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Saturday, August 31, 2013

A New Challenger Approaches! (It's Tom Musick)

For a long time now, it's been pretty obvious how my usual media targets break out. Hub is sensationalist and needlessly critical. Bernstein cares more about snark than content, and it backs him into corners. Morrissey is just an asshole.

And then there's Telander. Everyone else's ridiculous assertions and criticisms are generally gross overreactions, but they at least have their origin in something real. Telander just kind of picks the least sensible direction and charges at it drunkenly.

For that reason, Telander has long been "the Stupid One" for me. After so many years of great coverage, after so many years of watching this team he loves struggle and suffer and fail, he just turned his brain off when it came to anything after 1985.

But now, a new darkness is spreading. I've already done one article from Tom Musick about something that was just ass-flappingly stupid. And I thought "Y'know it's training camp. It's dumb, but the guy has to write about something. He did it poorly, but he had to do it."

Not true. This is clearly going to be an ongoing thing. Because this baffling collection of phrases, entitled "Trestman's 'Great Value' Promise Checks Out," exists.

In accordance with the Old Ways, Tom's statements will be in italics.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Brandon Marshall Saga: Your Media Coverage is Bad, and You Should Feel Bad

Earlier this week, Brandon Marshall made a somewhat unprompted remark about how he's still not feeling 100% after his offseason hip surgery. He said he's still searching for his place in this new offense, and that he feels like he's not where he wants to be, nor is he where the team wants him to be, with his recovery.

Shortly thereafter, he was "given four days off for personal reasons." The news media, not just the Chicago crowd but everyone, immediately lost their shit. That is not a phrase to be thrown around lightly in this context, people were legitimately saying that Brandon was on the verge of relapsing to his old ways. Multiple arrests, assaulting police officers, beating up people in nightclubs... everyone was already boarding the "team cancer" train.

The most heinous offender, at least in my mind, was CBS Chicago's own Dan Bernstein, who pushed out a real pipe-clogger called "Needy Marshall Makes Himself the Story." My initial plan was to fisk that column, as I have so often in the past. But Dan, though the worst of the bunch, is far from the only one who went down that road. And they all deserve every bit of ridicule they receive for this.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Opinionating: Ten Thoughts on the Bears and Beyond

Welcome to this week's installment of Opinionating, where I use my inflated sense of my own self-worth to share my musings on the Bears assuming you care.

1) Brandon Marshall will be fine.  There was some fuss today from the media because Marshall made some cryptic comments about feeling rushed in his recovery from surgery and his hip not being 100%, and Trestman made a seemingly innocuous but mildly concerning comment about Marshall putting up big numbers "if he plays all 16 games." I have to say I'm not worried. I cannot possibly imagine the Bears putting Marshall into two preseason games and then having him unable to compete in the regular season because of his recovery isn't complete. If that's the case, the entire training staff should be fired. Either way, I'd expect Brandon to tough it out considering he had an All-Pro type year with the hip injury that required the surgery, anyway.

2)Moon Mullin is insane, and apparently has the memory of a house fly. Mullin was one of the main pot-stirrers this morning, writing this piece of crap about Marshall's comments. I don't even think the bullshit comes from him writing about Marshall's injury comments, which were admittedly odd and seemingly out of the blue, but from him overreacting to Marshall saying he's still finding his place in the offense. Mullin states that Marshall may be worried about being passed up by Jeffery, and uses Jeffery getting twice as many targets in one half of preseason football as Marshall as evidence. This just a week after Mullin, I shit you not, was one of the chorus of reactionaries criticizing Jay for targeting Marshall too much. The Chicago media can't go one fucking PRESEASON GAME without sticking their own heads up their asses just to argue with their colons about what they want to shit out on their next column.

Brandon Marshall has played in four different offenses in his NFL career, and he's never had less than 1000 yds in any of those seasons. I think he can handle whatever role he's given.

3) I think Marquess Wilson will not only make the roster, but could work his way into a 50/50 timeshare with Earl Bennett as the third wide receiver well before the midpoint of the season. This isn't an overreaction to a couple of nice preseason catches so much as affirmation that the talent he put on display at Washington State has rightfully overrode any concerns about his personality that dropped him to the seventh round. Also, sadly, if Earl even makes it to the midpoint of the season healthy I'll be amazed.

4)I don't know how I'll ever get over the Bears cutting Matt Blanchard. He was their best backup QB prospect since Caleb Hanie.

