The Chicago Cubs may have ended their 108-year World Series drought, but that doesn’t mean all is well in the Windy City. This has been a miserable season for the 2-7 Chicago Bears. To learn more, we turned to SB Nation’s Windy City Gridiron, and a most-gracious Jeff Berckes answered our queries in this week’s “Five Questions” segment.
Ed: John Fox remains remembered fondly by Giants fan because of his success in NY as defensive coordinator. He has, obviously, been a successful head coach in Carolina and Denver, but things have not gone well in Chicago. Is he on thin ice, or is he going to be shown patience and given a chance to fix the Bears?
Jeff: I don't know. I don't think Bears fans were prepared for a top 5 draft pick in 2017 and that's where this ship is headed. It's a pretty big disappointment for a team that showed a lot of promise last year. There have been games where there just doesn't seem to be any real game plan and getting blown out on national television by the Eagles and Cowboys early on set the tone for the year. Getting beat by Indianapolis and Jacksonville in back to back weeks was excruciating. Most of the Windy City Gridiron staff would like to see him replaced at the end of the year. There are a lot of offensive-minded coaches being thrown around but I think that's a mistake. John Fox is the right kind of coach for this franchise but he may just be too tired to build another winner. His press conferences have seemed exceptionally petulant for such a respected coach. He seemingly had a spat with Cutler where he clearly lost the PR battle to the poster child for bad body language when Jay took the high road. I'm sure I'm either reading more into it then there is or there's something going on we don't know about, but it sure seems like Fox might just be finished with the grind.
Having said that, the Bears are in danger of getting into a Cleveland Browns-like vicious cycle of fire, hire, rebuild, repeat. If they want to move on from Fox in 2017, I hope they promote Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio or bring in a defensive minded coach like Matt Patricia who can use the pieces in place to build the next great Bears defense.
Ed: There were many who thought the guy the Giants really wanted in the draft was Leonard Floyd, and I would be one of them. Since you went and stole him give us an assessment of Floyd thus far. Is he going to be the impact pass rusher he was projected to be?
Jeff: Yeah, that was fascinating. For some context, two years ago the Bears stood still and watched Aaron Donald go one pick ahead of them to the seemingly stacked Rams defensive front. Last year, exact same thing happens with Leonard Williams going to the Jets one pick before Chicago. For a franchise that loves defense, that was absolutely brutal. The two players the Bears selected instead? Kyle Fuller and Kevin White are both currently on IR and are massive disappointments. So General Manager Ryan Pace gets aggressive and leapfrogs the Giants to get Floyd. Great right? A lot of Bears fans were pretty disappointed in the pick at the time because he's so rail thin and had a rather unimpressive collegiate resume.
After missing a couple games due to injury, Floyd has really showed off why the Bears went up and got him. He's recorded 5 sacks in 7 games and if he can duplicate that in the next 7 games, he'll have a double digit sack season. That'll be enough to net him "all-rookie" team honors and give him real momentum moving into next year. The hope would be the training staff can add 15 pounds to his frame to help him hold up against the run. But, working with Pernell McPhee and Willie Young, the Bears seemingly have an exciting set of rush linebackers in place for the next few seasons.
Ed: If you could take one player NOT NAMED ODELL BECKHAM off the Giants' roster and put him in Chicago's lineup who would it be? Why?
Jeff: The Giants went out and spent all the money in Free Agency this year on the defense and blocked Chicago out of the Janoris Jenkins sweepstakes. Given team needs, that's probably the smart pick as Chicago has struggled to stay healthy at corner this season. However, I'm going to make the more fun pick and say Damon "Snacks" Harrison. They just don't make many humans that size and I really like his ability in the run game. There are just certain guys who would seem to look like they'd fit in the Navy and Orange and Snacks is that guy for me on the Giants' squad.
Ed: Who are a couple of under-the-radar players for the Bears that Giants' fans should be aware of on Sunday?
Jeff: I think at this point, every player is under the radar for this team. There have been moments this season where I don't know what cornerback just got beat or who just returned that punt for 2 yards. It's been a tough year. Nevertheless, on offense, look for Cameron Meredith to step in for the suspended Alshon Jeffery. He has continued to improve and is a real unexpected bright spot on the offensive side of the ball. On defense, there is some real talent in the front 7. Obviously, you know about Floyd, but Pernell McPhee is an angry guy and leads a unit with some ability including second year nose tackle Eddie Goldman. He's been fighting his way back from an ankle injury but is a building block of this defense.
Ed: Where do you see advantages for the Bears on Sunday? Where do you see advantages for the Giants?
Jeff: It is extremely difficult to be positive this season but I'll give it a go. If things are going well for the Bears, it will be because they were able to establish Jordan Howard early and utilize a lot of rolling pockets for Cutler to hit Eddie Royal and Zach Miller on crossing routes. If things are going well on the other side of the ball, it is because the Giants will have a tough time establishing the run, allowing Leonard Floyd, Pernell McPhee, and Willie Young to get after Eli and hopefully force fumbles that the Bears scoop and score. Otherwise, I think all of the advantages are for the Giants. This Bears team simply isn't mentally strong and if Eli gets time and can connect with his receivers early, it will break their will. The Bears don't have the talent to match up with the Giants secondary with Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White out of the game.