Underdog Tactics, Hoping for a Year 2 Jump, 2023 Draft QBs and Other Bears Bullets
The NBA Finals begin tonight and it reminds me of a hypothetical that was recently dropped at my feet.
Would you rather attend the Super Bowl or a Game 7 of the World Series/NBA Finals/Stanley Cup Final in which your favorite team had a chance to win it all?
I… don’t have an answer for that one. Well, not yet at least.
• Years ago, June 1 was a date when NFL teams dropped veterans for space reasons. But because the NFL instituted two cut designations after June 1 (allowing teams to make these types of cuts earlier in the offseason, giving players a chance to latch onto another team quickly), that date doesn’t have the same spiciness as it once did. Nevertheless, we are past June 1 on the calendar. Today is June 2. That means the cuts after June 1 that we were talking about in March can officially hit the books. More on that later. For now, you might want to refresh more NFL schedule notes here.
• Matt Eberflus presents himself as a coach-coach. He’s not shy about using technical terms when speaking with the media, has acronyms that find a way to reach his players and looks set to shake things up on the depth chart. So when I saw this nugget from Brad Biggs from the Tribune regarding single game odds for every Bears game this season, my eyebrows raised:
Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas has released lines for all 18 weeks of the NFL season.#Bear are favorites for two games – both at Soldier Field.
—Brad Biggs (@BradBiggs) June 1, 2022
• If Eberflus is as much of a trainer-coach as I think he is (which is based on the limited sample of exposure since he was hired), then Biggs’ tweet could ultimately become a rallying cry. Because if there’s one thing NFL players rally around without hesitation, it’s the opportunity to play underdogs. I would say the only people who like it the most are the coaches who can use it as a motivational tool. After all, who doesn’t love an underdog story?
• Josh Schrock (NBC Sports Chicago) dives into the start of Justin Fields’ deployment, we rip it the other day, going so far as to suggest that this stat could be a sign that a Year 2 jump from QB1 could be on the horizon. If that happens, then this underdog story will have a heckuva protagonist leading the charge with Fields running the show.
• Roquan Smith – member of NFL.com’s All-Paid Team of Tomorrow – is a key cog on the other side of the ball. Imagine the Bears establishing Fields as a cornerstone of the franchise on one side of the ball and Smith quarterbacking on defense. It would appear to be two solid pillars to build on for first-year GM Ryan Poles. But we still have a long way to go before we reach that point. Even still…if Fields and Smith are stars, then here’s a good chance the 2022 season will be a success.
• Tomorrow? Extending Smith is the one thing Maurice Moton (Bleacher Report) would like to see the Bears do sooner rather than later. There are no other obvious extension candidates. And because there’s no reason to spend money foolishly right now, the Bears shouldn’t be in a rush to do anything.
• Keep in mind that Smith is set to play the 2022 season on the fifth-year option of his rookie contract. Extending Smith would be ideal based on his production on the pitch. But I guess the alternative is to use the franchise tag as a bargaining chip. Last year, the tag paid linebackers $18.7 million, which is about what you’d expect Smith’s value to be. In other words, it’s not saving a ton of money by tagging it. But we don’t need to fall down that rabbit hole in June. However, after the Allen Robinson II expansion experience, we should be aware of all the future routes this thing may take.
• Mel Kiper is already talking big boards and the big QB run long before the 2023 NFL Draft:
Why I have Bryce Young right ahead of CJ Stroud in my new 2023 Big Board. pic.twitter.com/6NdpSzoaGi
— Mel Kiper Jr. (@MelKiperESPN) June 1, 2022
• Meanwhile, Jacob Infante (Windy City Gridiron) has his own big board. And here is what is remarkable
⇒ Only two quarterbacks (CJ Stroud of OSU, Bryce Young of Alabama) in the top 20.
⇒ Eleven defensive players in the top 20, including two point runners, two defensive linemen and five defensive backs. Matt Eberflus is probably rubbing his hands in anticipation, Birdman style.
⇒ Only three wide receivers in the top 20 and five in the top 32. Another class with a lot of talent, but there will be a drop at some point. Seeing Jaxon Smith-Njigba (Ohio State) among the top 5 prospects appeals to me, especially since there are already connections to the Bears via mock draft circles way too early.
⇒ Only three offensive tackles in this top 32 bother me. Surely others will make their presence felt and rise through the ranks. But I really hoped there would be more choices in this position.
Again, it’s far too early to lock most (if any) of these players into places. But it’s never too early to get an idea of who we should be watching this fall.
• Between incoming cap space and first-round pick next year, I feel like this year is more about player development than win-loss record. Find out what you have on the roster, see who can work their way into the long-term picture, then position yourself to attack free agency and the draft with vigor. For what it’s worth, my head tells me this might be the best course of action for this year. So while I understand people don’t want to hear that right now, the reality of the Bears’ situation keeps us in that mindset until further notice. Keep in mind, this is a team that didn’t have a first-round pick in last April’s draft and was handcuffed by nearly $60 million in player knockouts. who are no longer part of the team. So maybe there was some inevitability in the Bears taking this route. That doesn’t make it easy, but at least there’s a path that doesn’t involve trying to roll back something that clearly wasn’t working as well as we hoped.
• Christopher Morel is well on his way to becoming your favorite Cub’s favorite:
Christopher Morel just got away with it in the extra innings! – https://t.co/ira1qE7RtL pic.twitter.com/YxPZiR72rM
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) June 2, 2022
• The Bulls’ internal drama is probably thicker than a Snicker right now:
Bulls would be split on giving Zach LaVine the Maxhttps://t.co/4oAqKvyZgg pic.twitter.com/LtXWGOMVLW
— Bleacher Nation Bulls (@BN_Bulls) June 1, 2022
• Meanwhile, *OTHER* tenants of the United Center might be looking for items of value upfront:
Where could the Blackhawks find forward value in free agency?https://t.co/s4YXDKxxCC pic.twitter.com/sOw2ctXz2Q
— Bleacher Nation Blackhawks (@BN_Blackhawks) June 1, 2022