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Bears Mailbag: Trade deadline activity, future quarterback solutions and how to fix the running game

The Chicago Bears are 5-1 and rolling. Yet, it seems as if no one is taking them seriously quite yet. Could a trade or two help their cause? We’ll answer all of that and more in this week’s mailbag.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Carolina Panthers Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
NFL: Chicago Bears at Carolina Panthers Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Another week and another win for the Chicago Bears in Week 6. Despite kicking off Week 7 in first place, it appears there’s more doubt about this team than there was coming into the season. Football Outsiders is currently giving them a 76.4 percent chance to make the playoffs, yet talks of them being the “worst 5-1 team in NFL history” persist.

The good news? They’ve got another stiff three games ahead that will undoubtedly test them in new ways. That should serve as yet another “temperature check” in terms of how “real” this Bears team truly is. For my money, they’re pretty real. Even if they are winning ugly and barely getting by on the scoreboard each week.

With that being said, there’s plenty of questions heading into Week 7. The trade deadline is rapidly approaching and it wouldn’t be Bears talk if there weren’t quarterback questions.

Phil, I’ve sat here to start the week and wondered the same thing myself. The Bears are 5-1, yet if you listened to sports radio or jumped on Twitter, you’d think they were sitting at 1-5.

I get it. They haven’t been overly impressive so far and they’re just getting by in order to win games. I also understand that advanced metrics (to a certain extent) have shown to this point that this current run for the Bears isn’t likely to be sustainable. Even so, they are in first place and have a 5-0 conference record to top it off. Even if they went 5-5 the rest out of the way, that should absolutely land them a Wild Card spot, due in part to their hot start within the NFC.

Clearly the offense is an issue and if they want to win meaningful games in January, it needs to be a heck of a lot better. But even so, they are 5-1. Ultimately, I think if the Bears were scoring 30 points-per-game and their defense was giving up 27 points-per-game, most would be impressed because it’s an offensive league. Since the script has been flipped, the perception is different. They just went 2-1 in a tough stretch of games and have another trio of hard matchups starting Monday night. I would guess if they go 2-1 in those games, people will be forced to believe in a team with a high strength of victory and a 7-2 overall record. Really, the goal should be getting into the bye week at 7-3.

With all of that being said, the Bears sure do seem to play better being underdogs. For as annoying as this must be for fans, I’m not sure the team shares the same feelings. Motivation from outside noise might be the team’s biggest driver so far in 2020.

I would guess that general manager Ryan Pace will at least look into short-term trade options but as we’ve seen in years past, NFL trades are not nearly as likely to come by as deadlines like Major League Baseball. My best guess is that they’ll end up rolling with what they have for another week or two before calling in a more proven veteran. In my opinion, Rashaad Coward didn’t look remotely improved from last year. Alex Bars also struggled badly against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when he came in for James Daniels.

Pace doesn’t really strike me as the type of general manager that will go out and make much of a move unless a good deal comes along. This is still a team tight against the cap in the near future and also a team that will finally have a full slate of draft picks for the first time in years. Although as of this morning, Quinton Spain was released from the Buffalo Bills and he’s someone that makes quite a bit of sense for the Bears at the right price. So if they were to make a move, he would probably make the most sense as of right now.

I think the Bears are unlikely to make a trade but the recent release of Spain could be a blessing in disguise when it comes to an impactful move in terms of a free agent move.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Chicago Bears Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

The question Bears fans have asking themselves since 2018, which coincidentally (or not) lines up with the start of the Matt Nagy era in Chicago.

We saw earlier in the year that the Bears are indeed capable of running the ball effectively. Even though part of that was against a pair of bad defenses. Another piece was that they still had Tarik Cohen and James Daniels healthy and the last part is well, they were actually being creative.

Since Week 1, we’ve seen very little creativity from the run game. In recent weeks, Cordarrelle Patterson has even stopped getting the ball out of the backfield as much. On top of all of that, this offensive staff is almost refusing to run anything but inside zone. In the first two weeks, they ran more outside zone and it was effective.

