Bears Insider's Hub Arkush answers subscribers' Bears/NFL/Life questions in every newsletter:
Do you still want the Bears to sign Kaepernick? Submitted by Ryne Benassi
Ryne, based on the way Trubisky has played the past few weeks, I’d love to see the Bears sign Kaepernick, who could be the ideal complement.
Was I disappointed in how he handled the “NFL workout?” Yes. But none of us know what the league’s motives were and there is a ton of credible evidence that the waiver they asked him to sign was considerably different from what every other free agent signs before working out.
His skills are a perfect fit for Nagy’s offense and he was a Pro Bowl-level QB before the 49ers organization went to hell. He could also be a great special weapon in the same way Sean Payton uses Taysom Hill.
By all accounts of everyone he’s ever played with, he’s a great teammate and great in the locker room.
If Mitch continues to play the way he has the past few weeks, he’s the starter to begin next season. But I don’t see how you can bring Daniels and Bray back, and Kaepernick could be the ideal No. 2, or an option to start if Mitch backslides again, and they have to draft a young developmental guy for Bray’s spot.
If I were signing him, I would require him to commit to keeping all of his personal beliefs and causes off the field.
At the end of the day, I don’t care what your politics are. Kaepernick is an incredible athlete and extremely bright young man who has never broken any laws or done anything to embarrass his team, and he is a better quarterback than at least a dozen starters in the league and certainly better than any backup.
He’d be an excellent addition for the Bears.
What do the Bears do about Floyd’s option? He isn’t worth $13.2 million and has not developed as a pass rusher. Submitted by Darryl Conrad
Darryl, they’ve already picked up the option, and they certainly don’t have the kind of depth to replace him if they were to just cut him. So I don’t see how they do anything.
He has actually become a “very good” outside linebacker, he’s just not the threat in the pass rush you expected. But with Khalil Mack, and Roquan Smith looking a like a pretty good threat on the blitz from the inside, you can probably get away with it.
And he still has the kind of unique traits to become a late bloomer as a double-digit sack guy.
My guess is they do nothing or possibly even try and extend him, see if they can get him to take two more years at $16-18 million and structure it to lessen the $13.2 million cap hit in 2020.
Without Roquan and Trevathan do you think the Packers will run up the gut the whole game? Submitted by Kyle Feller
They will try something like that, but it could be a huge mistake.
Nick Kwiatkoski is as good against the run as the starters, especially if you run right at him.
What I do expect the Packers to try and do will be to double team Akiem Hicks and run right at him early to find out if he’s 100, 90 or just 80 percent. If Hicks can’t hold up they will continue to attack him, so inside but not right up the middle.
Hicks doesn’t have to make a lot of great plays, but if he’s able enough to hold his gap and the Pack is committing two blockers to him, Kwiatkoski and Pierre-Louis will clean up if they try and run the middle.
You can also expect the Packers to test the edges early. If they have success outside, they will get Kwit and KPL running east and west, and then they will probably have some success coming back inside later.
How are you feeling about Nagy long term? I believe in him and want the Bears to give him the opportunity to grow as a head coach. Submitted by J.P. Smith
J.P., he’s 19-11 in his first 30 games, and that’s an outstanding start for any young, first-time head coach — no matter how you read it — particularly taking over a team that was 5-11 the year before he arrived and 14-34 over the three previous seasons.
You also have to be real impressed with how he’s gotten this team to win four of its past five with mounting injuries after a brutal start. Other really talented teams like the Cowboys, Jaguars, Panthers and Colts had much better starts but appear to have given up after some adversity.
I think we’re seeing him now start to mature as a head coach over this latest stretch.
To all the haters out there, how good were you at your job on Day 1, and with just a year and a half experience in that spot, as opposed to where you were after years three, four or five?
I don’t know how much of the offense’s struggles the first half were due to his reluctance, maybe stubbornness to stop trying to run his entire playbook when it was obvious it wasn’t working, and how much of it was needing to test until realizing he just wasn’t getting the play at tight end, right guard and left tackle he needed to make it all work, and that Anthony Miller and David Montgomery were a little slower than we would have liked in development.
How many RPOs did he call that were the right play but Mitch made the wrong read?
There are a lot of unknowns, but I like the way he seems to have figured it out.
I also worry at times that he’s just a little too in love with the pass and his trick plays, but I also believe that’s still a work in progress.
There is no question he and Ryan Pace have improved the culture around their team 1,000 percent, and overall I’m impressed and encouraged by what we’ve seen in his small-but-growing overall body of work.
Hub, we are so glad you're OK! Give us 2 keys to the Bears winning Sunday. Submitted by Loren Werth
Thank you Loren! No matter how well Mitch is playing right now, Aaron Rodgers is better, markedly so, and that makes it crucial for the Bears to win the turnover battle. They cannot give the ball away, and a couple of takeaways would be huge.
Number 2, I’d say, is they have to find the best pass rush they’ve had all year since opening night, when they sacked him five times and held the Packers to 213 yards of offense.
If they can do that along with having one of their best days of the year running the ball, the best way to beat Rodgers and the Packers is to not give him time to beat you and keep their offense on the sideline.
The Packers are getting a great rush themselves from the Smith brothers, Preston and Za’Darius, but other than that their defense is average at best.
(Editor's note: Hub's 3 Keys to victory, in full, are included at the bottom of this week's newsletter.)
