Joniak's Journal: Bears Know 1st Place Means Nothing Right Now

November 07, 2018 - 5:54 pm
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By Jeff Joniak--

LAKE FOREST (WBBM Newsradio) -- The Bears (5-3) are preparing to host the Lions (3-5) on Sunday. Here are the notes and observations of the day from Wednesday.

First impression

The Bears understand the significance of three NFC North games that loom while they simultaneously keep their focus on the Lions this Sunday.

"We’re trying to focus on just one of them, but it is hard to focus on one of them just because you know that we’re going to play the Lions two times in the next three weeks," cornerback Prince Amukamara said. "As long as we just take care of the first one and go 1-0 each week, I think everything will take care of itself and it will help us get to where we want to go."

If the Bears can match their 5-3 mark of the first half in the second half, it should be enough to get them in the playoffs. It's a challenge embraced by this young, humble team. 

"First place right now doesn’t matter at all," running back Tarik Cohen said. "It’s all about where you finish at the end. We don’t even feel like we’re in first place, because we know we could have done better the first half of the season, so we’re just trying to get better."

Second thought 

Weathering the absence of outside linebacker Khalil Mack (ankle) and receiver Allen Robinson(groin) with wins in the last two games potentially puts the Bears at full strength for the start of the second half of the season.

"We’re trying to figure this out as we go with all these guys," coach Matt Nagy said. "It’s going to be a process for us. Each guy is going to be different, and that’s where we got to see where we are at after this week of practice."

Mack and Robinson made it through a full practice Wednesday, as did tight end Ben Braunecker (concussion), guard Eric Kush (neck) and rookie defensive lineman Bilal Nichols (knee). Braunecker and Nichols missed Sunday's game. Bears leading receiver Taylor Gabriel was limited Wednesday due to knee soreness. Tight end Dion Sims didn't practice due to a concussion suffered in the win Sunday.

Third degree

Returning from a torn ACL that he suffered in 2017, Robinson played the first six games with the Bears and caught 25 of 43 throws from quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, a 58.1 percent catch rate. Those receptions resulted in 285 yards, good for an average of 11.4 yards. He has two touchdowns.

The training camp chemistry between the two started to grow roots before Robinson’s groin injury knocked him out of the last two games.

"He’s got really high football IQ," Trubisky said. "He handles himself really well as a pro. He knows all the receiver spots, so he can help other guys get lined up. He knows how to run routes and where his route fits within each concept and how to get open. Obviously, you use all those intangibles along with great hands, great route-running ability and being physical allows him to get open and makes it easy for a quarterback. He’s just really easy to throw to, and he gets open."

With the emergence of weapons piling up yards after the catch like Tarik Cohen (318 yards), Trey Burton (154 yards) and Gabriel (144 yards), the return of Robinson as an intermediate-to-deep component in the passing game should open the field even more for Trubisky. 

Once the rust is knocked off, 6-foot-6, 270-pound second-year tight end Adam Shaheen could provide another weapon for Trubisky with his size and ability to box out defenders, especially in the red zone. Shaheen practiced Wednesday for the first time since suffering a foot/ankle injury in a preseason game, a setback that landed him on injured reserve.

"Me and him got a great connection from last year," Trubisky said. "He runs really good routes for his size and can separate. I think he’s just a mismatch problem across the board for linebackers and safeties and when you get a corner on him as well, his size is just too much to handle. Getting him back will open things up even more for this offense. It’s just another option for this offense to be even more dynamic."

Fourth-and-short

Analysts and national commentators continue to question Trubisky’s accuracy. He has completing 61.5 percent of his 260 passes and thrown for 16 touchdowns against seven interceptions. Of Trubisky’s 93 incompletions, 50 are on poor throws, 25 on breakups, five on drops and three are line-of-scrimmage bat-downs, according to Stats Inc. Ten others didn't have a designation.  

"The only thing that he needs to worry about is what I think about him and what people in this building think about him," Nagy said of Trubisky. "Everybody’s entitled to their opinion, and that’s OK. That’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as he just understands that the only thing that matters is what we think, then nothing will affect him."

Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play announcer for the Bears broadcasts on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJoniak.​