Scouting the Bears: After 84 years, Packers can regain series lead with W

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    The Green Bay Packers improbably made up 23 games in the last 23 years to forge a tie with the Chicago Bears in the all-time series record between the charter NFL franchises.

    On Thursday night, the Packers’ 84-year quest to regain the lead will end at last if they can defeat the Bears at Lambeau Field.

    “We spent time on that today in the team meeting,” coach Mike McCarthy said Tuesday. “It’s important to your tradition and history of the National Football League … being the longest rivalry that stands. We’ll be ready to play Thursday night, I can promise you that.”

    It will be the 195th meeting between the Packers and Bears. Counting playoffs, the series is even, 94-94-6.

    When the Packers took the field at Soldier Field on Halloween night in October 1994, the Bears had what everyone just assumed to be an insurmountable lead at 82-59-6.

    Thanks to teams coached by Mike Holmgren (10-0), Mike Sherman (8-4) and McCarthy (16-7) – Ray Rhodes’ only team was 1-1 – the Packers have gone 35-12 in the last 23 years to leave them on the threshold of an historic achievement.

    Green Bay’s last lead in the series evaporated in September 1933 at old City Stadium. Before a crowd of 12,000, the Bears drew even at 11-11-4 by virtue of a 14-7 victory. It ended the Packers’ streak of home games without defeat at 29 (26-0-3), an NFL record that stands today.

    The Bears won the next four games as well, gradually building an advantage that would reach 23 games.

    Green Bay had a chance to even the series as a nine-point favorite in November 2015 at Lambeau Field. Behind a measured performance by Jay Cutler, the Bears prevailed, 17-13.

    Two years earlier, the Packers were a 10-point pick at Lambeau. Aaron Rodgers, however, suffered a broken collarbone on the first series when he was tackled by defensive end Shea McClellin and Josh McCown went on to engineer the upset, 27-20.

    Chicago is a seven-point underdog this time despite the fact the game is in Green Bay and the Bears are 1-2 after going 14-34 over the last three seasons. The Packers are 2-1.

    On Sunday, Chicago stunned the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime, 23-17, as that same seven-point underdog. The Bears rushed for 220 yards against a perennially stubborn run defense.

    “It’ll be interesting because I think Chicago’s feeling pretty good,” an NFL executive in personnel said Tuesday. “Those guys smell blood over there.”

    The personnel man was referring to the Packers’ rash of injuries at tackle. Starters David Bakhtiari (hamstring) and Bryan Bulaga (ankle) are iffy, and on Tuesday it was announced that Kyle Murphy, their top backup, was being placed on injured reserve with a foot injury.

    “Wow,” said the scout. “They could end up with somebody off the street playing tackle.”

    The Packers filled Murphy’s berth on the 53-man roster by plucking Ulrich John off the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad.

    John, 6 feet 6 inches and 309 pounds, was cut by the Cardinals Sept. 13 after making three starts at right tackle and playing 212 snaps for them in 2016. He played 29 snaps for Miami in ’15.

    John, 25, has good arm length (34 ½ inches) and average hand size (9 5/8). He tested well athletically out of Georgia State in 2014 with a 40 time of 5.02 seconds, a vertical jump of 30 inches and an 8-7 broad jump.

    His bench-press total of 20 reps was poor. He also scored 17 on the Wonderlic intelligence test.

    Free agents Justin McCray and Adam Pankey also have played tackle and are available.

    They’ll be facing a Bears’ defense coordinated by Vic Fangio that has given Rodgers problems in the past.

    “That defensive coordinator can come up with some things to take advantage of Green Bay’s blocking situation,” the scout said. “That can make it pretty messy for the quarterback. Or they have to figure out how to chip and help the tackle all the time.”

    Another NFL executive picked the Bears to win, 17-14. “The Packers’ depleted offensive line may not be enough to hold off the Bears’ aggressive and confident front seven,” he said.

