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Bears Mailbag: The quarterback change and what comes along with it, Jaylon Johnson’s hot start and replacing Tarik Cohen

The Chicago Bears are (3-0) but there’s still plenty of questions left to be answered. Join us as we take your questions in this week’s mailbag.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Atlanta Falcons Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Bears find themselves at (3-0) heading into a Week 4 matchup against the Indianapolis Colts after another nail biting finish, but a win is a win and you are what your record says you are, so let’s enjoy our undefeated Bears.

With that being said, the team experienced their first season ending injury to an impact player when they lost running back Tarik Cohen to an ACL tear. On top of that, they also made the widely awaited quarterback change from Mitchell Trubisky to Nick Foles. So to put it lightly, there’s a heck of a lot going on for an undefeated team. That doesn’t mean it has to be all bad by any means, but there’s still plenty of talking points and questions to be answered.

So with that in mind, we’ll dive right into another packed weekly edition of the Windy City Gridiron mailbag.

On the surface, I don’t think that Foles starting over Trubisky or vice versa does anything to change the negotiations for the Bears on the Allen Robinson front. Ultimately, I think there are too many variables to weigh but all in all, I think most of them equal out.

For example, could the presence of a more steady veteran quarterback make Robinson’s numbers go up? Sure, they absolutely could and I’ve seen that theory floated around by a few people. Could Foles lock onto someone else like Anthony Miller instead, thus taking Robinson’s frequent targets down a notch? That’s also a possibility too.

Ultimately, I think it’s pretty simple. Robinson is a top end receiver worthy of his rumored $18 million per year price tag. If the Bears aren’t willing to pay him that, I’m not really sure what they are doing considering how much the receiver market has reset so far in 2020. They’ll either pay him or they won’t, but my guess is that one way or another he’ll be a Bear in 2021 (long-term deal or franchise tag). The quarterback situation is fluid, but I don’t think it changes much for an established veteran like Robinson. He’s still their best offensive weapon, regardless.

Only time will tell in terms of getting you a true answer, but I think just from a veteran perspective, Foles adds plenty to this offense in terms of stability. Obviously we are working with sample sizes when comparing Foles’ performance to Trubisky’s first two and a half weeks, but I think there were already some clear and obvious differences when looking at how both quarterbacks operate.

Here’s what I think Foles brings:

  • Someone who truly understands defenses and coverages.
  • Someone who can process at a higher level and make quicker decisions.
  • Someone who has a better deep ball and will be able to challenge more down the field.
  • Someone who knows the offense and can run it better than Trubisky.

Obviously the veteran lacks mobility, but I would point to a few times in last Sunday’s game where simply standing in the pocket and either checking it down or taking the hit to make a deep throw actually worked out better and avoided the sack.

For all of this, I do believe the Bears are a better team with Foles under center. Even if he doesn’t bring you the same ceiling, his “lows” will be more even and I’d venture to guess we won’t see the Bears trailing by three scores very often moving forward. That’s the type of thing this team’s offense needs and something I believe Foles will bring.

Kyle Fuller is going to be an interesting name to watch over the off-season. Thanks to Ryan Pace and the Green Bay Packers, the approach of getting a long-term deal done with Fuller a few years back became something not really in the team’s hands. Because of that, the Packers severely backloaded Fuller’s deal, which will mean the team will owe him $20 million in 2021. That is also the final year of his four-year deal.

My guess is that if Fuller continues to play at a high level, the Bears will work some sort of extension that will lessen his cap hit, while also taking on more “liability” in the future. Maybe not quite to the extreme that we saw with Danny Trevathan, but something where the Bears can save money in the short-term while seeing more dead money and overall risk in a few years.

Thank you for the kind words. All of us here at Windy City Gridiron work our butts off to produce as good as content for everyone as well possibly can, so hearing stuff like this is always a very well received thing.

As for your question, I think we see a few things that will be different.

  • More flexibility within the play calling. Foles understands coverages more and has run a very similar offense in his two years starting with the Eagles.
  • More outside zone runs (now that the threat of a running quarterback is virtually gone).
  • More down the field shots. Simply put, Foles is much better on deep balls and that’ll be something that can add another successful element to this offense.
  • More freedom at the line of scrimmage for Foles to improvise.
  • Expect them to run more shotgun because that’s where he is at his best.

Obviously Foles and Trubisky are two different types of quarterbacks, so changes, even to a lesser extent are expected. I think we’ll see a lot of subtle differences that add up to a bigger change over time. I do think Nagy’s creativity on early downs can flourish more now because you don’t worry about Foles as much in late down situations.

