Adam L. Jahns’ “Inside the Huddle” appears in game-day editions of the Chicago Sun-Times.
The loss of guard Kyle Long will result in another reshuffling of the Bears’ offensive line. Hroniss Grasu at center? Tom Compton at guard? Does it matter?
“It’s tough,” center Cody Whitehair said. “Kyle is one of our leaders. Any time you lose a leader on the field, it’s tough.”
Well, the Bears have lost a lot of leaders this season.
Serious injuries have been a common occurrence for the Bears under coach John Fox and general manager Ryan Pace. Now, the Bears are at a crossroads with Fox — and many of those players on injured reserve.
Quintin Demps, Safety
Does it matter if Demps (broken arm) plays again this season? When healthy, Adrian Amos was a fine fill-in. He made an interception and forced two fumbles. It was actually better that Amos played since he’s a draft pick. His improvement could spell the end for Demps, too. Demps, 32, has a three-year deal, but the Bears can cut him after this season and free up more than $3.6 million in salary-cap space.
Leonard Floyd, Outside linebacker
The 2018 season is important for Floyd at a personal level. The Bears will have to decide after it whether to use their fifth-year option on him. If injuries shorten another season, the team could hold off. Floyd is a speed rusher who is recovering from surgery for torn ligaments in his right knee. He is considered a building block with room to grow, but the Bears hoped to get more than the 4 ½ sacks and 13 quarterback hits that he had in 10 games this season.
Jerrell Freeman, Inside linebacker
Freeman has one year remaining on a three-year contract, but the Bears can move on without hurting their salary-cap situation. The Bears likely will do so, too. But before they do, they should help Freeman with his health. He is recovering from a torn pectoral muscle, but he also was suspended 10 games for violating the NFL’s rules for performance-enhancing drugs. It was his second suspension with the Bears. In a statement, Freeman said he’s dealing with issues after a head injury.
Isaiah Irving, Outside linebacker
Irving, an undrafted rookie signing, injured his knee practice just days after he played 36 defensive snaps against the Eagles. He’s a young player who still is worth developing, though it might require more time on the practice squad.
Eric Kush, Offensive lineman
Kush (torn hamstring) is under contract for 2018, though he’s not guaranteed anything past this season. His $1.4 million cap hit for next season, though, would make him a cheap, but capable depth option. He can play center and guard. Improving the offensive line will be an offseason priority.
Kyle Long, Guard
Long (torn labrum) isn’t going anywhere, but he’s been ravaged by injuries the past two years. They’ve changed him as a player. He’s no longer the physically dominant athlete that was drafted in the first round in 2013. The structure of his contract allows for an affordable release after the 2019 season. But his tenacity, toughness and work ethic still make him a worthy cornerstone. He simply needs better luck.
Cameron Meredith, Receiver
Meredith (torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee) needs a new contract, and he’s due for a considerable pay increase after joining the Bears as an undrafted free agent in 2015. But how much? The Bears need receivers for Mitch Trubisky, and Meredith is their best one. He’s worth an incentive-laden deal.
Zach Miller, Tight end
Miller’s life changed when he suffered a dislocated knee in New Orleans. More surgeries and then a long recovery process are in his future. His Bears contract expires after this season. This offseason, the Bears’ depth chart starts with Dion Sims and Adam Shaheen. Miller, though, is the type of person organizations typically want around in some capacity. Is there an off-the-field role for him?
Jordan Morgan, Guard
The Bears stashed Morgan, their fifth-round pick, on IR after a shoulder injury slowed his development and became a long shot to make the team. He will be expected to push for a roster spot next year.
Cairo Santos, Kicker
General manager Ryan Pace said on WBBM-AM (780) that he was hopeful that Santos would be a “long-term addition.” But he said that before Santos tweaked his groin and couldn’t kick against the 49ers. The curse of Robbie Gould might be a real thing.