    The Bears have offensive problems of their own with their top two wide receivers on injured reserve and quarterback Mike Glennon set to play the Packers for the first time.

    “Can Chicago score against Green Bay? That’s the question,” one executive said. “Cincinnati obviously did but Cincinnati is much more talented. It’ll just be a matter if Green Bay can stop the run because they’re going to try to pound (Jordan) Howard and isolate (Tarik) Cohen on the linebackers and see if they can get a play that way.”

    His conclusion was a 21-17 victory for the Packers and the lead in the all-time series.

    “If it wasn’t for the injury situation I’d have gone like 31-17,” he said. “If they can block Chicago’s front Green Bay can beat them with the big play because their receivers will match up well against the Bears DBs.”


    Coordinator – Dowell Loggains (second year).

    Key assistant coaches – Jeremiah Washburn, offensive line; Curtis Modkins, running backs.

    Notes: Loggains, 36, was a quarterback at Arkansas from 2001-’04. In a 13-year NFL coaching career he has worked under Adam Gase, Kyle Shanahan and Sean Payton. The Bears ran the ball 38 times for 220 yards against the Steelers but their run ratio over the first three games is just 39.9%. Loggains prefers multiple tight-end formations that deflect usage of tight ends. In the run game, the Bears attack laterally more than most teams. They rank 21st in yards (305.0), tied for 26th in turnovers (six) and 28th in points (15.7).

    What scouts said: “It’s a ball-control offense. The reason they have the quarterback they have is they felt he could control the offense, take what they give you, be a smart guy, all that kind of stuff. They try to pound it out and not make mistakes. They weren’t doing that until Pittsburgh Sunday. Tennessee is similar, and Loggains came from there. They also run with multiple tight ends. Even if the tight ends aren’t great blockers people struggle to match up against that.”


    Starters – Kendall Wright (5-10, 191, 4.50 before 2012 draft); Markus Wheaton (5-11, 189, 4.43).

    Key backups – Deonte Thompson (5-11 ½, 205, 4.30); Josh Bellamy (6-0, 211, 4.49).

    Notes: Cameron Meredith, the No. 1 wide receiver, suffered a torn ACL Aug. 27 and was lost for the season. Kevin White, the nominal No. 2, suffered a season-ending broken collarbone Sept. 10. The three-game production for all the wide receivers is merely 27 catches for 295 yards (10.9) and one touchdown. Wright, the Titans’ first-round draft choice in 2012, dropped several passes in Game 2 and wasn’t even targeted Sunday in 35 snaps against Pittsburgh. Thompson, a six-year veteran, enjoyed a career day (8-110) against the Packers in December. Wheaton, a former Steeler, played his first game as a Bear Sunday after a series of injuries.

    What scouts said: “It’s not really a stellar group of wide receivers. There’s a pretty good drop-off from the two guys they lost to what they’re playing with now.” … “I don’t see anything special with Deonte. He’s built a little bit like a running back. He runs good routes and has good toughness and adequate hands. He does have pretty good run-after-the-catch. He would want to block.” … “Biggest problem with Wheaton is he’s inconsistent catching the ball. He’ll have focus drops. He can run with it after the catch like Deonte. Big knock on him is the drops. He puts it on the ground. He’s athletic and quick.” … “Wright never really played to his ability in Tennessee. He flashed it. Never really was a great route runner. Pretty athletic, quick, explosive. Could get you yards after the catch. He can make you miss.” … “What you like about Bellamy is his toughness. He can give you blocking. People wanted to look at him as a safety out of (Louisville). He made the league as a special-teams type guy. He just worked. Plays hard. Not overly talented.” … “All their receivers are all similar in build and what they bring to the table. All those guys, man, if they catch it they can do something with it. They all kind of look like running backs.”


    Starter – Dion Sims (6-5, 271, 4.74).

    Key backups – Zach Miller (6-4, 243, 4.55); Adam Shaheen (6-6 ½, 277, 4.81).

