10 thoughts after the Chicago Bears beat up the Las Vegas Raiders at the line of scrimmage and got a precise outing from undrafted rookie Tyson Bagent on their way to a commanding 30-12 victory Sunday.
1. An early play that provided a glimpse into how the afternoon would go for Tyson Bagent came on the second series.
It was the second time Bagent, the Division II product from Martinsburg, W.Va., was asked to throw on third down. The first third down, at the end of the opening possession, was a screen pass that D’Onta Foreman mishandled, maybe the only miscue of the day for the hard-chugging running back.
On the next series, the Bears faced third-and-5 at their 49-yard line. Starting in place of Justin Fields, who was knocked out of the previous week’s loss to the Minnesota Vikings with a dislocated right thumb, Bagent was in a big spot early in the game: a clear throwing situation for an offense that has been middle of the pack on third down overall — 14th in the NFL, completing 40.5% of opportunities. But the Bears have struggled to throw on third-and-manageable, converting just 7 of 21 when passing on third-and-4 to third-and-7.
The Bears were in 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end, three wide receivers) with DJ Moore and Darnell Mooney to the top of the formation, deployed to Bagent’s right. On the back side, tight end Cole Kmet chipped before running a sit-down route. Rookie receiver Tyler Scott was wide left and ran what the Bears call a “basic route” (dig) while Foreman released from the backfield.
Bagent’s initial read took him to the right, but the Raiders covered up the switch/release. Moore and Mooney got re-routed at the line of scrimmage and Bagent was mature enough to move on. He patiently worked back left, and by then Scott was breaking across the middle of the field in front of cornerback David Long Jr., on whom he got inside leverage.
“They came out in man coverage,” Scott told me. “We had maybe a zone beater to the opposite side. I was running a basic route, we call it, 10 to 12 yards. Basically, I go straight vertical, snap it down at 10, come back across the middle. It’s basically a (scouting) combine route.”
Scott happened to be the No. 3 read in Bagent’s progression. The quarterback was a little bouncy in the pocket, but seeing the primary reads covered, he moved his eyes and hips, reset his throwing window and was calm enough to scan back across the field and see Scott winning.
“I knew I would have an opportunity to get the ball because that was a good route against man coverage,” Scott said. “Plus, we knew they liked to play outside leverage in their man coverage, so there was an opportunity because I was on an in-cut. I gave (Long) something to the outside, got vertical, broke it down and, yeah, it was right there.”
Scott hauled in Bagent’s pass for a 13-yard gain. Six plays later, including a 10-yard scramble by Bagent around the right side for another first down, the Bears were in the end zone on Foreman’s 2-yard run to take a 7-0 lead.
Right there, Bagent crystallized what the Bears were thinking when they went after him as an undrafted free agent. General manager Ryan Poles credited Tom Bradway, a young area scout hired in May 2022 from the Raiders, and co-director of player personnel Jeff King for their efforts in scouting Bagent in Shepherdstown, W.Va., way off the beaten path in college football. Poles dropped their names before the season when explaining why the Bears elected to keep Bagent and cut loose P.J. Walker, the veteran they had guaranteed $2 million.
Entering the draft, the Bears believed Bagent’s upside was good enough to make him worthy of a draftable grade. Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy had worked with him in the Senior Bowl and got a good handle on Bagent’s acumen and how well he assimilated information. They felt that his processing was at a level that would make him a viable NFL option and that he possessed the accuracy and anticipation needed to make up for maybe marginal arm strength.
Bagent played a turnover-free game Sunday, completing 21 of 29 passes for 162 yards with one touchdown when he dumped it down to Foreman, who pushed his way into the end zone from 5 yards out. He was sacked only once. Game flow prevented him from having to push the ball downfield. The Bears ran the ball 38 times for 176 yards (more on Foreman carrying 16 times for 89 yards in a little bit), and Bagent avoided the negative plays that have plagued the Bears too often.
“That’s a staple of how I’ve always tried to play quarterback,” Bagent said. “Just getting the ball out of your hands, trying to combine that with making really good decisions. I got away with it in college a lot of times getting the ball out of your hand but also forcing some things because I had that freedom to do so.
