Chicago Bears Takeaways: Week 16

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /
5 of 5
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

11.) Right tackle Bobby Massie had his best game as a Bear

The Bears offensive line has arguably been the best unit on the team this season, but right tackle Bobby Massie has probably been the worst of the starting o-linemen. Saturday he played his best game of the season in one of his most challenging matchups. Skins OLB Ryan Kerrigan is going to the Pro Bowl this year and had 11 sacks on the season, but he was almost completely neutralized by Massie.

Most of Massie’s struggles have come in pass pro, but Saturday he played well in both aspects of the game. He not only shut down Kerrigan, but had some impact blocks in the running game to free Howard for big runs. It was a flash of what Massie is capable of if he can be more consistent with his pass pro technique.

The talent has always been there for Massie, but mental and technique issues have led to crucial mistakes. If he can play consistently like he did on Saturday, then the Bears could have one of the best offensive lines in the league next year.

12.) Jonathan Bullard also played his best game as a Bear

The Bears had a very solid 2016 draft. Leonard Floyd, Cody Whitehair, Jordan Howard, and Nick Kwiatkoski all look like long-term pieces for the Bears, but their third round pick Jonathan Bullard has been a disappointment so far.

Bullard stepped up on Saturday and played the best game of his young career. He’s still not showing the explosion off the ball as a pass rusher that he showed in college, but against the Skins he made an impact against the run.

Bullard was credited with just two tackles (one for loss), but was around the ball often and looked like he was playing faster and stronger than he has all season. I thought Bullard was a steal in the third round of the draft, but Saturday was the first time that he played like it.

The Bears have the makings of a dominant defensive line next year, but with Cornelius Washington a free agent, they will need to decide if Bullard deserves a starting role. If not they will need to add another d-linemen to fill Washington’s role. Another game from Bullard like this week and he will have some momentum going into 2017 and a better chance at earning a spot in the d-line rotation.

Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports
Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports /

13.) Bears tight end auditions

The Bears continue to try and find a future replacement for injured tight end Zach Miller. Miller does have one more year on his contract, but with so many injuries throughout his career, I don’t think the Bears can rely on him to be healthy in 2017. Even if he does avoid injury, he’s 32 and coming off another foot injury. It’s possible, perhaps even likely, that Miller will be a step or two slower in 2017.

The Bears have been signing new tight ends almost every week this season, but they seem to have decided on three finalists for Miller’s backup next year: Daniel Brown, Ben Braunecker, and MyCole Pruitt.

All three got significant snaps on Sunday with Brown leading the way. Both Brown and Braunecker had two catches for 19 yards, while Pruitt got his first snaps as a Bear after being signed before week 15.

All three have above average speed and receiving ability, but all three have also struggled as blockers in their young careers. Brown got tossed aside like a rag doll by Skins DE Preston Brown and gave up a sack Sunday, which won’t help his chances of locking down the #2 TE position next year.

With one more week to go, look for the Bears to feature MyCole Pruitt next week against the Vikings, the team that drafted him in 2015.

14.) No takeaways again for the Bears defense

The Bears came into the game tied with the Jags for the fewest turnovers caused in the league with just ten. The Jags had a pick-6 interception in their surprising win over the Titans, which puts the Bears in dead last in the league with still just 10 turnovers created.

There is no easy fix out there for the Bears turnover problem. I thought a good pass rush would force more turnovers, but the Bears are in the top five in the league in sacks and it hasn’t impacted turnover creation at all.

The answer may be upgrading their secondary. If they can continue to rush the passer in 2017, then better defensive backs should be in position to make more plays. A couple of young Bears have the potential to create more turnovers next season; Rookie Deiondre Hall had 13 interceptions in college and fellow rookie Cre’Von LeBlanc has led the team in practice interceptions by a wide margin.

Hopefully, the Bears can supplement the few potential playmakers they have with more in free agency and the draft next year. The Bears won’t win the turnover battle consistently unless they start creating some on defense and they won’t be a competitive team unless they can win the turnover battle consistently.

It’s pretty clear to me that after the quarterback position, the Bears secondary should be their priority this offseason.

15.) Bears Draft Position Update

The Jags won! It’s kind of a big deal since the Jags have the tie-breaker verse the Bears (right now at least), which means that if the season ended today the Bears would have the 3rd overall pick.

The Jags play at the Colts next week and they will be underdogs, but they almost won last week so seem to be playing good football since firing their head coach (take note Bears). The Bears play the struggling Vikings in Minnesota, which most likely will be another loss for the Bears and could lock up the 3rd overall pick.

With the Jags possibly moving on from QB Blake Bortles, moving ahead of them in the draft could give the Bears their choice of the 2nd best QB in the draft after the Niners select one with the 2nd overall pick.

Behind the Bears in draft position, both the Jets and Rams lost this week so they are just one game ahead in the win column with four. Neither team will be favored to win next week, so the Bears will probably need to lose to secure the 3rd overall spot. A Bears win next Sunday could drop them all the way to the seventh overall pick (you should probably bet on the Bears).

Game Notes:

  • Josh Bellamy didn’t drop a pass for the first time in four weeks! He also made a catch without jumping. Good for you Josh.
  • The Bears have only won the turnover battle three times all season. They have three wins.
  • The Bears are 0-12 when Jordan Howard doesn’t get 20 carries. He got 18 on Sunday, though half of them came in the last five minutes of the game.