By Ryan Bukowiecki (@ryanbski)
Instant analysis and reaction has become pretty much the default approach for sports coverage in our endless 24/7 media cycle churned both on and offline.The regular, who, what, where, when, why and how questions — the basics of all journalism — are still important, they’re even heightened in a way in the urgency of feeding into information desired by sports fans but sometimes real answers take time to unfold and they need that time to be properly contextualized. In football, where a week at least has to pass in between activity we can learn so much about the teams we follow if we just let time take its course. For the Chicago Bears, a lot of questions were asked of them after the two-faced game they played against the Packers Sunday night, leading to a punishing loss that soured what looked to be as fresh a beginning the franchise had had in a long while. Plenty of things looked great in that first half for Chicago. Brilliant play existed on defense and the offense even managed in a couple drives to force the issue on a reeling Green Bay defense. All the reactions at this time were what Bears fans have been looking for for a long time. The second half, unfortunately, brought opposite reactions that sadly are too familiar in these parts — “where did the pass rush go?,” “this offense is too conservative…,” “how in the world did we lose this one?” The most pressing question coming from Week 1 is what can the Bears take away from that heart wrenching loss, in the present moment it is way too early to know for sure — the NFL is a week-to-week league and the first month of the season is almost an extension of the preseason with so many teams resting starters. Concrete answers are to come regarding these Bears but the highs and lows of each week can still provide worthwhile observations, so here’s some from the past few days. Trubisky Is the Most Important Bear Heading into training camp the most important player on the team was its quarterback, Mitchell Trubisky. After the Khalil Mack trade, the Bears most important player was still Trubisky and after Week 1 the most important player is…Trubisky. We all know the quarterback position is the most important position in sports, if not simply football, but some QBs simply mean more to their clubs than others. We certainly saw one of those clubs Sunday in Green Bay, who would have won many less games in the past 10 years if it hadn’t had Aaron Rodgers. So if Rodgers was the deciding possible factor for his team, then what did that make Trubisky? Trubisky wasn’t the only reason the Bears lost, you can say that because he in no way matches the importance to his team that Rodgers does to his. Other factors were in place: maybe if Kyle Fuller makes the 4th quarter interception that hit him in his numbers, the majority of the conversation moves away from the QB and his needed progression. But, overall, the conversation shouldn’t move away from Trubisky, he will stay at the center of Bears production talks until it is decided that this is a truly talented team with a future or another random collection of talent that the Bears will eventually have to scrap for more prospects Trubisky truly will determine how far this iteration of the Bears will go because of the work done in remaking the roster around him. This roster might be sneaky good or even great. Ask yourself, if somehow the Packers and Bears traded quarterbacks, would the Packers with Trubisky stand a chance against the Bears? Chicago might have a different team if injuries envelop them, but right now they are healthy, they have a pass rush, they have a run game and they have weapons for the passing game. The secondary looked shaky but there is enough there to be solid. Trubisky’s play is the element that will push the Bears over. In his opening performance of 2018 he got too paranoid in the pocket and dropped his eye line too much, he also was far too inaccurate for anyone’s liking. Trubisky continues to show flashes of being the player the Bears are hoping for, a guy to hold down the most important position for a decade but flashes aren’t enough, he has to keep his light shining. If Trubisky can become a consistent accurate passer that can push the ball downfield then the Bears will be going where they want to go real soon. More Jordan Howard, Please What a performance by Jordan Howard Sunday, it was one which was in-line with most of his past performances from his first two years. Howard has been a terrific runner his entire time as Bear and frankly he hasn’t been run enough. Only one weakness has pervaded Howard’s early NFL games, his inability to use his hands as a pass catcher, but that was not much of an issue in Week 1, likely Howard’s relative new ease in catching the ball out the backfield was a byproduct of the amount of work he put into becoming a reliable pass catcher in the off-season. The Bears have a ton of different weapons offering different sizes and speeds, but Howard is their best offensive player right now. He knows how to make plays as a runner or a receiver and has the speed-power combo to be a continually great feature back. Howard’s talents are made to be leaned on and they provide a clear focus point for opposing defenses who even if they can key on Howard, could be opened up for the remaining Bears’ weapons and this is a team now with open-field threats among their backs, receivers, tight ends and, yes, even the quarterback. A player as good as Howard adds additional layers to this offense that should not be ignored. Against the Packers, Nagy was pretty balanced in his play calling with the run-pass ratio until the last drive when the Bears had to throw it around in a comeback situation. In the future, it would be nice to see Nagy favor more run than pass because the Bears historically win more games when their star backs eat. Defensive Foundation is Solid
It is really remarkable how quickly things can change in the NFL from year to year, or even within a week. With one trade, the Bears pass rush went from an internal concern to a total package that’s entirely an external concern for opponents and fans merely got a sneak peek Sunday of how devastating this element of the Bears can be.As Khalil Mack and Roquan Smith build up their conditioning and play more and more snaps each Sunday the Bears will benefit from their time on field. The defense has real potential to get after the quarterback at alarming rates with Mack and Akiem Hicks as its anchors. Rushing the quarterback has shown to be a foundation for the success of recent breakthrough defenses like the Jaguars and Vikings. The difference in being able to rattle an opposing QB lied in how the Bears defense dominated one half in Green Bay and were playing back on their heels in the other. Being unable to close out the game on Sunday was frustrating, but Aaron Rodgers makes a lot of defenses look bad. This week will see the defense have another shot at a good quarterback in Russell Wilson, but the Seahawks were limited in its season opener by the Broncos’ pass rush. If the Broncos showed any potential weakness in Seattle’s protection that could be exploited then they could be in deep trouble facing Chicago The Bears defense has to stack up impressive performances and use them to collect wins before we can legitimize this group, but their potential looks real.
Ryan Bukowiecki covers the Chicago Bears and professional football for WARR