“At this level, we are trying to be plus-two in that section, what Coach (Matt Eberflus) preaches to us every week. Had that in the back of my head all week, like, ‘Hey, if it’s not there, play the next play.’ End every drive with a kick, which we were able to do.”
The sense in the locker room afterward was that Bagent delivered precisely what teammates believed he would.
“Like an NFL quarterback,” said Moore, who was targeted nine times and caught eight passes for 54 yards, the lone incompletion when Raiders cornerback Marcus Peters knocked the ball out of his grasp after a perfectly placed fade pass that would have been a touchdown.
Tight end Robert Tonyan, a converted quarterback from FCS Indiana State, was drawn to Bagent shortly after the quarterback arrived. Tonyan shared with Bagent the experiences he faced as an undrafted player who originally signed with the Detroit Lions in 2017 before joining the Green Bay Packers practice squad at the end of that season.
“I have had a good connection with him since he got in here,” Tonyan said. “We talk all the time about that kind of stuff and just controlling what you can control, your story, your journey and stuff like that.
“In practice, whenever he gets his opportunities, that’s what it looks like. It’s funny because everyone in here is just like: ‘That’s how he is. That’s who he is. That’s how he produces in practice. That’s how he gets the ball out in practice.’ It was really not a surprise his performance today.
“What he did in college, how many times he threw the ball, he just has a lot of football under his belt. A lot of these guys who come in have one or two good seasons at a big school, which rightfully so if they’re playing at a high level. But you have someone like him who plays four years at a small school ripping the ball 70 times a game at times. That’s a lot of football. To be honest with you, what you saw today is not a surprise.”
In the Raiders locker room, defensive tackle John Jenkins drew on 11 years of experience — including two seasons as Bear (2017 and 2020) — when assessing what happened as Bagent outdueled journeyman Brian Hoyer, who was making his 41st career start, this time in place of injured Jimmy Garoppolo,
“It’s the NFL, man,” Jenkins said. “Everybody has an opportunity. The San Francisco guy who came in last year, when I was with Miami, he came in and had a good game against us. You just never know. Potential is everything.”
That’s right. Jenkins was drawing a parallel between Bagent and Brock Purdy, who owns a 10-1 regular-season record as the 49ers starter. Purdy’s first opportunity came in Week 13 last season when Garoppolo went down. He completed 25 of 37 passes for 210 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in a 33-17 win over the Dolphins.
“You just never know,” Jenkins said. “You’ve got to keep the game as simple as possible. He’s a different player than Fields. You’ve got to be prepared for the unexpected. When you’re new, we don’t have film. They played hard. That was a good team today.”
It’s early to make any comparisons to Purdy, but the former Mr. Irrelevant initially became an option for the 49ers because he didn’t put the ball in harm’s way and kept the offense on track. That’s where you can take this extremely small sample size of one game against a mediocre 3-4 Raiders team and say it applies.
“He gets the ball out so quick,” tight end Cole Kmet said. “Instead of him sitting back there and maybe taking a sack and now you’re in second-and-16, you’re second-and-4. That’s a big deal.
“That’s what we see all the time. But to do it in the game, that was nice. It’s hard to stop how quick he gets rid of the ball. We were just running normal, quick game stuff, but I am sure if he’s got to go next week, he’ll progress with some things.”
Kmet said there was one play on which he was open for a downfield throw in the red zone.
“The pressure got to him and he ditched it off because he didn’t have time to get to me,” Kmet said. “I was wide open. He’s ditching it off saying, ‘Play the next play.’ That shows maturity.”
2. Coach Matt Eberflus handed out three game balls in the locker room.
One went to Tyson Bagent, one to cornerback Jaylon Johnson, who had two interceptions, and one to running back D’Onta Foreman, who scored three touchdowns. If Eberflus had a fourth to present, offensive line coach Chris Morgan would have been a worthy selection.
The Bears took command of the game from the start, running the ball with Foreman and Darrynton Evans (14 carries, 48 yards), and they were unrelenting.
“We ran the (bleep) out of the ball,” Cole Kmet said. “They came with base (personnel) to our 12 (one running back, two tight ends, two wide receivers) with Big Dog (tight end Marcedes Lewis), and we still ran it. We got after them. That was cool.”
