Quick Comments: Bears at Ravens 10/14/17

Defense

  1. The Bears played a light box against the run. Presumably that’s
    because the Ravens had lost both their starting guards (Alex Lewis and
    perennial Pro Bowler Marshal Yanda) to season-ending injuries and
    center Ryan Jensen is in his first year as a full-time starter.
  2. Having said that, the Ravens had some success running up the middle
    against the Bears. Middle linebacker is still a weakness with
    Christian Jones starting for the injured Jerrell Freeman.
  3. In addition, the Ravens were able to take advantage of Danny Trevanthan’s aggressiveness. Trevanthan otherwise had a great game, though.
  4. I loved the aggressiveness that the defensive backs played with this game. The Ravens evidently thought they had a mismatch with Kyle Fuller because they tried to pick on him but he generally did a good job in coverage. Fuller, Eddie Jackson and Adrian Amos all played fast and hit hard.
  5. Kudos to Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense for handling the Bears blitz so well. They picked it up well, Flacco stayed calm and dealt the ball effectively.

Offense

  1. The Ravens did what you’d expect and crashed the line of scrimmage and challenged the Bears to throw the ball. As in all of the previous games it generally worked. The Ravens have a good, tough secondary and the Bears passing game with no wide receivers is limited.
  2. Like the Vikings before them, the Ravens did a good job of eliminating cut back lanes for Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen and the outside zone runs weren’t working well. Terrell Suggs ate Dion Simms alive on the outside.
  3. However, the Bears did have success running up the middle. There are probably two reasons for that. Ravens defensive tackle Brandon Williams is still out and he’s their best run defender. On the other side, the Bears interior line of Josh Sitton, Cody Whitehair and Kyle Long are healthy and they were doing a good job of blowing Ravens off of the line of scrimmage.
  4. I thought Howard could have been more patient on some of those runs in the first half. It looked to me like he came out after half and did better in that area.
  5. The Ravens obviously wanted to show Mitch Trubisky a lot of different
    looks and the Bears did a good job of limiting that by going to the hurry up in any obvious passing situation, mainly third and long.
  6. The Bears really need to open up the deep passing game and, at least for now, Trubisky is showing some limitations in that area. He had some opportunities to complete some long passes and some of them were way off today. We heard that he was throwing a good deep ball all through camp. I haven’t seen it yet.
  7. Trubisky did do a good job of taking care of the ball, though. He
    apparently got the message that the one cardinal sin he could
    commit at this point is giving the ball away. Yes, he did have a
    critical fumble and he’s going to have to eventually do a better
    jhob of picking up blitzes and he’s going to have to develop a
    better feel in the pocket. But more importantly, Trubisky threw
    the ball away a lot to live to fight another day rather than
    forcing it. When you’ve got a good defense, that’s what you have
    to do.
  8. Someone has to do something about Whitehair’s bad snaps. This is ridiculous.
  9. Is there anything Tarik Cohen can’t do? 25 yard touchdown pass to Zach Miller. You can’t win consistently with gadget plays, though. Eventually these guys have to execute. But, hey, it worked.

Miscellaneous

  1. Sam Rosen and Ronde Barber did this game and I think Barber really had a good day. He wasn’t always on point but he made a lot more sharp comments than duds and was pretty much on top of the action all game.
  2. Bears special teams allowed a boneheaded touchdown when everyone stopped but the runner, Bobby Rainey, who was tripped up by his own man and wasn’t down. They then allowed the game tying touchdown with less than 2 minutes left in the game. Pat O’Donnell shanked a unt in over time. Needless to say they’ve had better days.
  3. The Bears had no notable drops. The Ravens had only one or two.
  4. The Bears reportedly stressed the fact that they had to cut down penalties if they were going to win and they did with only 4 penalties for 34 yards in regulation. Unfortunately they were still at critical times but they did still cut them down.
  5. Trevathan recovered a fumble in the second quarter with the Ravens driving. Unfortunately the Bears failed to take advantage as they followed it with a three and out. Bryce Callahan had an athletic interception in the second quarter after a crushing hit to Breshad Perriman by Eddie Jackson. The Bears took advantage of that ohne and followed it with that Cohen touchdown pass. On the Bears side Tarik Cohen had a critical fumble in Bears territory near the end of the third quarter with the Bears up by only a touchdown after that idiotic kickoff return for a touchdown. The Ravens eventually kicked a field goal to cut into the lead. That was followed by a back breaking Trubisky fumble on a delayed blitz but Lardarius Webb, also in Bears territory. That one was floowed by a pick six by Adrian Amos.
  6. The Bears did a pretty good job of cleaning up a lot of things today. There were no notable dropped balls, they had on;y two penalties and, probably most important, they won the turnover battle. Indeed, no game that I remember so drastically showed how important it is to do the last. The Bears fortunes literally varied as the ball got passed back and forth and while you’d like to see the offense clean up their requisite two turnovers (fumbles by Trubisky and Cohen), the defense carried the day with not only good, fast, aggressive play but by getting three turnovers, themselves. I and many others with me have said it time after time. The defense has to get turnovers if the team wants to win consistently.

