Just yesterday my esteemed WCG colleague Lester Wiltfong wrote a nice piece about some players that need to be benched.
I enjoyed his piece but I wanted to take his thought and expand on it. So go ahead and if you didn't read his article, go click on that link and read it, this will be here when you get back.
Now, as for my expansion on the self-scouting side of things, I wanted to write a bit about not just the players that have been a disappointment for the Bears, but also highlight some of the surprise players and some who remain questions marks.
Coming into the season general manager Ryan Pace and head coach John Fox had quite a task ahead of them. This is a team that won just five games last year and appeared to have little in the way of young, up-and-coming talent. There were huge holes to fill on the roster and plenty of question marks surrounding the players already here.
Through the duos first nine months here they have managed to begin to shape and mold the roster into their vision.
As seen by moves like the Brandon Marshall trade, letting Lance Briggs go and most recently, the Jeremiah Ratliff saga, clearly Pace isn't going to put up with any crap. If a player's attitude doesn't fit the bill or a player is trying to put himself ahead of the team, he's going to be gone.
That is a welcome departure from the Phil Emery and Marc Trestman "let the inmates run the asylum" culture of yore.
While the Bears' season isn't quite at the halfway mark, without a game to preview or review this weekend, now is as good a time as any to look over the roster and see who is fitting in, who is fitting out and who remains an unknown for Fox and Pace.
Obviously Pernell McPhee has lived up to his free agent contract and appears to be the key building block for Vic Fangio's 3-4 defense. Big money free agency is always a dice roll and too often it seems that teams get stuck with a Ndamukong Suh or Jarius Byrd but McPhee so far has been as good as advertised. He has four sacks, an interception and is second on the team with 24 tackles. He's been a wrecking ball.
Sam Acho is another guy who is playing really, really well and is becoming a key part of this team. Acho was limted throughout the preseason and first couple of games but since Jared Allen was traded he has really come into his own. He looks like a key defensive cog.
Kyle Long has had some growing pains but is just beginning to come into his own at right tackle. He's had some rough outings but for the most part has steadily improved. It appears that among offensive line spots, he and Matt Slauson appear to be the two most likely to stay put moving forward.
Marquess Wilson has been a huge surprise at wide receiver. For the first time in his career he's been healthy and able to contribute. He's second on the team in receiving yards and was a key part of the passing attack while both Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal missed time. The team's leading receiver has been Martellus Bennett, who also appears to be fitting in. Bennett has had a couple of rough games heading into the bye and had an injury crop up late before the last game but he's been solid contributor.
Matt Forte has been his usual awesome self and heading into his off week actually leads the league in rushing yards.
Jay Cutler, a player that many were for sure would be playing his final year in Chicago (and he still could be) has appeared to be playing some of the better football in his Chicago career. He's a great fit for the Adam Gase system and appears to be taking well to the coaching that Gase, Fox and Dowell Loggins offer. With each week, it appears that Cutler could stick around for the 2016 season and most fans seem to be all right with that idea.
Elsewhere on defense Jarvis Jenkins is playing the best football of his career, having notched 3.5 sacks. Eddie Goldman has been improving and Shea McClellin has actually been missed as a key signal caller for the D. Adrian Amos has been an incredibly solid rookie safety.
It's been a real struggle for all the cornerbacks, as Wiltfong wrote in his piece yesterday. Sherrick McManis has been downright awful, as has Alan Ball at times. As the scouting staff and Pace himself will likely be out at college games this weekend, the cornerback draft class should be getting a long, hard look from the evaluators.
Vladimir Ducasse is another player who has not been playing well for the navy and orange. His struggles with penalties have been well documented and he will need a lot of work before he can even be considered a long term solution.
Josh Bellamy is a player I thought would be one of the better fill-ins when the rash of injuries hit the receiving corps but other than a couple big plays, Bellamy has been an afterthought. While Jay Cutler is notorious for being picky in who he targets and trusts, with Bellamy being around all of last year and this off season, I am surprised by his lack of targets (15).
Lamarr Houston, the big free agent acquisition of last offseason has been seeing the field for around 1/3 of the defensive snaps. Whether he isn't fully back to his pre-ACL health or he just isn't working into the 3-4 scheme, more should be expected of a guy with his salary.
There are still plenty of players that, whether it's injury or lack of opportunity, have not produced enough for the coaches and fans to get a good read on.
I'm placing Alshon Jeffery in this section because while he's had an impact when he's been on the field, that's only been twice over the first six outings. Jeffery was once thought of as a slam-dunk future cornerstone of this team and he still could be, but there is no way to know what Pace and Fox think after seeing him just twice early in the season.
Jeremy Langford is a guy who hasn't seen the field enough to know what the coaches think of him. While Forte has been his awesome self, he isn't getting younger and I think fans, as well as the coaches, want to see Forte get more of a break. It is tough for any back to get into a rhythm, it's especially hard when he's averaging 2.5 attempts per game. If he is going to be any kind of longterm solution on this team, he needs to see the field more.
Willie Young is a guy who, at first glance, could be put into the "fitting out" category, but his snaps have been on the rise and he seems to be fitting into the scheme a little better. I think we'll get a better idea of how he fits if he stays in the 40-50 percent snap range and gets a few more good pass rush looks.
Eddie Royal fits here simply because he hasn't been healthy early on. He was a guy who appeared to be Cutler's security blanket heading into the season and while he has two seven-catch games, he hasn't had quite the impact some thought he would so far.
Charles Leno is a guy who actually might have a future in this league. He hasn't been lights out but he's been way better filling in for Jermon Bushrod than I expected. That said, both Bushrod and Leno have plenty of question marks. For Bushrod: can he get healthy or he is starting a downslide to the backend of his career. As for Leno: Can he continue improving into a starting-caliber tackle or is simply no better than an adequate back up and swing tackle?
On defense, for me personally, Christian Jones and Kyle Fuller have been question marks. Fuller because, while his struggles have been well-documented, he's still a young player and he had a couple good games sandwiched between his poor showing in Detroit and his early season struggles. Fuller can still bounce back but the clock is clearly ticking.
Jones has been up and down but for the most part solid and unspectacular. Ideally he'd be making for impact plays than what he has. He is the team's leading tackler but he doesn't jump off the screen at you when you watch games.
Which players have stuck out, good or bad to you? Who didn't I mention that you think I should have?