    Notes: Sims, a 22-game starter for Miami from 2013-’16, played 50 snaps against the Steelers followed by 32 for Miller and 15 for Shaheen. Those 97 snaps compared to 140 for all the wide receivers. Miller started 22 of 25 games the past two seasons, catching 81 passes.

    What scouts said: “When you look at Sims you don’t think there’s anything special there. He’s a thicker tight end so you think he’d be a pop-you blocker but he’s not. He’s more of a punch and extend, then try to run the defender out of the play. He’s got good strength in his hips to do all that. He doesn’t threaten you as a receiver other than normal crossing routes on boots.” … “Miller is more of a receiver type. Had pretty good speed. He’d be the one guy that could kind of create a matchup. He’s faster than most linebackers.” … “I think they overreached for Shaheen in the second round. He’s a big kid, almost 280 pounds, from a small school in Ohio (Ashland). You watch him now and he looks a little bit lost. I think they were enamored with his size playing against those small schools. He hasn’t quite caught up to the pace of this game, either speed-wide or physicalness. As big as he is, he doesn’t play physical. He has good straight-line speed but inconsistent hands. Right now he’s just kind of tiptoeing through. I just don’t see it this year.”


    Starters – LT Charles Leno (6-4, 305, 5.24); LG Kyle Long (6-6, 320, 4.96); C Cody Whitehair (6-4, 310, 5.07); RG Josh Sitton (6-3 ½, 318, 5.18); RT Bobby Massie (6-6, 320, 5.19).

    Key backups – G-T Bradley Sowell (6-7, 309, 5.24); C Hroniss Grasu (6-3, 303, 5.03); T-G Tom Compton (6-5, 308, 5.05).

    Notes: Sitton, the former Packers Pro Bowl player, suffered a rib injury Sept. 17 against Tampa Bay, sat out Sunday and is iffy. He moved from left guard to right guard this season. Last year, Sitton sat out the Bears’ game at Lambeau Field with an ankle injury. If Sitton is out, look for Long to play right guard and Sowell to start at left guard. Sowell is a six-year veteran with 21 starts for four teams. Grasu suffered a broken right hand Sunday and is iffy. Long returned to action Sunday after rehabilitation from ankle surgery.

    What scouts said: “I don’t think they’re a very good offensive line. It’s an experienced group more than anything else.” … “Leno is a pretty solid guy. He doesn’t have great ability to blow you up but he works hard. He’s solid in pass protection but not special. His arm length (34 3/8 inches) probably is the difference-maker when you’re barely 6-4.” … “Massie brings more size and is actually pretty athletic. I’ve always thought he lacked toughness to compete on that side. He is tall and a lot more athletic than you think. Average strength. Not an ass kicker by any means. I’d take Leno. Massie looks better than he plays.” … “Long is a big, tough guy. Biggest problem is will he cost you a penalty because he plays with such intensity. Solid player inside, especially if he gets his hands on you. He’ll try to just maul you. He can be too aggressive and a little bit temperamental as well.” … “Sitton’s a wide-body with some nasty to him. He brings tough and nasty. Got a little dirtbag in him.” … “We’d have played Whitehair at center. He can play both. He is a smart kid, farm boy from Kansas. We felt like center was the best position for him because he didn’t have the arm length (32) that you like. Tough and smart but not overly athletic.” … “Sowell is very similar to Massie. They both came through Arizona. He looks the part but is not very athletic or very tough. Sowell started out at tackle but was exposed consistently. Just a guy. Smart enough to play a couple positions for you.”


    Starter – Mike Glennon (6-7, 225, 4.99).

    Backup – Mitchell Trubisky (6-2, 220, 4.66).

    Notes: Glennon left Tampa Bay in March for $45 million over three years ($18.5M guaranteed). In four seasons for the Buccaneers he compiled a passer rating of 84.6 and a record of 5-13. He’s at 79.8 after three games. He scored 26 on the Wonderlic intelligence test. Trubisky, the second pick in the 2017 draft, hasn’t taken a snap after a solid August. His Wonderlic was 25. Mark Sanchez, 30, is No. 3.

