Bears Insider Hub Arkush answers subscribers' Bears/NFL/Life questions in every newsletter:
Hypothetically speaking, if the Bears in the off-season can only upgrade either the TE position or the OL, which should they prioritize? Submitted by Chase Riddle
Chase, they can and must do both, but “hypothetically" if I’m forced to pick, it has to be tight end. The biggest single differences between the Bears offense and the Chiefs and Eagles offenses from which the Bears is devised and which are far more successful are Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz.
When Matt Nagy arrived, Adam Shaheen was coming off his rookie year, and Ryan Pace knew when he drafted him he would be at least a two-, maybe three-year project coming from tiny Ashland College and there was still reason to hope he could become that guy. That’s why they chose to supplement him with the best "U" tight end on the free agent market in Trey Burton.
Shaheen hasn’t become even a quality starter at the "Y" position, let alone “that guy,” and it seems almost certain now he isn’t going to.
Burton is salvageable, but Jesper Horsted is intriguing — perhaps even exciting — so Burton could very well be a cap casualty.
J.P. Holtz has also been a pleasant surprise, but his ceiling doesn’t appear to even approach those of Kelce and Ertz, so he projects best as your solid No. 3 who can step in and start at the "Y" and could back up the "U" too (tight end position, not the band).
They must have a quality "Y" starter to fully explore and be successful with all of Nagy’s offense.
They also have to get better at left tackle, but Charles Leno, while not good enough, clearly gives you more at the position than Shaheen does at his, so that’s why tight end is the choice.
It is also possible that though they signed him to play guard, Alex Bars could end up getting a chance to compete at left tackle, and I believe his ceiling is quite a bit higher than Holtz’s and maybe Horsted’s too.
I also believe they will switch James Daniels back to center, where his ceiling is definitely higher than at guard and he has Pro Bowl potential while Cody Whitehair has Pro Bowl potential at either position, and the Rashaad Coward experiment is interesting and promising. Ted Larsen is one of the better backup interior linemen in the league, and they have Bars, so center and guard are in pretty good shape.
Bobby Massie is good enough at right tackle and they’d be fine re-signing Cornelius Lucas as the backup swing tackle.
Priority one is tight end, 1B is left tackle.
Why can’t Bears fans aim higher for their QB position? Do they not realize that the one position that can cover up the most flaws? Look at the Packers all these years. Why do Bears fans expect a shut out from their defense each week. Submitted by Jermaine Jones
Jermaine, you can’t “aim” a whole lot higher than trading the No. 3 pick in the Draft — plus two third-rounders and a fourth-rounder — to move up one spot to draft “your guy.”
The problem isn’t aim or the Bears understanding the need, it’s that three seasons later we still don’t know if they got it right and there is some cause to be concerned they may have missed.
Aaron Rodgers fell to the Packers after 22 other teams passed him in the first round, and they traded a first-round pick for Brett Favre following Favre's rookie year in Atlanta.
I get that Bears fans are frustrated because the organization missed with multiple first-round picks — in fact every one they’ve used on a quarterback since Jim McMahon in 1982, with the exception of Jim Harbaugh in 1987, when they focused on Rick Mirer, Cade McNown, Rex Grossman and Jay Cutler.
And the fact that when all was said and done, McMahon didn’t give them enough to have been worth the No. 5 overall pick they used on him and Harbaugh didn’t become a Pro Bowler until he got to Indianapolis, doesn’t help either.
Not only did this current regime make a huge investment at the position in Mitch, Chase Daniel is the second-highest-paid backup in the league this year behind only Teddy Bridgewater (you can’t count Eli Manning, Nick Foles or Joe Flacco, all having played their way out of their starting jobs to become backups).
Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy definitely get it, they just have to do better in developing Trubisky and/or their talent evaluations at the position.
What do you see the N.Y. Jets biggest offseason need being? Submitted by Eric Bunson
A new head coach?
I don’t mean to be a wise guy, Eric, but I can’t for the life of me understand how they thought hiring Adam Gase immediately after he was fired in Miami was a good idea. He is a very bright offensive mind but looks to me to be one of those guys missing most of the key leadership and temperament qualities necessary for the job, suggesting he should be a quality career offensive coordinator, but not the top guy.
He is going to get at least one more year, though, so let’s talk players.
I like Sam Darnold a lot but he perhaps has taken a step back as a sophomore, so look at his weapons. The Jets have several “nice” receivers who can be solid Nos. 2 or 3, but they need a quality No. 1 — and the same goes for the tight end position.
An overhaul of the offensive line is in order as well with a focus on the key left tackle spot. If Kelechi Osemele can come back healthy next year, that will help a lot up front.
On defense, with the Leonard Williams trade they now need Quinnen Williams to start dominating, as wel as upgrades at cornerback and outside linebacker.
If C.J. Mosley can stay healthy next year, that will help a lot.
I want to give GM Joe Douglas the benefit of the doubt because he arrived after the ’19 team was put together, he is an excellent evaluator and he inherited the horrible Le'Veon Bell and Mosley contracts. But any front office that would even consider trading Jamal Adams — who should be the cornerstone around which you build your defense — may be heading in the wrong direction.
Wide receiver, cornerback, pass rusher, tight end, offensive tackle, in that order.