The Bears piled up 80 rushing yards by halftime, and it felt like they were close to having a lot more. Foreman was one move away from turning 6-, 7- or 8-yard runs into 25-yard gains. Holes were opening up front and linemen were finishing blocks.
“We lost control of the line of scrimmage and then we kind of were playing the game backwards,” Raiders coach Josh McDaniels said. “That’s not really a formula that has suited us.
“Give them credit, they had a good plan. Did a good job of trying to stay balanced, kept the young kid in a situation that was really ideal for him. We were trying to create maybe some third-and-longs to put him under some pressure, but it never really materialized. Like I said, control of the game was important today, and they gained control of the game I’d say somewhere in the second quarter.”
I say Morgan was worthy of a game ball because it has been popular to pile on the offensive line struggles this season. Yes, this unit will need some work in the upcoming offseason. No question about it. But the majority of the criticism has lacked nuance and fails to note key points — some positive, some negative.
I’d venture to say about half of the sacks the Bears have taken — 27 total — can be assigned to the offensive line. A good chunk of the team’s 58 sacks allowed last season also was not on the line. It still needs to be better, but to understand the picture in pass protection, you have to do more than look at sack totals.
The Bears rebuilt the right side of the line in the offseason with the signing of guard Nate Davis and the first-round selection of tackle Darnell Wright. Davis has played pretty well when in the lineup, but after missing two games following the death of his mother, he’s now on the shelf with a high right ankle sprain. Wright battled through a shoulder injury during the week to make his seventh start Sunday and looked solid. There’s hope Davis won’t be sidelined too long as the Bears did not place him on injured reserve Saturday. That could signal the team believes he won’t miss four games, the minimum for an IR stay.
Guard Teven Jenkins’ right calf muscle injury in the preseason and left tackle Braxton Jones’ neck injury have forced the Bears to juggle the lineup, and an unusually high number of injuries have hit the O-line. Lucas Patrick left the Week 5 game at Washington with a concussion. A hand injury landed center Doug Kramer on IR before the season. He was activated to the 53-man roster Saturday.
Add it all up and the Bears used their sixth starting combination Sunday as Jenkins moved back to right guard, where he played last season, and Cody Whitehair started at left guard. The Bears did really well running behind Jenkins and Wright, and that’s an awful lot of strength on the right side.
The Bears used 10 starting combinations last season, and, yes, 16 unique lineups in a span of 24 games is suboptimal. The offense has had the same lineup unchanged for a high of three consecutive games, and that was games 12-14 last season.
“You know, (continuity) is important,” offensive coordinator Luke Getsy said. “It’s very important. It’s not just the offensive line, though, right? It’s the chemistry on a whole. Like when Darnell gets to play next to Cole (Kmet) and they’ve played together each and every week, they get better at how they handle situations as well. And so it’s all that. Chemistry is critical.
“Anytime you have that turnover, you have to deal with it. That’s our league, right? People get hurt. Seventeen games is a long season. There’s nothing you can really do about it. But chemistry is extremely important. I think about some of the years that were the best I’ve ever been around, it’s usually when you have health up front.”
Criticism of the line also generally overlooks three developments. First, Wright has looked pretty good. Will he develop into a Pro Bowl talent? I have no idea and it’s difficult for teams with bad records to have players recognized. But he looks the part so far. His play can be a little inconsistent from one snap to the next, but when he’s on, he’s everything you’re looking for in a right tackle.
Second, Ja’Tyre Carter has been a surprising bright spot for a guy who was drafted in the seventh round last year and made the transition from left tackle to guard. I don’t know if Carter has a future as a starter, but there’s no reason to put a ceiling on him. He spelled Wright at the end of Sunday’s game.
Third, Larry Borom has been better than he was in his first two seasons. I was skeptical the Bears had a swing tackle on the roster when training camp opened, and Borom has been credible filling in for Jones for five games now. Do you want him as a starter? Probably not. But he has done his job and gotten better since the start of last season, although he did have two holding penalties Sunday he will want back.