Mitch Unrein, Defensive lineman
Unrein (knee) turned out to be a capable player in Vic Fangio’s defense. He played well this season, making a career-high 2 ½ sacks and four tackles for loss. But he’s on the wrong side of 30 and his contract expires after this season. Jonathan Bullard and Roy Robertson-Harris are next in line.
Kevin White, Receiver
The Bears likely won’t pick up White’s fifth-year option for 2020; the option is guaranteed for injury. But the team isn’t ready to fully turn the page on the 2015 first-round pick. The Bears’ lofty expectations for White (broken shoulder blade) must change, though, if they haven’t already. He has struggled to stay healthy, but also didn’t produce much when he was.
Willie Young, Outside linebacker
The Bears desperately need pass rushers to pair with Floyd, but Young will turn 33 early next season. Young is under contract for 2018, but releasing him would save the Bears $4.5 million in cap space. Interesting enough, Young no longer has a locker at Halas Hall. Other players on IR do. The Bears will have pass rushers to consider early in the draft, too.
@emgarcia1266: What kind of [head coach] do you think will be next? Like an offense-mined or defense-minded or whatever kind? You know what I mean.
A: It’s important for the Bears to not limit their coaching search if they opt to embark on another one. Sure, it makes sense to focus on offensive minds because of Mitch Trubisky, but five of the top 10 offenses currently have head coaches who have defensive backgrounds. There is no right way to do it. Find the best coach. Period. That said, it’s important that if a defensive-minded coach is hired that he’s open-minded offensively. John Fox reverted to a conservative approach with the Bears. He only was open-minded with Peyton Manning with the Broncos. Here is my early short list: Stanford head coach David Shaw, Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo, Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen.
@jbkramer85 : In respect to the draft, since there will be a lot of quarterback talent potentially going in some of those top slots, do [your] foresee this draft being the one where [general manager Ryan Pace] does actually trade down for more picks to bolster the roster, or does he still try to swing on a top-top level talent?
A: I believe in quality over quantity. But I get your point, especially after Pace had a five-player class in his third year and that his fifth-round pick, guard Jordan Morgan, is on injured reserve. Former GM Jerry Angelo had some large classes: 12 players in 2008 and 2003 and nine players in 2009 and 2007. Of course, he missed on picks, but he filled out his rosters with own picks. The Browns, Giants, Cardinals and Broncos are among teams that will be looking at quarterbacks early in the 2018 draft. The Browns, though, have two first-round picks after their trade this year with the Texans, who took quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Feeling out Trubisky
Is all the losing getting to rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky? It’s a question worth considering, especially with all the pressure he puts on himself.
His weekly press conference at Halas Hall definitely was more subdued after the 49ers loss. Then again, he was later goofing around with quarterback Mark Sanchez in the locker room.
That could be an example of Sanchez’s ability to connect with Trubisky, but Dontrelle Imnan, the Bears’ No. 1 receiver, also said that the rookie is able turn the page after their losses.
“As a quarterback, you really have to because at the end of the day, whether you’re winning or losing, it all points back to him,” Inman said. “As a quarterback, you just have to shake that stuff off, no matter what somebody is saying in the media and no matter what fans are saying.
“[It’s] just continue to keep your head down, continue to grind and eventually the good things will pan out for you.”
It’s what Trubisky, for the most part, is doing. And it’s what Inman saw Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers do over their four seasons together.
“He never changed; that’s the key,” Inman said. “The good thing about Phil is that he’s a fire cracker. He gets upset when things go wrong, but at the end of the day, he never dwells on it.”
Looking at Howard
Running back Jordan Howard is producing in his second season, but his numbers have dipped compared to his Pro Bowl rookie year.
Howard will start his 13th game Sunday against the Bengals. He has 885 rushing yards, five touchdowns and four runs of 20 or more yards.
In 15 games last year – which included 13 starts – Howard had 1,313 rushing yards, six touchdowns and 10 runs of 20 yards or more.
His pass-catching stats are considerably worse. He had 29 catches for 298 yards, one touchdowns and 12 first downs last year. This season, Howard only has 17 catches for 86 yards and two first downs.