All posts by Caleb Benoit

Episode 34: 2015 Season Review & Look AheadWith

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With the AFC and NFC Championship games in the rearview mirror and the Super Bowl on tap next week, Jordan and I discuss what’s happened since the end of the regular season and what’s to come during the offseason.

Up for discussion:

  • The Bears’ connection to the Super Bowl
  • Adam Gase‘s exit to Miami (who is Dowell Loggains?)
  • The contract situations of Matt Forte and Alshon Jeffery
  • Brian Urlacher‘s hair
  • The surprisingly adequate play of the OL (including Matt Slauson)
  • Kyle Long headed to the Pro Bowl
  • Early look at the 2016 NFL Draft

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Will Kevin White Be Larry Fitzgerald or David Terrell?

How good will Kevin White be?

The seventh-overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft has been compared to Larry Fitzgerald, one of the best of his generation. But Bears fans remember the last time the team used a top-10 pick on a WR: David Terrell came to Chicago and accomplished in a career what should have been done in a single season.

So which one will White be? There’s no way of knowing, but I’ve attempted to find the range of possibilities.

I used Pro Football Reference to run a report giving me all the WRs drafted in the top 10 over the last 20 years. I then sorted the WRs by weighted career approximate value (more details on that stat here) and cleaned up the report in a spreadsheet (here) before exporting the results into this graph:

(Interactive version of this chart here.)

First, a couple caveats:

  • Using the top 10 (instead of, say, the top 15 or the entire first round) is an arbitrary endpoint used just to make the results a little easier to digest. Extending it to include the entire first round would likely result in a stronger study and include players like Reggie Wayne, Randy Moss and … Rae Carruth, who is now a prison janitor.
  • I left active players like A.J. GreenJulio Jones and Sammy Watkins on this list. Obviously, their careers are not over.

So can we learn anything from this list? Probably not, but it’s plenty entertaining.

As you’d expect, history tells us the range of possibilities is wide. At the top are superstar players, a few of whom could end up in the Hall of Fame: Torry Holt was a semifinalist this year, two of Andre Johnson‘s top comparables are HOFers, Fitzgerald will have a case and Calvin Johnson is off to a great start.

At the bottom are guys who flamed out for a variety of reasons. Revisionist history noted, you could easily argue several of them should have never been top 10 picks: Red flags surrounded guys like Charles Rogers and Justin Blackmon before they were drafted. And we should probably just ignore everything the Lions did in the first decade of the century. (ex. Rogers, Mike Williams).

Others, though, just never panned out. Troy Williams caught just four TDs in five seasons and is now making sandwiches. Terrell did little in four years in Chicago and blames his quarterbacks. Tavon Austin, a West Virginia product like White, is just two seasons in but hasn’t been a game-changer at all.

Then in the middle you have an interested mix of players who 1) clearly had first-round talent (Braylon Edwards, David Boston) and couldn’t sustain their production or 2) were probably overrated to begin with (Ted Ginn, Peter Warrick).

So where does this leave us with White? Who knows. First-round picks are high beta. As you can see in the chart, the ceiling is high and the floor is way down there.

Let’s hope he’s Fitzgerald and cross our fingers he isn’t Terrell.

Episode 23: Sam Acho Interview & NFL Draft Recap

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There are just two players on the Bears’ roster who played outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense last year, and Sam Acho is one of them.

Sam took some time for an interview with BearsPodcast and explained how he was already quite familiar with his new defensive coordinator, Vic Fangio, before signing with the Bears. Sam also discussed how he has been able to make a successful transition from a 4-3 defensive end to 3-4 outside linebacker and dropped some truth on what it’s like to follow the NFL Draft as a veteran player.

Jordan and I also discussed each of the Bears’ picks from this year’s draft and announced the winner of our recent Bears snapback hat giveaway.

If you weren’t a part of this giveaway, here’s what you missed:

And if you missed it, don’t worry. We’ll do another giveaway soon.

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Episode 22: 2015 NFL Draft Preview — Lance Poirrier, Da Bears Beat

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This year’s NFL Draft Preview is our longest podcast yet. The focus is almost solely on the Bears, and Jordan and I debate the Bears’ biggest needs. We discuss which players the Bears should be targeting, which players they should pass on and which players we hope will fall to their pick in round two.

We’re also happy to help a new guest, Lance Poirrier of Da Bears Beat.  Lance follows the NFL Draft as closely as anyone, and you can follow him on Twitter here.

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Bears Training Camp Start Announced

We now know when the Bears will be in Bourbonnais.

The Chicago Bears announced today that this their Training Camp practice will be held on Thursday, July 30 — for the 14th straight year at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Ill.

Coaches and players will arrive earlier that week. A complete practice schedule will be released at a later date.

The full NFL regular-season schedule is set to be released Tuesday.

Goodbye, Peanut, and Good Luck

Few Chicago Bears have been as reliable as Charles Tillman. And in recent years, none have been more respected.

But with new decision makers at Halas Hall and Tillman, now 34 years old, coming off two injury-shortened seasons and at the end of his contract, the bittersweet divorce wasn’t difficult to forecast. This week, Tillman signed a one-year deal with the Carolina Panthers and closed the book on his 12-year career in Chicago.

But that doesn’t mean Bears fans should stop cheering for Peanut. The Bears weren’t going to pay him the $3 million he’s getting now, and he’s said all along he planned on playing 2015. Now, he’s joining a team that not only has some familiar faces in head coach Ron Rivera and tight end Greg Olsen, but has also made the playoffs in each of the last two seasons.

Still, it won’t be easy seeing Peanut in a Panthers uniform, not after he’s played every one of his 156 NFL games for the Bears. His mix of performance (42 forced fumbles, 9 defensive TDs) and professionalism made him a favorite of fans, teammates, local reporters and even opponents:

Tillman introduced himself on Friday to the Carolina media, a group he’ll win over, too. The talent and intelligence will help, but it was always his uncommon mix of candor and humor that the Chicago media most appreciated.

Assuming he’s healthy, he should have no problem fitting in on the field, either. He said he’s not aiming for a starting role, but it’s easy to picture him lining up across from the NFC South’s tallest wide receivers, guys like Mike Evans and Julio Jones.

Of course, he needs to prove he’s up to the task, and let’s hope he is. Tillman was a consummate pro in Chicago, and he really had nothing left to prove there. Other than kicker Robbie Gould, he was the last player remaining from the Bears’ 2006 team that went all the way to the Super Bowl.

If Carolina makes the playoffs and doesn’t cross paths with the Bears, why not cheer for a guy like Tillman to win a championship?

I know I will be.

Bears Announce 2015 Preseason Schedule

The Chicago Bears’ preseason opponents for the coming season have been announced, and they include two teams that made the playoffs last year.

The preseason schedule looks like this:

  • vs. Miami Dolphins – Aug. 13-17
  • at Indianapolis Colts* – Aug. 20-24
  • at Cincinnati Bengals* – Aug. 27-30
  • vs. Cleveland Browns – Sept. 3-4

*made the playoffs in 2014

Exact dates and game times will be released at a later date, according to the Bears’ site.

Of course, preseason W-L records have no predictive value, but the exhibition games give us the first real glimpse of how a player might perform during the regular season — if he makes the team.