5)He's been forgotten in all the buzz about Long and Mills and even Bushrod (who plays the "glamor" spot of the OL), but Matt Slauson looks like a fantastic pick-up. We'll see how the season shakes out, but if he can repeat the solid performance he put up as a Jet last year I think an extension for him would be high on Phil's list, with the rest of the OL (assuming Mills and Long stay starters) under contract for the next few years.

6)Lance Louis was released today. That's a fact, not an opinion, but it's worth mentioning. I am glad that Phil decided not to trust the guard spot to a guy with one working leg, even though many at the time were quite upset to lose the best Bears offensive lineman from the past several years. Louis has always had issues with injuries, though, so it'll be interesting to see if anyone takes another chance on a one-dimensional, injury prone guard.

7)Also, the Louis news has me thinking that Jeff Ireland may be taking the Jerry Angelo approach to building around a franchise QB. Build an offensive line out of washed up veterans and a second year tackle who sucked on the right side as a rookie but will somehow play better at left tackle because "it's his natural position." I'll admit to thinking Tannehill would be a bust, when it turns out the kid can probably play, but he's going to have a hard time developing behind that protection.

8)I still feel really, really bad about Kevin Kolb. Robert Mays of Grantland said that Kolb's issue was an inability to avoid hits, which, even if true (and I don't believe it is. Kolb was sliding after a scramble when he took a knee to the back of his head. How the hell could he have avoided that?), seems unnecessarily cruel. Let's blame a guy who may suffer from a debilitating brain injury for the rest of his life for the death of his career while its body is still warm. I'd really like to put Mays behind last year's Cardinals offensive line to demonstrate the proper way to avoid a hit in that situation. You'd have a better chance of avoiding a hit if you ratted on Aaron Hernandez than playing behind that line (Last Hernandez joke I'll ever make. I swear. Unless you thought it was funny).

9) I love Mike Leach way more than I should, and his reaction to Jeff Tuel (his QB last year at Washington State) starting week one was classic.

10) I am terribly sad that no one in all of this quarterback insanity has signed JaMarcus Russell. Come on, that would be hysterical, and you know it. Nobody in the NFL knows the value of losing in hilarious fashion, except Rex Ryan. Clearly. Pull the trigger, Rex. JaMarcus is the way.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Jay Cutler Myth, and Why it Doesn't Matter

Loyal listeners of our podcast will know that, after the Bears' final game last year, and after we knew they would not make the playoffs, I made a bet with Erik that I would accept Jay as the quarterback of the Bears' future if the Ravens won the Super Bowl.

This may seem like an arbitrary bet, but it was nothing of the sort. Last year's Ravens were eerily identical to the Bears, and in fact I could make a case that those Ravens were worse than the Bears. Ray Rice and Matt Forte are equivalent, the Bear defense was significantly better at every position than Baltimore and had a similarly legendary MLB who was failing to produce much of anything. The Bears had a better receiving corps (sans the walking disaster we codename Kellen Davis (also, as an aside, Anquan Boldin was not great last year. He caught on during the playoffs, but his regular season was less than mediocre)). In fact, the only real difference was that the Bear offensive line was worse.

You may have noticed I intentionally glossed over the most obvious comparison: quarterback. If you will remember, before the Ravens won the Super Bowl, it was largely accepted that they would never be able to win the big one so long as Joe Flacco was their quarterback. In my mind, if the Ravens won a Super Bowl with Flacco it would prove the Bears could win one with Jay. Why? Well, let's look at the stats:

QB1 Average season: 230ypg, 136 TDs, 100 INTs, 7.2 Y/A, 60.8% completion percentage.
QB2 Average season: 220ypg, 102 TDs, 56 INTs, 7.1 Y/A, 60.5% completion percentage.

Thoase are the career averages for Cutler and Flacco. QB1 is Jay, but really, it shouldn't matter which is which, those stats are nearly identical. Give Flacco two more years to accrue TDs and INTs and he'll end up very near Cutler's grand total, with slightly more TDs and slightly fewer INTs (but of course he has had much, much better receivers over his career). These two are practically the same person.

So what am I saying? Well, first, this Bear team can win a Super Bowl with Jay at the helm. For all the flak Jay takes, and admittedly I have given a lot of it, he is the best QB in Bear history, and it isn't really close. The two most important stats for a QB are not TDs and INTs, they are Yards per Attempt and Completion Percentage, and Jay is above average over his career in both categories. I like Jay as the Bears' quarterback.

I started this article with nice things about Jay to prove to ESPN Chicago that, yes, it IS possible, and now that you understand I am approaching this with goodwill, I ask that you give me some time to sound like I am criticizing Jay. I promise my point here is not meant to be negative towards our quarterback, but instead to dispell a nagging belief many Bear fans hold that simply will not hold true: that we do not know who Jay Cutler is or who he can be.