And yet they still tried so hard to find ways to lose this game. While cutting the penalties down they committed them at critical times late in the game and then again in over time. Special teams were a disaster and it cost them dearly at the end. As Barber said near the end of the game, this is what 1-4 (now 2-4) teams look like.

Kudos to the Bears for winning it in the end. But, man… give us a break, will you?

 

An Endorsement for Grass Over Turf from the Men Who Know

It happens every year. There will be some game where a team will come to town and the ground at Solider Field will be painted green because they couldn’t get grass to grow and the condition of the field is terrible. That will be followed by a storm of comments and calls from fans demanding that the Bears change the field to artificial turf.

So before the annual calls for artificial turf at Soldier Field start, I thought it might be worthwhile to take a look at what’s happening in Baltimore where they are switching to grass next year. Via Jeff Zrebiec at The Baltimore Sun:

“[Ravens president Dick] Cass said. ‘… The primary factor was our players really wanted to play on grass and we think that playing on grass is just more consistent with the way football should be played in Baltimore.’

“The decision was well received in the Ravens locker room.

“‘Especially with me [having] two knee surgeries, I just walked off practice and I can tell the difference from practicing on the turf field and outside [on grass],’ cornerback Lardarius Webb said. ‘We’re looking at the numbers. They say injuries happen more on turf than on grass — simple as that.'”

When you come right down to it, this is a safety issue. I’m betting that is the way that Bears ownership views it and, despite the occasionally deplorable condition of the field in Chicago, I’m betting that’s why they haven’t changed to artificial turf.

I’ve long held that this is something that should be up to the players. And though the condition of the grass at Soldier Field almost certainly isn’t as good as the field will be in Baltimore, the bet here is that when push comes to shove, the majority of Bears players would prefer grass because even bad grass is safer than turf. If that’s the case, grass it should be.

Fales Starting Quarterback in Waiting?

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune documents the process by which Bears quarterback David Fales because the primary back up behind starting quarterback Jay Cutler. Fales got offers to join the rosters of both the 49ers and the Ravens before choosing to remain with the Bears after they agreed to promote him from the practice squad to the roster.

“‘Yeah, but it’s all about being in the right system,’ Fales said. ‘Eventually you are going to get an opportunity and no one knows when that will come. It doesn’t matter if you are not in the right spot.'”

San Fransisco is starting Blaine Gabbert, whose long-term future as the starter is questionable. Former starter Colin Kaepernick had shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum and his future with the organization is in serious doubt. The Ravens were probably following up on the recommendation of former Bears head coach Marc Trestman, now their offensive coordinator. Starting quarterback Joe Flacco is out for the season after suffering a serious knee injury November 22.

Both of these teams were searching for someone to be a back up after starters became unavailable. But Fale’s popularity around the league, which is why the Bears had to add him to the roster, makes me wonder if he doesn’t have the potential to be a starter. When former Bears general manager Phil Emery drafted him, Emery said it was with the idea that that Fales had the potential to be a solid back up, thus setting the ceiling for him. But does anyone ever draft a player anywhere with the idea that he’ll never be more than a backup? Could it be that Emery was just trying to publicly re-assure Cutler that he wasn’t drafting his replacement even while he took a swing at doing so?

Regardless, Fales may have been given a gift by starting with such apparently low expectations.  He’s had the chance to develop slowly behind other quarterbacks rather than being thrown into the fire too early.  It’s debatable but this is the way many of us still believe it should be done.  No greater example of the benefits could be seen than in the person of Denver quarterback  Brock Osweiler, who beat the Bears and was named AFC offensive player of the week after a solid first start last week.

