By Greg Gabriel–
(CBS) I’ve written before that the 2017 Bears could be much improved over last year and yet have a win-loss record that doesn’t reflect that much. After Chicago’s 23-17 loss to the defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons in the season opener Sunday, my feelings haven’t changed.
Here are my takeaways.
Take away two defensive breakdowns, and the Bears defense played a solid game. FOX television analyst Charles Davis felt that safety Quentin Demps was at fault on the Falcons’ biggest play of the game, an 88-yard touchdown catch and run by tight end Austin Hooper. While we will need verification from the Bears coaches, I feel the breakdown was on one of the linebackers. Hooper was passed on by the linebackers for deep help but the only player deep was Demps, who was helping out on Julio Jones. Replays show that after Hooper cleared the linebackers, there were three Bears linebackers alone in the middle of the field with no one to cover.
There was another coverage breakdown again with Hooper later that led to a key first down for the Falcons. With four new players in the Bears secondary, this will happen, but it isn’t acceptable if a team is going to play winning football.
All told, the Bears defense was solid. They played the run very well and generated consistent pressure on Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. Defensive tackle Akiem Hicks played one of his better games as a Bear, recording the team’s two sacks. He got consistent pressure on Ryan all day but also had a costly roughing the passer penalty that kept an Atlanta drive alive.
Until the Bears coaching staff feels rookie Mitchell Trubisky is ready to play, we’re are going to have to live with Mike Glennon at quarterback. The problem with that is he just isn’t good enough. Yes, he helped put the Bears in position to win the game, but it was also his play that led to the loss.
On those final few plays, Glennon overthrew an open Josh Bellamy on the left side of the end zone and then was a shade late hitting a wide-open Jordan Howard in the left flat. Yes, Howard dropped the ball once Glennon threw, but Glennon’s slight delay gave the defender time to recover and be in position to stop the play had Howard caught it.
What was apparent is Glennon isn’t a quick processor. He can be slow going through a progression and has a slow release. The Bears had virtually no downfield passing game, and much of that was on Glennon not being able to find an open receiver and release the ball quickly. This gives a defense a huge advantage as the Bears have no passing game beyond eight yards.
Glennon also lacks mobility and has at best an average feel for pass rushers. There’s no way he can keep plays alive with his feet.
As anyone can now tell, Cohen is a big play waiting to happen. His quickness, speed and explosiveness are rare. As well as he played, I felt that he may have had too many touches at the expense of Jordan Howard, who rushed 13 times for 52 yards. As we found out last year, Howard is a grinder who can wear a defense down. The more touches he gets, the better he is. Howard was basically a non-factor in the first half with Cohen get many more opportunities.
Moving forward, the distribution has to be spread out differently with Howard being a bigger part of the running game. Hopefully Cohen is going to be a big part of the Bears offense this year, but it can’t be at the expense of Howard, who’s one of the best power running backs in the NFL. Is there a way to have them both in the game at the same time more often?
This is now White’s third NFL season, and he has played in five games. He missed all of his rookie year with a stress fracture and then most of 2016 with another lower leg injury. On Sunday, White injured his shoulder, and it’s believed he’ll be out the rest of the season with a broken collarbone.
I had no problem with the Bears drafting White at No. 7 overall in 2015, as he was an explosive playmaker in college. But he can’t stay healthy for more than a few plays. Such setbacks sometimes happen in football. When they occur as often as they have with White, it’s time to move on.
I highly doubt we will ever see White in a Bears uniform again. He’s just not reliable, and time can’t be spent on him being an important part of the offense. He had talent, but injuries have changed that.
Greg Gabriel is a former NFL talent evaluator who is an on-air contributor for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @greggabe.