Did the Bears Actually Have a Good Offseason?

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

“Can you give me your perspective of why the national opinion and/or media seem to have a negative view of the Bears? I’m watching clips of Damien Woody and John Fox saying the Bears had the worst offseason. I feel clips like this are the norm, but maybe I’m wrong? Very frustrating. — @schnurlacher1

“Former Bears coach John Fox cited the Bears as having the worst offseason of any NFL team during a Monday appearance on ESPN. But he did so after Damien Woody first listed the Bears. Woody cited the loss of defensive coordinator Vic Fangio as a reason for selecting the Bears, which led to considerable turnover in the defensive coaching staff. Fox referenced the unresolved kicker situation, which has more than a few Bears fans nervous. What Fox didn’t mention is that the team terminated the contract of all-time leading scorer Robbie Gould while he was the coach, a move Fox likely could have prevented. Keep a couple of things in mind. For starters, sometimes TV and radio personalities are going to throw out opinions to generate discussion. Second, the Bears were pretty bad for a long stretch, so it’s going to take sustained success for them to generate respect. I wouldn’t get too bothered about Fox or Woody choosing the Bears for having the worst offseason. The Bears didn’t have first- or second-round draft picks. But I think you can fairly say they still had a good offseason and I think they made about the best move possible after Fangio’s exit.”

I have a number of points to make about this question and the answer:

  1. I really haven’t found the national media to be all that biased in their assessment of the Bears. Opinions vary and many are properly skeptical of a last-to-first place Bears team that most thought would come in last in the NFC North last year.A lot of things went right for the Bears last year and the ball fell their way an awful lot. The Bears were uncommonly healthy being second in the NFL last year in games lost due to injury. They also played a last place schedule. The odds are good that the team will face considerably more adversity this year and how they respond will tell everyone everywhere what they are made of and whether they are truly worthy of respect.
  2. I’ve made it a habit to virtually ignore the national media when it comes to opinions of the Bears. Most of the local reporters seem to be very enthusiastic and they are much more plugged in to the team that national media members who are trying to track all 32 teams at once.Not that the local reporters are always right. They’re close to the players and the team and many are unabashed fans. There’s a lot of bias there. But they are more informed.
  3. Having said that, not all of the national media are down on the Bears and you do occasionally hear some glowing opinions of what they are doing. Rodney Harrison is one of the most critical NFL analysts there is but I listened to him give what was for him a glowing assessment of the Bears as a team and of quarterback Mitch Trubisky in particular two weekends ago on NBC Sports Radio.Fans have a habit of remembering the bad things and forgetting the good things. The national media aren’t biased.
  4. Regarding the specific comments of Damien Woody and John Fox, I agree with them that the Bears didn’t have a good offseason. They didn’t have a first or second round pick and they are up against the cap. It awfully hard to improve your team in what most analysts would consider to be a substantial way under those conditions.General manager Ryan Pace came from the Saints and they are constantly in this same situation. He’s definitely brought the philosophy that they have there to Chicago.

    I don’t fear it as much now as I did when they hired him because either he or the people who work for him or both seem to have an eye for talent. For instance, from what I’ve seen when they have traded away picks the last couple years its been a good investment. I think we’re just going to have to get used to it.

Paxton Lynch Might Have a Better Chance of Developing in Seattle

Curtis Crabtree at profootballtalk.com addresses the Seahawks backup quarterback situation:

“[Paxton] Lynch is getting a second chance in Seattle after the former first round pick of the Denver Broncos flamed out after just two years with the team. [Geno] Smith is on his third new team in as many years after stops with the New York Giants and Los Angeles Chargers.

“’Paxton’s got a big time, live arm. He really does,’ offensive coordinator Brian Schottenehimer said. ’For a big guy, he’s really quick and athletic, picked up the system well. Geno hasn’t been here nearly as long. He’s got a lot of moxie about him, great huddle command which is cool to see.”’

I think we know who Smith is. I’m not as sure about Lynch.

Many have speculated that Lynch wasn’t the best fit in the offense in Denver and that may have been part of the reason he didn’t develop.

So much of properly developing a quarterback has to do with pairing him with the right coaching staff. You wonder how many of the busts over the last 30 years would have been stars had they been in the proper nurturing environment early on.

In any case Seattle is Pete Carroll is far more likely to adjust to Lynch’s skill set. Not that he’s likely to get a chance to show it because quarterback Russell Wilson is a bit of an iron man but it will be interesting to see if Lynch does better there if he gets a chance to show it.

Is There Enough Depth at Defensive Tackle and Linebacker?

