Bears Insider Hub Arkush answers subscribers' Bears/NFL/Life questions every week:
What do you think of the Castillo hire? Submitted by Whyld Weasel
Whyld, I can tell you for a fact the problem with the O-line wasn’t coaching. I’m not saying Hiestand had his best year, or that he’s perfect, but you have to have the talent. The drop-off from a healthy and focused Kyle Long to any other lineman on the team is huge. Kyle appeared to be both healthy and focused throughout training camp but by Week 2 or Week 3 he didn’t look focused at all – as many mental errors as physical – and while I can’t speak to his health, shame on the Bears for not working him enough in the preseason to know where he was at health-wise.
Daniels and Whitehair were coming along fine at center and guard until Long went down. I’m not saying they were great, or even good, but they were coming along fine. Their positions were switched either because Coward needed Whitehair next to him for help, or the coaches thought they were helping Mitch. Again I can’t say for sure but expect it was a little bit of both, and it was a big mistake.
It seemed to help for a few weeks but then they backslid.
Charles Leno is a below average left tackle. I’ve been saying it for three years now and was really taken aback when they gave him the contract extension a couple of years ago. The money wasn’t crazy but locked him in for a few years with a job he isn’t god enough for and that happens to be the most important spot on the line.
Bobby Massie was actually playing fairly well until the Vertigo week, and then he still came back decently before the ankle went and he missed the last third of the season.
Cornelius Lucas actually did a pretty nice job as the backup swing tackle, but he’s still a backup.
If they put Daniels back at center and Whitehair back at guard, both can be perennial Pro Bowlers and that’s a great place to start with your front. It’s not they can’t play the other spots, it’s just that they don’t play them nearly as well.
I have to watch more tape on Coward but he seemed to be improving, and I’m fascinated by Alex Bars. If they want more competition there you can find really good guards in the middle or late rounds of the draft, and they should re-sign Ted Larsen if they can as he can play both guard spots or center and is an excellent backup at all three spots.
Whether it’s through a trade, free agency or the draft, they have to find better options at left tackle. Over the past three seasons, Leno is among the NFL’s leaders in penalties, he can’t handle a speed rush to save his life and he isn’t physical enough in the run game. The problem is if you get a good one, the position is expensive unless you outsmart everyone and find a left tackle on Day 2 or Day 3 of the draft.
But, if you upgrade left tackle and stabilize the interior with Daniels and Whitehair in the right spots, and either Bars or Coward or both become the player Hiestand thinks/thought they could be, you can get away with Massie at right tackle and Larsen and Lucas are nice depth.
They really only need new blood at left tackle, and if they find the right guy you’ve upgraded the whole group adding just one player.
They were good enough to win 12 games in ’18 with Leno at left tackle and Tom Compton stepping in for Long, so obviously Whitehair, Daniels and Massie can play.
As bad as they were up front in ’19, they may not be as far away as you think.
Agreed. Cannot do anything today. Free Agency will tell. Submitted by Ed Bailey-Mershon
Don’t see/hear a question here Ed, but I’m guessing you’re referring to my column and tweets about what fans were freaking out so much about the Tuesday season-ender press conference with Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy.
The general reaction from fans seemed to range everywhere from disappointment to outrage, and I just don’t get it.
Pace and Nagy may not turn out to be the answers, but they’re definitely not stupid, they see the issues as clearly as we do, actually almost certainly more clearly than we do because they’re pros and we’re not.
But the best way to fix it is to improve the players they can and try and get something in return for the ones they can’t, and neither of those efforts is benefited — in fact both suffer tremendously by the G.M. and/or head coach saying we suck, we stink or we blew our jobs this year.
And how do fans benefit from hearing them say it?
If you think they don’t know it, you’re wrong.
Come about May 15th or June 1st we can judge what we think they knew and whether we think they’ve fixed things, stayed the same or made things worse.
Until then, let them do their jobs, and when we see what they’ve done then we’ll have some actual evidence of what they were thinking, what they knew and what we believe they didn’t.
What position do Bears target with their second round picks? Submitted by Dan Murphy
Which position do you address first as the top priority in the off-season? Submitted by Greg L.
Dan and Greg, most of that depends on what’s available when they pick and we’re still in the early stages of preparing for the draft.
If Tua goes back to Alabama — which I’m guessing is what he will do — that could mean one or two potential first- or second-round QBs go sooner than the Bears would like, but until we know which underclassmen are coming out, we don’t even know how deep that group will be.
Either way I don’t see the Bears taking a QB at 43 or 50 unless someone like a Jalen Hurts or Tua was to drop that low and that’s unlikely to happen.
I think they’ll sign one of the other failed young veteran free agents – Mariota, Winston, etc. — and Draft a QB on Day 3.
I’d rank the Bears' greatest needs as tight end, left tackle, safety (Ha Ha Clinton-Dix played well, but I don’t see him back with Bears), edge rusher, running back (I like Montgomery but you need two and Cohen is a hybrid, not a number two RB, and they obviously don’t trust Ryan Nall) and inside linebacker — depending on how they handle all their own free agents there.
