LAKE FOREST, Ill. — The injury report is long and the optimism is low. Here are 10 Bears “things” to help you get you through your week:
1. Jay Cutler is a fast healer, but it would be shocking to see him play Sunday night in Dallas. Remember, he surprised everybody by only missing one game last year when he suffered a hamstring strain, but the quarterback did not practice Wednesday and still has his right thumb immobilized.
So, with that, let’s turn our attention to Brian Hoyer, who is an above average backup. He has a good amount of starting experience (23 starts in the last two seasons) and actually posted a 91.7 passer rating in nine starts with the Houston Texans last year. That’s just a tad lower than Cutler’s 92.3 passer rating from 2015. That said, Hoyer’s four interceptions in the Texans’ playoff loss to the Chiefs was a reminder that he’s not the guy you want as your full-time starter, which is why the Texans let him go and no other teams signed him to be their starter.
Podcast — Intentional Grounding, Episode 50: Week 3 Bears Preview Show
But again, there are much worse options for a spot start (we’ll see if that’s what this is) and Hoyer should allow Dowell Loggains to keep the playbook open, unlike when Jimmy Clausen filled in for Cutler in Week 3 last year. That’s when former offensive coordinator Adam Gase handed the ball off 24 times, kept all the routes to 15 yards or less and quickly got everybody out of Seattle alive in a 26-0 loss.
Naturally, Hoyer and Loggains will spend a lot of time together this week and come up with a game plan that the quarterback feels comfortable with.
“I do that when I’m not starting,” Hoyer said. “You want to have that comfort level. I want him to know what plays I like, what plays I’m not so familiar with. I’ve done that the past two weeks.”
2. This week of practice will be very important for Hoyer because he hasn’t spent very much time working with the rest of the starters. In particular, he admitted that his chemistry with No. 1 wideout Alshon Jeffery is not where it needs to be.
“Yeah, not there yet, because really these are the first reps that I’ve taken with Alshon, whether it’s one-on-ones, anything, really he’s been solely with Jay,” Hoyer said. “The thing that I’ve noticed from watching those two work is you just put it in the guy’s vicinity. His range of motion is so big, he’s a big body guy who uses his strength, so I’ve been able to watch that and now I get a chance to go out and do it.”
This, of course, is assuming Jeffery is healthy enough to play Sunday. The wide receiver was limited in practice Wednesday because of a knee injury.
3. We might as well get all of the injuries out of the way here. One day after saying there “wasn’t much to update,” head coach John Fox admitted: “The injury report, it’s fairly extensive.”
Did not practice:
S Adrian Amos – concussion
CB Bryce Callahan – concussion
RB Ka’Deem Carey – hamstring
QB Jay Cutler – right thumb
DL Eddie Goldman – ankle
OLB Lamarr Houston – knee
ILB Danny Trevathan – thumb
S Chris Prosinski – calf
Limited in practice:
CB Kyle Fuller – knee
WR Alshon Jeffery – Knee
RT Bobby Massie – toe
CB Sherrick McManis – wrist
CB Tracy Porter – knee
LG Josh Sitton – shoulder
4. Keep in mind: Lamarr Houston has a confirmed torn ACL and there will be a corresponding roster move by the end of the week. There were some questions Wednesday about “emergency quarterbacks” and whether or not Fox would go into the weekend with one active quarterback, but Matt Barkley will likely be elevated to the 53-man roster by Sunday to serve as Hoyer’s backup.
5. Losing nose tackle Eddie Goldman for any period time is a huge blow to the defense. You could even argue it’s just as big as losing Cutler on offense. Goldman was off to a great start in the first two games and he’s a big reason why inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman has been flying around. When the nose tackle is preventing blockers from getting to the second level, it pays off big time for the backers to run free.
In the meantime, Fox said all the right things about backup nose tackle Will Sutton: “I’ve seen tremendous growth in the time I’ve been here. He’s got a good football IQ, likes to play the game, is a good teammate, he’s got a low center of gravity, he’s got good quickness and explosion.”
That’s nice, but…
“He wasn’t active in the first two games,” Fox said. “We’ll see what happens. But there’s an opportunity or a chance to be active this time.”
Actually, Sutton was active against the Eagles. He played 19 snaps. It’s not a good sign if the head coach doesn’t even remember that.
6. Right guard Kyle Long was very critical of his play in Week 2.
“There was a ton that I could have done better,” he said. “I mean, I got beat multiple times. I beat myself multiple times.”
That includes on Cutler’s crucial fumble, when Long was blocking defensive tackle Destiny Vaeao, but lost his footing, which allowed Vaeao to get to the quarterback.
But it wasn’t all bad across the offensive line.
“Cody (Whitehair) was great. Cody and Josh (Sitton) played really well. I got to hold up my end of the bargain too,” Long said.
7. Many, including myself, thought Cowboys rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott was just too good of a talent for the Bears to pass on if he somehow fell to them at No. 11 in the NFL Draft. Well, Fox essentially confirmed as much Wednesday.
“(Running backs coach) Stan Drayton coached him and recruited him (at Ohio State) so he had good insights as to what he was all about,” Fox said. “I know we wouldn’t have been afraid to draft him.”
The Cowboys drafted Elliott with the fourth overall pick in April.
8. Fox’s decision to try to ice Eagles kicker Caleb Sturgis at the end of the first half backfired, but he didn’t back down from that call when asked about it Wednesday.
“It’s like every call. When it works, it’s a great call. When it doesn’t work, it’s not so great,” he said.
Personally, I hate the idea of “icing” a kicker at the NFL level, where they’re all so dialed in. Usually the kicker is rushing out onto the field and I don’t see how giving them more time to line up the kick, inspect the field conditions, analyze the wind, etc., is a good idea.
And it’s especially bad when the kicker is allowed to get off a practice kick as the whistle is being blown. On Monday, Sturgis missed his attempt as the refs were blowing the play dead, but then got a second chance and drilled the 53-yarder to give his team the lead for good.
“Really the timeout was made a lot earlier,” Fox argued. “Our side judge in that instance was a little slow getting his whistle out.”
9. Kick returner Deonte Thompson admitted there was some miscommunication when he decided to take a kickoff out of the end zone with 2:27 left in the second quarter. He said he’s still getting a feel for the return decisions with the new touchback rule that gives the offense the ball at the 25-yard-line.
“It was kind of iffy, should we bring it (out) or should we not bring it out? We’re all getting a feel for it, man,” Thompson said. “We feel like we’re a unit that can make plays and we want to be aggressive with the ball, but we also need to be smart. Can’t put our offense in a bad situation.”
In that case, the offense was put in a bad situation as Thompson only got the ball to the 14-yard-line. That gave the offense a long field, which contributed to the Eagles getting the ball back to tack on the Sturgis go-ahead field goal before halftime.
Special teams coach Jeff Rodgers pointed out that cornerback Bryce Callahan was actually giving Thompson the stop sign on the return and added: “I think (Thompson) would like to have that decision back.”
10. Referee Craig Wrolstad has been assigned to Sunday night’s game between the Bears and Cowboys in Dallas. The familiar NBC Sunday night broadcast team consisting of Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth will have the call.