The biggest question the Bears need to answer on the line over the remaining 10 games is whether Jones should be locked in as the starting left tackle in 2024. When he returns from his neck injury, if his play trends up, the team can feel pretty good about him. If he has leveled out and projects as a lower-tier starting left tackle, it’s an easy decision: The Bears would need to prioritize the position in the offseason. But they have to get an answer first.
Center will be a priority in the offseason. The 2023 draft was not a good one for centers. Three were drafted in the second round: Joe Tippmann (Wisconsin, New York Jets), Homewood-Flossmoor product John Michael Schmitz (Minnesota, New York Giants) and Juice Scruggs (Penn State, Houston Texans). Tippmann has played guard for the Jets. Ricky Stromberg (Arkansas, Washington Commanders) went in Round 3. That’s it for the top four rounds. It’s early — and scouts prefer to lean on late-season evaluations for picks at the top of the draft — but next year’s draft projects to be stronger for centers.
Yes, there’s a lot to sort through with 10 games and an offseason ahead, but for one day, Morgan had something to be awfully proud of.
“I know it’s one game, but what you see Philadelphia does on occasion, how the Eagles have the defense that complements the offense and they can run the ball whenever they want,” Kmet said. “It was like really good complementary football. Probably the first one we’ve had since I’ve been here like that.”
3. It was a tough Sunday morning in the Southern Utah football office.
It was less than 12 hours after a 48-45 overtime loss to Austin Peay at Eccles Coliseum. Coaches were going over film and beginning to sketch out a game plan for this week’s opponent, Abilene Christian, when offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Tye Hiatt turned on the Bears game at 11 a.m. in Cedar City, Utah.
Hiatt was the offensive coordinator at Shepherd from 2018 through 2020, and he was going to watch his former pupil Tyson Bagent make his first NFL start. Usually NFL games are on in the background of college offices. Maybe coaches see a few plays in passing, but there’s a mountain of work to tackle.
“I was able to watch most of it,” Hiatt said Sunday night. “Then I paused it during some meetings and then I was fast-forwarding through the defense a little bit to watch Tyson. I was able to see the whole thing. It was very impressive.”
It had to border on surprising, right?
“I don’t know if it’s surprising,” Hiatt said, pausing to frame his thoughts. “It’s surreal. It’s just one of those things where, being around Tyson, the way he operated, the way he prepared, everything, you knew right from the beginning he was special.
“They didn’t ask him to do maybe certain things within the pass game, but everything he was asked to do from the throw game and the run checks, that was him when I first met him and he was 18 years old as a true freshman.”
Hiatt said he learned right away in that first season when Bagent became the starter that he needed to have answers for Bagent and find ways to push him in order to keep him engaged. There wasn’t room for gray.
“When you went into a meeting, you had to be on everything because he was going to watch every cut-up, he was going to watch every clip and you better make sure that you have everything there,” Hiatt said. “As a coach, it made me better. You couldn’t just line up and say we’re going to run four verticals or smash or whatever else. You would need some things to be able to stretch him intellectually so it challenged him to help raise him to the next level.
“We always had to be on it because you knew Tyson was going to watch every situation and if you were not prepared, he was going to call you out on it — and not in a bad way, but he was prepared to the hilt.”
Hiatt was at Division III Frostburg (Md.) State when Bagent was setting records at Martinsburg High School. He tried to recruit Bagent but knew even as he got started that the quarterback would play at a higher level. He didn’t get to know Bagent personally until he was hired at Shepherd.
“I knew how good he was because he had played at Martinsburg and they had won state championships, but it’s not like West Virginia is a mecca for high school football,” Hiatt said. “He was still a little unproven and had to make a name for himself. But you meet Tyson and from Day 1, you can just tell he’s a very calm, cool, collected, genuine person but one of the ultimate competitors.”
The bond Hiatt formed with Bagent became so strong that when offered the head coaching job at Eastern New Mexico in 2021, Hiatt was torn.
“The hardest decision I ever had because I’m leaving a kid like Tyson Bagent,” he said.
At Eastern New Mexico and since arriving at Southern Utah, coaches have asked Hiatt about Bagent, whose accomplishments were well-known in the college game even if the NFL is just learning about them.