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

“Linebacker and defensive tackle depth seem to be biggest needs on defense. Who are the free-agent targets that would best fit? — @jokertownhero

“The Bears have pretty good depth at defensive tackle. Look at Eddie Goldman, Bilal Nichols and Akiem Hicks, who plays inside, and you’re talking about a really talented top three. Nick Williams has been around and he knows the scheme. I disagree that this is an area of need for depth. I also think the Bears are in pretty good shape at linebacker. There aren’t quality pass rushers on the street, and when you have a group headlined by Khalil Mack, Leonard Floyd and Aaron Lynch at outside linebacker, that’s good to me. They’ve got some decent reserves, too, including Isaiah Irving. At inside linebacker, Nick Kwiatkoski and Joel Iyiegbuniwe are behind starters Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith. Josh Woods is another reserve to keep an eye on. He impressed the team last year as a rookie on the practice field. I don’t see depth issues at these positions.

The guess here is that the questioner isn’t impressed Nichols and Irving as quality back ups. A year ago this time I would have agreed with this assessment as lack of depth was one of the reasons I gave for predicting a last place finish for the Bears. However, I don’t agree now.

Irving and Nichols both impressed me in the preseason last year with the progress that they had made in terms of their play. Both looked to me like they could play in the regular season if a veteran went down and provide average productivity (which is as much as you can ask of a back up).

Both have now had an additional year to develop, with Nichols seeing significant playing time. That’s good because although the Bears depth wasn’t tested much last year, it almost certainly will be this year. They are probably going to need one or both of these players to be able to step in.

Lamar Jackson Isn’t Inspiring Much Confidence

John Breech at cbssports.com reports on Lamar Jackson’s struggles with learning the Ravens offense:

“With the Ravens hiring a new offensive coordinator [Greg Roman] this year, it probably shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone in Baltimore that the team would be installing a new offense this offseason, but apparently, no one told Lamar Jackson.

“When Jackson showed up for the team’s first round of offseason training activities (OTAs) last week, the Ravens quarterback literally had no idea that he was going to be spending his week implementing a new offense.

“’Coming in, I didn’t know we would have a totally different offense,’ Jackson admitted, via the Ravens’ official website. ’When I got here, coach was like, ’Yea, we have a totally new system. You’re going to have go through this and that.’ It’s been getting to me a little bit.”’

I’m completely torn on this article. I don’t know what is worse, having a quarterback who didn’t move to find out if the offense would be different or having a coordinator who didn’t tell him.

One thing is for sure. Communication was definitely lacking. I can’t believe that the team didn’t have the new offensive coordinator talking to the player to at least that extent. And I can’t believe that the player wasn’t demanding to talk to the offensive coordinator to make sure they were on the same page and that he would be prepared for workouts.

Baltimore has a well-deserved reputation for being a well-run organization. But it looks like multiple people dropped the ball here. Its not that they can’t recover from a slow start in May. But that fact that it happened at all isn’t a great sign of things to come.

The New Bears Defensive Staff Has a Noticeably Different Style

Kevin Fishbain at The Athletic quotes outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino on defensive end Leonard Floyd
“’I think the sacks will come,’ Monachino said. ’I think Leonard as a pure natural pass rusher has a bigger toolbox than anybody else I’m coaching right now. I want everybody to understand what I just said. The better rusher right now is No. 52. But the natural pass-rush ability, the pass-rush gene, No. 94 has it. As he gets better at one or two things, his numbers will go up. The thing that may happen first are the effective rushes.”’ “’This is a rare athlete playing the position. There’s a whole bunch of guys that are great hammers and guys that have the pass-rush gene that have that dominant trait. This is a rare athlete for the position. I’ve coached a bunch of good ones. I’ve coached big ones, I’ve coached smart ones, I’ve coached fast ones. I’ve never coached an athlete like this. “’… His length. His short-area quickness. Long speed. The ability to cover and change direction. All of those things are very special with this player.”’ “’He is more than willing to learn any way he can learn. He’s learning on his own because he asks me great questions every day when he gets back into the building after he’s watched tape on his own. I think that the guy has a very, very high ceiling.”’
The quotes show the difference between the current staff under new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano and the understated style that former head coach John Fox and coordinator Vic Fangio. “Under promise and over deliver” doesn’t seem to be in anyone’s mantra in May, that’s for sure. Personally, I like the Fox/Fangio way of handling these things. Raising expectations to a high level sets players that might otherwise be very solid up for what might be perceived as disappointing results. There is a reason why Floyd hasn’t been a great player on the field entering his third year. True, he might bloom this year. But I think setting him up to be more than he’s shown that he is to this point might be unfair.

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.

Simplifying the Both Draft and Your Life. And Other Points of View.

Bears

  • Kevin Fishbain at The Athletic addresses the situation of Taquan Mizzell, last years deep back up at running back:

    “Mizzell probably received the most criticism for a player not named Cody Parkey last season, which is impressive for someone who had only nine carries and eight receptions on 69 snaps.

