After the NFL Draft came to a close, I told myself I’d start using my Sundays to cook meals for family and nearby friends, because it isn’t something I can normally do during the football season. And to some extent, I’ve been successful in doing that. But after eating out all weekend at neighborhood festivals, birthday parties, and ballgames, I probably need to push pause. Maybe this Panzanella Salad from Jim Cooks Food Good is something I can try.
- It’s not like I’m trying to start the week with a bummer, but sometimes you need a bit of a humbling experience to get the ball rolling. And I think humbling is the accurate word to describe my feeling after seeing Ben Linsey (PFF) rank the NFL’s top interior defensive linemen, doing so without putting one member of the Chicago Bears on his top-25 list. Not that the Bears are deserving of one based on reputation, but not having one should give proper perspective as to where this Bears defense is right now. Also? Seeing Akiem Hicks (who recently left to sign a free agent deal the Bucs) make an appearance serves as a reminder of how much we’ll miss him (at least in the short term).
- Want a look into a possibly brighter future? Let’s highlight DeForest Buckner of the Colts ranking fourth on this list. The Bears don’t have a DeForest Buckner. That much we know. But if you want to prognosticate what a competitive Chicago defense looks like, finding someone who can impact a game in the middle like Buckner is a strong place to start. Players like Buckner (two Pro Bowls, one first-team All-Pro, and a second-team All-Pro nod in six years) don’t grow on trees. So don’t expect the Bears to just scoop up a warm body and turn him into that guy just because he is in this defense. But when college football season rolls around, let’s keep our eyes open for players with size, length, and explosiveness who can be disruptors in the middle of the “D” at the next level.
- With that being said, I’m looking forward to seeing what Justin Jones can do as Chicago’s 3-technique defensive tackle. If you’ll recall, Jones was the Bears’ “Plan B” after the Larry Ogunjobi signing fell through. Maybe that could turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Jones seems to feel at home in his new defensive surroundings. And Head Coach Matt Eberflus explains why he was pushing so hard to bring Jones into the fold (via NBC Sports Chicago):
“I love the athletic ability, I love the man, I love his attitude.” Eberflus said of Jones. “He’s working super hard, and again, the evaluation will continue to go all the way through training camp, like we said. When we put the pads on, then we get our true evaluation. But where he is right now, we are extremely excited about that.”
“That’s why we really recruited him and brought him here,” Eberflus said.” We saw visual evidence on tape that he could do the spot. He’s done a good job with it. It’s a takeoff position. It lends to his athletic ability, and he’s just gonna get better and better and better… We really saw it on tape when we recruited him.”
- Jones is in Chicago on a two-year deal worth $12 million, which is a relative bargain when comparing it to the 3-year pact that would’ve been worth $40.5 million (including $26.35 million in guarantees) Ogunjobi and the Bears agreed to at the outset of free agency. Not that I’m already looking too much ahead into next offseason, but if Jones isn’t the fit Eberflus talks him up as being, Chicago could cut Jones to create $4.9 million n cap space next offseason (while taking on a $2.5 million dead cap charge). But, again, my preference would be to see Jones play to (and above) the levels of his contract so that the Bears aren’t digging a dead cap hole again. And I imagine GM Ryan Poles and the rest of his front office feel similarly.
- FWIW: Jones should have ample opportunity to strut his stuff. The Bears don’t have another natural 3-technique on their roster. And they don’t have one who possesses Jones’ upside. Make the most of it, JJ.
- On the back end of things, I’m looking forward to seeing Jaquan Brisker show out in a secondary full of fresh faces:
- Kudos to the Bears for quietly remodeling a secondary that desperately was needing change. When Eddie Jackson, Jaylon Johnson, and DeAndre Houston-Carson return to the field, some new draft picks (Brisker, Kyler Gordon, Elijah Hicks) and free agents (Tavon Young, Dane Cruikshank) will join them. Sure, returning players such as Thomas Graham Jr., Kindle Vildor, and Duke Shelley are also vying for gigs. But the six new guys jumping into the mix fortifies the depth that competitive defenses need to thrive.
- Some important numbers to keep in mind: 61 days until the Bears’ preseason opener against Matt Nagy’s Chiefs, 87 days until the NFL’s regular season kicks off, 90 days until Chicago’s football team takes the field in the regular season, and 97 days until a trip to Lambeau Field.
- Prime Time was built different:
- Heads up! Next week’s installment of ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball features the Astros, which will hopefully allow Mike Trout Fantasy Football League champion Alex Bregman to give his $0.02 on your favorite NFL offseason storyline:
- Nope, don’t like the sound of that: