The Arizona Cardinals have taken it on the chin the last two weeks, but they get back home to State Farm Stadium to take on the Chicago Bears this week.
That means... Well the new Monster’s of the Midway are coming into Glendale. Be ready.
Jeff Berckes of Windy City Gridiron was kind enough to drop by and talk about the Bears, their young quarterback, trading for maybe the best defensive player in football and many more questions.
Thanks to Jeff and enjoy.
1. How has Mitchell Trubisky looked in year two and how has Matt Nagy helped that development?
How I have framed Mitchell Trubisky coming into this year is that he’s basically going to be running back his rookie season for take 2. The college resume on Trubisky is, let’s say, abbreviated, as he only had one full year as the starter at North Carolina. He took over for the Mike Glennon Experience in Week 5 last year and ran the John Fox 1980’s offense for 12 games. There was one game that Trubisky threw 7 times… and the Bears won that game. So, I think we can maybe just write that year off as a sunk cost, burn the tape, and move on with our lives.
Nagy comes in with a much deeper understanding of what can be successful in the NFL with a diverse scheme. He will try to exploit Trubisky’s athleticism and have him basically be the point guard, distributing the ball to a bevy of playmakers, until he can (hopefully) develop as a more traditional signal caller. I don’t think it’s fair to expect too much from him this year but what I’ve seen so far is a mixed bag. On the one hand, he started to show some real chemistry with Allen Robinson II against the Seahawks, he’s made some nice pickups with his feet, and has run the scripted plays well. On the other hand, he was definitely dropping his eye level late in the Packers game, has misfired a few open throws, and made a couple terrible decisions on Monday night. It’s the difference between a 2-0 start and 1-1. I’d like a full year (or two) of returns from this offense to make a final determination on Mitchell Trubisky, and I think anyone who has already made up their mind one way or the other is simply rushing to judgment.
2. The Bears made the move, traded for Khalil Mack and gave him all the money... It was 100% the right move. How has he changed the overall defense?
Yes, I completely agree. When the trade went through, my phone about melted down with the number of text messages sent and received and I’m pretty sure I set a personal Twitter record for highest activity. Linebackers have long held an outsized importance to the Chicago Bears franchise and since Urlacher retired, the Bears really haven’t had anyone you can hang your hat on as “the guy” to carry that mantle. With Brian Urlacher getting voted into the Hall of Fame as a first ballot Middle Linebacker this year, joining Mike Singletary and Dick Butkus with that distinction, linebackers have been brought back to top of mind with the drafting Roquan Smith early in the first round and by trading for Mack. Trading for a guy who already has a Defensive POY award and multiple 1st team all-pro designations in his prime is basically like trading for a young Urlacher. It’s incredibly exciting and I’m still pinching myself to make sure I’m not in a coma.
How has he changed the defense? Well, the Bears defense was looking to build on a good 2017 to try and establish itself as a top 10 defense. The weak spot of that defense was going to be the OLB opposite Leonard Floyd. Now, Mack is the straw that stirs the drink in Chicago. Mack allows the Bears to be the best version of themselves as he can create pressure alone, draw additional attention to free up other talented players to get one on one blocking, and generally force those negative plays – sacks, fumbles, and interceptions – at a rate that can start to change the course of games. When you upgrade from replacement level player to Defensive Play of the Year candidate at a premium position on an already good squad, it can change the course of the season.
3. Talk about the young linebackers in Roquan Smith and Leonard Floyd, two players Arizona Cardinals fans liked in their respective drafts.
We haven’t really seen enough of Roquan yet but I’ll say this much – if the Bears could have squared away his contract and got him into camp on time, I think the Bears are able to neutralize the Packers comeback before it started. Aaron Rodgers really exposed Nick Kwiatkoski in coverage and Roquan brings such a speed element to the linebacking corps that I truly believe he makes the difference in that game. Now that he’s rounding into shape and learning the defense, he has quickly earned the starting job and looked the part Monday night. I never want to put too great of expectations on a rookie, but it’s impossible to not get excited about what this group of linebackers could be if he turns into a facsimile of what Patrick Willis was for Vic Fangio in San Francisco.
The first thing I’ll say about Floyd is that he has had some trouble staying on the field. He’s playing through a broken finger right now, which is why you’ll see him with a club on his hand. That has marred what has otherwise been a solid start to his career (averaging 1 sack every 2 games). When Ryan Pace drafted him, I would venture to guess he had visions of Von Miller in his dreams, with that elite bend around the edge as a speed rusher. Well, he’s certainly not Von 2.0 but he has played well enough as a pass rusher and has improved in the run game. I’m really excited to see this pass rush throughout the year as they develop more continuity and play off each other. Some fans are frustrated by Floyd, but I think he’s been fine with a chance to really take off now that Mack is there to draw additional attention.
4. Two or three under the radar players Cardinals fans should know?
On offense, I’d point to Anthony Miller, the rookie wide receiver from Memphis. Cardinals fans are probably familiar with the name through the draft process since Arizona nabbed Christian Kirk. Miller has come in and owned the slot role from day one, basically taking it by force. I think it is impressive any time a rookie wide receiver can earn a significant role early on and Miller scored his first TD last week on a wicked out route that Trubisky put on him in probably the most impressive offensive play from Monday night. He hasn’t soaked up any kind of volume yet as this offense is still working itself out, but I believe that he is only going to grow in this offense to the point that he’ll be a staple on fantasy football rosters in the future.
On defense, I’d point to the Eddies – Eddie Jackson and Eddie Goldman. Eddie Jackson is a second year free safety out of Alabama who came in as a rookie and played well. This season, he’s already made a couple plays that lead me to believe that he’s ready to make that sophomore leap. I’m a believer that good safeties can limit big plays and great ones can change games. The hope is that he can move into the latter category. Eddie Goldman plays the nose tackle position and was just extended before the season started. He’s an integral piece to that front 7 and is one of my favorite players that simply needs to get more publicity but won’t because of his position. He’s that rare talent that can control the line in the run game and get up the field to pressure the quarterback. He’s fun to watch.
5. Do the Cardinals get past the 50 in the first half? Can they score a touchdown against the Bears? Final score?
The Bears defense has posted two incredible first half performances so your question isn’t all that crazy. I love Larry Fitzgerald but understand that he’s banged up and may be limited. With the Sam Bradford check down artist at work, I’d imagine it all comes down to David Johnson and if he can get anything going on the ground or get loose in the passing game. As Johnson and I share the same Alma Mater (University of Northern Iowa – Go Panthers!), he’s one of my favorite players in the game today so I’m not going to bet against him. I’ll be very curious to see if Johnson can be successful as he’s the best back this defense will face in the first half of the season. I think if they run the offense through Johnson, they can get something going and score a first half FG and a TD late. Let’s go 20-10 Bears. Good luck the rest of the season!