Also, don’t discount Foles running RPOs. While he may not have the same speed as Trubisky, he has a much better “sell” at the mesh point, which brings a lot of values in those types of situations as well.

If I had to guess, I would assume that the Bears will attempt to do similar things as they did with Cohen in the lineup. At this point, we’ll obviously see more of Cordarrelle Patterson lined up in the backfield and likely more of Ryan Nall as well.

Like I said above, I do think we’ll start seeing them attack more down the field in the pass game and get a little more creative running the ball in more outside zone looks. Outside of that, I think that it’ll be a familiar look, but overall it’ll be more successful. Don’t discount the value of a competent quarterback understanding what he’s doing with the ball in his hands at the quarterback position.

The minute Cole Kmet was drafted, I figured that these questions would pop up at some point early on in the season. To put it simply, Kmet may have been the top tight end in this draft class, but in terms of coming in his rookie year and lighting things up, he was not a likely candidate for that. To be fair, very rarely do rookie tight ends produce a lot in their first years.

Right now, Demetrius Harris brings more to the table as a blocker because he is a veteran that spent plenty of time in this same offense under Andy Reid. Like head coach Matt Nagy has said a few times in the past week or two, Kmet’s development and overall involvement in the offense will gradually grow over time. Rookie tight ends just don’t do a whole lot in Year 1 due to how tough the transition is and that’s OK. For the time being, I would just let the process play itself out. The good news? He’s staying on the field in terms of health. That’s a lot more than they can say about their last second rounder at the same position.

NFL: Preseason-Buffalo Bills at Detroit Lions Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t believe the team’s quick answer is on the roster. I know that some fans are interested in seeing newly signed Daniel McCullers who is on the practice squad, but I don’t believe he’s anything more than anything depth piece at this point.

I think the obvious answer right now is to go out and sign a veteran and I tend to believe Damon Harrison Sr. makes the most sense. Issue is, he already has a visit lined up to Seattle this week and if they are bringing him in, my guess is they are probably going to try and hammer out a deal.

There’s still plenty of veteran names out there, but I think the Bears will be hard pressed to do much better than “Snacks” at this point because of how many teams are facing similar issue to the Bears, due to the COVID-19 opt-outs.

Typically, the Bears have carried just three running backs on their active roster. Yet on Tuesday they promoted undrafted rookie Artavis Pierce from the practice squad. Pierce isn’t the explosive player that Cohen is, but he does bring some good speed and could help fill in for the rest of the year. As Pace has continued to maintain, he likes what they have at running back, so I wouldn’t count on them adding anyone else.

Make no mistake, the Bears are losing a valuable member to their offense, but I was actually somewhat surprised they kept four on the roster knowing David Montgomery was healthy enough to play in Week 1. Only time will tell, but it’s going to be tough to replace someone like Cohen and frankly, Pierce’s speed might be the closest thing they can get right now.

My guess is that they’ll keep Anthony Miller back as the punt returner with other options in the way of Eddie Jackson or maybe even one of their speedier defensive backs. I’d personally be very careful with having Jackson back fielding punts because we’ve seen how something so accidental can turn into a quick disaster.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Atlanta Falcons Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

I’ll still maintain that I was never overly upset with the signing of the player Jimmy Graham, but more at the fact they set the market at the tight end position so early in free agency. I tend to believe it’s never overly smart to spend decent money so early on a veteran like Graham, especially when there were plenty of other tight ends still sitting on the market. Now, that’s not to say that I’m saying they should have signed someone else (although I thought Eric Ebron made more sense), but I do think they could have helped themselves by allowing a few guys to sign to truly set the market on Graham before committing $9 million guaranteed to him.

So far he’s been exactly what they were hoping for. Someone who is reliable enough between the 20’s but an unstoppable force in the red zone and near the goal line. Even if Graham ends up with 500 or so yards, if his touchdowns are closer to 10, that’s a big win for the Bears and this offense overall. I’m probably pointing out the obvious here but Kmet still has to be the future when it comes to the team’s tight end position.

Heading into the year, I had them at (9-7). I had them starting off (3-0) but losing their next two. So with that in mind, I’m going to go ahead and keep my prediction the same in that regard.

(3-0) is a very nice start, but the schedule really stiffens up in the coming games (minus the Carolina Panthers), so that’ll be a nice test for a team that has yet to win by more than four points all season. I won’t discount their start, but I do think they are right on track to sneak into the playoffs as a wild card team, which is exactly where I had them heading into Week 1.