    “He’ll have a lot of work to do to make the team in a crowded receivers room. This move clears up the running back depth chart a bit. It’s now Kerrith Whyte Jr. vs. Ryan Nall for the No. 4 spot.”

    Count me among those critical of the Bears use of Mizzell in any situation last year. Sixty nine snaps is plenty enough to get on people’s radar and, like many observers, I couldn’t figure out why he was on the field at all. It was evident to me that he just wasn’t that good.

    You wonder why the Bears don’t just release Mizzell. There must be something about him that someone likes, probably head coach Matt Nagy. He’s going to be a practice squad project at wide receiver and you wonder if that spot would be better used on someone else and if Mizzell, himself, would be better off going elsewhere without the position change where he’ll have a better chance to play.

    From what I’ve seen the odds are slim that he’ll ever develop into the kind of player that could crack the starting lineup with the Bears.

  • Fishbain also quotes defensive backs coach Deshea Townsend on the importance of tackling in the secondary.

“’The one thing that we can’t do every day is tackle,’ [Townsend] said. ’A lot of people get the misconception of DBs doing drills and it’s always footwork, but we’re going to find some way to wrap and squeeze every day. (I’m) always talking about angles. This whole game is angles. But we’re gonna do a tackle drill every day. And it’s just going to reinforce what we are. Even saying we’re going to be the best tackling secondary in the NFL, that’s our goal. If you’re not saying that, if you don’t believe it, it’s not gonna happen. That has to be the mindset of everybody in the group.”’

Fishbain is a former college defensive back so he knows the importance of this aspect of playing in the secondary even if others don’t appreciate it.

It’s nice that this is on Townsend’s mind. In the few bad games the Bears defense had last year the tackling was horrendous. See my comments on the Miami loss after the bye week as a good example. Avoiding those let downs will be one of the keys to improvement this year.

“’I feel like I can improve in a lot of areas,’ Smith said.

“If we’re nitpicking, Smith needs to improve in coverage, but that should come through his own experiences, including in practices against running backs Tarik Cohen and David Montgomery. There is a significant difference between seeing an option route from a back on film and handling one at game speed.

“When [inside linebackers coach Mark] DeLeone evaluated Smith’s rookie film, he saw a young linebacker who started to shake off the ’rust’ and improve as the weeks went by.”

That’s not nitpicking. It was a serious problem and it wasn’t just Smith. The Bears were constantly getting burned last season as receivers dragged across the middle of the field where the inside linebackers failed to pick them up in coverage.

In fairness, it doesn’t look like it’s particularly easy to do. I would imagine that it’s tough enough to be completely aware of what’s going on in front of you let alone of opposing players coming at you on routes from the side and slightly behind you. Nevertheless, that’s what these guys get paid to do.

Not to beat a dead horse but as DeLeone points out, you have to feel that Smith would have done a better job of getting on top of this had his agent not held him out. Here’s hoping that with a full offseason Smith, along with the other linebackers, does a better job of correcting this issue.

Elsewhere

Hard Knocks 2019 – Team Featured
Washington Redskins 5/4
Oakland Raiders 5/2
New York Giants 3/1
Detroit Lions 7/2
San Francisco 49ers 9/1

I understand why Daniel Snyder’s Redskins might be the favorite. Snyder seems like just the entrepreneur who would see this as an opportunity rather than a detriment. Nevertheless my money’s on the Raiders.

Mark Davis has been adamantly against this team appearing in the past. But getting permission to move his franchise to Vegas undoubtedly came with a lot of strings attached behind the scenes. The bet here is that it’s not coincidence that the Rams both appeared on Hard Knocks and went to London to play after permission to move to Line of scrimmage Angeles was given.

Oakland plays a home game against the Bears in London this year and it would surprise no one if they ended up being forced to volunteer to be on Hard Knocks as well.

  • Mike Florio at profootballtalk.comspeculates upon the possibility that Jets head coach Adam Gase may be inclined to trade Le’Veon Bellafter rumors surfaced that he never wanted to sign the back.

    “If Gase is inclined to do it, now’s the time given his current power and control over the team. And John Clayton, formerly of ESPN and now a radio host in Seattle, recently said just enough on 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh to get people thinking that a trade could happen: ’If there’s a suitor, I could absolutely see the Jets trading him before the start of the season.”’

    The thought that the Jets would trade Bell is ridiculous. The Jets have already paid Bell $12 million and the cap hit if they traded him would be extremely high.

    Furthermore I have a hard time believing that anyone wouldn’t want Le’Veon Bell, let alone an offensive coach like Gase. I have little trouble believing that Gase thought they overpaid. But the thought that Gase would trade him now that they’ve paid Bell is absurd.

    Personally I never felt that John Clayton added much in the way of reporting when he was with ESPN. And I definitely don’t think he knows what he’s talking about now.