Scroll back up to that QB1 career stat line. Now compare those stats to these stats:

58.8% completion percentage, 6.6 YPA
63.6% completion percentage, 7.6 YPA

Those are the two worst instances over a season in which Jay has played at least 15 games, and the two best. In fact, if you remove the worst and best season for each from Jay's 7 years, just the one outlier on either end, you get something even more beholden to the point I will make:

60.4% completion percentage, 7.0 YPA
62.3% completion percentage, 7.5 YPA

Eerily similar, yes? Jay has played 5 15 or 16 game seasons and they are nearly identical. His two years in Denver have an inflated completion percentage because of the offense they ran (which, by the way, is indeed more similar to the offense the Bears will run this year than any of the offenses he has run in Chicago), but his YPA have largely floated between 7 and 7.5, his completion % hovers around 60%, and his TD and INT percentages also hold to within 1% of eachother over his whole career. This is not the career path of a confusing quarterback. It is not the career path of a quarterback ready for a breakout year. It is the career path for a consistently slightly above-average quarterback.

It may seem, watching Jay game to game, that he IS inconsistent. Some games he seems to be locked in like Drew Brees, other games he looks like Jonathan Quinn. But his inconsistency is, humorously, incredibly consistent. Let's take his last 2 full seasons. Last year Jay had 8 games with a QB rating of over 80 and 8 games with a QB rating under 80. Three seasons ago Jay had 9 games with a QB rating over 80 and 7 games with a QB rating under 80. Certainly, some of those games varied wildly, but his rating for his career has evened out at an 84. That is practically the definition of a slightly above-average QB (and QB rating is not a perfect measure by any means, but combined with everything else, it adds to the proof).

The point I am making here, and what I want our readers to understand, is twofold: Jay will not have a breakout year this year, but he won't be bad either. Jay will be the same quarterback he has always been. His inconsistencies in game, ironically, make up the greater whole of Jay Cutler that is actually an incredibly consistent quarterback.

But that is not a bad thing. Remember Joe Flacco. Go look back at that QB2 line. That QB just won a Super Bowl last year with a worse defense and a worse supporting cast. His career line? It's worse. So this year, when you're sitting through a game where Jay has thrown three picks and all hope seems lost, remember that Jay is consistent in his inconsistencies. Remember that the game with the 130 QB rating will come soon to even it out. Remember that Joe Flacco is just as consistently inconsistent as Jay. And now he has a Super Bowl ring.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

SKOdCast Episode 14: The One Where Iggins! Craps Himself (That is not a Metaphor) is Now Up!

Listen as we all get way too excited about the Bears offensive line and the rest of the offense, discuss Phil Emery's offseason, the potential last days of the J'Marcus Webb Era, the sad career of Kevin Kolb, and a double whammy God Dammit Bears Fans (featuring Ditka, of course). Also, Iggins! has to leave mid-cast with the shits.

Episode 14 of the SKOdCast Live at 6:15

Follow along live as we discuss developments in the last two preseason games, roster cuts, Goddammit Bears Fans, and more.


Saturday, August 24, 2013


Tomorrow the columns will come. Oh lawd, will they come. They will smarm and snicker, they will laugh at you for having the unmitigated GALL for getting excited based on the Bears starters putting on a clinic on both sides of the ball. "Tis the preseason!" they will shout. "'Tis the woeful Raiders!" they will cry. They will do this while ignoring that they spent the last week making comments about Cutler favoring Brandon Marshall too much or claiming his interception is proof he won't make the reads necessary to fit Trestman's offense, because the preseason only matters when they say it does.

The truth is this: there's probably not too much we saw tonight that we can use to predict regular season performance. Even garbage teams (and my God, these Raiders are terrible) will rarely roll over for 27 points in the first half. That said, it's worth noting that the Bears offenses of previous seasons have rarely blown anyone away even in the exhibition slate, and the offensive line especially has struggled to keep Jay upright even against some rather lackluster competition. They did both tonight, and dammit, let no one begrudge you of your right to feel modestly optimistic that maybe the offense won't suck eggs for once.

To the breakdown:

The Good:

The Offensive Line: Jay dropped back 21 times and was never sacked. The only time he was even touched came on a bad snap, and they committed just one penalty. Forte and Bush rushed for a combined 13 rushes for 97 YDs and 2 TDs in the first half, which averages out to 7.5 yards per rush, and 4.8 yards per rush if you're using the Hub Arkush metric and automatically discounting the longest run of the game because it gets in the way of your argument. I don't know if Kyle Long was as dominant as he was last week, but he and Mills were both mostly flawless in pass protection and the Bears gained positive yards almost every time they ran to their side. It seems like the kids will be there on opening day, so it's good to see that they at least seem to be something other than awful.

