Take a breath and a look at an important list for the Chicago Bears.
Jay Cutler, Kyle Long, Josh Sitton, Leonard Floyd, Eddie Goldman...(takes breath)...Bobby Massie, Deiondre’ Hall, Kyle Fuller, Kevin White...(takes breath)...Alshon Jeffery, Jerrell Freeman, and last but not least, Zach Miller.
That’s more than likely 12 starters of your lineup out this week against the Tennessee Titans. This comes on the heels of one of the most contentious two-day spans Halas Hall has experienced in years, from this past Sunday to Monday.
Expecting this team to win even one game down the stretch now, especially without Cutler, is a little misguided. With Cutler at quarterback, this is a mediocre team, even considering the other injuries and suspensions. With Matt Barkley or David Fales set to play, there’s no hope. The offense won’t do much at all in the rest of the 2016 season unless running back, Jordan Howard, goes supernova down the stretch.
Cutler may have played his last game with the Bears on Sunday, and most weren’t able to revel in the significance of the moment due to his shoulder injury. After eight years, a new quarterback will likely be in tow, and all for the better. Of course, that’s provided general manager Ryan Pace continues to draft well and make quality free agent acquisitions as he has. Nothing but a slight, necessary reboot.
Sadly enough, the Bears are again on draft watch in late November. This team won’t outright tank for a chance at a top blue chip player - as they shouldn’t for competitive reasons - because that decision has been taken out of their hands by injury.
And still, there’s always darkness before the dawn.
As always noted, since we’re discussing the Bears, I am reversing typical definitions from the stock market. Bearish here, instead of characterizing falling stocks, will be a positive of players with a rising investment. Guys that I’ll be bullish on, are the players that I believe should have their stock fall.
To the stocks in the Week 11 report following the Bears’ 22-16 loss to the New York Giants on Sunday:
Tracy Porter: The oft-injured journeyman cornerback continues to impress in dire straits. Chicago went into New Jersey with a concerted effort to limit superstar receiver, Odell Beckham Jr. Porter was the center of that plan.
While other targets like Sterling Shepard shined, Beckham Jr. was limited to a modest five receptions for 46 yards, thanks to Porter’s shadowing. Porter played well enough against the dynamic game changer, to even earn public recognition from his counterpart.
Say what you will of Porter’s long term place with the Bears, but he’s certainly quality depth if anything. Even while likely hurt, he knows what it means to be available and come through for whoever he’s playing for.
Danny Trevathan: Since injuring his thumb way back in week two against the Philadelphia Eagles, Trevathan hadn’t looked comfortable. After missing two games against the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys, Trevathan was clearly bothered by his injury. The marquee free agent signing needed time to get acclimated again.
Luckily enough, the last two weeks in leading the Bears with 24 total tackles, is the player Chicago knew they were getting in March. Trevathan looks confident in conjunction with a returned burst that made him such an integral piece of the Denver Broncos’ Super Bowl 50 championship defense.
Seeing him make several difficult tackles in the open field against the likes of Beckham Jr. and company, offered a heartening glimpse. A look at what he’ll provide to this defense when everyone is healthy again.
His return to effectively patrolling the middle of the field couldn’t have come at a better time with Jerrell Freeman serving a four-game PED suspension either. Take heart in knowing he won’t let them give up early.
Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan is hungry for wins: "We want another one, another one, another one. We want to keep stacking them."— Chris Emma (@CEmma670) November 11, 2016
The Bears need one of their defensive captains to show out - even in inconsequential games - more than ever.
Pat O’Donnell: It speaks volumes that a punter is one of the positive notes this week, and yet, you can’t take credit from O’Donnell for showing out.
A man who ranks just 19th in total punted yards and 28th overall in average distance per punt, effectively pinned the Giants well in their own end all afternoon. O’Donnell had five punts for a sterling 45.8 average along with a 67 yard bomb from the Bears’ 27 that flipped field position in the fourth quarter.
He hasn’t been the most consistent player to justify his original sixth-round draft position in 2014, but if the 25-year-old can build more consistency, the Bears will start to win the hidden yardage battle more often. That will be key for when the organization has a stacked, talented stable of horses again.
Jay Cutler: Cutler’s future was already in doubt going into New Jersey. Pace was already looking to hitch his wagon to his own young quarterback - as he should - and possibly with a new head coach too.
Cutler’s torn labrum that ends his season, only pushes that process of moving on even faster.
Forever criticized, he was never phased by what anyone would say of the myth of his lack of toughness.
Jay Cutler probably finished Sunday’s game with a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder.— Adam Hoge (@AdamHoge) November 22, 2016
“NOT TOUGH ENOUGH,” some ex-NFL player on TV, soon.
It’s worth wondering what his career could’ve been provided the Bears didn’t have a revolving door of mediocre offensive coordinators, and better pieces around him from the outset. He is no doubt plenty at blame for never changing his streaky play and lack of discipline too. The Cutler story in that respect, probably has a happier ending with more foresight.
Instead, his career becomes one of the biggest “What-if’s?” and missed opportunities in Bears history. It’s only fitting that Chicago crawls to the end of Cutler’s battered tenure without him masking all of their offensive faults like he has for the last eight seasons.
One could only hope they don’t leave the next passer hanging out to dry, and instead have him in proper position to excel immediately.
Adrian Amos: Amos’s success in his rookie 2015 season was probably more of a reflection of the overall ineptitude of the previous Bears defense, than quality individual play. He had a lot of growing up to do as a safety, even while showcasing talents Chicago needed on the back-end.
A year later, he hasn’t made that progression. Yes, he’s inherently more of an in-the-box player making tackles in run support. But, among qualified safeties, he’s 21st in the NFL with just 49 tackles. That’s, well, not good.
Before you say a safety shouldn’t lead your team in tackles as that means offensive players are routinely getting to the second and third levels, consider an individual could still struggle. Amos has missed plays in the open field when given opportunities anywhere.
And while he’s not known for his ball skills, he should be able to make an interception when the ball is thrown right to him. The kinds of missed opportunities that he had when Giants quarterback Eli Manning hand delivered the football to him are the minute differences between holding an offense down. If Amos comes through on third-and-long, Chicago is going the other way.
Instead, it turned into three crucial points in just a six-point game for New York.
Add in a blown coverage on a touchdown against back-up tight end, Will Tye, on the Giants’ opening possession of the second half, and it summarized Amos’s less than ideal day. Amos was once considered safe on the roster, with many assuming the Bears just needed a playmaking safety next to him.
Now, these are the kinds of games where you can be sure everyone will be re-evaluated.
Alshon Jeffery and Jerrell Freeman: Refraining from criticizing Jeffery last week for his PED suspension was more because it felt like a blip lapse. But with Freeman joining him on the sidelines this week, you wonder just what is wrong at Halas Hall.
That’s now six suspensions related to the mandated PED policy in two years under head coach John Fox. Good enough to be tied for first in the NFL with the Cowboys in the same span. Players have a responsibility to individually take care of themselves and actually read labels, but a solid organization with everything under wraps of a quality leader, doesn’t have this happen either.
Freeman had a prepared statement to explain and apologize, but it’s no use. You’re only useful to your team when available.
All of this only adds to the recent injury storm at Halas Hall, extending this seemingly never-ending nightmare.
Blame Freeman and Jeffery, and blame the powers at be as well, not just Fox alone. There’s no excuse for players and the training staff to not maintain this accountability. The already shorthanded Bears could have ill-afforded to lose two studs like Jeffery and Freeman, but a lack of responsibility eventually comes to roost.
Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for the Rock River Times and is a staff writer for Windy City Gridiron and Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.