One Final Thought

Albert Breer at SI.com writes about how the Colts are gradually shrinking their draft board year to year.

“I’d say this year we had 170 players on the board [for 2019], which is way down from where it was before,’ [General Manager Chris] Ballard said. ’I think last year we were at 220, I can’t even remember the number from my first year. But yeah, it makes it easier to navigate when you have fewer names that you know fit what you want. I think when we really get it right, and we get it down to about 125, 150, that’s when we’ll have really honed down exactly what a Colt is for our schemes.”’

What the Colts are doing is a lesson for us all. I have found that being brutal about cutting things out of my life, from tossing things from storage to pruning task lists, makes it a lot easier to get better results in the end.

Honestly, if you have something in your closet that you haven’t touched for five years, are you really going to need it in the next 5? Or the 5 after that?

Anyway, this is a sign that the Colts really know what they are doing. The bet here is that going into the draft, any general manager worth his salt probably knows deep in his heart that there are only 50 or so players they are really likely they’ll end up with. Maybe even less. So why put 350 on your board?

The ability to hone in on what’s really important and trimming the rest seems to be one underrated key to success.

The Bears Must Hope Their Confidence in Adam Shaheen Is Well Founded. And Other Points of View.

Bears

  • Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune asks Florida Atlantic head coach Lane Kiffin about Bears sixth round pick Kerrith Whyte:

    Wiederer: Do you see any limitations in his game or areas he’s going to have to either really work on or work around to be reliable at the NFL level?

    Kiffin: Pass protection. With the bigger players on that level, that’ll be more of a challenge. And being the backup here, it’s not like he got a million reps on film of that. So that’s going to be something he’ll have to work at if they’re going to want to use him on third down especially.

    No surprise there. No team will put a running back out on the field who is going to get the quarterback killed. Kiffin, a former head coach of the Oakland Raiders, would know that as well as anyone. And most good college running backs haven’t been asked to do it much.

    The good news is that Kiffin thinks Whyte is a really good pass receiver. But the bet here is that if Whyte sees the field much for the Bears his rookie year, it will be as a kick returner, a position that he excels at.

  • Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune interviews David Rowe, Valdosta State’s defensive backs coach, about new Bears cornerback Stephen Denmark:

    Rowe: “To bring you back to that last game (his junior year), we had a staff meeting and we were trying to talk about guys who could come over and help us because our numbers were down.

    “The receivers coach and the head coach were like: Stephen Denmark needs to be over there. They were trying to sell us on: You should see the way he gets out of breaks. He’s 6-2 and can get out of breaks as well as all our small guys. So his feet are really good.

    “Just naturally, him coming over to a new position, he’d have to get better at backpedaling and all that, which we didn’t do a lot of that. He was able to do it; it just took some time and work. He busted his (tail) and got it done.”

    Campbell: “So did he play with a lot of vision, backed off a bit?”

    Rowe: “No, we played majority press coverage. Turn and run with a guy. There were some situations where he did play a bail third, and he did a pretty good job with that stuff.”

    I’m really wondering why the offensive coaches pushed for Denmark to make this switch. Big, athletic wide receivers presumably don’t’ grow on trees, especially at Valdosta State. My conclusion is that it my have had to do with his hands and his ability to catch the ball.

    The picture that Campbell and Rowe paint is of a very raw prospect who hasn’t done much other than press coverage, a technique that requires athleticism with very little knowledge of the defense or of the awareness that is necessary to play other techniques.

    Bottom line, Denmark only played a year at cornerback at a low level college. Bears fans probably shouldn’t expect an immediate contribution as he probably has a long way to go. Making the roster would likely be an accomplishment for him.

  • Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times reports that the Bears have signed tight end Jesper Horsted.

    At 6-4, 225 pounds Horsted was listed as a wide receiver at Princeton. He will likely compete to back up Trey Burton at the U-tight end rather than at the in-line blocking Y-tight end position.

    The latter is a weak spot in the Bears offense as Adam Shaheen tries to break out in his third year with the Bears. Shaheen hasn’t developed in part because his career to this point has been marred by injuries.

    Right now Shaheen’s primary competition comes in the form of veteran back up Ben Braunecker and undrafted free agents Ian Bunting and Dax Raymond.

    One can only conclude that the Bears are a lot more comfortable about Shaheen being given this job than many of the fans are.

  • Darin Gantt at profootballtalk.com comments on the Bears “clown car” approach to finding a new kicker. They did everything they could to put the 9 kickers (including the tryout punter) in pressure situations in thier recent minicamp and drew a lot of attention to the situation by doing so.

    “It’s easy to view [the approach] as obsessive, if not excessive. While it’s clearly important for a team to find a reliable kicker, the way the Bears are setting up this search also puts the job in more of a spotlight than it naturally brings. Now, as soon as the next poor soul to hold that job misses a kick and the Bears lose a game, he’ll become the focus of the larger failure. They made Parkey a pariah, partly for the miss and partly for his television appearance in the aftermath, and now they’re ensuring his replacement will be under even more pressure.”