The Defense: Matt Flynn is terrible and I will maintain that opinion to the grave, but it's still comforting to see the Bears hold a shit offense to just 3 pts (on a freaking massive kick from Sebastian Janikowski, nonetheless) and less than 100 yards of offense. In roughly twelve drives this preseason, the Bears starting defense has allowed just 3 points and forced five turnovers. Again, it's the preseason, but it's better than the alternative.

Jay Cutler: The statsheet will say he was 12/21, but he suffered six drops and missed on just three attempts. He was spot on all night, made great decisions, distributed the ball well, and for the first time all preseason worked in some deep balls and some intermediate throws. This will be his final action of the preseason, and he finished 22/34 (64.7%) for 236 yds (7.0 YPA), 2 TDs, 2 INTs, and an 80.0 rating. None of those numbers is particularly impressive, but they'd have been a lot better without the drops tonight and the pick against Carolina that came from Alshon's mistake. The first team offense under Cutler scored 41 points in 13 drives. If there's anything to take from those numbers, it's that if Jay can keep the completion % high and keep drives alive to allow the Bears to use Forte as often as possible, the team will score a lot of points.

Matt Forte: Make no mistake about it folks, for all of the talk about this being Jay's big year, and even though the Bears will undoubtedly throw the ball more than they ever have in the Cutler Era, the success of this offense still depends on Matt Forte. Trestman gets that. Tice tried to get it, but he wrongfully assumed that meant using Forte as the basis of a power offense. Trestman knows that you can run an offense through a runningback by throwing to him as well, and Forte showed what he can do on his 32 yard TD catch on a simple swing route. Charlie Garner caught 91 passes under Trestman in 2002. Forte should be licking his chops. Not to say that he'll be under-used as a runner, considering he's run it 14 times for 150 yds in the last two games.

Alshon Jeffery: I don't know if Jeffery will ever run anything that isn't a slant route all year long. He may not have to. It's working well so far, as he had 7 catches for 77 yards, almost all on slants. I just hope he can stay healthy, because he and Marshall can really be something special together.

The Bad:

Brandon Marshall: Not his night. No need to say anymore, he's roughly 950th on my list of concerns about the Bears offense, but yeah....couple of really bad drops. Oh well. Brandon Marshall is awesome.

Fendi Onobun: For anyone who misses Kellen Davis, Fendi seems more than willing to fill the role of athletic tight end who does everything but actually catch the goddamn ball. The sad thing is he might still make the roster, because the depth at tight end behind Marty B is....uninspiring. God damn you, Evan Rodriguez.

J'Marcus Webb: He didn't really play horribly, but another holding penalty was the last thing he needed with his roster spot as tenuous as it can be. For as much as I've been hard on the guy all offseason, he still has more upside than a guy like Jon Scott, but he's done himself no favors as far as convincing the coaching staff.

That's all for now. I won't be doing a recap next week, because the fourth preseason game is garbage, but I look forward to seeing you all in a few weeks when things actually matter. Hopefully we'll see a Bears offense that looks at least somewhat like the one we saw in the first half tonight. Either way, real football is near and there's a lot of reason to be excited. Go Bears.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Bits and Bites, Preseason Game 2

I apologize for the tardiness of this article, near as we are to the third game of the preseason. But I’ve been very busy this week and Kyle kept posting shit all the time. An orderly posting schedule is important to me, so I’ve left it this late.

Anyway, there were a lot of things to talk about concerning the Bears-Chargers game last week, and since the SKOdcast got moved we haven’t really talked about them much. I knew I’d find gold in the media reaction to the game, but when I got there I found something that I have never found before: there are too many stupid columns for me to do them all. Three stuck out in particular.

So I thought this was a good time to bring out an idea I had tossed around last year but never really moved on. There’s really one particular argument that irks me about any given story, and then I go back and make fun of the rest of it. But I figured I’d just take that one argument from those three columns and talk about it at greater length. Kyle must be rubbing off on me.

And so, without further ado, the first edition of Bits and Bites.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Does Cutler Target Marshall Too Much?

