If you don’t count the historic amount of drops, missed assignments defensively, and the now mandatory one serious injury the football gods have mandated the Chicago Bears must suffer in each game this season - there’s actually aspects to be pleased about. At this point, moral victories are the name of the game. It doesn’t matter if they’re inherently meaningless - they don’t carry over from game to game or season to season - these are individual developments players can count on.
In their loss to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, the Bears displayed your cliches of grit, but ultimately too many mistakes, injuries, and suspensions did them in.
You can now add Danny Trevathan to the Chicago Bears’ obituary, I mean injured reserve. The free agent signing has had a 2016 season he’d like to wash from his brain with his thumb injury and now ruptured patella tendon. The hope is that he’s able to return by 2017, but anytime you’re saying an injury’s recovery timeline is worse than an ACL tear, it’s not the best prognosis. We’re on a wait-and-see approach with his recovery.
His addition to injured reserve makes him now the 15th player the Bears have added to that list - the most in the NFL. This is a team running on fumes that literally might not make it to the end with their pace. Whatever they’re playing for in this meaningless final stretch is incredibly super-ceded by any further serious injury. If forfeiting the rest of the season meant not losing guys like Trevathan - whose important for when the Bears ideally do return to contention - you might consider it.
Pouring salt in the wound, will yes, make it worse.
At any rate, since we’re discussing the Bears, I’m reversing typical definitions from the stock market. Bearish here, will characterize rising stocks for guys. Those I’ll be bullish on, are people that I believe should have their stock fall.
The grindstone in the Week 12 stock report following the Bears’ 27-21 loss to the Titans.
Marquess Wilson: Save for a few drops - most notably the comedic one below - Wilson had a quality game for the most part.
Eight receptions for 125 yards and a touchdown can’t be ignored, even if the objective mediocrity of the Titans cornerbacks played a part.
He kicks the ball into his butt https://t.co/mhV7E9WGSL— Drew Magary (@drewmagary) November 27, 2016
The rangy 24-year-old’s talent has never been denied. He has the tools, such as his 6’4 frame to go with speed, and has shown a propensity to make catches in traffic while running sharp routes. Wilson even has displayed the crucial ability to read defensive coverages on the fly, letting him know where to sit in zones or whether he has a one-on-one. It sounds simple in theory, but plenty of young receivers have struggled with this skill, in turn letting themselves get blanketed.
But not Wilson. His potential has let him stick around through two separate coaching regimes, after all.
No, the questions surrounding Wilson have always been his health. From a shoulder to a foot, he’s had problems consistently getting on the field and staying there. The biggest asset an NFL player provides to his team is availability, and Wilson hasn’t offered that. As long as he has better injury fortune moving forward, there’s no reason to think Wilson can’t be the dynamic contributor he was on Sunday.
Matt Barkley: Raise your hand if you thought Barkley, of all quarterbacks, would have the Bears on the Tennessee seven-yard line with a chance to win in the final minute.
Yeah I thought so, and that’s what made his performance on Sunday pleasantly surprising.
Now, Barkley was far from perfect. He did throw two egregious red zone interceptions where he should have thrown the ball away or taken a sack, and Tennessee’s secondary and 29th ranked defense is nothing to sneeze at either. When a cornerback’s performance has been so bad that he’s released immediately following a game, you know the competition wasn’t quality.
But in the end, Barkley gave the Bears a chance to win. If he had received more help from his receivers in regards to those dropped passes, maybe Chicago actually comes out on top. When Barkley was at his best, was in the fourth quarter, and that was when Chicago wideouts dropped seven balls.
Matt Barkley's stats don't show how good he was in the game today. 11 of his passes were dropped by his receivers.— Nathan Jahnke (@PFF_NateJahnke) November 27, 2016
On a better day, Barkley’s 316 yards and three touchdowns, is closer to 400 yards along with a fourth game-winner that of course, Joshua Bellamy dropped.
In any event, while it’s highly doubtful he has a future as a viable starter in the NFL, with more performances like this: Barkley is playing his way into being a quality back-up.
Cre’Von LeBlanc: The rookie claimed off of the New England Patriots practice squad earlier this year, has been sprung into action in recent weeks given injuries on the back-end. Like any young player, his performance could be described as spotty.
But Sunday offered a glimpse of a player starting to get it. LeBlanc was all over the field in run support and rarely blew a coverage or missed an assignment. Only three Chicago defenders graded well according to Pro Football Focus’s system, and LeBlanc was one of them.
During this tumultuous second preseason of evaluations, LeBlanc would do well to continue to make himself stand out. Until other struggling or injured Bears defensive backs begin to step up, his ascension is welcomed.
Adrian Amos: Amos yet again, struggled against Tennessee.
On the Titans’ first scoring drive, tight end Delanie Walker ground Amos into a fine powder while running routes, emblematic of his overall coverage skills throughout. When on an island or isolated, Amos seems as lost as ever in trying to cover opposing skill players. His coverage instincts are rudimentary at best and it’s been this way for awhile. Receiver Rishard Matthews had fun too.
Amos is beyond late to help and react there from his spot, so Matthews puts him on the highlight reel. Nothing new.
It’s up to the Bears to decide if this is a sophomore slump and that he can still play, or if it’s time to replace him. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Bears need to acquire two starting safeties in the offseason.
There are three things certain in life. Death, taxes, and the modern Bears struggling to find a safety. Who here misses Mike Brown?
Bears receivers’ focus: We’ll lump an entire position group in one here.
If Sunday proved anything, it’s that this franchise desperately needs Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White to be here playing well long-term. Jeffery is your objective best option in the passing game as a borderline top-10 receiver, while given White’s status as a high pick, he better pan out. The Bears are already trying to other roster holes. Ideally they shouldn’t have to worry about their receivers.
It’s either that or throwing to the bottom of the depth chart in Bellamy, Cameron Meredith, and Deonte Thompson, who all struggled.
You saw how that worked out with a staggering amount of drops. The most Pro Football Focus has ever recorded in their 11-year history.
Bears receivers dropped 10 passes today. That is the most for a team in a game in the PFF era(2006-2016) pic.twitter.com/aH3430bfoD— Nathan Jahnke (@PFF_NateJahnke) November 27, 2016
Bellamy is almost excused for his miscues considering his role on this team as a stand out special teamer. He was pressed into action. Thompson was like Bellamy, but given his role as mainly a kick returner that continues to make poor decisions bringing the ball out of the end zone, he has less breathing room.
As for Meredith, after a blistering start early this season, he’s fallen off the map. He has just 10 targets in the past five weeks, and after his struggles on Sunday, it’s difficult to argue that he warrants more.
There are many factors that contribute to a team’s loss every Sunday that focusing on one facet alone is often misguided. This is one of the rare occasions where you can blame one aspect, that being the drops by Chicago’s playmakers. That fault is all the more clear when it’s so prominent.
A top core of Jeffery, White, Wilson, and Eddie Royal is what the Bears definitively need. Or else...
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.