    What scouts said: “Mike Glennon’s the guy the head coach (Tom O’Brien) at NC State bumped Russell Wilson for and allowed him to move on (to Wisconsin). His nickname is Ichabod Crane because he’s a tall, skinny, long-necked guy. Glennon’s just a tall pocket passer. Not very mobile. Don’t ask him to maneuver too much outside the pocket. He’s got a little bit of pocket presence where he can just slide here and there. Basically, he’s a dropback passer who can execute your offense, see the field and can go to his second option. A smart guy. The more he’s in the offense and the more comfortable he gets he’ll be able to nickel and dime you. If people are pressuring him then he’ll be in trouble because he doesn’t have that ability to escape the pressure.” … “He’s a finesse thrower. He’s not one of those guys who has a rocket for an arm. He’s fairly accurate on the short-to-intermediate stuff. He has to put air on the deep stuff. He’d much rather take what you give him because he does have that confidence and short accuracy.” … “It’s funny because Trubisky and Glennon are almost exact opposites. Trubisky is normal quarterback height and he’s pretty athletic. He’ll shock you with his athleticism if you underestimate him. Pretty good accuracy. If he gets a chance to sit and watch he’ll be pretty good.”


    Starters – RB Jordan Howard (6-0, 222, 4.59); FB Michael Burton (5-11, 257, 4.70).

    Key backups – RB Tarik Cohen (5-6 ½, 179, 4.41); RB Benny Cunningham (5-9 ½, 217, NA).

    Notes: Howard was in and out of the lineup against Pittsburgh with an injury to his right shoulder that has pained him for weeks. It didn’t stop him from carrying 23 times for 138 yards (two TDs) and catching five passes for 26. In Games 1-2 he rushed 22 times for only 59 yards. Cohen, a fourth-round pick from North Carolina A&T, has been a revelation with 157 yards in 24 carries (6.5) and a team-high 20 receptions for 126. He often lines up as a split receiver, and in actuality might be the team’s best threat to catch a pass downfield.

    What scouts said: “Not a bad combination. Howard is one of the more deceptive players. You don’t realize how strong that guy is. He takes some unnecessary hits. He’s a power runner so people take some pretty good shots at him. Runs hard. If you don’t watch it he can run over you, and he has better speed than you think. He’s not a wiggle guy. He’s a straight power runner. He catches the ball on outlet stuff. I’ve never viewed him as a threat as a receiver but he doesn’t handicap you, either.” … “Ideally, you’d look at Cohen and say this is going to be a third-down (receiving) back because he does have good hands. Little tough guy. Really a good change-up guy. Excellent quickness. Better strength than you think. He’s got that short man’s strength. Really explosive. Watch out for him, man.” … “Burton is that traditional, almost throwback fullback. Built like a little bowling ball. Got good straight-line speed and is aggressive to the block. You think he’s one of those short, muscled-up guys but he actually has pretty good speed. Not like he’s a stiff or anything like that.”


    Coordinator – Vic Fangio (third year).

    Key assistant coaches – Ed Donatell, secondary; Glenn Pires, linebackers.

    Notes: Fangio, 59, is a straight shooter and close friend of Dom Capers; they worked together in New Orleans and Carolina. He joined John Fox’s staff in 2015. As the 49ers’ defensive coordinator from 2011-’14, Fangio helped San Francisco post a 4-0 record against Green Bay. He employs a base 3-4 defense that moves to a 4-2 on most passing downs. The Bears rank 12th in yards allowed (321.7), tied for 14th in takeaways (three) and tied for 21st in points (23.0).

    What scouts said: “Fangio likes to run zone-blitz stuff and multiple fronts. They’re a base 3-4 but he does a lot of different things. He’ll send all kinds of guys at you. He’s really creative when it comes to manufacturing a blitz. Like (Dom Capers). Lot of Steeler zone-blitz stuff.”