    You won’t find many people that are too sympathetic in this situation. If you have a kicker line up for a game winner in a Super Bowl, you would be hard pressed to find a situation more pressure packed. You’d like to have a guy in that role that you are confident in. I think most people will have a hard time criticizing the Bears for doing everythig they can to make sure that they have a guy who will react the right way.

Elsewhere

“Jets CEO and chairman Christopher Johnson wants a ’great strategic thinker’ to run the football operation. He needs someone who can work with coach Adam Gase. And at the intersection possibly resides one and only one name.

Peyton Manning.

This sounds to me more like the media connecting dots than a realistic possibility. But I’ve been surprised before.

I love Peyton Manning but a general manager? I’m not a big fan of having people without a background in personnel in that role, let alone someone with no front office background at all. It almost never works out. The latest example is in San Francisco where rumor has it that John Lynch, who also had no front office experience, and head coach Kyle Shanahan are rumored to be on the outs.

I don’t like the direction the Jets are taking.

“Multiple judges have ruled that the “sneak and peek” video surveillance violated the law by undertaking no effort to minimize the intrusion on the privacy of innocent persons who were simply getting massages. If the appellate courts don’t overturn these rulings, there will be little or no evidence against Kraft — unless prosecutors can persuade the alleged providers of prostitution to “flip” on their alleged customers.”

I have no interest in this case except that it bothers me when someone tries to legally get off the hook based upon technicalities. I know he did it. You know he did it. The lawyers know he did it.

Kraft is the owner of a franchise where players are constantly told to be accountable for their actions. Is this accountability? It might be the reality of the world we live it. But I call it hypocrisy.

In any case, the situation puts the league in a bind. They haven’t hesitated to suspend players who are obviously guilty but who have not been legally convicted, often because they paid off the victim. Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s 2010 suspension after sexual assault allegations is a good example.

I think its fair to say that although the league has some morally upright fans who strongly disapprove, solicitation isn’t really considered to be a big deal to most in modern American society. It certainly doesn’t rise to the level of sexual assault or similar offenses. But in terms of obvious guilt or innocence beyond the legal ramifications, there are players who are going to be watching this situation closely to see if Kraft is held to the same standard.

One Final Thought

Looks Like Cody Whitehair Is Switching to Guard. And Other Points of View.

Bears

  • Gregg Rosenthal at NFL.com comments upon the Bears during their “Around the NFL” podcast (episode title: “Around the NFC”, at the 24:45 mark).Rosenthal mentions his distrust of teams that stand pat after a successful season and expect that roster to come back and perform at the same level (at the 24:45 mark). Not that the Bears had much choice, as he acknowledges.

    I share Rosenthal’s mistrust. This didn’t work in 2007 with the Bears coming off of a Super Bowl appearance and it probably won’t work this year, at least for the defense. As was the case in 2006, the Bears were among the healthiest teams in the league last year, something that is unlikely to happen a second time in a row. They also lost most of the defensive coaching staff.

    But the reasons for this wariness go deeper than that. Last year with a new head coach the players were less comfortable and likely for the most part concentrated harder on what was going on. This year with the stink of success on them, at least a certain percentage of the players are likely to be more relaxed. This can lead to a drop in performance.

    In fairness, unlike 2007, the Bears have reason to believe that their offense will be better in a second year in head coach Matt Nagy’s system. This is their best hope to maintain excellence in the coming season.

  • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes new Bears wide receiver Emanuel Hall on his motivation after being passed over in the NFL draft. Hall was expected to go as high as the second round:

    “’I promise you it’s a feeling that I’ll never forget. That was one of the worst feelings ever, being undrafted,’ Hall said at Bears rookie mini-camp Saturday. ’It felt like the longest three days of my life. I had a draft party on the second day and the third day you’re just shaking everybody’s hand, ‘Thanks for coming.’ — no one wants to do that.”’

    “Hall’s speed (4.39 in the 40) and big-play ability made him an intriguing prospect in the draft. He averaged 23.5 yards per catch in his final two years at Missouri (70 receptions, 1,645 yards, 14 touchdowns in 22 games), with nine receptions of 50 yards or more.

    “But a history of minor injuries that kept him out of four games last season and prevented him from playing in the Senior Bowl played a part in getting overlooked in the draft.”

    Hall fell out of the draft due to concerns about his football character. Specifically, coaches at the University of Missouri were very up front about Hall’s inability to play through those minor injuries that Potash mentions. In fact, Hall missed the last day of rookie minicamp with an injury. Kevin Fishbain at The Athletic elaborates:

    “Hall battled hamstring issues and a groin injury last season, but instead of shutting it down, returned to finish off the season and play in the bowl game. Even though he got back on the field, the injury required maintenance in the winter, preventing him from playing in the Senior Bowl, and it almost kept him from performing at the combine.