“His sophomore year (2019), he ends up getting hurt against Kutztown,” Hiatt said, recounting his go-to story for those curious. “Doesn’t practice for the next 12 days because his arm and shoulder got a little dinged up. He missed a game. He comes out versus Shippensburg and had hardly taken any reps.”
Bagent threw for 337 yards that day, leading an 80-yard drive at the end and scoring on a 1-yard sneak with 42 seconds remaining to lift Shepherd to a 32-30 victory.
“To me, that was really the beginning,” Hiatt said. “That dude had studied more film and had been more focused mentally that he could just go out there and execute.”
How much did the win in Bagent’s first start mean to Hiatt? The coach sent a video via text message of his three sons, Blake, Neil and Zack, watching the Bears game from their home Sunday with his wife, Paige. They were ecstatic after Bagent’s 10-yard run that set up the game’s first touchdown, and Neil, 7, was wearing a Bears T-shirt.
Neil was diagnosed with cancer two years ago and Bagent has helped with multiple fundraisers. Neil is doing well but still is receiving chemotherapy and has regular contact with Bagent.
“I talked with Tyson earlier this week,” Hiatt said. “He probably talks more with my wife than he does with me. For a guy that has so much going on ...”
Now you know why a coach who had so much going on Sunday stopped what he was doing to tune in.
4. The Bears and Jaylon Johnson were in a bit of a predicament in the offseason and as the summer got rolling.
The team obviously prioritized tight end Cole Kmet for an extension, a deal that was done in August. He was the first player, headed into a contract season, the team wanted to get extended.
Johnson, drafted in the second round in 2020 along with Kmet by the previous regime, was an option for the Bears and made it known he would like to be paid. It would have been difficult to justify giving Johnson a lucrative deal without on-ball production. That’s what the cornerbacks who get bags of money have when they get to the negotiating table.
Johnson had one career interception, back on Sept. 19, 2021, against Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow. That was it. So for the Bears, it was probably wise to stand pat. For Johnson, it was probably best to go out and have a prove-it season and enhance his value.
In less than 90 seconds of game time in the fourth quarter, Johnson armed himself with some bargaining power. First, he stepped in front of a Brian Hoyer pass to Davante Adams and picked it off, racing 39 yards for a touchdown. He broke on the ball before Adams, sensing it was coming, and there was a clear path to the end zone.
Then Johnson headed directly to the Fox Sports camera and began swiping his hands as if peeling off dollar bills from a nice, fat roll.
“You damn right,” he said afterward.
On the Raiders’ next series, Johnson picked off Aidan O’Connell’s deep pass to Jakobi Meyers. Naturally, the two-interception game led to questions about his contract status.
“I know who I am and I know I can play this game at a high level,” he said. “And I feel like I deserve to be paid like that. I’m taking that attitude for any team, for any and everybody in the NFL. So I mean, if it’s with the Bears, then I’ll do that.”
One thing to appreciate about Johnson is he’s always up for a challenge. He believes he’s among the best and he wants to face the best. He was disappointed there wasn’t an opportunity to go against Justin Jefferson in Week 6 when the Minnesota Vikings star missed the game with a hamstring injury.
Johnson knows the ball production — he has 34 passes defended in 44 career games now — was an issue. He has been eager to show he can finish plays but understands there is a fine line.
“You don’t want to force it and get too happy and start jumping routes and you get beat over the top,” he said. “I’m definitely a sound player and want to do what I need to do to be in position to make plays on the ball. And if they give me an opportunity to catch the ball, I’m going to do it every time.”
Johnson was flagged for pass interference earlier in the game as rookie Tre Tucker got behind him, and the 46-yard penalty was a big one. But that didn’t affect his play moving forward.
I don’t know if this game jump-starts any talks with the Bears. It’s possible. Johnson missed two games earlier this season with a hamstring issue. The Bears would retain exclusive negotiating rights with Johnson after the season until free agency opens. He has had minor injuries in the past.
He’s also the team’s most consistent performer at the position. Stacking more impressive games is what will lead to a payday from some team — even if he has to wait until March.