    Starters – LE Akiem Hicks (6-4 ½, 336, 5.22); NT Eddie Goldman (6-4, 320, 5.28); RE Mitch Unrein (6-3 ½, 299, 4.90).

    Key backups – DE Roy Robertson-Harris (6-5 ½, 268, 4.84); DE Jonathan Bullard (6-3, 290, 4.92).

    Notes: Hicks followed his best season in 2016 with a strong start. If the 27-year-old Hicks stays healthy, he could break the bank in March as an unrestricted free agent. Goldman, a second-round pick in 2015, is back to form after missing 10 games last season with an ankle injury.

    What scouts said: “Akiem Hicks has bounced around. He’s a big, strong, stout run stopper. He can hold his body in the gap. As a pass rusher, if he can get his hands on you he’ll push you back into the quarterback. He’s one of those guys where if you light a fire under him he can be productive.” … “Eddie Goldman is another stout run stopper. He has size inside and you’re trying to move him more than anything else. Not athletic but has size.” … “Unrein is a little bit undersized compared to the other two because he’s only 300 pounds. Always been the try-hard guy. Finally got his opportunity. I never saw him as a talented defensive lineman. I always saw him as the overachiever who finally got his shot. You’re not going to out-work him. You might get a guy who’s more talented.” … “Robertson-Harris is just a big, long kid they’re trying to get (bigger). Right now he’s just a spell guy until they get some meat on him.” … “Bullard is just kind of hanging on. He’s a guy they would always look to replace.”


    Starters – LOLB Leonard Floyd (6-5 ½, 250, 4.60); SILB Christian Jones (6-3, 251, 4.74); WILB Danny Trevathan (6-0, 239, 4.65); ROLB Willie Young (6-5, 258, 4.85).

    Key backups – OLB Pernell McPhee (6-2 ½, 273, 4.88); OLB Sam Acho (6-1 ½, 260, 4.66); ILB John Timu (6-0, 245, 4.80).

    Notes: The Bears absorbed a hit in the opener when Jerrell Freeman, probably their best inside linebacker, suffered a season-ending pectoral injury. Nick Kwiatkoski, a seven-game starter as a rookie, replaced Freeman only to suffer a major pectoral injury of his own in Game 2. He’s out this week but hasn’t been placed on injured reserve. McPhee is back playing after battling knee problems for years.

    What scouts said: “Willie Young is a long, skinny guy. So is Leonard Floyd. Both of them look more like basketball players than they do football players. When you run a 3-4 you like those long guys who move pretty good.” … “Willie Young gives good effort. He’s got better toughness than you think because he did play end (in a 4-3) for Detroit. He can actually play the run a little bit.” … “Floyd is pretty athletic. Not really a very strong guy when he starts mixing it up with tackles. Looks more like a swing forward. He hasn’t done much this year. Last year he made some plays. The lack of strength has slowed him down as far for being a playmaker like everybody thought. Athletically, he’s actually pretty comfortable dropping in space.” … “Even when he was at Baltimore people were waiting on McPhee to be the guy they thought he was going to be. But injuries have really slowed him down. Anything you get out of him now is a bonus. I don’t think he’d hold up if he had to be a starter.” … “Trevathan could always run. Little bit undersized. Tough guy. He’s had some injuries. He doesn’t always hold up in there. Good tackler, solid in coverage. He can run and chase in the run game and is pretty aggressive in coverage.” … “If you’re going to have an undersized guy like Trevathan then it’s a good matchup to have a guy like Christian Jones because he’s a bigger guy. More of a run defender between the tackles than Trevathan is. Freeman could really run. Christian doesn’t have that speed for pursuit and he’s not really a cover guy. He is pretty stout inside.” … “Timu isn’t one of those really athletic guys. He’s got good instincts. Not a burner. Stocky build.”