I’ve very consistently claimed that the Bears need to draft a quarterback of the future sooner rather than later. And I still believe that. But drafting quarterbacks in the first three rounds is a risky business. At minimum Fales may be a good fall back option if the process requires more than one bite at the apple. But you also have to wonder if the Bears aren’t eventually going to find that they were forced to add the quarterback of the future to the roster by necessity last week.

A Matter of Common Sense. And Other Points of View.

Bears

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune puts the Bears at the bottom of his power poll. Once again, I can’t argue but I have some hope that they’ll be better than the Saints by the end of the year. The Bears are rebuilding but the Saints look like dead men walking to me.
  • I was surprised the Bears ended up tied for second in the waiver wire order. The tie breaker is strength of schedule and the first three games have been pretty rough in that respect. I would have thought they’d have been behind all of the other 0-3 teams. Apprently there are nuances that aren’t evident.
  • Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune quotes head coach John Fox on the depleted Bears passing attack:

“‘We’re missing some integral parts that hopefully at some point we get back,’ coach John Fox said Monday. ‘But the good news is that we’ve gotten to look at some other people and see how they react in those situations. And hopefully we’re learning some stuff that will help us moving forward.'”

He’s talking about you, Jimmy Clausen and Marquess Wilson. And so far it’s not a good look.

Adam Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times suggests an interesting Raiders to keep an eye on Sunday:

“RG J’Marcus Webb

“The former Bears tackle has moved inside and become a starter for the Raiders, who have Mike Tice as their line coach. The Bears will attack Webb.”

Elsewhere

One Final Thought

I know that the game seems like it was ages ago but for those of you who are still stuck on it, Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com rips the NFL for not reversing the ruling on the field that a Chicago punt didn’t hit the Seattle punt returner’s leg last Sunday:

“‘Does this ball really jump that far to the right where we think the ball clearly hit his leg?’ [NFL V.P. of officiating Dean] Blandino asks. ‘It’s reasonable to assume that it hit his leg. But, again, we cannot make a decision based on the ball changing direction. We have to see clear evidence that the ball absolutely touched his leg.'”

“If that’s the standard the league intends to apply to replay review, that’s fine. But we should all remember this standard moving forward, because there inevitably will be occasions when a decision is made not based on what is absolutely clear and patently obvious to the eye, but which is absolutely clear and patently obvious based on the application of common sense.

I’m not going to sit here and blame poor officiating for a 26-0 loss to the Seahawks. But Florio’s point is well taken. If this is the standard that the league is going to set for replay review, we’re going to see some pretty bad calls stand under his watch.

It’s the Brad Biggs Show Today. And Other Points of View.

Bears

    • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune reviews the film from Sunday’s loss to the Cardinals:

      Eddie Royal looks out of position on the outside, and that’s the way it’s going to be without Alshon Jeffery (and Kevin White). Undrafted rookie Cameron Meredith flashed a little at the very end and might be worth looking at in place of Marquess Wilson, who is not maximizing his playing time.”

      Royal insisted during the preseason that he was looking forward to proving that he’s more than a slot receiver. But I think we all understood that wasn’t what he was signed to do. Wilson has, once again, been a major disappointment. He was targeted five times for only one catch and 10 yards. It may be time to accept that he’s the seventh round pick that he is.

    • Biggs continues:

      “Bennett needed to run a better route on the Jefferson interception, but the ball was behind him. Period. He didn’t get enough chances as he was targeted only six times. With Jeffery out, the Bears needed to do a better job of highlighting him in the passing game.”

      I noted in my game comments that the Bears came out in double tightend, throwing to both Bennett and Zack Miller. But they didn’t carry it through the game.

    • It’s the Brad Biggs show today, folks:

“Right guard Vladimir Ducasse added two more penalties to give him four. Even if the holding call looked questionable, that is a problem. Right tackle Kyle Long is in a tough spot with a cast on his right hand.”

Those who insisted that it was a good idea to move Long to tackle and wonder why it took so long should take note here. I’m not saying it was the wrong thing to do but if Jordan Mills had these kinds of penalties, the town would be burning him in effigy. I’m not at all sure that putting Charles Leno in at tackle and letting him develop wasn’t the right thing to do. He probably wouldn’t be much worse than Ducasse and he has a higher ceiling.