    “Doctors in Indianapolis told Hall not to participate in drills because of a possible sports hernia. Hall signed a waiver so he could run and jump, and while not at 100 percent, he ran a 4.39 40 and had the best broad jump recorded for a wide receiver at the combine (11 feet, nine inches).”

    “Nagy discussed, though, how the Bears are confident in their staff to help with players who may have had durability issues in college.

    “’There’s some elements to that in regards to our training program is going to be different than every other training program from other teams that they come from,’ he said. ’We feel really good about Andre Tucker and what he does and our staff that he has, our strength staff, Jenn (Gibson) our sports dietician. And so we feel really good about when we bring people in here, we really sometimes don’t care as much about what happened in the past — what can we do now? Let’s fix it, let’s give him a clean slate and let’s roll.”

    Speed and ability aren’t enough. Apparently Hall is going to have to toughen up. Otherwise he’ll be just another track star that didn’t make it.

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

    “Do you see the Bears signing any veteran pass rushers now that it won’t impact their comp picks? If yes, who? — @mellothunder

    “This has been a consistent question throughout the offseason, even after the team re-signed veteran outside linebacker Aaron Lynch, and I’m a little puzzled why. The Bears tied for third in the league with 50 sacks last season. Only three of those 50 sacks were by players no longer on the team: Nickel cornerback Bryce Callahan had two and strong safety Adrian Amos had one. With Khalil Mack being paid as one of the top edge rushers in the game and with investments elsewhere when it comes to rushing the passer, I think the Bears are OK here. I can’t see them spending a lot of money for another player to add to the mix.”

    I think I understand why. On some level fans probably recognize that the Bears depth is likely to be challenged more this year and they are worried about it with only Mack, Leonard Floyd and Lynch as reliable pass rushers.

    Personally I’m not as worried about it for two reasons.

    1. Not many teams have good starting pass rushers, let alone depth at th position. Good pass rushers don’t grow on trees and anyone who is any good was signed to a roster a long time ago, compensatory formula or not.
    2. I like Kylie Fits and Isaiah Irving a lot more than most people and think one or both could step up and do a decent job if called upon.

    It will be interesting to see how the depth at the position plays out this year.

  • Another good question for Biggs:

    “Should the Bears pursue Ndamukong Suh? I think that would be a great addition. — @chiwest773

    Teams can now sign free agents such as Suh without that transaction affecting the formula for compensatory draft picks, so we could begin to see some movement for some of the name players who remain on the street. Suh is in that category, as is offensive tackle Jared Veldheer, who is reported to be signing with the Patriots. I don’t believe the Bears are planning to spend big money on any players not on the roster. It’s possible offensive lineman Cody Whitehair, who’s eligible for a contract extension, is the only player who will get a significant payday between now and the end of the season.

    Suh would actually be a good fit for the Bears strictly in terms of what he can still do on the field. At this point in his career he can still be a big, two gapping defensive lineman who will stop the run while giving a little bit of pass rush. But he’s nowhere near the player he was earlier in his career the last time Bears fans saw him on a regular basis with the Lions. Suh is 32 years old and the Bears have trended towards younger free agents since general manager Ryan Pace joined the organization. He’s also not a great culture fit.

    Whether Suh signs with the Bears or anyone else will come down to money. My guess is that no one is going to make him a big money offer at this point. As Biggs points out, the Bears almost certainly won’t. A lot will depend on whether Suh still wants to play the game for considerably less than he’s used to making.

  • Yet another question for Biggs:

    Is Brad Childress under contract for the full season or just the preseason like last year? What role will he play with the offense? — @_d_r_r_

    The Bears hired Childress as a senior offensive assistant, and he will be around for the entire season. He was hired as a consultant last year, working with Matt Nagy from the start of his tenure and through most of the preseason. He’ll be available as a sounding board for Nagy and will have input across the board on offense. Nagy is big on taking input from all of his coaches, and Childress will be part of that mix.

    If you look back at the history of this blog, you’ll find that I had some rough things to say about Childress as a head coach for the Vikings. But I like him in this role. He’s from Chicago and at this point in his career he probably wants to be here. He’s experienced in a way that Nagy isn’t and there’s very little doubt in my mind that he’ll say what he thinks at times when maybe other assistants will hold back a little.

    But there’s one other under looked factor here that could be of great benefit to Nagy and the Bears. Childress has traditionally been a “run first” offensive coach. He knows how to run the ball and that knowledge could be handy on a team where Nagy has constantly said that the running game has to get better. Childress could help contribute to a big improvement in that area.

