe that Jones selection isn’t as wild as we might’ve originally thought. It still feels like a bit of a reach. But if we’re going to call it that, then we should also note he isn’t the only receiver who went a round higher than what others were expecting. Judging by how the draft unfolded, the Bears weren’t the only team reaching for a receiver. Maybe receiver reaches are the thing to do now.
• The potential trickle-down effect of a revitalized Bears defense with two draft picks and Jones (as the third pick of Day 2) isn’t a far-fetched idea. Think about it. If this Bears defense is a smidge better than it was last year, and it plays well enough to allow Fields to win some games late due to his athleticism and arm talent taking steps forward in Luke Getsy’s scheme, then can we still say the Bears didn’t do enough for Fields? What if the Bears had better defenders in that Pittsburgh game on MNF? A defense that could’ve held a late-game lead instead of coughing it up could’ve been a narrative changer. How would we look at Fields’ development had he been given a defense that didn’t spit up 24 second-half points on Halloween against the Niners? Something to keep in mind.
• Hey, man, I know some guys who’d have an interest if Philly is nudging Devonta Smith out of town:
• Don’t give me that look. Stranger things have happened *THIS* offseason.
• Speaking of the Eagles, they’re getting some time under the Monday Night Football spotlight to begin the season:
Two huge matchups on the slate for MNF in Week 2 this season! 👀
— NFL (@NFL) May 9, 2022
• This is unacceptable:
— Bleacher Nation Bulls (@BN_Bulls) May 9, 2022
• After the last week of Cubs baseball, I’m definitely feeling some 2012 vibes:
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) May 9, 2022