It's a common refrain among Bears fans, media, and the usual Cutler critics that Jay targets Brandon Marshall too much. This seems a pretty fair assessment when you consider that Marshall represented over 40% of the Bears targets last year, and 46% of their total passing yardage last year. Add in the fact that Jay targeted Marshall on all 5 of his passes in the second preseason game last week, and the fear remains that Phil Emery's big offseason addition of Martellus Bennett, or the continued development of Alshon Jeffery, is all for naught: Jay will continue to look Brandon's way on every play.

Is this true? Well, the overall numbers from 2012 certainly support this hypothesis, as I said above. I think the truth, however, isn't quite as bad as many people think.

 For one, when Brandon Marshall and Jay Cutler were together in Denver from 2007-2008, Jay attempted over 1083 passes, and completed 681 of them. Unfortunately, targeting data is unavailable from those years, but we do know that Marshall came down with 206 of those passes. That means Marshall accounted for roughly 30% of Jay's completions, a fairly standard number for a number one receiver, and well below the 41% of Bears completions that Marshall accounted for last year.

I can feel Iggins! eyes rolling as I've brought up the 2007-2008 Broncos again, but they're not really the crux of my argument. That was merely to establish that 30% of targets or total completions for a #1 receiver is a fairly healthy #. Consider that Tom Brady's top target last year, Wes Welker, got 27.5% of Brady's targets and 29% of Brady's completions in a much-more diverse offense than whatever the hell it was Mike Tice thought he was doing last year.

There are two things to consider when arguing that Jay targeted Brandon too much last year: injuries and incompetence, the former in terms of Earl Bennet and Alshon Jeffery, and the latter notably in the form of two individuals named Kellen Davis and Devin Hester. In the first two games last year when Jay had his entire depth chart to throw to (Marshall, Jeffery, Bennett, Hester, Forte, and Davis), Marshall accounted for 32% of Jay's targets and 34% of his completions. Slightly higher than their old numbers in Denver, but still reasonable.

In week three, Matt Forte was out with an injury, the first of the year for the offense, but Jay still distributed the ball fairly evenly, targeting Marshall on 11 of his 31 passes while targeting Jeffery on 7, Bennett, Hester, and Davis on 9 total, and Bush on 4.

Week four, however, is where the trouble started. Earl Bennett missed the game with an injury, and Jay targeted Hester and Davis with a combined eight passes, while targeting Marshall with eight as well. Marshall caught seven of his eight targets, while Hester and Davis caught 6/8. Balance was good, everyone was happy.

Over the next eight games, however, either Bennett or Jeffery (and sometimes both) were out of the lineup. In that time, with Hester and Davis now serving as two of Jay's top four targets, Marshall's target % shot all the way up 47.5%. The reason? Well my theory is that it had something to do with Davis catching a very mediocre 8 of 19 targets (42% catch rate, and I know you're thinking "holy shit, was it ever that high?") while Hester, who, to his credit, caught 13 of 20 balls, racked up just a mediocre 11 yards a catch in that span and had several absolutely brutal drops. Compared with the absolutely masterful performance of Marshall in that time period (he caught an absurd 63% of those targets while averaging 12.4 YPC, in case you needed me to remind you that Brandon Marshall is fucking awesome), it makes sense that Jay said "to hell with balance."  By the end of the season, the ineptitude of Hester and Davis led Jay to simply ignore them, as the two of them combined for just two targets in the last three games.

It's worth noting that Forte's % of Jay's targets remained pretty consistent throughout the season at about 12% (which is too damn low, but I think we all know Tice is to blame for that more than Jay), and that in the five games where Jay had all three of his top three wideouts, he targeted the Jeffery and Bennett duo (39%) just as often as he did Marshall (39%).

So does Jay target Marshall too much? It's hard to say that when it works so damn well. It's pretty clear that for the Bears to have a healthy passing game in 2013, however, he is going to have to spread the ball around. I don't think it's fundamentally against Jay's nature to do so. He did it quite well in Denver, and he was always pretty even-handed with all of his shitty receivers in the years before Marshall came to Chicago, so I think he's capable of it. I just think crucifying him based on last year seems a bit harsh, since he clearly started with good intentions and the stats show that he was more than willing to throw to people who weren't Kellen Davis and Devin Hester.

The key for balance in 2013, then, is not some fundamental change in Jay's approach, as some have suggested, so much as it is important that his other receivers stay healthy, his tight end maybe try catching more than one out of every three passes thrown his way, and Marc Trestman hopefully understanding that Matt Forte can do some beautiful things downfield if you let him try.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The SKOdCast is Temporarily Moving!

Hello folks. We will still have a SKOdCast this week but due to a change in my work schedule we'll be bringing you the truth at 6:15 PM SUNDAY night. We will see you then as we go crazy trying to cram in two weeks worth of preseason reactions into one podcast!