  • One more from Biggs:

    Reading about all the early draftee signings, I remember a time when Cliff Stein was first to get the Bears draft class under contract. Lately it seems they’ve been bringing up the rear. What happened? — Greg M.

    What’s the race? The NFL has slotted the bonus money and salaries for draft picks. There’s no advantage to completing this right away. I have no doubt the Bears will have all five draft picks under contract before training camp begins.

    I’m pretty sure the agent was mostly to blame for the Bears troubles signing first round pick Roquon Smith last year. Nevertheless, one does wonder if the Bears could have settled the issues with him sooner had they been further along with negotiations when camp started.

    Biggs asks “What’s the race?” and that’s fair. But my question is, “Why wait?”. Get the rookies under contract so that they can workout without fear of injury.

    In any case, with their first pick coming in the third round, I doubt the Bears will have a great deal of trouble signing their picks before camp this year.

  • Fishbain interviews Mitch Trubisky. He asks Trubisky about the center position:

    Q: “Gotta build up that friendship with James [Danels] now.”

    A: “Ha, yeah, got to. James knows. I’m talking to James even more. He’s like, ’Why is Mitch talking to me all the time?’ I was like, ’You’re my center now, bro, let’s do it.”’

    The Bears haven’t announced it, yet, but this apparently let’s the cat out of the bag. I gather from this that Cody Whitehair is switching positions with Daniels with Whitehair moving to left guard.

    It’s a risky switch. Daniels will undoubtedly be better at center but Whitehair was a Pro Bowl caliber center who was still getting better. Whether the unit overall is be better with this switch will be one of the more interesting questions early in the season.

One Final Thought

Although I did threaten to get sick if I read another kicker article, I have to admit to letting go of a chuckle when Darin Gantt profootballtalk.com characterized what the Bears are doing at the position as a “clown-car approach”.

Should the NFL Add Another Round to the Draft? And Other Points of View.

“Does Adam Shaheen have a future with the Bears? Plagued by injuries first two seasons, I’m wondering if they’ll go in different direction, especially with capable free agents like the guy from Utah State. — @chuckietwoglove

“I can tell you that when Matt Nagy was asked about Shaheen at the NFL owners meeting, he was very positive. There is no question durability has been an issue with Shaheen, and if he can stay on the field, the Bears believe he can really help the offense. Let’s tap the brakes on the idea he will be replaced from the get-go by Dax Raymond, the undrafted rookie from Utah State. The Bears like Raymond and believe he has a chance to stick, otherwise they would not have guaranteed him 45,?000(15,000 signing bonus with $30,000 base-salary guarantee). But 32 teams passed on Raymond in the draft. The Bears still have an investment of a draft pick, money and maybe most importantly time in Shaheen. They’re not cutting the cord on him now.”

One of the bigger surprises of the Bears draft has to be that they didn’t draft a tight end from what looked like a deep class in the middle rounds. The Bears have evidently decided to roll with Shaheen. Raymond will evidently compete to back him up with an unsigned free agent.

Despite Nagy’s comments, that second, inline tight end position has to be an area of mild concern (see below). Setting aside the fact that he can’t stay healthy, Shaheen hasn’t shown anything but potential, yet.

  • Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune interviews Iowa State coach Nate Scheelhaase on the characteristics of new Bears running back David Montgomery:

    “He’s a really good inside-zone runner. He has a good feel, especially in the shotgun, of just how the zone moves and how things feel, which is probably why Coach [Matt] Nagy and Coach [Mark] Helfrich and those guys were really interested.

    “It was funny. There were a lot of teams interested in David, but the teams that seemed to be the most interested all came from that same tree. It was the Chiefs, Bears, Eagles, the Colts. Those coaches that came from that same tree, they have a bunch of gun runs that they run really well.”

    It’s worth noting that the Bears were likely trading up to get ahead of the Bills, who were evidently looking for a running back and selected Florida Atlantic’s Devin Singletary with the pick after Chicago’s. So there was likely something of a consensus among a lot of teams that he was the next best running back on the board. Certainly the Bears suspected that the Bills would have taken him.

    This article is worth reading. There was a lot of good information beyond the usual hype.

  • Campbell quotes Bears head coach Matt Nagy as he talks up Montgomery:

    “’Every running back has his own strength as far as what route he can run,’ Nagy said Saturday, ’whether … he’s a bigger target or he’s super fast. Some running backs you can put them (as a wide receiver with an empty backfield) and they are better on shallow crosses or better with read routes, and it’s not a vertical route or a post route where they beat you with speed. They just have a good knack at that.

    “’It’s not always in an empty set. You (deploy) a guy out of the backfield, now (there are) mismatches, right? Is he against a safety or is it a linebacker? Are they playing base defense versus a guy we think we can get an advantage in the pass game? Great. Are they going to play nickel or dime and dare us to run the ball? Well, when you have guys that can play all three downs, it’s nice for the play-caller, and it’s nice for the offense.”’

