Bears set to take temperature on Monday night

The Bears are 0-1 and heading into a contest with the Eagles that is, in some ways, a reality check for both teams.  Philadelphia beat up on a Browns team that is in an amorphous state; the Bears seemingly tempted fate before the bottom fell out in the second half.  Who is legit?  Who is not?  Are either of these teams worth a damn?

Let’s take a crack at the Eagles and see what there is to see.

QB Carson Wentz is apparently polishing his Canton bust after one NFL game via a 22/37 237 2TD performance that featured no interceptions, the apparent veteran savvy to accurately call a line check, and induce a penalty via a hard count.  It wasn’t perfect – there were problems with holding onto the ball too long and taking unnecessary hits, but these are minor for what was an otherwise impressive first start.

Wentz has been studiously grinding the playbook and NFL-caliber attributes into his game with fellow quarterback Chase Daniel, who has become a mentor of sorts to the second overall pick.  There’s numerous 5:30am film sessions, intense practices, and the preparation for this potential star is apparently second to none.  I respect that.

Eagles coach Doug Pederson endured tons of criticism from fans after his hire smacked of a move that stank of an also-ran organization, but in his debut he negotiated a quality gameplan that left the Browns in the dust.

For a moment, though, let’s zoom out on the Eagles’ win and put it in perspective.

It came against the Cleveland Browns, a team that’s on it’s 4th head coach and 4th GM (or technically currently a “head of football operations) since 2010.  The Browns are beyond being in what would traditionally be called a rebuild.  Essentially the organization has reduced the team to soil and is hoping the sludge they’re pouring this year will serve as a foundation for a house that hasn’t been built yet.

To carry that metaphor over to the Bears, they are more like a very old house that got blown down in a tornado two years ago, but from the looks of it, they’re doing a decent job putting the ol’ HQ back together with some solid materials.

TL;DR, the Browns aren’t quite an NFL caliber football team, and any team that beats them shouldn’t really quantify it as much of a proud win.

—————

The Bears aren’t 100% there, however.  Any honest fan would recognize that the Bears offensive line is going to struggle for a few weeks, as they’re completely lacking any offseason/training camp/preseason time to meld with Whitehair at center and Sitton at left guard.  There’s a long way to go for this group, but enduring a week one in the frying pan of Watt, Clowney, and Wilfork for 3-ish quarters before collapsing was relatively noteworthy.  The wheels fell off in the 4th quarter, but there were certainly flashes of competence there.

There’s some great quality analysis out there of how Cody Whitehair’s mistakes were fixable and his adaptability & resolve were sound for a rookie thrown into the fire.  First rounder Leonard Floyd met the apparently low expectations of defensive guru Vic Fangio.  Kevin White’s faux-rookie debut was something of a disaster.

Yet for all of the flaws and ungreased machinery in the Bears offense, there’s reasons for optimism:

  • QB Jay Cutler owns a 10-5 Monday Night Football record, with a sparkling 26-11 touchdown-to-interception ratio and a 93.4 QB rating.
  • The Bears were 1-7 at Soldier Field last year and I’m sure Fox has instilled a major belief that with this rejuvenated defense and healthy offense, there’s no excuses left to perform so poorly on your home field.
  • The Eagles offensive line is shaky.  Against a Browns team composed of dead guys, they were less than sharp.  The Bears front 7 barely touched Osweiler in an embarrassing and disappointing game, and they know they’re capable of more.  Look for some more variety from Vic Fangio’s crew Monday night.
There’s a lot riding on this game for the Bears, far more so than for the Eagles.  Come kickoff, the Bears may find themselves 2 games behind the winner of Vikings/Packers and Lions and in a disappointing early-season hole.  The matchup is fairly even on both sides, and will serve as a quality thermometer for each team’s NFL caliber.
Hopefully like the Bears defense on 3rd downs come Monday, I’m going to get off the field here.

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