    Starters – LC Marcus Cooper (6-2, 192, 4.45); RC Kyle Fuller (5-11 ½, 190, 4.43); SS Adrian Amos (6-0 ½, 214, 4.47); FS Eddie Jackson (6-0 ½, 201, 4.55).

    Key backups – CB Bryce Callahan (5-9, 191, 4.47); CB Prince Amukamara (6-0, 202,4.43); S Deon Bush (6-0 ½, 200, 4.56).

    Notes: Fuller (51 snaps), Cooper (40) and Amukamara (36) rotated Sunday while Callahan played 56 of a possible 62 in the slot. Fuller, the 14th pick in 2014, missed all of 2016 because of a knee injury. Sidelined by an ankle injury, Amukamara made his Bears’ debut Sunday. He signed a one-year, $7 million deal in March to leave Jacksonville. Cooper left Arizona in March for $8M guaranteed. He started 24 of 54 games for the Chiefs and Cardinals from 2013-’16. Callahan has phenomenal leaping ability; his vertical jump was 43 inches and his broad jump was 11-0. SS Quintin Demps, a starter the past two seasons in Houston and the leader of the Bears’ secondary, suffered a broken arm Sunday and is out indefinitely.

    What scouts said: “I’ve never considered Callahan to be much more than a slot cover guy. He’s got good quickness and straight-line speed. They’ll blitz him sometimes.” … “Fuller lacks great strength but has a good knack for playing the ball. He makes plays on the ball. He can play inside.” … “Amukamara is pretty good athletically but he’s better playing off man or as a zone corner. He’s a little bit faster than ‘Coop’ (Cooper) but I don’t think he has blazing play speed. You can challenge both Prince and ‘Coop’ deep. Cooper was a receiver mostly at Rutgers before they switched him to corner. He’s not a speed guy, by any means. He’ll break on stuff in front of him and play the ball like a receiver. Teams that play him in three-deep zone or off man give him a chance to have success. Press man is not his forte because he doesn’t have the speed to turn and run. Amukamara is similar. Cooper isn’t built to be a guy that holds up. He’s not a turn-you-down type guy but he’s not just going to blow you up. He’s a thinly built guy. He is tough and competitive. He can play the ball in the air even though he doesn’t have great attributes.” … “Fuller is the best corner followed by Cooper, Amukamara and Callahan. Callahan probably has better quickness than all those guys.” … “Nothing special at safety. Eddie Jackson has decent size. Comes from a good program (Alabama) so you know he’s going to be sound fundamentally and will be physical as a tackler. He’ll show up against the run and be a solid tackler, and in the pass game he won’t get out of position. Not a great range guy or anything like that.” … “Both Amos and Jackson will be fundamentally sound guys. Well-coached. Eddie’s a little more athletic than Amos. Nothing special athletically about them.”


    Coordinator – Jeff Rodgers (third year).

    Personnel – K Connor Barth (5-11, 200); P Pat O’Donnell (6-4, 217); LS Andrew DePaola; KR Deonte Thompson; PR Tarik Cohen.

    Notes: Chicago is Barth’s sixth team. On Sunday, he missed wide right from 47 yards. He has made 83.7% in his career. O’Donnell, a four-year regular, ranks 15th in net punt average (41.6).

    What scouts said: “You have to question the hang time on his (Barth’s) kickoffs. I’ve seen him kick them four, five yards deep but without necessarily much hang time. Accuracy is a real issue with him on field goals. That’s why he hasn’t panned out like everybody thought he would. He has a tendency to push the ball. He always has.” … “You’re probably better off trying to pin Cohen between the numbers and the sideline, or kicking it out of bounds. He can light it up, man. He’s strong as well as quick and fast. He can break tackles but also make you miss. But against Tampa I was thinking, ‘Who is this knucklehead? What is he thinking?’ That (his fumble) was just a dumb, knucklehead play down there.”

    The post Scouting the Bears: After 84 years, Packers can regain series lead with W appeared first on Bob McGinn Football.

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