    It’s all great in theory. But there’s a legitimate question as to what kind of mismatch Montgomery will actually be out of the back field. With a lack of straight line speed, one could argue that, even lined up in a base defense, linebackers might have little trouble keeping up with Montgomery or, for that matter, Mike Davis, the presumed RB2.

    Certainly defensive backs will have little trouble keeping up should defenses feel that they can get away with playing nickel against the run (as they frequently do nowadays). In that respect, the lack of a blocking tight end who can also go out for the occasional pass route could also burn the Bears badly if Adam Shaheen doesn’t develop this off season. Campbell comments further on the situation:

    “[B]ecause they didn’t draft a tight end, let’s recognize the urgency for Shaheen to play up to his draft pedigree.

    “Remember, Pace drafted him 45th overall in 2017. That’s a huge investment, especially in a Division II player. For as much credit as the Bears deserve for developing their two fourth-rounders in that draft — Eddie Jackson and [Tarik] Cohen — Shaheen has lagged. He always was going to require seasoning for his blocking technique and route running, and missing 10 games last season was unfortunate. Now he’s a noteworthy wild card in the offense’s outlook this season.

    Arguably Shaheen’s play will be at least as big of a factor determining whether defenses feel forced to play in one formation or another depending upon his ability to both block and run pass routes. Right now I would say he’s not a factor in that decision at all.

    In any case, unless Montgomery’s shiftiness and ability to break tackles actually results in big plays despite his lack of speed, the Bears could be looking at a situation where they have a couple of work horse backs who can get them yardage on the ground but where their only true mismatch out of the back field will once again be Cohen.

  • If I read one more article about kickers I’m going to be sick. Man…
  • Dave Hyde at the South Florida Sun-Sentinal notes how well the Dolphins are apparently set up for the 2020 NFL draft:

    The Dolphins pumped a lot of resources into the 2020 draft this offseason and now have 12 draft picks.

    1 — 1st round

    2 — 2nd round (theirs and New Orleans)

    2 — 3rd round (theirs and Ja’Wuan James compensatory pick)

    2 — 4th round (theirs and Tennessee’s from Ryan Tannehill trade)

    2 — 5th round (theirs and Cam Wake compensatory pick)

    2 — 6th round (theirs and Robert Quinn trade)

    2 — 7th round (Kansas City from Jordan Lucas trade)

    I noted the optimism with which Hyde anticipated getting the compensatory picks for James and Wake. In particular, I’m not convinced that losing James is going to bring a third round compensatory pick but let’s assume that he will.

    The list highlights one of the changes I think we can anticipate in the new NFL labor contract as the old deal expires in 2 years.

    The compensatory pick system was set up to help ameliorate the damage done when a player leaves via free agency. they weren’t meant to completely compensate for the loss, only to make it less disastrous for a team when they lose a particularly valuable asset. But the system has developed far beyond that now.

    The compensatory picks that teams get for getting a free agent go are so valuable that teams are often motivated to game the system by purposely letting the player go and taking the pick instead. Consider the case of James. Does anyone think there’s any chance that James would have brought a third round pick in a trade before he became a free agent? Wold anyone have given a fifth round pick for a 37 year old Cam Wake?

    The pick system is currently being used for a purpose that it was not intended for -i.e. actually rewarding a team for not signing a player in free agency. That’s something the NFLPA cannot let stand and, given the justice of their case, I have to believe that the league won’t fight too hard against changing the system.

  • Colts owner Jim Irsay says he wants the draft in Indianapolis.

    Indianapolis would be a good spot except for one thing. It’s far enough north to make weather a problem.

    When Radio City Music Hall left the draft four years ago, Chicago lobbied hard to be the new permanent home. But anyone who looked out the window at the heavy snow coming down on Saturday, the last day of the draft, had to agree that the the NFL made the right decision when they started rotating cities instead.

    Indianapolis isn’t that far south of Chicago.

    One Final Thought

  • Biggs continues to answer your questions:

    “The Bears are planning to sign 19 undrafted free agents. As you and others have documented, this has become an important part of the draft process as teams scramble and bid against one another to sign highly regarded prospects who slipped through the cracks. The draft was cut down to seven rounds in 1994. Do you think the NFL would consider adding more rounds given the importance of these undrafted players? — Tom S., Chicago

    “No. Adding an eighth round would only force teams to have to pay players more. Good teams do well with undrafted free agents (UDFAs) and bad teams struggle to find players who can stick. Plus, isn’t the final day of the draft long enough?”

    Yes, if you are a reporter. Maybe not if you are a general manager.

    I actually didn’t think this was a bad question. Wisconsin guard Beau Benzschawel had offers from 20 teams before signing with the Lions. It’s very evident that teams are leaving good players on the board at the end of seven rounds.