    • On a day when I have to believe that the Bears are desperately searching for a solution at quarterback, I have to once again agree with Biggs that they must surely be looking forward to having Tracy Porter available. He’s been out with a hamstring injury but believes that he’s getting closer to being ready to play. Terrance Mitchell is also a possibility. He got burned by Larry Fitzgerald on Sunday and admits that he made a mistake in hesitating on the tackle, saying, “I should have just come up harder, you know what I am saying?” I do, indeed. But I’m concerned that his football instincts didn’t tell him that. It looked ot me like he lacked confidence and I’m not sure its the kind of thing you can teach.
    • Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com gives out some pretty harsh grades but with this caveat:

“It is also fair to point out that as well coached as the Bears looked against the Packers, they didn’t appear well prepared for Arizona, and John Fox and company should be looking in the mirror this week as well as at the tape.”

Gotta disagree with Hub, there. I liked the offensive game plan before quarterback Jay Cutler got hurt and there’s only so much you can do on defense with that talent. The Bear biggest problem in relation to their performance in week one was the penalties and the turnovers. I suppose that could be coaching but I’m inclined to believe it was a team effort.

Elsewhere

  • I know that Bears fans are feeling pretty sorry for themselves right now. But at least they aren’t the Detroit Lions. The Lions are 0-2. Their next three opponents? vs. Denver Broncos, at Seattle Seahawks and home vs. Arizona Cardinals. That looks to me like 0-5, folks.
  • I didn’t see the game but by all reports they came out flat and gave a subpar performance again this week against Tampa Bay. I’m starting to wonder if head coach Sean Payton isn’t on the hot seat. If he isn’t, I’m wondering if he should be.
  • It appears that Kam Chancellor made a major miscalculation in holding out for the first three games this year. Yes, the Seahawks were worse without him but they never budged in negotiations. According to Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com Chancellor racked up $1.1 million in fines and the team could demand that he return $500,000 in signing bonus money now that he’s ended his hold out. He’s also missed two game checks. The team would undoubtedly like to be lenient but I can’t imagine that they think they can afford to be so. This is a good team with a lot of players that will undoubtedly want more money over the next couple years. Letting Chancellor off the hook in any way encourages them to follow his lead.
  • Ravens head coach John Harbaugh has the unenviable task of preparing his 0-2 team to play the Bengals this weekend. He says that the Bengals are the best team in the NFL. Right now, to my eye, he’s right.
  • There are a lot of reasons why the Dolphins are not living up to the preseason hype. But Omar Kelly at the Sun-Sentinel is spot on when he says that the team has to get tougher and run the ball more.
  • How good has running back Dion Lewis been for the Patriots? He’s fumbled twice in two games but head coach Bill Belichick can’t afford to put him in his dog house.
  • Michael Rand at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune: “A younger, dumber, childless version of myself might have been tempted to take a press release from the Vikings about installing breastfeeding/lactation suites at TCF Bank Stadium (and eventually U.S. Bank Stadium) and make a few lame jokes along with the information.” Count me in as being both young and dumb.

One Final Thought

He just now came to this conclusion? VERY, VERY NSFW.

Quick Comments: Late Sunday Afternoon Games

Baltimore – Oakland

  • Oakland surprised me this game by taking Baltimore head on at the line of scrimmage and they competed very well.
  • Quarterback Derek Carr once again had a good game this week (30/46 for 351 yes). Significantly, he got good protection.
  • In contrast, Joe Flacco (32/45, 384 yds) did not have a good game. He saw a lot of pressure and missed a lot of throws he ordinarily makes.

Dallas – Philadelphia

  • The story of this game was how ugly it was for the Eagle offense. Demarco Murray had a terrible game as the Cowboys keyed on him every time he entered the game. The Eagle offensive line was awful, allowing the Cowboys defensive line to penetrate at will. Eventually the Eagles had some success attacking the edges and getting away from the interior defensive penetration.
  • I saw some pretty poor tackling from the Eagles in this game. Tough to stop the run that way.
  • Surprisingly, I also was less than impressed with some of the blocking from the vaunted Cowboys offensive line. The Eagles were getting plenty of penetration against them at times. The Cowboys did better after wearing the Eagles down late in the game, a bi-product of an Eagle offense that gets the defense back on the field quickly when things aren’t clicking.
  • Tony Romo went down hard on a sack and a fumble. Before any report was made you could tell that it had broken collar bone written all over it. Its Brandon Weeden time. For a while.
  • Tweet of the day:

