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Bears hurt by lack of solid young role players

Updated: November 16, 2013 6:21AM



Week 6 was a bonus week for the Bears and their fans. First, there was another victory. Then, a rare Sunday to sit back and catch up on what’s going on around the league.

There were some very entertaining games to watch, particularly the close look we got at the Packers in their 19-17 victory against the Ravens and the instant classic between the Patriots and Saints.

I also discovered a surprising trend around the league that got me thinking about one of the ­differences between the Bears and other contenders.

What do the Patriots’ Kenbrell Thompkins, the Saints’ Kenny Stills and Khiry Robinson, the Lions’ Kris Durham and Joseph Fauria and the Ravens’ Tandon Doss have in common?

They all are second-level ­prospects and role players who were being targeted and making huge plays at critical moments in games their contending teams were ­fighting to win.

Thompkins is a 25-year-old undrafted rookie free agent out of Cincinnati. Stills was the Saints’ fifth-round pick out of Oklahoma and Robinson is an undrafted rookie free agent out of West Texas A&M.

With 6:19 left in the third period, Pierre Thomas or Darren Sproles didn’t get the ball at the 3-yard line in the biggest game for either team so far. Robinson scored the ­touchdown that put the Saints back in the game.

With 3:29 to play on third-and-20 from the Pats’ 34 and trailing by six, Drew Brees didn’t look to ­Jimmy Graham or Marques Colston. He found Stills on a jump ball in the end zone to take the lead.

And if you love football and you’re breathing, you know Thompkins was targeted by Brady with 10 seconds to play to complete the miracle comeback.

In Cleveland, Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush and Joique Bell were available for Matt Stafford. But Durham, a fourth-round former teammate of quarterback Matt Stafford out of Georgia in 2011 whom the Lions found on the waiver wire, and Fauria, an undrafted rookie free agent out of UCLA, wmade the difference.

While the Ravens couldn’t seal the deal against the Packers, Doss, a 2011 fourth-round choice out of Indiana, kept them in the game when the Packers took away ­Torrey Smith and Ray Rice.

Interesting, perhaps, but how does this relate to the Bears?

Since the season began, I’ve suggested that one of factors limiting Marc Trestman’s offense is a lack of weapons.

Take Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett and Matt Forte away from Jay Cutler, or just limit a few of them, and the offense stalls. Take primary targets away from other contending teams and they use other weapons to beat you.

This is neither a criticism nor an indictment of general manager Phil Emery and his scouting department. I believe, absolutely, you wait at least two years to analyze rookies and none of Emery’s have been here that long, and none of the other players I’ve mentioned were significant free-agent acquisitions.

There is cause to believe Emery picks Jeffery, Kyle Long and Jordan Mills will be the best draft choices by the Bears since Matt Forte six drafts ago.

It is an indictment of the empty cupboards Emery and Trestman inherited when they arrived, and some evidence of the talent deficit they face when matching up with the best teams in the league.

It is something only time will heal.

But it does also beg two significant questions. Marquess Wilson, Joe Anderson and Michael Ford occupy the equivalent roster spots to the above-mentioned young ­difference-makers, but they’re rarely on the field and, when they are, they’re almost never targeted.

Are they just not good enough?

Or does Trestman need to roll the dice and give them a chance the way Bill Belichick, Sean Payton, ­John Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz have with their kids?

Hub Arkush covers the Bears for Shaw Media and HubArkush.com .



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