5. Matt Eberflus pleaded with officials. Tyrique Stevenson was puzzled but didn’t seek an explanation.
The Raiders had second-and-25 from the Bears 39-yard line in the second quarter, and Brian Hoyer tried a back-shoulder throw along the sideline to Jakobi Meyers. It wasn’t close to being completed, but Stevenson was flagged for pass interference. It was his fifth penalty in seven games and gave the Raiders 14 yards and a first down.
“Sometimes you agree and sometimes you disagree, and we rarely agree to disagree,” Eberflus said of his discussion with officials. “That situation, you know, they called what they called. And when you get them in second-and-25, we had just pressured on the play before because everybody thinks you’re going to fake coverage there, and so we got him in a good situation. And then they end up giving him a new set of downs. That’s why ... my lid came off a little bit.”
“I just knew the flag was down,” Stevenson said. “I don’t know if they called holding or something. But, (bleep), I played the best coverage I can. I don’t know. I really don’t. I’m really trying to figure out how to play in this league.”
The Raiders went right after Stevenson with wide receiver Davante Adams on the first possession, completing two passes for 26 yards in the first three plays. But on the first third down, when Hoyer needed 4 yards, Stevenson had tight coverage and was able to knock the ball away from Adams, one of three pass breakups he had.
“Coach believes in us on third down to play, man, and I just knew the ball was coming,” Stevenson said. “Just hearing from the media and everything that was going on with (Adams) wanting the ball, I just knew the ball was coming. I had to do my job the best way I can.”
I asked him if he felt overall it was a good game.
“Nah,” he quickly replied. “Felt like I gave up some passes that I could have defended better. Could have played a lot cleaner game. Definitely happy with the team win. Definitely happy how we went out there as a team and played together.”
Adams later smoked Stevenson at the goal line to get wide open but couldn’t corral a Hoyer pass.
“You win some, you lose some,” Stevenson said. “Going against a better receiver, he put together some moves. I could have done a better job with my feet. Could have played the ball better. At the end, he dropped it.”
The Bears need Stevenson to clean up the penalties. He has been called for two interferences, one illegal contact, one roughing and one holding. But he has five pass breakups over the last three games and teams aren’t feasting on him with double moves as they did at the start of the season.
“He did well,” Eberflus said. “Tyrique is a young corner, so he’s going to continue to grow. This matchup was obviously a big matchup. He wasn’t matched on (Adams) the whole time but he was some, and he’ll learn from that.
“He’s going to play against a lot of really good receivers this year, and the important part of being a rookie is just to keep learning. Take that, put it in your file and learn for the next time you play that particular player because it’s all about the one-on-ones and matchups out there.”
6. A week out from the trade deadline, there seems to be pretty good buzz regarding the potential for activity.
Whether that happens, we’ll have to wait and see. I would be a little surprised if the Bears were a seller and they certainly should not consider being a buyer with a 2-5 record.
Things were significantly different a year ago when they made a deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers for wide receiver Chase Claypool. That didn’t work out and Claypool was shipped out to the Miami Dolphins on Oct. 6 with the Bears getting little in return for their investment.
I don’t believe the Bears have a lot of players on the current roster — ones they would consider parting with anyway — in whom other teams would have an interest.
Cornerback Jaylon Johnson is in a walk year. Teams will be a little wary of his durability — he missed two games already with a hamstring injury. The Bears wouldn’t get a lot in return for a half-season rental, and they have been playing better on defense. They also have had a slew of injuries in the secondary. Thinning the depth doesn’t make a lot of sense, and trading core starters doesn’t send a great message to young players the team wants to see improve as the season unfolds. After a two-pick game, the Bears likely would want to keep Johnson and see how he performs the rest of the way and how he projects going into 2024.
Wide receiver Darnell Mooney is in a similar situation in the final year of his contract. He could be intriguing to teams looking to add a speed option to their offense, and despite the challenges in learning a new offense on the fly (it was an issue for Claypool last year), a fair number of wideouts does get traded. Mooney’s production and target volume have been down. If the Bears want to give Justin Fields or Tyson Bagent the best chance to succeed, they can’t subtract from this position group, especially with Equanimeous St. Brown on IR. Having DJ Moore isn’t enough.