Miami – Jacksonville

  • Jacksonville took advantage of some poor defensive backfield play from Miami. Brice McCain looked particularly bad. This is something that the Dolphins are going to want to take a close look at in the coming week.
  • Blake Bortles’ (18/33 273 yds) accuracy and ball placement leaves a lot to be desired. For a highly touted up and coming quarterback, I was unimpressed this game. Sometimes he flashes some of that potential but its time for him to fish or cut bait this year with some consistency.
  • Right now Ndamukong Suh looks very over paid. He’s not making the plays we saw him make in the NFC North despite often being double teamed.
  • On the other hand, Jacksonville got all kinds of pressure on Ryan Tannehill (30/44 359 yds). This was the first sign of problems for the season on a much – maligned Miami offensive line. Brandon Albert left the game in the first half and ws replaced by Jason Fox, which obviously didn’t help.
  • Olivier Vernon should be ashamed of himself for a late personal foul call that badly damaged Miami’s chances of getting the ball back with time to score.

Quick Comments from Selected Late Sunday NFL Games

Some quick observations on some of the games that I caught late in the day after the Bears game was over.

Broncos – Ravens:

There was a huge question about Peyton Manning‘s arm before their game against the Ravens this weak. Manning has been struggling with his arm strength all preseason and has put up some ugly game tape. Pre-game reports that he’d been putting more zip on the ball after starting to wear a glove on his throwing hand, something he didn’t do in the preseason. However, I’m inclined to attribute more of it to the huge windup he’s developed in an effort to get more behind his throws. He was also much more inaccurate than he has been in the past.

Manning actually didn’t do too badly. But that long release may haunt him all season, as it did on a Jimmy Smith pick six on Manning’s first throw of the second half.

On the other side Denver constantly harassed Joe Flacco with a ferocious pass rush. Both Denver and Baltimore struggled to protect their quarterbacks and I’m now officially concerned about both of these offensive lines.

Finally, Terrell Suggs‘s torn achilles will keep him out for the year. That’s bad news for my Ravens Super Bowl pick.

Titans – Buccaneers:

The Jameis WinstonMarcus Mariota match up looked very much like you’d expect it it.

Mariota looked far more pro-ready, being in command of the offense the entire game against that nice, standard cover-two defense. He threw four touchdowns in the first half alone.

Winston was far more up and down, mostly down, as he was in the preseason. Winston has quit a way to go before he’s going to be a competent NFL quarterback and its going to be a long season for the Bucs.

Another thing to keep an eye on is that Buccaneer running game, which looked very effective. If Winston develops at all, he’s going to get a lot of help from some wonderful running by Doug Martin.

The Bears play the Buccaneers on December 27.

Chargers – Lions:

Preseason reports had people wondering if Chargers first round running back Melvin Gordon was headed towards bust territory. I wouldn’t say that Gordon looked bad so much as he looked disappointingly nondescript. But as expected, the Lions Ameer Abdulla was the guy to watch in this game. His tendency to accelerate through his cuts and continue to gain momentum is rapidly putting him into an upper class of running backs.

There should be concern about that Lions defense without Ndamukong Suh. The Chargers dissected them in the second half both in the running game and with the pass. They made it look far too easy for any Lions fan comfort. Or for the comfort of the Bears, who are going to be visiting San Diego in November.

I’m not entirely sure what was wrong with Matthew Stafford but he looked awful in this game. You might generously say that he wasn’t on the same page with his receivers but his accuracy was very suspect. This is a situation to keep an eye on in the competitive NFC North.

Cardinals – Saints:

The Bears next opponent is the Arizona Cardinals. My initial impression watching them beat up on the New Orleans Saints is that this is a rough, tough team up front on both sides of the ball. If the Bears run on this team like they did on the Packers in the first half, more power to them. I have my doubts.

The Saints looked completely flat. I’m really surprised as offseason reports indicated that they were muscling up to become more physical. If they did, they didn’t show it. Sean Payton didn’t have this team prepared to play in this game. The Saints have to pick it up.

Cowboys – Giants

Tony Romo had ages to throw the ball in this game. That Dallas offensive line is a wall. No one got close. And they road graders blocking the run. Honestly, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a better offensive line.