Do you want Chico here? Submitted by Timothy McKay
Boy, Tim, great question, but it’s a tough one for me. As some of our group here may remember, Ron was my broadcast partner on pre- and post-game shows when I was still in the Bears broadcast booth for the first three years after he retired. We’ve remained close and I consider him a dear friend.
That said, he’s a two-time NFL Coach of the Year and one of the best defensive minds in the game — equally adept with both the 3-4 and 4-3 defenses — so what team outside of Charlotte wouldn’t love to have him either as the head coach or defensive coordinator?
The problem is, the Bears already have their own Coach of the Year in charge, and Chuck Pagano is another great coach who’s done an excellent job in his first year taking over the defense from Vic Fangio.
I’m not sure what other role Ron would fill, so as much as I would love to have him back in Chicago with the Bears organization, there’s just no fit right now for a guy who is going to be in great demand and may very well have another head-coaching opportunity as soon as January. Keep an eye on the Browns. He is the perfect fit to clean up the nightmare culture they’re dealing with right now, handle a difficult personality like Baker Mayfield and get that defense firing on all cylinders.
Your thoughts on Mitchell's pocket presence??... Submitted by Noriega
I guess all I can say is Trubisky’s pocket presence is fine and has clearly improved the second half of this season.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen him with happy feet, and there is no doubt in my mind he’s tough as nails and certainly not worried about taking hits.
The problem is he’s been slow in learning to read the field and having the game slow down for him – although again it looks like it’s happening now over the past few weeks – and that can certainly cause him to look uncomfortable in the pocket.
And ironically, he is clearly a lot more dangerous when they get him on the move, sprinting out, rolling out and on bootlegs to take advantage of his athleticism. So his pocket presence isn’t as critical as it might be with some others.
I guess the bottom line is as he gets better and better at reading defenses, I don’t think “pocket presence” is near the top of the list the organization is worried about him improving.
Do either of the “Fill In” TE’s stick next year? Submitted by J. Math
J., I don’t know how high their ceilings are and I don’t see J.P. Holtz ever being a Pro Bowler, but he may develop into a dependable starter or an excellent number two at the 'Y' position.
Jesper Horsted definitely has a high ceiling as a 'U' tight end, and I think the Bears are excited about his prospects.
The team is also still high on Dax Raymond, who is on the practice squad and probably flexible enough to be a 'Y' or a 'U.'
I definitely expect Holtz and Horsted to be Bears next year, and suspect Raymond could be on the active roster.
The issue is, Trey Burton could be a cap casualty, but he also showed enough last year that he could be one of the better 'U' TEs in the league.
My best guess is the Bears look for an upgrade at the 'Y' over Holtz and Raymond either in the draft or via free agency, and that player might be the starter next year with Holtz No. 2 and Horsted and Raymond each either third- or fourth-stringers.
Hub, would you attempt to extend Cousins for less money per year? Assuming he would consider more guaranteed dollars over a longer term that is less than the 28 mil he is getting now. Submitted by Scott Ray
Scott, I think the Vikings would be well served to try and get Cousins extended based on both the way he’s played this year and the ability to save $5-15 million against the cap on him next year, depending on how they structure it.
But, how much money they’re willing to commit to do that is still very much dependent on how he finishes the season.
Should he crap the bed next week against the Packers, or should they fade and fail to make the playoffs, or if he were to struggle in their first playoff game, they may not be willing to. And they may be wise not to commit the kind of dollars he’ll want to give up on another crack at free agency in 2021.
Also, based on how he’s strangling their cap already because he is one of the top guys on an annual basis, it really wouldn’t cost them that much more if they had to franchise him for another deep look in 2021.
— Hub Arkush
Hub's 3 Keys to Victory No. 8 Sunday at Lambeau:
1. The Bears must create serious pressure on Aaron Rodgers while keeping him in the pocket and not allowing him to extend plays. Easier said than done, but that is the Rodgers magic.
Chicago held Rodgers to one of the worst performances of his career in the opener by bringing pressure up the middle while keeping contain on the outside and not allowing him to escape and freelance.
It is also critical to generate that pressure with only four rushers, and no more than five. If you can force Rodgers to get rid of the ball with six or seven defenders in coverage, Davante Adams is the only one who scares you on contested balls.
2. The Bears must run the football successfully, and the production has to come from the backs. Trubisky on the move will help and can lead to big plays, but if the Packers have to scheme and stack the box to stop Montgomery and Cohen, it will open up the rest of the Bears offense.
The key to success here will be in the matchups between Cody Whitehair, James Daniels and Rashaad Coward, and Kenny Clark. If Whitehair can neutralize Clark with occasional help from one of the guards, and there is always a guard or two focused on Blake Martinez, the Packers will be in trouble.
3. Whatever got into J.P. Holtz and Jesper Horsted vs. the Cowboys has to happen again at Lambeau. When the defense has to defend the Bears tight ends, it opens up the whole field for their wideouts, as well as the RPOs that were so effective for Montgomery and Trubisky vs. Dallas.
The Cowboys linebackers are mediocre in coverage, and Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage are solid in-the-box safeties, but they can be beaten through the air.
Horsted, in particular, with his wide receiver traits could very well prove to be the difference in this game if Trubisky looks for him often.
— Hub Arkush