Guard/center Cody Whitehair was benched last week against the Vikings and could be an odd man out later in the season if the team wants to play Ja’Tyre Carter or Doug Kramer. Whitehair has struggled, but like the rest of the line, he had a nice game Sunday. He’s unlikely to appeal to teams, and his base salary is $9.8 million, meaning he would cost an acquiring team more than $5 million.
Some have mentioned free safety Eddie Jackson, but his lingering foot issue would cross him off probably every team’s list. He’s making $14.05 million in base salary, and no one will want to take on that contract.
I mentioned nose tackle Andrew Billings last week as a potential trade target. He has been playing really well and is cheap at $2.75 million. I’m more inclined to believe GM Ryan Poles will attempt to sign Billings to an extension. That makes more sense than flipping him for a late Day 3 pick.
One AFC source said the Bears are said to want to “stand pat” at the deadline. That doesn’t mean there won’t be some buzz in the coming days for other teams.
“The reason you’ve seen more trades in season the last five, six years is because of the number of teams that are relying on analytics,” an NFC general manager said. “They’re the ones that are more loose when it comes to trading draft picks. They operate with the belief they can fill holes or more often than that supplement depth via trades. The more teams lean into the numbers, the more you will see.”
7. I don’t know if D’Onta Foreman’s history of biding his time in the shadows was a factor in the Bears signing him to a one-year, $2 million contract.
If so, it was probably a pretty good idea. The Bears got Foreman in free agency, when they also added Travis Homer with an eye toward special teams. It became a crowded backfield when they added Roschon Johnson as a fourth-round pick, a player GM Ryan Poles described as one of his favorites in the draft.
It didn’t look like there would be a lot of opportunities for Foreman as the preseason played out. Khalil Herbert opened the offseason as the No. 1 running back and didn’t do anything to relinquish the role. Homer had plus skills on special teams, and Johnson could help there too. Was Foreman potentially an odd man out? No, the Bears wanted depth and valued his rugged style.
After getting five carries for 16 yards in the opener against the Green Bay Packers, he was inactive for the next four games. No work. Keeping Foreman available has proved wise with Herbert (high ankle sprain) and Johnson (concussion) out.
Foreman followed up a 65-yard effort last week against the Vikings with 89 yards on 16 attempts and two touchdowns Sunday. He caught three passes for 31 yards and another score. Foreman was oh-so-close to having a lot more yardage on about four or five carries too.
“When you get your opportunity, go be dominant,” he said. “I’ve been doing that my whole life. This wasn’t anything different than what I’ve been through. I just want to continue to build on it and show people what they said I couldn’t do, or what I wouldn’t be, or whatever the case may be, I wanted to prove ’em all wrong.
“I’m in the process of doing that right now.”
Foreman waited behind Christian McCaffrey in Carolina last season before the Panthers traded the star running back to the 49ers. Foreman rushed for 914 yards and five touchdowns when his chance emerged. He played behind Derrick Henry in Tennessee. He backed up Lamar Miller as a rookie with the Houston Texans in 2017. Whenever he has gotten a chance, he has powered through defensive lines and produced yardage.
“When he was (inactive) and then we activated him up, he was the same guy all the time,” Matt Eberflus said. “That was pretty cool. He was doing show-team stuff, and this guy was a heck of a back. Just at the time, we were heavy at the halfback position.
“He took it in stride and he knew his opportunity was going to come. Last week he wanted to perform better and today he did. So he’s just got to start stacking performances and keeping that positive, can-do attitude like he did.”
When Herbert and Johnson are healthy, the Bears will have decisions to make. The better Foreman plays, the harder he will make the coaches’ choices.
8. I can’t file this column without noting the continued improvement by the run defense.
That unit was pounded — rightfully so — last season, when the Bears were 31st in the league in yards allowed per game (157.3) and 27th in yards per carry (4.93).
Entering Sunday night, they were fifth in the league in rushing defense, surrendering 82.3 yards per game after limiting the Raiders to 39 yards on 14 carries. Josh Jacobs had just 35 yards on 11 rushes, and per folks in Las Vegas, the Raiders hoped this would be the week their featured back would get going. Instead the Bears bottled him up, and that put more pressure on Brian Hoyer and put the Raiders in third-and-long. They converted only 2 of 9.
