By Greg Gabriel–
(CBS) Up until Sunday, my feeling was these Bears could be much improved from 2016, even if it wouldn’t reflect much in the team’s record.
Well, I was wrong. This team is worse. It has shown and will show in its record.
Entering Sunday’s contest in Tampa Bay, it was hard to know what to expect from the Buccaneers, whose starters hadn’t played real football in almost three weeks due to a combination of not playing in the final preseason game and the disruption caused by Hurricane Irma last week. Well, the Bucs were ready to play in a dominating 29-7 win, and the Bears took a step backward.
Chicago’s defense gave up only 311 total yards, but statistics can be deceiving. They don’t show that the Bears helped the Bucs offense three times by getting called for defensive holding, giving Tampa Bay first downs after Chicago appeared to have a stop. That’s unacceptable and inexcusable. The Bears defense also couldn’t stop the Bucs when they needed to, and they didn’t generate consistent pressure on quarterback Jameis Winston.
The Bears special teams blundered when rookie Tarik Cohen decided to try and pick up a short rolling punt between two Bucs defenders only to fumble and give the ball back to Tampa Bay in the red zone. This was a bonehead rookie mistake by Cohen that never should’ve happened, and the result basically took the Bears out of the game.The Bucs scored on the next play.
Until that play, Cohen had been looked at as one of the bright spots on the Bears’ roster. But then he tried to make a play that he could probably pull off at FCS-level North Carolina A&T but not in the NFL. It was a learning experience but a costly one.
Offensively, Bears quarterback Mike Glennon threw for 301 yards, but that was the most deceiving statistic of the game. The majority of those yards came in the last one-third of the game when Tampa Bay was playing loose defense and giving up the underneath routes. Glennon also threw two interceptions on balls that never should’ve been thrown and fumbled while being sacked. All of these plays happened in the first half and took away any chance of the Bears winning.
In short, Glennon was terrible. Since joining the Bears, Glennon has shown he’s not a quick processor, and he struggles to find receivers and get the ball to them downfield. The bulk of the Bears passing game comes with short crossing routes and check-downs that the opposing defense will give away every play.
Defenses across the league now know that Glennon can’t make quick decisions and throw the ball downfield. This will allow them to concentrate on stopping the run and force the Bears offense in disarray.
All offseason, the Bears told us that they would be a running team and control the clock. On Sunday, the Bears attempted to run the ball just 16 times. Jordan Howard, who was second in the NFL in rushing as a rookie last season, carried the ball only nine times for seven yards. The Bears have gone out of their way to give the 5-foot-6 Cohen the majority of touches, but you just can’t win that way.
The reason the Bears can’t run is because they have a passing game that wouldn’t scare a junior high team, let alone an NFL club. That brings up the question of why Glennon is still the starter. Bears coach John Fox went out of his way after the game Sunday to state that rookie Mitchell Trubisky wouldn’t play and that Glennon will continue to be the starter.
I understand the Bears have a plan to develop Trubisky, and that plan doesn’t include Trubisky playing much in 2017. In theory, that’s a good plan and in the best interest of Trubisky. The problem is Glennon is horrible, and he won’t improve.
Trubisky clearly outplayed Glennon in the preseason by showing he can make quicker decisions, can get the ball out of his hand faster, complete passes downfield and move the ball. Unless Fox has a guarantee from management that he won’t get fired with Glennon playing quarterback, why is he sticking with him? Regardless of whether Trubisky is ready, he gives the Bears a better chance to win in every game.
Greg Gabriel is a former NFL talent evaluator who is an on-air contributor for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @greggabe.