The Cowboys are a tough team. Which why I was shocked that the Giants were actually ahead at half. They were badly out played and the statistics were sick – they only had the ball for about 8 minutes of the half. But the Cowboys kept shooting themselves in the foot with turnovers and but you have to give the Giants credit. They hung tough.

The Giants offensive line wasn’t nearly as impressive as the Cowboys but Erik Flowers looks like he’s going to turn out to be a pretty good pick at left tackle. And of course, they have Odell Beckham, who drew a safety rolled to his side all night. I was also impressed by their coverage teams on special teams. But they were out classed you figured that they were eventually going to lose – and they did.  But the Cowboys did everything they could to give it away.

Some Creativity May Be Required For Teams Seeking Tight Ends in the Draft

Feb-20-Maxx-Williams

Tom Carpenter at ESPN highlights one of the more interesting things to look for inthe upcoming draft: where Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams (above) will go. Anyone who watched the combine knows that the tight end class is pretty grim and Williams is generally considered to be the best of them.

“Why is Williams’ draft stock slipping?

“Like most young tight ends — he is just 20 years old — he struggles at times with his blocking and route running.”

“Williams also reportedly came off a bit immature and self-centered during NFL combine interviews, as he struggled to give good answers to some difficult questions.”

The Arizona Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens and New Orleans Saints are all picking late in round 1 and may be tempted to take a chance on Williams.  The Bears cold also use a second tight end opposite Martellus Bennett.

There is an alternative. In the mock draft that I’m participating in the Atlanta Falcons representative took wide receiver Devin Funchess as a tight end instead of taking Williams. Funchess is 6-4 1/2, 232 lb and if he can learn to block, he could be tough to stop as a receiving tight end. Teams needing pass blocking tight ends might even resort to converting offensive tackles or linebackers.  It will be interesting to see if that’s what teams decide to do instead of taking a risk on the borderline tight end prospects that are available up and down the draft.

Sometimes It Isn’t Rocket Science

Next Fan Up Artwork

Sometimes value and need meet to make for the almost perfect draft pick. That’s what I think happened to me in the “Next Fan Up” mock draft, an exercise performed by the same group I participated with last year.

The Situation

Last year I hated the Bears spot at 14. They needed defensive linemen and safties but none were worth the pick. I ended up taking the best available player, linebacker C.J. Mosley. Not a bad pick in retrospect.

This year with the Bears picking at seven things were totally different. With needs all over the field the odds that a player that could fill one was going to be the best available were high. Here’s what happened with the first six picks:

Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 9.48.02 AM

The Guy

Before the draft I pegged four impact players in the top ten picks:  Leonard Williams, Jameis Winston,  Dante Fowler, and Danny Shelton.  Some may justifiably criticize me for not including Amari Cooper and Kevin White.  But Cooper may have already hit his peak and White is a one year wonder that relies too much on physical abilities that may not be dominant once he gets to the NFL for my taste.  Don’t get me wrong – I’d gladly take either one.  But I put them a tier below my top four.

To no one’s surprise, the first three of those four top players were gone.  That left Shelton as the best player on my board.  But I knew that few other draftnicks agreed with me.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper didn’t put Shelton in his five safest picks in the draft because his ceiling is too low. I think Kiper is under estimating him. Shelton reminds me just a bit of Vince Wilfork and I believe he may turn out to be more than just a clogger in the middle.  He’s never going to be a penetrator but Shelton uses his power and quickness to leverage offensive linemen and collapse the middle of the pocket as a pass rusher.  Even if Kiper is right and Shelton only turns out to be a plug in the middle he’d be valuable as the center piece of any 3-4 defense.  He never gets blocked back off of the line of scrimmage despite almost always being double teamed and he’s uncanny in the way he regularly shed blocks to stop the run.  And you can’t stop anything if you can’t stop the run.

danny-shelton

The Attempt to Trade Down

There was little doubt that Shelton (above) was my guy.  The question was could I trade back and still have a reasonable chance to get him and, if so, how far?

Ordinarily I wouldn’t think twice about this unless I had multiple players that I liked with no definite winner heads and tails above everyone else.  But most mock drafts that had Shelton getting past the Bears had him falling to somewhere  in the middle of the round.  The first team behind me that I had with defensive tackle as a need was the Cleveland Browns at 12.  So I figured anywhere in front of them might be relatively safe and was willing to risk going down farther.  With the third oldest roster in the NFL last year and more holes than a golf course full of gophers, heaven knows the Bears need young players.  So I thought it was more important to get more chances in the annual draft lottery and to take the risk losing Shelton, even as someone who I thought was clearly the best available.