They’ve also run much more out of the shotgun, which is a simple causation of having Nick Foles behind center.

All in all, I’m not sure much can be done about their running game in the short-term. They’d be best suited to start mixing things up again, running more outside, using different players except for David Montgomery (including calling up Lamar Miller) and running less predictably out of the shotgun. Even so, this offensive line is just not good enough. Long story short, I don’t think there is any magic fix coming in this year.

Anthony Miller has become quite the popular topic of conversation amongst Bears fans over the past few weeks and rightfully so. To put it lightly, the former second rounder has been dreadful for the majority of the season.

Not only does Miller lack simple details as a route runner, he’s dropping passes. On Sunday afternoon, he took a first down off the board with his lack of awareness on third down. All in all, his play is not what you’d expect from a former second round pick, yet here we are.

I would guess Miller has minimal trade value right now but if they were able to add a better fit at receiver than could actually be coached, I’d be all for it. With that being said, I think if Miller is going to be moved, it’ll happen in the off-season and likely not be a player-for-player type deal. Probably more of a mid-to-late round pick type scenario. The Bears cannot be happy with what they’ve received from Miller since being drafted, though.

I’d also add that they’ll need to add at least one, if not two receivers this off-season and that’s with the expectation that they somehow retain Robinson for 2021 and hopefully beyond.

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Chicago Bears Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

I would personally be shocked if that were the case.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- Allen Robinson is the Bears’ best offensive player and it’s not even close. He doesn’t possess great speed and he’s not overly athletic but he’s a reliable target and has become one of the best receivers in the league, despite hideous quarterback play for the majority of his career.

The reason Robinson hasn’t been extended yet has everything to do with money. Whether it’s coming down to overall money or how that cash will be dispersed out over the life of the deal, that’s the hold up. It has nothing to do with fit or lack of ability.

Whether or not the Bears get an extension done remains to be seen. But make no mistake, if the money lines up, they’ll make it happen.

That’s a great question and one that continues to get murkier and murkier the more games this team win.

Going into the season, many had the Bears slotted as under an eight-win team. Yet here we are heading into Week 7 and they are already over half way there. Obviously that’s a good thing but it also makes projecting their future quarterback situation much tougher. With that being said, I do believe there are four first-round caliber quarterbacks in this upcoming draft class. Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Trey Lance, and BYU’s Zach Wilson.

Lawrence and Fields are both going top-five and there’s an argument to be made that another quarterback could go within the first 20 picks as well. With that being said, the likelihood of all four going before the Bears pick (likely early-to-mid 20’s at this point) are slim to none.

Conventional wisdom tells me that both Lance and Wilson will be more realistic targets. But as you’ve pointed out, the Bears have plenty of other needs to fill, including the offensive line and offensive weapons overall.

Only time will tell on that but don’t be surprised if they try to acquire someone already in the league with some upside still left, which will bring me to my next question below.

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I think a lot of that is going to come down to asking price. At this point, you can probably put the New York Giants in that same boat with Daniel Jones. While both Sam Darnold and Jones make sense to a certain extent, my guess is that both teams will still be asking for decently high picks (third-round or better) for either one of these young quarterbacks.

The other aspect of this is: Does someone like Dak Prescott or even Derek Carr become available this off-season? Carr would have to be a trade target but maybe Prescott somehow, some way hits the free agent market.

The Bears are going to have their pick of a few options. I think a lot of it comes down to how close they view themselves going into the off-season and maybe more important, where they end up drafting at and how much they love the third and fourth options in this upcoming draft class.

As we’ve known for a while now, the Bears don’t have their long-term quarterback currently on the roster. Now the question is when and how they’ll address that lingering question.

I’d ask you if water is wet but apparently there seems to be some sort of controversy behind that age old question. So, I’ll simply answer this by saying, yes. To be completely fair, I think most of the national media will take the Los Angeles Rams at home. I mean, they did open as 6.5 point favorites, which seems extremely high to me but as the Chicago Tribune’s Brad Biggs pointed out last week, Las Vegas is simply not high on the Bears this year.