As always, you can find it here:

Opinionating: Ten Thoughts on the Bears and Beyond

You know I haven't written one of my long, stat-filled monologues lately, and it's because I've had a number of thoughts that seemed too incomplete for a full post but too irrelevant to mention or expound upon in the podcast, so I've kind of just held onto them. As an egotistical windbag, however, I think, in the tradition of talking heads like Peter King, I'll start a new semi-regular feature with my ten thoughts of the moment on the Bears and the rest of the NFL. Some of these have logic and reason to them, others do not. So here we go.

1. Jon Bostic would be my starter at MLB in week one whether DJ Williams was healthy or not. I'm not one to overrate a couple of big plays. A simple pick six and a massive hit aren't enough to blind me to Bostic's weaknesses in coverage and the fact that he overruns plays. That said, people who remember DJ Williams as some kind of good middle linebacker are remembering a myth. I realize he has name recognition and once led the league in the ridiculously overrated statistic of tackles, but he has generally played better in his career at OLB and has never been a consistent coverage guy in the middle. If we're picking between two guys who will rack up a bunch of tackles and occasionally get embarrassed in coverage, I'll take the kid who might develop into something.

2. It's early and it's guaranteed they will all struggle to some extent at some point, but if Long, Bostic, Mills, Jeffery, McClellin, and Frey all start or contribute heavily in their first and second years, Emery's first two draft classes would already put much of Angelo's last half-decade to shame. They don't even necessarily have to be that good, the mere fact that they're going to set foot on the field trumps Angelo's classes of non-entities like Jarron Gilbert, Michael Okwo, Dan Bazuin, and Juaquin Iglesias.

3. With Emery's willingness to change 4/5 starters on a bad offensive line in offseason, despite limited cap space, you start to question all of Angelo's "we like our guys" and "good offensive linemen are hard to find" excuses for his failure to do the same.

4. I think people who expect Jay to have that "breakout season" are somewhat mistaken. I think Jay will probably just look a lot more like that guy in Denver we thought we were getting. That's good with me. If Jay can just move the ball, he has two things in Matt Forte and an actual defense that he didn't have in Denver that I think can make all the difference.

5. I am starting to have serious doubts about the future of Earl Bennett's career. This saddens me greatly, but there are enough young guys in camp who have done something this offseason to make you wonder how long Earl's spot is guaranteed. Part of me wonders if they might put him on the PUP if his concussion lingers, and give Anderson or Wilson six weeks to impress them.

6. I still don't think EJ Manuel will be good in the NFL. I don't see why the Bills would bother with starting Kevin Kolb in front of him, anyway. There's enough talent on the Bills offense that I don't think they'd be throwing Manuel to the wolves. Might as well see what he can do.

7. I still think the Ravens win the AFC North. Much like people are overreacting to the Bears losing Urlacher, many of the players the Ravens lost weren't actually that good, and they've made some solid upgrades with less-notable names. Also, considering the alternative is expecting the Bengals to improve for a third straight year, I'm hesitant to pull the trigger there.

8. I can't predict the NFC South to save my ass. I could see any team in that damn division going 6-10 or 11-5. Except maybe Tampa. My faith in Josh Freeman isn't terribly high, largely because I think Greg Schiano hates him.For what it's worth, I hate Greg Schiano.

9. I'd be legitimately afraid of the young talent the Vikings are accumulating, were it not for the fact that Christian Ponder is their QB. You get the feeling they'll finally move on from that mistake right as Peterson's legs disintigrate and the change won't make any difference anymore.

10. He's a total ass, but I feel kind of bad for Philip Rivers. He's going to die this year. That team is garbage.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Bears 20, Chargers 7 (Because the Recaps Stop When the Starters Do)

Tonight the Bears first-team offense came in with a lot to prove, if you're Hub Arkush, and were otherwise playing in a meaningless game according to everyone sane. Nonetheless, they performed well, with a few rather glaring mistakes in the form of two sacks and a brutal INT. Despite those hiccups that ruined two drives, two other drives ended with touchdowns thanks to a combination of some excellent run-blocking and a Chargers defense courteous enough to leave Marshall single-covered on four of his five targets (guess which one was the interception!). Trestman decided to pull the starters on a high note, so their night ended after four drives.

On defense, turnovers are still the story, with the team generating eight of them so far this preseason along with four sacks. The usual caveat that the preseason means nothing aside, this still looks like a Lovie Smith defense.

