PFW's Hub Arkush answers subscribers' Bears/NFL/Life questions in every newsletter:
Why are so many national pundits down on the Bears this offseason? Should there be concern of a sophomore slump for Nagy? Submitted by C. Rak
I’m not sure which national pundits we’re talking about, but I can’t see any reason to be down on the Bears this season.
They have one of the most talented young rosters in the NFL, and more importantly, young players including James Daniels, Cody Whitehair, Trey Burton, Bilal Nichols, Roy Robertson-Harris, Roquan Smith and Eddie Jackson, who are still likely to get a lot better.
Doubters question how lucky they were with injuries or the lack thereof last year — and that’s fair — and the schedule, which definitely was one of the easiest in the NFL last season but looks like the opposite in 2019 with the Saints, Rams, Cowboys, Eagles, Chargers, Chiefs and of course two with the Vikings and Packers. So that’s more than fair.
But which of those teams clearly have more talent than the Bears?
There is also the issue of last season’s 36 takeaways and six defensive TDs, both highly unlikely to be duplicated this year.
Another big question for many is Trubisky, but I really don’t see how that is fair considering the significant step forward he took in his second season and the clear room he still has above him to his ceiling.
I don’t know if he’ll ever be a franchise guy, but I can’t see any reason to doubt he’ll continue to improve.
If anything, like Trubisky and the other young stars I’ve mentioned, I expect Matt Nagy to continue to get better. He looks and feels like a star to me, but at the end of the day the Bears did get a lot of good bounces last season that don’t often repeat themselves two years in a row.
Hub, the Packers have invested a lot of picks on defense, do you believe they will be much improved or is D-line & CB jury still out? Also, did the Pack blow it off season by not signing a bona fide #2 vet receiver? Submitted by Neal Johnson
Neal, the Packers have definitely added a lot of talent this year on defense — actually much more through free agency than the draft — but how much they’ve upgraded their talent is an open question.
Preston Smith is a very good, complete outside linebacker with great size at 6-5, 265 who could be an excellent pass rusher and started 48 straight games for Washington. But with 16.5 combined sacks over the past three seasons, he’s been just another guy in the rush so far.
The story is the same for Za’Darius Smith, who at 6-4, 272, certainly looks the part. But in four seasons in Baltimore, he was never a starter, playing 58 games, starting just 16 and notching just 18.5 sacks.
Based here in Chicago, I’ve seen every game new Packers S Adrian Amos has played over four seasons, and he is at best a journeyman who was actually benched for a few weeks in 2017.
I realize that Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Muhammad Wilkerson and Jake Ryan are all on the wrong side of the hill or too injury prone to count on, but in terms of pure talent, the three newbies are unlikely to match the production they provided at their peaks.
I know it’s exciting for Packer fans that Brian Gutekunst has finally leapt into free agency with both feet, and I really hope for Packers fans that he’s smarter than the rest of the league and has gotten this right, but the $154 million — $48 million guaranteed — he spent on the Smiths and Amos feels like a really dangerous leap of faith.
As for the draft, I’m a Michigan alum and predisposed to love Rashan Gary. He looks like he was built in a lab to be the perfect 4-3 right end, and might be able to stand up and play outside linebacker in a 3-4. He also might be able to excel at the five-technique, but he was a classic underachiever at Michigan, taking too many plays off and enduring a lot of nagging injury problems.
He was just too good a prospect to leave on the board at 12, and I have no problem with the pick for the Packers, but ...
Darnell Savage is a great athlete who may be the best safety on the team the first day of training camp. I liked him a lot in the middle of the second round, but the Packers traded up in Round 1 to select 21st overall a prospect with average size for the position at best, and Maryland isn’t the NFL. And there's more ...
Mike Daniels, I love, but he has to stay healthy, and Dean Lowry and Oren Burks are solid but not special professionals.
Other than that, Jaire Alexander had a nice rookie year and could be very good, while Kevin King and Josh Jackson are kids I loved in the draft the past two years but are still just projections.
These guys could all be better fits for what Mike Pettine wants to do, and much like the Bears keeping Vic Fangio with a rookie coach in ’18, I think keeping Pettine was huge.
But there are tons more "ifs" than known quantities with the group as a whole.
With Randall Cobb gone, I definitely would have liked to see them add a veteran No. 2 or No. 3 for some certainty across from Adams, but I also really like Valdes-Scantling, Allison and St. Brown, and Trevor Davis is still interesting, too, so they may be OK there.
What if Trubisky’s downfield accuracy beyond 15 yards remains as bad as Kyle Orton's? Submitted by Jason McGuire
Jason, I’m not sure I’m completely on board with your view of Kyle Orton, but I would think the answer to your question is obvious.
If Trubisky doesn’t become better on plays down the field, he will not reach the level Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy foresee for him.
The good news if you study the tape is Trubisky’s issues getting the ball down the field don’t really have anything to do with accuracy; it’s more about timing and reading coverages and defenses.
When Trubisky misses on the long ball, it is almost always underthrown or overthrown, which is about timing with his receivers and reading quickly enough to know when to let the ball go.
In European soccer, teams often have a certain social/political identity that influences who you root for. In the NFL, fan alignment seems to be primarily based on where you grew up. Is there anything resembling a "worker's" or "liberal" franchise in the NFL?
You are correct. American sports fans are most likely to root for the “Home Team,” but I think you’re forgetting that a huge percentage of the population — I’m guessing as much as 40-to-50 percent or more — didn’t grow up in any of the 32 NFL markets, and yet most are still football fans.
So the answer is, yes, there are certain clubs more likely to have out-of-town fans, but I don’t think it has anything to do with “workers” or “liberal.”
The Cowboys for a long time have claimed to be “America’s Team.” The Bears, Packers and Giants have large national fan bases because of their deep and rich histories. The Raiders are another team, mainly because of their us-against-the-world style created by the late Al Davis, that has always been very popular outside of the Bay area and across the country. That's only to name a few.
Rec sports gambling will only feel legal when you save the vig. Or a tie game in hockey, or you are handicapping the war with the betting at high. Someone bets low and no one cleans up. But if you fix the game two years in advance, will we have two year future bets here? Subitted by Sam Lucid
Sam, I would be more than happy to answer your “question,” if I had a clue what you’re talking about.
The one thing I can pick out here is apparently you don’t think bettors should pay the vig when they lose on a legal bet. But if there’s no vig, how does the house make money? And if the house isn’t making money, what can the states tax? And if there’s no tax revenue for the states, what’s the point of legalizing gambling?
Hey Hub, if Kirk Cousins doesn’t produce this year do you think Minnesota moves on after contract expires ? Submitted by John Koliopoulos
Well, John, unfortunately for the Vikings, there is no moving on as all three years are guaranteed and they will be paying Cousins $28 million each of the next two seasons regardless. The 2021 season is the first they can make a change.
What I think they will do if Cousins doesn’t take a huge step up this year is position themselves as best they can to get a first-round quarterback next spring in what some are billing as potentially a special QB draft with Oregon's Justin Herbert, Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa, Georgia's Jake Fromm, Washington's Jacob Eason, Michigan's Shea Patterson and Oklahoma's Jalen Hurts, to name a few.
Obviously this group could re-stack and a few names will be added and subtracted after the ’19 college season, but I’d expect the Vikes to be as close to the front of the line as they can get if Cousins doesn’t get them back to the playoffs and win a playoff game or two this year.