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Bears mailbag: Week 1 predictions, tight end concerns and much more.

It’s finally the first week of the NFL regular season and before the Bears kick off their 100th season on Thursday night, we answer your questions.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve finally made it, football fans! The NFL regular season is just two days away and the Chicago Bears are kicking off the regular season in style.

It’s been a long wait from the minute Cody Parkey missed the game winning field goal, but after almost eight months, we’re about to have meaningful football on our minds until the start of February. That’s a good feeling and one that should have everyone excited.

This past week has been hectic. Between the final preseason game, roster cut downs, the Cody Whitehair extension and getting prepped for Week 1, but the good news is, all that is about to pay off. So, let’s dive right into this week’s mailbag where we actually get to talk about a real game that is just days away.

I’m not sure I would call it a conspiracy theory because frankly, I have no clue what is actually going on. What I will say is that the timeline of Trey Burton’s injuries just don’t make a ton of sense to me. To make it easier, I’m just going to attach a tweet of mine from yesterday.

Again, I’m not going to be irresponsible about this, but I do think it’s worth noting that the recovery process for Sports Hernia surgery is four-to-six weeks according to Columbia St. Mary’s website.

Burton missed all of OTAs and was said to be a full-go for training camp that started at the end of July. He practiced in full for the first week and hasn’t been on the field much since then. That includes missing all four preseason games, which means nothing because almost every single starter sat each of those games.

What I do find troubling is that, they pulled back after the first week of camp. It was also reported that he practiced in the team’s scrimmage that was in place of preseason action, but then once again hurt his groin last week in practice. Now his status for Thursday’s game is up in the air.

I’m not going to get into the talk of his past anxiety because that’s simply not fair. My concern is more that he originally had the surgery to correct the groin issue he had in January. Now, they are saying his re-aggrevated the injury that was supposed to be fixed with a somewhat simple procedure.

To me, it seems like there’s something we aren’t being told that could be bothering him more physically or simply a reason this continues to be an issue. That’s my main concern and the reason for my string of tweets on him yesterday. Nothing to do with his mental status. It’s just that when you put all the information together, the timelines of recovery and additional injuries don’t exactly make much sense. At least to me.

Here’s to hoping that he’ll recover well, play Thursday night and this won’t be something we have to worry about for the rest of the 2019 season and beyond.

It all depends on health right now. Obviously if Burton misses a game or two (which we don’t know right now), that will disrupt the potential impact he will have for this offense. To me, Burton is a big part of the offense. Maybe not as big as last year because they have more weapons and (hopefully) a healthy Adam Shaheen, but he’s still big. When he’s at his best, he’s a very reliable route runner and pass catcher. He’s also a big time security blanket for quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and someone the opposing defense always has to account for. That in turn takes pressure/attention off other weapons like Tarik Cohen.

Without him there, it’s a matchup piece they simply don’t have. In the Bears offense, the “U” tight end is very importance, hence the reason they signed Burton to a big deal last season.

If he stays healthy, I would expect somewhat similar numbers to what he put up last year, maybe even better. I think a lot of people forget that he somewhat faded down the stretch and wasn’t really the same after that Thanksgiving game against the Lions.

Again, it will all depend on the health of both Burton and Shaheen. As of right now, I don’t think we’ll see a move for Jesper Horsted. If in a week or two both players are banged up and likely to miss a game or two, we might.

I think it’s also key to keep in mind that Horsted is a converted receiver that came from a very low level of competition. Don’t get me wrong, he was impressive in the final two preseason games, but he still has a lot to learn. As a route runner, he must better understand coverages and his roles when defensive backs play him certain ways. As a blocker, he’s very raw and lacks technique and overall bulk.

Longterm, Horsted is a very ideal prospect in terms of development, but there’s also a reason the team opted to keep just four tight ends, despite their lack for quality depth at the position. I would expect if we see the rookie, it won’t be until later on in the year when he could provide quality value in the “U” position.

Unlike last year, I think the Bears are absolutely better suited to withstand Burton missing a game or two. Not only will Shaheen be healthy (at least for the start of Thursday’s game), but they have more weapons in general.

The one thing I really point to offensively that will truly help this situation will be the running back position. Obviously we know David Montgomery is going to be a valuable asset out of the backfield, but don’t sleep on Mike Davis either. Both of their abilities to catch the ball out of the backfield and line up as a receiver will create many mismatch opportunities for either themselves or another skill position player.

My guess is that the running backs, namely Montgomery will benefit tremendously from Burton’s targets. Also, don’t sleep on Cohen. The Eagles keyed in on him last year, but this year defenses won’t have that same luxury with more offensive weapons.

I think that it’s a little too early to start projecting inactives, but in the early going, I would expect we’ll see rookie Riley Ridley not seeing much playing time, if he is even active.

Keep in mind that Javon Wims has a year under his belt and like you pointed out, served a similar role last year. I do think draft status will make things more interesting and Ridley’s route running is worlds above what Wims was coming into the league. That will also play a big factor.

The good news is that the Bears have a ton of options at the position and it’s also worth noting that there’s likely to be some injuries, even if they are minor and overall short-term. Ridley may see an inactive or two early on, but I don’t think it’ll be a consistent happening throughout the entirety of the year.

This has been a question I’ve been asking myself all off-season and am just as curious to find out the answer. With that being said, here are my theories.

Kyle Fuller - Seems to play the ball and receiver better when his back isn’t consistently to the line of scrimmage. I do feel he’s better as a zone corner, but Vic Fangio played him in man quite a bit, so as long as he’s not consistently in press-man, I don’t have many concerns.

Prince Amukamara - Amukamara has actually been the team’s best man-coverage corner, in my opinion. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he ends up having a career year this season.

Buster Skrine - Skrine is pretty versatile and very aggressive. I think in terms of overall scheme fit, he’ll be more than good but I do worry about him getting to grabby if Pagano is asking him to play press too often. Still not 100% sold on him in general but early returns are that he’s a great fit.

The rest of the depth will be interesting. I think Duke Shelley falls into a similar role as Skrine and is well suited for it. I do believe he’s best inside as a nickel though and Kevin Toliver II had a rough camp, but has the athleticism and length to be successful as well.

All in all, I think Pagano is smart enough to do what’s best for what he currently has. Maybe over time we’ll see him have input on better long-term fits, but I don’t think we’ll see any drastic drop-offs from any of their current starters. That would be poor coaching on Pagano’s part. Also worth noting that Pagano’s work with defensive backs in general have been highly regarded for well over a decade.

Last but not least, I figured I would wrap up this week’s mailbag with an actual game question!

I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again... Boy, am I glad regular season football is back.

With that in mind, I think that Allen Robinson II will be the first offensive player to score a touchdown this season for the Bears. I expect them to come out on their first offensive drive Thursday night, take it down the field and put a statement on it with a Trubisky-to-Robinson connection in the end zone.

There’s been a lot of focus on Trubisky this off-season, but Robinson is the one offensive player I fully believe is in for a breakout campaign.

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