Buster Skrine is Not a Downgrade. But Is He a Permanent Solution?

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

“How will Buster Skrine fit into the Bears defense to replace Bryce Callahan? A lot of fans have been calling him a downgrade. — @sam_gutterman

“Skrine projects to be a good fit. He didn’t have his best season last year with the Jets, but the struggles came mostly when he was forced to play on the outside because of injuries. Skrine has also been more durable than Callahan. He has missed a total of five games over the last three seasons but didn’t miss a single game in his first five seasons in the league. Durability was a knock on Callahan, who wound up getting more money from the Broncos than the Bears wanted to pay. I like the idea of adding a proven veteran at the nickel spot with Callahan departed. Skrine will be better than he was with the Jets because he has a much more talented pass rush in front of him.”

I don’t think many people locally are calling the addition of Skrine a downgrade. Head coach Matt Nagy highlighted Skrine last year before the Bears played the Jets as one of their best players and its obvious that they signed him largely because of what they saw on tape in preparation for that game.

The one thing to keep in mind is that Skrine is 30 years old. That means he might be a good fill in for a while but he’s also not the future at that position. The Bears drafted Duke Shelly out of Kansas State in the sixth round but I wouldn’t hold my breath that he’ll work out there as a starter. Although he’s reportedly a fine athlete, he’s only 5’9”. Admittedly you don’t need the height playing nickel back that you do if you are playing on the outside but Shelly will still have to show that he can overcome that lack of height to cover taller receivers on the inside.

Losses of the Bryce Callahan-type are inevitable in the salary cap era of the NFL and as those types of losses go, Callahan isn’t a huge one. But I would say that the loss of Callahan did leave a hole on the defense long-term and that the Bears will be spending some time as they approach the draft for the next year or two looking for potential replacements.

TODO Bears Q&A: How will they divide playing time among the running backs? Will Riley Ridley or Anthony Miller be better? Why move Bradley Sowell to tight end? – Chicago Tribune

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

“Why move Bradley Sowell to tight end? There’s much less depth at tackle than there is at tight end to begin with. Now with Sowell at tight end, he has no shot at making the roster with Trey Burton, Adam Shaheen, Ben Braunecker and Dax Raymond ahead of him. Why not just keep him at swing tackle? — @bearsest1920

“For starters, I don’t think the Bears would have shifted Sowell if they didn’t feel pretty good about their options at swing tackle. Rashaad Coward was the first player coach Matt Nagy mentioned when I asked about that position last week after Sowell’s position switch was revealed. Cornelius Lucas might be another option. He has eight career starts and was once a relatively well-regarded prospect for the Lions. The thing you’re missing here is the Bears want Sowell at tight end because of his blocking ability. You’re right. He doesn’t offer as much in the passing game as the tight ends you referenced. None of those tight ends can block as well as Sowell, however, and they felt they were a little light at the Y position, which is a blocking tight end. Sowell essentially was a blocking tight end last season when the Bears would bring him in to play in heavy packages and he reported as eligible. The odds might be stacked against him to make the final roster, but I would not rule it out.

I’m going to completely disagree with the questioner here and even mildly disagree with Biggs.

For whatever reason the Bears decided not to draft a tight end this year despite the fact that the depth at the position was pretty good, at least as far as the larger blocking-type go. Raymond is 245 pounds which would probably make him more of an option to back up Burton at the move tight end unless he gains some weight. The Bears seem to be banking heavily that Shaheen will take a step forward here in that respect.

Moving Sowell to tight end gives them another option to back up Shaheen. But more important, because Sowell can also play tackle, he offers the type of position versatility that might allow the Bears to keep him on the roster where they otherwise might not have. I’d say he’s increased his chances not decreased them with this move. Indeed, in obvious running situations Sowell will likely be a better option than Shaheen and he might see some playing time.

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