Finally, the big story of the night was the two rookies on the right side of the offensive line, and they certainly impressed. I'll discuss this more in the breakdown, so onto the specifics:

The Good:

Kyle Long: Holy shit, this kid is strong. He'll make his fair share of mistakes this year, and his technique is raw, but you saw tonight why Emery believes in him so strongly: he's a goddamn animal. He was demolishing in both pass protection and the run game, and paved the way for much of the Bears success to his side of the field. He finished last week against Carolina with a +2.3 grade from Pro Football Focus and a nice spot at the top of the depth chart, tonight he showed everyone he's here to stay.

Jordan Mills: He wasn't as dominant as Long, and Long certainly seemed to be the greater contributor in the run game, but Mills held his own in pass protection, got some push in the run game, and made no mistakes. If he can repeat this performance next week he'll for sure be the guy in week one, and J'Marcus Webb should be very, very frightened.

Brandon Marshall: He missed last week, but his presence was impossible to ignore this week as he caught a pass to convert a 3rd down on the Bears second drive, then followed it up with a TD reception where he schooled an over-matched DB.

Matt Forte: He can still scoot. He got two great blocks from Jeffery and Bushrod to spring him on his 58 yard run, but he still gets credit for turning on the second gear and bolting away. As long as the offense starts with him, run or pass, good things will happen.

Jon Bostic: He's still making plays. He absolutely killed a man to break up a pass (and it probably should have been ruled a fumble), and he's done nothing to give anyone doubts about starting him week one. He got turned around on a touchdown pass again, but overall he's farther along than we could have expected. It was a good night for Phil Emery's 2013 draft class.

Marc Trestman: I assume we'll probably see a few attempts at going deep in game 3, or maybe he's saving those for the real deal, but so far I am pleased with the vanilla version of his offense. They led with the run tonight, moved the ball with bootlegs and controlled passes, and attacked all sides of the field. Still, I'd like to see them work in Martellus Bennett and Alshon Jeffery more next week.

The Bad:

That Interception: I'm not putting Jay entirely in the bad category, he was 4/5 and had a TD pass and a 98.3 rating (so far this preseason he's 10/13, so, ACCURACY ISSUES TOTALLY FIXED GUYS), and even though some have criticized him for over-targeting Marshall, he was right to do so on the four completions, because Marshall was single covered. On the interception, however, he overreacted to pressure and forced it into double coverage to Marshall. It was exactly the kind of thing you'd hope to see him avoid, considering he's supposed to have other guys he can look to when he's under pressure this year. Last week's INT wasn't on him, but this one was entirely his fault. He also held onto the ball too long on the second sack of the night, but it was 3rd and 18 so he didn't exactly screw anyone but himself by taking a sack instead of throwing it away. Play smarter, Jay.

That's really all I have in the negative column. I was pleased with tonight's performance, mostly because no one got hurt. The only real takeaway that matters is that Mills and Long did nothing to dissuade Trestman from giving them another week in the starting lineup. Wouldn't it just be the damnedest thing if the Bears drafted not one, but TWO competent linemen? Oh, what a fevered dream that is.

That's all for now. Go Bears.

The Entire Start Kyle Orton Offseason, in One Convenient Place!

First of all, I want to remind everyone that we'll be in the Shoutbox tonight during the game, so feel free to drop in and overreact to a meaningless game with us. 

Second of all, it occurred to me that many of you may have been watching the Blackhawks and doing things with your lives after the end of last season, and may have missed many of our reactions and takes on the various Bears topics that occurred since the end of last season; so I figured I'd collect them all for you in a neat package. Here’s everything important we wrote before July, when you probably started actually caring about the Bears. And don't forget to check the SKOdcast archives, either here or on iTunes for any episodes you may have missed.

The Lovie Firing:

The Trestman Hiring (AKA Iggins! panics over hiring a CFL coach, although he's mostly calmed down since then):

Free Agent Frenzy:

The End of the Urlacher Era:

Trestman’s Offense and Speculation:

Draft Madness (What We Thought, and What Erik Thought About What Rick Morrissey Thought):

Iggins! Exposes the Lies of the Offseason:

Feeling Good about Phil Emery and Marc Trestman:

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Episode 13 of the SKOdCast is Now Up!

SKOdcast Episode 13: Returning to the return of the last time we returned to Thunderdome: Exodus!

On tonight's episode we'll discuss last week's game, J'Marcus/Jordan Mills, my unabiding passion for Marquess Wilson, Jamaal Charles fear, and probably killer robots.


