By Adam Hoge-
(CBS) Given the injury crisis the Bears are currently facing, you can’t help but feel like the team returning to Halas Hall next week will have a completely different feel to it.
Thus, even though it’s not quite the mid-point of the 2013 season, it seems like an appropriate time to reflect back on the first seven games of the season and grade out the overall performances so far.
If you’ve been following my weekly “Rewind” columns, you know that after every game I go back and grade out the individual performances. I keep track of those grades in a spreadsheet, which then spits out each player’s overall grade for the season. The grading system isn’t all that complex. I award a point for good plays and take away a point for bad plays. If a player makes what I call an “elite-level” play, I award two points (i.e. Matt Forte’s jump cut behind Brandon Marshall’s block on his 50-yard touchdown run Sunday) and if a player makes an exceptionally poor play, I take away two points (i.e. Chris Conte running into Aldrick Robinson and falling down on his 45-yard touchdown reception Sunday).
The grading scale isn’t complicated either. Zero is an average player you can win games with. A positive grade means you are doing your job well and a negative grade means your job might be in jeopardy.
Before we get to my list of grades, let’s first focus on some of the key performances (both good and bad):
MVP: WR Brandon Marshall
Marshall doesn’t have the highest overall grade, but he has been one of the most consistent players through seven games and his positive impact on players when he doesn’t have the ball needs to be taken into account as well. He hasn’t graded out negatively in any game as his lowest grade was a 0.00 against the Lions. Alshon Jeffery actually has a higher overall grade (and has been even more consistent), but much of Jeffery’s success is due to the double-teams Marshall commands. Jay Cutler is also definitely in the discussion for MVP so far, but he hasn’t been as consistent, posting a -4.00 against the Lions and a -1.00 against the Redskins before getting hurt.
Most Improved: WR Alshon Jeffery
Through seven games, Jeffery has graded out the highest of any player on the roster besides quarterback Josh McCown, who has only played in one game. Jeffery has posted a 7.00 (an exceptionally high grade) in three of the last four games. There’s really nothing he doesn’t do well. He has the size to go up and catch any jump ball, he has the speed to run (even being used in the run game on end arounds) and he blocks well too. Defensive tackle Stephen Paea has also greatly improved, but he missed two games with a turf toe injury.
Most Underrated: OG Matt Slauson
Bears general manager Phil Emery made two very good under the radar signings this offseason when he added offensive guard Matt Slauson and linebacker James Anderson. Slauson has been especially solid, but he doesn’t get much recognition because Jermon Bushrod, Kyle Long and Jordan Mills are the more talked about additions on the offensive line. Only Long has graded out better than Slauson on the line, however, and Slauson has been the most consistent, having not posted a negative grade all season. Honorable mention: Fullback Tony Fiammetta.
Most Overrated: RT Jordan Mills
This is a little unfair to Mills because he’s just a rookie who was drafted in the fifth round. I’d still consider him a steal with a ton of upside, but the reality is that Mills hasn’t had as good of a season as you might think. After a really good debut against the Bengals Week 1, I don’t have him graded out higher than 1.00 in any game and he’s posted a negative grade in three of the seven games. That said, he hasn’t been horrible by any means and he continues to be an upgrade over what the Bears had at right tackle last year. Most importantly, he hasn’t given up many sacks. He is, however, allowing a lot of pressures and is a big reason why the Bears rank 29th in the Pro Football Focus pass blocking efficiency ratings. Frankly, Marc Trestman’s offense and both Jay Cutler’s and Josh McCown’s ability to escape pressure have helped mask some of the growing pains Mills is going through.
Biggest Regression: DE Shea McClellin
Full disclosure: This is the first year I’ve done these grades, so to categorize McClellin as a “regressIon” I have to be a little more subjective when considering his performance from last season. But I did see every snap McClellin played last year and I’d say he was an average rookie with upside if he could get stronger. So it’s safe to say the -1.57 grade I have him at so far this year is worse than that. It’s also the worst grade on the team through seven games. I certainly believe Phil Emery is much better at scouting talent and grading players than I am, but I simply disagree with his assessment that McClellin has shown improvement this season. According to Pro Football Focus, McClellin has exactly 14 pressures on 187 pass rushes for a pass rush productivity of 5.7 (by the way, they have Peppers at 5.4). For reference, the leader is St. Louis’ Robert Quinn with a PRP of 15.2. Total pressures can be argued because they include sacks, hits and hurries (which are subjective), but even if you add a few more pressures to McClellin’s total, he’s simply not playing at a level required for a 4-3 defensive end, especially one in a zone-based scheme that requires the front-four to get home.
Below are my grades for every player who has appeared in a game for the Bears this season. Keep in mind that they are just my grades and could differ slightly (and probably do) from how the Bears have graded out their players so far. I do, however, feel confident that they give a generally accurate idea of how each player has performed this season.
(Notes are added where necessary. *-designates player is in a contract year.)
QB Josh McCown*: 7.00 – Has only played in one game.
WR Alshon Jeffery: 3.86
DT Stephen Paea: 3.20
WR Brandon Marshall: 3.00
DL Corey Wootton*: 3.00
QB Jay Cutler*: 2.71
RG Kyle Long: 2.57
RB Matt Forte: 2.14
LG Matt Slauson*: 2.14
LB Lance Briggs: 1.86
FB Tony Fiammetta*: 1.71
LB D.J. Williams*: 1.67 – Played in six games before going on IR.
DT Nate Collins*: 1.60 – Played in five games before going on IR.
TE Martellus Bennett: 1.43
C Roberto Garza*: 1.43
DT Landon Cohen*: 1.25 – Signed before Week 4 game vs Detroit.
LB James Anderson*: 1.14
LT Jermon Bushrod: 1.14
DE Julius Peppers: 0.86
K Robbie Gould*: 0.71
DT Henry Melton*: 0.67 – Played in three games before going on IR.
TE Dante Rosario*: 0.67
KR/PR Devin Hester*: 0.57
TE Steve Maneri: 0.25 – Released after Week 7.
WR Joe Anderson*: 0.17
LB Khaseem Greene: 0.14
S Major Wright*: 0.14
DE David Bass: 0.00
C Taylor Boggs*: 0.00 – Saw special teams snaps in one game.
OL Eben Britton*: 0.00
LB Jerry Franklin*: 0.00 – Saw special teams snaps in one game.
LS Patrick Mannelly*: 0.00
DT Zach Minter: 0.00
S Craig Steltz*: 0.00
WR Marquess Wilson: 0.00
LB Blake Costanzo*: -0.14
CB Isaiah Frey: -0.14
CB Tim Jennings*: -0.14
P Adam Podlesh: -0.14
RB Michael Bush: -0.17
CB Sherrick McManis*: -0.17
S Anthony Walters*: -0.20
WR Earl Bennett: -0.29
LB Jonathan Bostic: -0.29
WR Eric Weems: -0.29
RB Michael Ford: -0.33
CB Charles Tillman*: -0.33
RT Jordan Mills: -0.43
CB Zachary Bowman*: -0.57
S Chris Conte: -1.00
DE Cornelius Washington: -1.00
DE Shea McClellin: -1.57
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.