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Columnist
There's much to like about Bears, but ...
By Mike Imrem | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 8/23/20 7:54 PM

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Bears general manager Jerry Angelo plugged a hole Monday by signing backup quarterback Todd Collins.

Well, that should clinch a playoff berth, right? Uh, no, probably not.

The problem seems to be that Angelo, head coach Lovie Smith, the three former NFL head coaches on the staff and the rest of the assistants combined don't have enough fingers to plug into all the holes.

Just as one gusher stops gushing gunk another springs a leak.

That's the state of the Bears after half their preseason games. On any given day they're like an aging movie star trying to determine whether to nip here or tuck there.

No, wait. The Bears are more like a mob snitch who needs a makeover after entering the witness protection program.

No, wait. The Bears are more like a foreclosed home that needs to be rehabbed before going back on the market.

No, wait - OK, maybe you get the idea by now.

To be honest, this skepticism is coming from a skeptic who has an odd urge to proclaim that the Bears aren't as bad as they have looked.

A lot of good players populate the roster, with a presumably great one on each side of the ball in quarterback Jay Cutler and defensive end Julius Peppers.

Then there are vintage contributors like Brian Urlacher and Olin Kreutz, emerging contributors like Johnny Knox and Major Wright, and re-emerging contributors like Tommie Harris and Chris Harris.

At least in theory they are contributors.

The Bears really are closer to the 2005 club that made the playoffs after starting 1-3 than they are to Dave Wannstedt's 1990s clubs that couldn't send anybody to the Pro Bowl.

But this year's edition isn't all that close to surprising because every bright spot has a dark side.

The Bears aren't awful. They're in the NFL's dreaded middle and I keep guessing more capable of moving up than down.

Yet every time the Bears provide hope that they are better than perceived, something happens to provide concern that they'll be worse than perceived.

If the troubling right side of the offensive line progresses, the left tackle regresses. If the run blocking is all right, the pass protection is all wrong. If Peppers flies around the field like an all-pro, Urlacher limps off with a calf injury. If the tackling is good, the blocking isn't. If the snap gets back to the punter, the kick is blocked.

It's never encouraging when a debate rages over whether the biggest problem is offense, defense or special teams.

Coaches and players keep saying that this ugliness is correctable, that ugliness is correctable and that each and every ugliness is correctable.

They're correct. The offensive line could improve, the defensive secondary could or the kicking game could.

The question is whether all can or at least enough can for the Bears to be respectable, much less make the playoffs.

So many breakdowns occurred against Oakland in Soldier Field over the weekend that long snapper Pat Mannelly came out as the Bears' MVP simply by not playing.

If only backup snapper and backup quarterback were the Bears' biggest holes in need of plugging these days.

Anyway, I want to believe in the Bears' upside, but the early indication is that they're a sub-.500, playoff-missing, indigestion-inducing team.