Bears Takeaways: Week 13

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports /
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Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports
Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports /

7.) Nick Kwiatkoski flashed potential

The silver lining of losing starting ILB Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman is that 4th round rookie Nick Kwiatkoski finally gets a chance to show what he can do. In his first full game, Kwiatkoski finished with a team-leading nine solo tackles.

There were some mistakes made by Kwiatkoski, as expected, but overall he showed a ton of potential as a run-stopping force. His instincts and physical playing style are a much-needed addition to the Bears defense. Kwiatkoski flashed enough skill on Sunday to maybe push both Trevathan and Freeman for a starting gig next season.

8.) Bryce Callahan is another keeper

One of many Bears who has struggled with injuries this year, Callahan was healthy on Sunday and showed why the Bears have kept him around. The former undrafted free agent in 2015 has been consistently good in coverage when on the field this season.

I’m a little biased, as I’ve been a fan of his since his time at Rice, but when he’s healthy Callahan has proven to be a solid slot corner. He excels at sniffing out and stopping screen passes for little to no gain, rarely gets burned downfield, and has been a sound tackler despite his diminutive frame (5’10, 195).

The Bears secondary has been a mess this year, but they could come out of this season with a couple of viable cornerback options. So far Callahan has been the most impressive of the young corners and his contributions as a punt returner Sunday just adds to his future value.

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports /

9.) Young tight ends a mixed bag

With starting tight end Zach Miller out for the season, the Bears have been giving an extended trial to young TEs Ben Braunecker and Daniel Brown. Both players got their season-high in snaps on Sunday and flashed both promising and troubling traits.

Brown was the more impressive of the two with two catches for 13 yards after a touchdown catch last week. The former wide receiver from James Madison has a similar athletic profile to Zach Miller and looks like a dynamic option as a receiving tight end.

The problem with Brown is his lack of blocking ability. As a former receiver, it’s understandable that he’s not a finished product yet as a blocker, but he will need to improve quickly if Brown is going to be the Bears primary tight end. He got absolutely smoked as a pass blocker by OLB Ahmad Brooks and gave up a key third down sack.

Undrafted rookie Ben Braunecker is an impressive athlete as well, drawing comparisons to Rob Gronkowski during draft season. He’s had a slow start with the Bears, but has gotten important snaps the last two weeks.

Braunecker’s first audition with the Bears hasn’t gone that well. After struggling as a blocker against the Titans, “Bronk” was late on the field on a punt, drawing a delay of game, and then gave up a punt block when beaten badly by former Bears Shawn Draughn. On the bright side, Braunecker was better as a blocker this week and made a couple of key run blocks which sprang Jordan Howard for positive gains.

The Bears future at tight end is uncertain, but both Brown and Braunecker will get plenty of chances to prove they are part of it in the next few weeks. Neither player is ready yet, but both are starting to flash signs that they could be a productive duo as soon as 2017.

10.) Draft position update

It was tempting to root for the Bears to lose against the Niners and get pole position for the #2 overall pick. It turned out that the Niners were clearly worse as a team than the Bears and I’d be shocked if they win another game. Though the Bears are still in the mix for a top-five overall pick in next year’s draft.

As of today, the Bears would pick fourth in the draft behind the Browns, Niners, and Jags. The Jets have the same record as the Bears but the Bears have the lowest strength of schedule (.497) in the league, which gives them the tie-breaker with any team they end up tied with for losses.

One thing to consider is that the Niners and Jets play this week and that is a game that even the Jets should be able to win. That would put the Bears solidly in the 4th draft slot with only a few games to go.