The last three opponents have rushed 46 times for 114 yards (2.48 average), sending the defense climbing in the rankings. It’s the combination of a few factors. New linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards are fitting in nicely. The group is beginning to play with better chemistry. And the defensive line is communicating better. You don’t see linemen getting turned and leaving creases. The players at the second level are flowing to the ball.
“We’re just honed in this year,” defensive end Dominique Robinson said. “We’ve got some older guys who understand what they want. It’s getting done this year up front.”
That’s a welcome change for the players who sat through meetings last season saying, “Here we go again,” as the team’s struggles versus the run played out game after game.
“It was same ol‘, same ol‘,” Robinson said. “We’re on top of it this year.”
9. And then there was one.
A flock of five teams sitting on one win broke loose Sunday — well, all but the Arizona Cardinals. Through seven weeks, there is one winless team, the 0-6 Panthers, and one 1-6 team, the Cardinals.
With an eye toward the NFL draft, and knowing the Bears own the pick belonging to the Panthers, here is the race for the No. 1 pick.
Next: vs. Texans, Sunday
The path to No. 1: For the second time in three years, Carolina has changed offensive play callers during the bye week. Coach Frank Reich is handing duties to offensive coordinator Thomas Brown. Two years ago, Matt Rhule fired OC Joe Brady during the team’s bye. Not sure Brown can do much to help leaky pass protection for Bryce Young. Also, safety Jeremy Chinn is out for the foreseeable future and injuries have wrecked the secondary.
The one-win club
Next: vs. Ravens, Sunday
The path to No. 1: Kyler Murray returned to practice last week for the first time since suffering a torn ACL on Dec. 12. He’s already taking some first-team reps, and with a 21-day window to activate him to the 53-man roster, Murray could be starting in two weeks. When Murray returns and replaces Josh Dobbs, the Cardinals could become more formidable.
The two-win clubs
(in reverse order of strength of schedule for all 17 opponents from Tankathon)
Vikings (2-4 entering Monday night game vs. 49ers)
If the draft order were based on the current standings, the Bears would be picking at No. 1 and No. 3.
10. I got a handful of questions about Matt Eberflus’ clock management at the end of the first half.
The Bears, leading 14-3, took possession on their 21-yard line with 1:47 remaining and all three timeouts.
Two quick completions by Tyson Bagent got them to the 35, and then he found Darnell Mooney for a 7-yard gain to the 42. Eberflus didn’t stop the clock, and a holding penalty on Larry Borom wiped out a 13-yard Darrynton Evans run.
Two more passes to Mooney and DJ Moore pushed the Bears to the Raiders 47-yard line. Moore got out of bounds on the first down. By then, only 19 seconds remained.
I don’t have a problem with it, considering the Bears had an 11-point lead and Bagent was making his first career start coming off a relief appearance the previous week in which he had two fourth-quarter turnovers. If the game had been closer, I could see Eberflus being more aggressive there. In the moment, knowing the circumstances and considering how the defense was playing, why risk a momentum-shifting play?
10a. What I don’t understand is what Raiders coach Josh McDaniels was thinking in the fourth quarter. The Raiders were trailing 21-3 with 14:12 remaining when he went for it on fourth-and-4 at the Bears 9-yard line, and Brian Hoyer moved the chains with a 4-yard pass to Davante Adams.
Soon after, the Raiders faced fourth-and-goal from the 6 and McDaniels sent out kicker Daniel Carlson for a 25-yard field goal that cut the deficit to 21-6. Yes, that makes it a two-score game, but I imagine every analytics model would say go for it.
10b. The two picks by Jaylon Johnson and one for Tremaine Edmunds gave the defense three takeaways for the fourth time in 24 games under Eberflus.
10c. Big road game coming up against the Los Angeles Chargers and former Bears edge rusher Khalil Mack. He leads the Chargers with seven sacks and has Joey Bosa on the other side. I imagine the Bears will want to have the quick passing game working again.
10d. The Chargers opened as nine-point favorites at Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas.