After the Chicago Bears’ wet and wild win in Week 1, readers want to know what was behind Cole Kmet’s lack of targets, what’s the future of the offensive line and whether running back David Montgomery should be re-signed. Brad Biggs wrings out those questions and more in his weekly mailbag.
Was Cole Kmet’s usage and performance a function of the gameplan because of the weather and if so, do you expect a difference vs. Green Bay? — @dvd_carrillo
His usage was precisely what I would have expected going into the season opener. Kmet was on the field for 48 of the 58 offensive snaps (83%) while Ryan Griffin had 31 snaps and rookie Jake Tonges had nine.
You probably are referring to Kmet being targeted only once in the passing game. He didn’t have a catch. Yes, I would expect him to be more involved in the passing game, but you’ve got to keep in mind this was a different game. Justin Fields attempted only 17 passes, completing eight.
I’d be more concerned with wide receiver Darnell Mooney being targeted only three times (one reception, 8 yards). Mooney is the most explosive player in the passing game and the Bears need to be able to get him the ball and take advantage of his skills. In a game without heavy rain and a saturated field, I think you will see more opportunities for Kmet and Mooney.
Dominique Robinson had more snaps than Trevis Gipson. Was that in the game plan or did it just shake out that way? — @bigcelio
Robinson had 28 snaps and Gipson had 26 playing behind Robert Quinn (47) and Al-Quadin Muhammad (43). I wouldn’t read too much into the snap count from one game, and they basically had the same number of opportunities.
Quinn and Muhammad are the clear starters right now. Quinn is the proven edge rusher on the roster and Muhammad is a veteran the coaches are comfortable with from their time in Indianapolis.
I would imagine the snap counts for Robinson and Gipson are fairly similar in the weeks ahead unless there is an injury or something that forces a change on the depth chart. Robinson was very productive with 1½ sacks, five solo tackles and two assists. Gipson had three solo tackles, one quarterback hit and a pass deflection. They both maximized their opportunities.
Do you see the Bears adding any other wide receivers? — @schiele1532
I’m not sure there is much on the street right now that can really help the Bears and, no, I don’t see the Bears having interest in Odell Beckham Jr. when he’s healthy. I also don’t see him wanting to sign with a team in the early stages of a rebuild.
The Bears just brought in a new receiver, claiming Ihmir Smith-Marsette off waivers from the Minnesota Vikings after the cut to 53-man rosters. Coach Matt Eberflus indicated last week that rookie Velus Jones Jr. is close to returning from a hamstring injury, so he could be in the mix soon.
The Bears need to evaluate the wide receivers they have on the roster. Of course, they will always be on the lookout for players they believe can improve the roster at any position, but I wouldn’t be sitting on pins and needles waiting for the next wide receiver to walk through the doors at Halas Hall.
Do the Bears envision moving their practice facility to Arlington Heights as well if/when they build a stadium there? — @jerryf642
No. The Bears have invested heavily in the facilities at Halas Hall, spending more than $100 million for the most recent renovation that made it one of the best headquarters in the NFL in terms of space, technology and more. If (when) the Bears proceed to build a new stadium in Arlington Heights, they will remain headquartered in Lake Forest.
Would you re-sign David Montgomery after this season or go with Khalil Hebert at RB1 next year? — @chicagonic
It’s really difficult to answer questions like that when the team is 1/17th of the way through the season. There is a ton of football remaining to be played.
As a general rule, I believe it is risky to invest heavily in running backs with a second contract. It’s easy to replace players at that position and durability concerns are legitimate whoever the back is.
As far as Herbert, he played well with the opportunities he had but what has he done at this point to anoint him as the starter next season? Could he be that guy? Sure. Let’s see what he does over the course of the season.
I thought Herbert looked better than Montgomery in the opener from the standpoint that he was more decisive with his cuts and got going north and south with more urgency. But it’s a small sample size and I expect offensive coordinator Luke Getsy to continue deploying both.
When do you think Lucas Patrick will be good to go at center? — @khanhoops
Patrick isn’t going to be able to play center and effectively snap the ball as long as he has a cast or protective covering on his right thumb. Patrick played with a “club” to protect the hand against San Francisco, rotating every two series with Teven Jenkins at right guard. It’s possible he will need protection on his hand for another week or two.
In the meantime, Sam Mustipher will remain at center. It’s possible the Bears keep Mustipher at center after Patrick is fully healthy and slot Patrick in at right guard. Maybe there are moves made at other positions on the line that necessitate a move. Maybe an injury forces a move. Let’s see how the line performs until Patrick is healthy enough to play center.
Thoughts on the rotation at right guard in Game 1? Do you expect that to continue for another week or two? — @mosconml
I thought Jenkins fared a little better than Patrick, but that’s just my opinion. Eberflus said the coaching staff was pleased with the way both players performed. Jenkins had a really nice combination block with Larry Borom to spring Herbert for a 10-yard gain in the red zone.
San Francisco defensive tackle Arik Armstead is a load for any offensive lineman to handle and his size (6-foot-7, 290 pounds) can make it even more challenging for a lineman essentially playing with one hand.
I imagine the rotation will continue because the Bears have invested in Patrick (two-year, $8 million contract) and Getsy was likely one of the driving forces in the team pursuing him in free agency. We’ll have to see how things play out on the line in the weeks and months to come.