You can get a great tight end prospect at 43 or 50, left tackle is a little tougher to address there, but it also gets a lot harder to find a left tackle the further down you drop.
Where do you think Philip Rivers ends up playing next year? Keep seeing the Colts linked to him--any chance the Bears might be interested? Seems like Bears intent on giving Mitch every chance to succeed. Thanks Hub Submitted by Steve Simmons
Steve, I’m a Philip Rivers guy, but he’s about as far away from a good fit in Nagy’s offense as you can find and we’ve learned anything Matt is reluctant to get away from his scheme.
Rivers running RPOs seems about as likely as Akiem Hicks moving to tight end.
The Colts would be a good fit. Jacoby Brissett moves better than folks realize for a big man, but Frank Reich is much more comfortable with a pure drop-back passer – see Andrew Luck, although he was much better on the move than most too – and if Luck is truly done it could make sense.
Most likely scenarios are Rivers stays in L.A. or retires, and while Brady and Brees are also free agents, I just don’t see them going to new teams in their 40s.
Which of the available QBs is best suited to run the Nagy offense Submitted by J. Andrew Moss
Hub do you think the Bears will bring in another QB who can truly compete for the job?Submitted by Jason Harbaugh
What’s the latest on Alex Smith recovery? If he recovers to play again, is the bears a real possibility for him? I like the idea over re-signing chase Daniel but nervous with the leg injury if he would be the same player as before.
I know, Jason and J. Andrew, that a lot of folks don’t want to hear it, but far and away the best option available among free agents is Colin Kaepernick – assuming he’s still at least 90-100 percent of what he was when he last played. If so he’s a perfect fit and by far the most accomplished of any of those type of guys available with one exception.
Obviously, Alex Smith works too. Ironically, the 49ers gave up on him for Kaepernick, and athletically, Kaepernick is a better fit, but clearly Smith and Nagy would be like hand in glove.
The problem there is as much as I admire the guy and his commitment and effort, it’s hard to imagine Smith making it all the way back in his mid 30s after at last count I believe 17 surgeries on that leg.
I asked Nagy a couple weeks ago if he had been staying in touch with Smith and he said he talked to him on the sideline at the Washington game early in the year but otherwise he had not, but whether he was just blowing smoke I have no idea.
Of the younger free agents, I wouldn’t want any part of Jameis Winston – not worried about off-the-field stuff so much as all the picks – so Marcus Mariota is probably the best fit, but if they were thinking that way I doubt they would have jettisoned Mark Helfrich, who’s gotten the most out of him of anyone he’s ever played for.
Tyrod Taylor is probably the next best fit.
Teddy Bridgewater is going to get big money to be someone’s franchise guy, and that’s not where they should be looking at least until next year when Mitch has to either be the guy or not.
Do you see the Bears making substantial changes to the O-Line and TE groups? And also adding a 3rd pass rusher who can actually rush the QB, not Lynch who just jumps offsides. Submitted by Nick Mear
Nick, they have no choice!
I don’t know about significant personnel changes on the offensive line, but if they don’t make a change at left tackle and settle the RG spot at the least, 2020 will be a repeat of last season up front.
They will bring in at least two new tight ends, quite possibly both "Y" or “starters,” not the U that is more of a substitution position and where they may be okay with Trey Burton, Jesper Horsted and Dax Raymond competing.
Your thoughts on Pace end of year presser? Is this 'GM speak,' or does he honestly believe what he's saying? And why can't be as forthright as what we're seeing from Chris Ballard's presser? Submitted by Chris Brownson
Chris, I haven’t seen Ballard’s year-ender yet, so I can really comment on that. But I know Chris is a lot more available to the media and fans than Ryan, he’s a lot more of a shoot-from-the-hip-type guy and he doesn’t pretend that he and Frank Reich are equals. Ballard is the boss in Indy and a lot freer to speak his mind — which gets him a lot more credit when things go right, and a lot more blame when they don’t.
Pace prefers the team approach, and he and Nagy really are joined at the hip and they are going to be a lot more careful with what they say so they don’t risk putting their partner on the spot.
The answer to your question: 90 percent of what we get from Ryan is “GM speak,” which is fine when you’re winning, but obviously didn’t satisfy a lot of folks this week.
Truth is, though, who cares who’s satisfied the week after the season when you’ve known for three weeks you’re out of the playoffs anyway?
If the Bears are back in the playoffs in 2020, nobody’s going to be talking about or even remembering last Tuesday’s conversation.
Being forthright and blunt as an NFL Executive works for some guys but can be a death knell for others.
Few guys recently have been as up front as John Dorsey was in Cleveland and Kansas City before that, and how did it work out for him?
Interesting to note that Ballard was under Dorsey in Kansas City and that’s where he learned some of his style. We’ll see where he’s at in 12 months — still pointing up, I hope, because I like him, but ...
If Trubisky makes it you won’t care what Ryan said this week, and if he doesn’t Pace is screwed no matter what he said along the way.
By the same token, he knows he missed on Shaheen and that experiment should probably be over, but if there’s any chance of getting a sixth- or seventh-round pick for him, why not try and work it?