Saturday, August 10, 2013

Iggins! interviews ESPN Chicago, Preseason Game 1

Iggins! photo Iggins.gif

Welcome, loyal SKOfans, to the first in a (hopefully) long series of interviews with a true titan in the industry, ESPN Chicago. It is a true honor and priviledge to be able to gain additional insight into what we see on the television through people who a-

 photo 1520-1-espnchicago-com_zps783c8210.jpg


Iggins! photo Iggins.gif

Er... I thought I was going to be interviewing someone FROM ESPN Chicago? Like, Wright or Dickerson? Who... who are you?

Friday, August 9, 2013

Bears-Panthers Notes (On the Parts that Sorta Mattered, but Not Really)

I said on the podcast this week that I fully expected a Cutler interception on the first series that would cause the usual fits of hysteria and naysaying, and Jay did not disappoint. Sure, old fuddy-duddy Jim Miller had to correctly point out that Alshon cut off his crossing route and was at fault, but since when has that ever mattered? Bears football is back, and there's no better way to announce that than a deflating interception.

Anyways, it's a Friday night and I have better things to do than watch Josh McCown, so here's the brief recap:

The Good:

The Offense: With a big O, I'm not referring to performance so much as the tiny glimpses of Trestman's philosophy that we saw. Shotgun formation early and often, but never of the suicidal empty-backfield variety, lots of Trips WR sets with Martellus moving around the field. Short drops. Quick decisions. Also nice to see them feature the backs in the passing game right away. The things we've been hoping for for years.

Jon Bostic: He was beat in coverage on the Panthers first touchdown, but he recovered nicely with good pursuit in the run game and beautiful coverage leading to an interception. I bear DJ Williams no ill will, but it would be nice to see a rookie start and produce immediately.

Secondary: Tight coverage by Jennings and Tillman for the most part, with a couple of nice pass breakups. Presumptive nickelback Frey had a nice pass deflection that should have been a pick-six as well.

Jay Cutler: The interception was not his fault, and he looked fairly comfortable. The ball came out quickly, and he ended 6/8 for 56 yards (7.0), and he threw the ball away when he needed to.

The Bad:

J'Marcus Webb: Don't want to overreact to one play, but it's all we've got so far, and that sack killed an otherwise promising drive.

Defensive line: Not much in the way of penetration, and Nate Collins especially seemed to be taken out fairly easily in the run game.

 Injuries: Not good to see Melton go down for any length of time.

That's all for now. Tune in to the SKOdCast Tuesday as we make sure to FREAK THE F*&K OUT OVER EVERYTHING. Or something.

Go Bears.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Dumbest Thing I've Ever Read

We've all spoken at length about the tendency of reporters to fill the preseason with empty conjecture and pointless speculation. I've done more than my fair share of mockery of exactly those things. But let's be honest: that's just the way it has to be. They can't not report on team happenings, but nothing really worth talking about is guaranteed to happen. So sometimes they have to dig pretty deep to even find something they can write an article about. 

I'll mock them for doing it poorly, but I get it. You've gotta report on something, but there's nothing really to report on.

Then there's this. On Tuesday, as everyone in Illinois knows, we got our monthly test of the tornado siren system. I don't know if it's the same way in every state and I can't be bothered to look, but this is something that has happened in Illinois literally every first Tuesday of every month I've been alive. 

Enter Tom Musick, a man who somehow wound up working under Hub Arkush. In terms of sportswriter career progression, this is pretty much the version of giving a defeated sigh and agreeing to do an Uwe Boll movie. I used to wonder how Hub even got these guys to come work for him, in fact I believe there is audio evidence of me wondering that exact thing in episode 11 of the SKOdcast.

But after today, I know exactly how. This piece is called "Siren Fails to Slow Down Bears." And it is literally the dumbest thing, Bears-related or otherwise, that I have ever read. In it, Musick marvels at the fact that a routine test of the state's tornado warning sirens did not cause the Bears practice to break down into a screaming orgy of confused violence.

I just... I don't even know where to begin. I'm sorry, Italics, but you must bear the burden of his words.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Episode 12 of the SKOdCast is Now Up:

In which we discuss ACL tears and Kintaro of Mortal Kombat II fame:

Episode 12: The SKOdcast Cometh

Greetings, friends! Now that there's football in our lives again, we're working back toward a weekly episode of the SKOdcast. Join us tonight at 6:15 central as we talk more training camp: the hip new injury craze all the kids are trying, position battles, the ongoing odyssey of the Futtbumbler and more!

Well, maybe more. Those are the only three things on the docket. But we might discuss more than that. We usually end up going on tangents. But you get what I'm saying.