Two questions hub the Patterson hit to the punt returner of the packers, why didn't Nagy throw the red flag? 2nd is the last desperation play by the bears, where they almost pulled it off, they said they practiced it, why wasn't the ball pitched the 2 open guys to his right? Submitted by Tony Guzman
Tony, once the officials threw the bogus flag, they wiped out the fumble. Had the question been whether or not he fumbled the ball, it would have been automatically reviewed, as all turnovers are. Interference with the returner’s right to catch the ball — which is what they called — is not a reviewable play, so Nagy couldn’t throw a flag.
As for the final hook and ladder, fire drill play, they may have practiced it, but I can guarantee you it wasn’t more than a couple times all season, and I’m pretty sure Jesper Horsted, who ended up with the ball and wasn’t on the roster or special teams until just a couple weeks earlier, couldn’t have practiced it more than once or twice, if at all.
So now you’ve got the least experienced player on your team with the ball in that situation, and he appeared to be looking straight ahead and thinking end zone or bust.
It’s really as simple as he didn’t look for Allen Robinson trailing him on his right, or even if he tried he just didn’t see him and the green grass in front of A-Rob, or I’m sure Horsted would have tried to get him the ball.
Should the Steelers draft a qb of the future? Submitted by Itsame Mario
Until a few weeks ago, they thought they had him in Mason Rudolph, and they obviously like “Duck” Hodges in spite of his four-pick meltdown last week in his first prime-time spotlight.
Roethlisberger will be back next year and maybe a year or two after that, so the question becomes are they quitting on Rudolph or do they still think he can be the guy?
I doubt Hodges will ever be more than a solid No. 2, but I liked Rudolph a lot coming out of Oklahoma State and would still like to see more.
I’d have no issues with them drafting another quarterback they like late on Day 2 or on Day 3 of the Draft, but without a first-rounder now because of the Minkah Fitzpatrick trade, I doubt they’ll make a big commitment for another QB this spring.
If the Bears decline on Mitch, who can they realistically replace him with?Submitted by Michael
Mike, by decline you’re obviously talking about the fifth year of his deal, but the Bears have no intentions of “replacing him next year, his fourth in the league.
I can’t imagine they won’t replace Chase Daniel with a backup more capable of winning games for you if he were forced to start multiple games due to a significant injury to Mitch. Daniel is a great guy and has been a nice fit for “young Mitch,” but he isn’t that guy, and they would hope to get the next backup a little more inexpensively than Daniels.
The question is will they be looking for just a solid backup, or a currently failed young veteran who they think still has upside and can come in and compete with Trubisky.
I also believe they will pick what they hope will be an upgrade over Tyler Bray on Day 3 of the draft, meaning a youngster who isn’t well known now but with a higher ceiling than Bray.
The decision to exercise Trubisky’s fifth-year option is meaningful but not nearly as significant as people are making it out to be. It is guaranteed only for injury, and if they do exercise it they risk Mitch getting hurt late next year and being stuck for over $20 million in 2021 — even if he hasn’t established himself as the clear man of the future.
If they don’t exercise it, they still have the ability to tag him and control him for several years after next season, and either way, if he does emerge as what they’ve hoped for next year they’re going to want to extend him before he gets to Year 5 anyway.
The whole fifth-year option conversation is much more about the salary cap than anything else.
Do you see any change in Nagy's staff at all coming in the off season? Submitted by Raul Portillo
Raul, it’s a fair question but not one I can really answer without an insiders knowledge of how Nagy and Pace feel about the staff and who they could be happy or unhappy with.
For all the struggles on the offensive line, it’s certainly not about Harry Hiestand, who is one of the most respected O-line coaches in the game.
There was no way to predict the Kyle Long injury, forcing Rashaad Coward into the lineup probably before he was ready, and that caused the switch back to guard and center for James Daniels and Cody Whitehair, not their play or Harry’s coaching. Hiestand has actually done a great job the past 5-6 weeks improving the play of the interior of the line until they got to Green Bay last Sunday.
While I think the problems with Charles Leno were predictable and should have been addressed a couple of years ago, that’s on the front office, not the position coach.
Has Kevin Gilbride failed with the tight ends? Again, who knew Trey Burton would lose a season to an injury that had supposedly been surgically repaired, and off what we’ve seen so far, I doubt Mike Ditka, Tony Gonzalez or Rob Gronkowski could have done much more with Adam Shaheen than Gilbride has.
And Gilbride gets high marks for the work he’s done with J.P. Holtz and Jesper Horsted in basically emergency situations.
I can break them all down for you, but I don’t see any coaches on the staff who’ve failed or had particularly bad years.
The other concern is that guys move on, and that can happen with position coaches who have a different relationship with another head coach who may be getting his first top job and reaches out to them for his staff — possibly even with a promotion. Or maybe they look to switch positions with another team or get an upgrade to a coordinator or assistant head coach elsewhere. I’m not aware of any Bears assistants in those kinds of situations, but who knows.
Lastly, you can lose a coordinator to a head job elsewhere, and I think Chuck Pagano has done an excellent job this year and will get another chance, but not yet, and I’m not hearing Mark Helfrich’s or Brad Childress’ names as hot candidates.
But back to the top, it could be Nagy will have a reason(s) for a change or three, but none that are obvious.
— Hub Arkush