Did Justin Fields play in the same weather as Trey Lance? It seems like the winning QB is being criticized and the losing QB is getting excuses. — @mo_slowmo
Both quarterbacks played in the same weather and both struggled. Fields ultimately made a wild, off-schedule play on a 51-yard touchdown pass to Dante Pettis that changed the momentum and jump-started the Bears after the offense had produced only 74 yards on its first 32 plays.
I’m not sure who you are relying on for an evaluation of the game, but both quarterbacks had a rough go and if you want to blame the awful conditions and standing water on the field, that’s fine. Anyone who isn’t criticizing both quarterbacks isn’t looking at that game with an objective eye.
Former Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz was particularly harsh in evaluating both quarterbacks, saying he can foresee the 49ers turning to backup Jimmy Garoppolo.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see them go to Jimmy G. in the fourth week because they’re not going any place with where they are at now,” Martz said. “That second half of offensive football was really difficult to watch.”
On Fields, Martz said: “Less-than-remarkable would be the kindest thing you could say about him. I don’t know if I’ve seen such a bad performance by a quarterback in his opening performance of the season. He was just completely awful. When you get a quarterback who can’t do anything at all, and defensively, you shut him out basically for a half, you kind of lose hope. Right now, they’re a team without hope.”
I understand Bears fans probably are not interested in Martz’s assessment of Fields because he hasn’t been kind in his evaluation of the offense and roster. But Martz knows what he’s looking at, and you have a former head coach hammering both quarterbacks. Reality is you’re not going to win many games in the NFL completing 8 of 17 passes for 121 yards. Fortunately, the Bears will not have many (or any) more games this season in such dreadful conditions.
What position would you bring in players to try out for this week or next? — @bart_suchocki
I think people sometimes mistake the goal teams have when they bring in players for a tryout. Sometimes it is to fill a specific need created by an injury. Let’s say two linebackers suffer injuries in a game, maybe the team needs to go out and add a body at the position, so a small group of players will be brought in for an evaluation.
More often, however, tryouts are done so teams can update free-agent lists that they keep. Teams have comprehensive emergency lists of available players at each position. On occasion, there are players cut loose by other teams that a front office will want to get a closer look at.
The Bears brought in 13 players for a tryout last week and signed two — offensive lineman Michael Niese and defensive end Andre Anthony — to the practice squad this week. Niese is a rookie undrafted free agent from Temple who spent time in training camp with the Denver Broncos. Anthony was drafted in the seventh round out of LSU by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this year and was part of the team’s final cuts.
Are the Bears bringing in any kickers for a tryout this week? — @bigsk68
I don’t believe the Bears’ faith in Cairo Santos is going to falter based on one game played in horrendous conditions, especially for special teams. Santos struggled with his plant foot in standing water and missed two extra points. If he starts missing routine kicks in normal conditions, then the Bears will have an issue. It’s a short list of players remaining on the roster that have been as consistent as Santos the last couple seasons.
I’m just curious why the Bears wouldn’t be trying Alex Leatherwood on the left side. Greg Gabriel said he thinks much of Leatherwood’s struggles come from moving to the right side after playing superior college football on the left side. Getting beyond that there seems to be a lot guys working on the right, with Teven Jenkins, Lucas Patrick and Sam Mustipher vying for two spots on the interior. Jenkins is a natural right tackle and veteran Riley Reiff is the backup. On the left side they seem to be thinner. — John R., Washington
The first thing I would say is don’t read too much into where the team has Leatherwood right now in practice. He’s been at right tackle and offensive line coach Chris Morgan said last week the Bears simply want him to learn the offense, playbook and calls along with how the team practices No determinations have been made at this point about where he will play or what position the team might try him at first.
My second reaction to your question is that Leatherwood was really bad at right tackle last season in Las Vegas, so moving him to an arguably more challenging position at left tackle might be a bad idea. He spent a full season playing on the right side — he moved to right guard after four games at right tackle for the Raiders — so saying he’s not accustomed to a stance on that side by now isn’t fair.
Most folks I chatted with considered Leatherwood a right tackle prospect entering the 2021 draft. Yes, he played on the left side at Alabama, but scouts projected him as a right tackle as a pro. If a team really liked him as a left tackle, he probably wouldn’t have lasted until the 17th pick and most thought he was overdrafted at that position. Could he eventually find a home on the left side? I wouldn’t rule anything out and I certainly don’t want to discount Gabriel’s opinion.
As a lifelong fan, I understand the Bears considering a move to a more updated facility. I lived in Chicago for 34 years before having to relocate. My only time seeing a game at Soldier Field was a Carolina Panthers/Bears game. Been reading a lot of negative press about Soldier Field lately, but I was very impressed at the time at how helpful the staff was, how short the lines were for concessions and restrooms and how quickly we were able to exit and get on our way after the game. Do you concur with the current reservations about the Bears staying at Soldier Field? — Victor E.
I’m not sure everyone shares your experience in terms of lines for the bathroom or concessions but I’m not in those lines, so I don’t speak from knowledge.
The Bears’ bid to build a new stadium in Arlington Heights is driven by the team’s goal to be its own landlord and have total control of the building to generate more revenue. It has nothing to do with the number of seats, fan experience, location, playing surface or anything else. It is 100% a business decision to make the Bears more profitable.
That being said, if the Bears can pull it off they should be able to create a setting that has greater fan appeal, more parking (that will generate more revenue), seats, concession areas, restrooms and more unique seating areas in terms of clubs and suites. With a dome, the Bears will be able to rent out the building year-round. Some fans might object to the commute — those who live closer to Soldier Field than Arlington Heights — but everything else could be improved with a new stadium.