But I didn’t trade back.  Why?  Because it take two to tango and no one wanted the pick.  One of the things that’s evident this year is that everyone wants to trade back but almost no one wants to trade up.  At least not into the top ten, especially with Marcus Mariota gone after the second pick.  Only one trade in the mock draft actually took place in that area and that was between the Jets and the Giants, who wanted White.  The tail end of the first round may include more action depending on how highly the teams involved value the quarterbacks that are left and how much they want to over draft to get one.  Other than that, I can’t see it happening.  Most draft experts actually don’t think there are much more than 15 players with first round grades in the entire class.  And I can’t see too many teams trading up into the first round to get second round talent.

The Pick

In the end my choice was clear and I gladly took Shelton at number seven.  I think his talent matches the pick and fills a need.  Perhaps the Bears biggest need.  Last year I said that playing general manager isn’t easy.  But sometimes all you need to do is keep it simple.

The Rich Get Richer. The Bears Don’t. Yet.

Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune reports that the Bears once again received no compensatory draft picks.

These can be as high as third round picks depending upon the nature of the lost free agents the year before. For instance, the Lions could receive a third round pick in 2016 after the loss of Ndamukong Suh. The acquisition on Haloti Ngata after the loss of Suh was by trade and wouldn’t count against them in the formula used to calculate who gets what picks.

It’s easy to dismiss these often low round picks as being unimportant but they’re not. As has been said many times, the draft is a crap shoot and the more rolls of the dice you get, the more likely it is you’ll come up with a good player. The rich get richer in this respect because the good teams tend to be the ones that lose the good players. The Broncos, Chiefs and Seahawks all received four compensatory picks and the Ravens and Texans were awarded three apiece.

Meanwhile the Bears are stuck in what amounts to a catch 22. They have to sign free agents to make up for misses in the draft and they’re more likely to miss in the draft because they don’t have enough picks. Last year the Bears signed a slew of players – defensive ends Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young plus safety Ryan Mundy. This year they’ve already signed linebacker Pernell McPhee, safety Antrel Rolle, guard Vladimir Ducasse and wide receiver Eddie Royal. As Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune points out, they’re likely to sign quite a few more as they bargain hunt in the secondary free agent market:

“One veteran agent described it as a stare-down between clubs and players. Clubs are looking for budget buys with the goal of signing many players to minimum-salary-benefit deals. Players who thought they would be in line for something more are still trying to wrap their minds around the idea of playing for less. Both sides are waiting for the other to blink.”

“The Bears need to add defensive linemen. Jeremiah Ratliff and Ego Ferguson are likely to line up at nose tackle. The options at defensive end are not quite as clear. Coach John Fox said the ideal player for the scheme is a ‘longer three technique.’ Of course, the model for the position is the Texans’ J.J. Watt, but aspiring to find a player with his skill set and actually doing it are two different things.”

The Bears are also said to be interested in center Stefen Wisniewski.  They will need to sign a considerable number of other players to fill out the depth chart as well. Some of those signings could come at the league meetings which are currently being conducted – Adam Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times points out that agents are working the hallways and courtyards of the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix.  All of these signing could count against them.

No one is suggesting that teams aren’t being penalized when they lose a free agent – the compensatory draft pick is never close to the same value as the free agents lost. Nevertheless, the draft is the life blood of every team and those picks can become valuable players acquired for a cheap price. I look forward to the day when the Bears will be getting more chances to hit the lottery in this respect because it means that they will be ranked amongst the elite franchises. The only way that they’re going to get there is to start consistently hitting on the few draft picks they have, alleviating the need to run out and sign free agents to fill holes all over the field.  They also have to resist the temptation to make the splash signings that can often look better on paper than on the field.  Fortunately general manager Ryan Pace seems to be avoiding the temptation to do that. Again, fro Jahns:

“The win-now pressure that seemed to drive Emery isn’t as prevalent. Pace, who will meet with the Chicago media on Tuesday, is widely regarded in league circles to have a big rebuild on his hands, and the draft is the best way to do that.

Until the Bears are finished rebuilding, fans just have to be patient and wait for success to come their way.  Fortunately, this time it looks like it might be the proper way.