View of Bears First Round Pick Is, As Usual, A Matter of Perspective

 

It’s interesting the effect that a different view point can have.

I grew up in the suburbs of St. Louis. The neighborhood in St. Charles, Mo. was predominantly white and relatively prosperous. When I left to go to college to experience the world, I was a typical conservative suburbanite. I didn’t know that’s what I was. But that’s what I was. Members of my family that stayed in that environment are, too.  And they don’t know they are, either.

Forward 30 years later after spending 15 of that living in downtown Chicago and I can honestly say that I’m a much different man than I was then. If you ever wonder why big cities are more liberal than urban environments, move to one and you’ll find out. Few people can walk past multiple homeless beggars on their way to work every day and not be affected. I wouldn’t call myself a liberal. But how would I know? I just know now that I was very conservative before.

How you view the Bears first round last night is also largely a matter of perspective. Nationally the pick of quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has been almost universally panned because media experts and anonymous scouts who have an interest in seeing the quarterbacks fall have almost universally disparaged the class. And the Bears actually traded up a spot to get theirs.

But in stark contrast to the national reaction, the local media were generally positive about the move.

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune was (and has been) amongst the most out spoken.

“[General manager RyanPace said the strength of the draft was on defense and plenty of observers would agree. Moreover, the Bears have a host of needs on that side of the ball. But they haven’t had a greater need, period, than quarterback and that pre-dates the Phil Emery era. In fact, the Bears have mismanaged the position for far too much of the post-Sid Luckman era.

“Something had to be done and when the Browns didn’t draft Trubisky, who was raised in the Cleveland suburb of Mentor, with the No. 1 pick, Pace paid big-time to acquire the No. 2 pick from the 49ers. The Bears forked over the No. 3 pick, their third-round pick (No. 67 overall), fourth-round pick (No. 111) and a third-rounder in 2018. The exchange was a steep price, equivalent to a second-round pick according to a source with another team, but when you’re seeking a franchise quarterback, you have to be bold and the Bears have spent far too much time being meek.”

 

Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times, usually ready to fire at the Bears at the drop of the hat, was fine with this (albeit with a parting shot):

“A tip of the cap to general manager Ryan Pace for having the courage to make a choice that is very much a roll of the dice. I have no idea whether Trubisky will be a good NFL quarterback. But I like the idea of the Bears throwing caution to the wind and going for it. They haven’t had an excellent quarterback since Jim McMahon, and I think it has slowly dawned on them that they can’t win a Super Bowl without one. And when I say slowly, I mean slooooooooowly.”

Even David Haugh at the Tribune, who I rarely completely agree with, nailed this one perfectly in my mind:

“It’s about time.

“The Bears could have stayed in the third spot and taken a defensive player to suit coach John Fox, or maybe even Trubisky if he was still on the board. They could have gone by the book like NFL executives typically do and the way Pace fooled everyone into believing he would.

“But going all-in to draft a Trubisky for all the Grabowskis in Chicago, Pace opted for bold over blase.”

People who actually follow the Bears are bound to have a different perspective on this once they settle down and ponder it this morning. It’s really easy if you are covering or following a NFL team that has a good quarterback to trash this pick. But try doing that if you are following a team that hasn’t had a quarterback in 30 years (or more) and who hasn’t even tried to draft anyone to solve the problem in 13 years.

Do that year after year after year and watch what happens to your attitude. It certainly has had an effect on me. And I’m not alone.

In contrast to media reports, NFL teams actually valued this quarterback class a great deal. We know that because, depite deceptive anonymous quotes, their actions spoke louder than their words. General manager Ryan Pace stated that they knew that the 49ers were receiving offers to move up for a quarterback because they were receiving offers from the same teams. And the 49ers confirmed that they had two offers on the table.

That’s not all. Immediately after the Bears took Trubisky, the Browns reportedly tried to engineer a trade for Kirk Cousins, something that could have been done well before the draft but was likely attempted only after the guy they, themselves, planned to trade up to get disappeared. It’s worth noting that the Chiefs also traded up to get ahead of the Browns and the Saints to keep them from taking Pat Mahomes. Houston traded up a long way to get Deshaun Watson at 12 overall. And many, many other teams worked these players out privately before the draft despite the class’s supposed lack of quality.

Needless to say that, when you aren’t just a media pundit and your job is actually on the line when your team doesn’t win, it obviously affects how you see things. These people thought a lot more highly of these players than reports indicated.

The Bears had to make this move. They had a guy they liked, they aren’t planning to be drafting this high again, and they don’t have a developing quarterback, a position that Pace has stated repeatedly that he’d like to draft every year.

For the record, I’m warming to the pick and to Trubisky. He is, after all, the only one of the top quarterbacks who has been characterized as accurate, something that arguably can’t be taught. Indeed, the only major criticism that’s usually leveled is that he was a one year starter. Well, so was Marshawn Lattimore. So was Ryan Ramczyk. So were quite a few of the top prospects in this draft. You do your due diligence, evaluate and project based upon what you have. That’s all their is to it.

I didn’t like the price but 2 third round picks and a fourth round pick isn’t exactly giving up the farm. And if he’s the guy you like, there’s no price too high for a potential franchise quarterback.

At least not if you have been exposed to the Chicago Bears for any length of time.

 

Dowell Loggains Probably Shouldn’t Read This. And Other Points of View.

  • Two articles about new offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains here and here.  Not one word, not even one question, about how he managed to get an entire organization fired (with himself coming first) when he pushed the owner to draft Johnny Manziel against the wishes of both the coaching staff and the front office.

Fluffy, feel good nonsense.

  • And then there is the fascinating comment in Patrick Finley’s article for the Chicago Sun-Times on Monday morning?

“The Bears and Texans took back-to-back timeouts after the play with 13 seconds left in the first half. [Alshon] Jeffery, having seen the way the Texans’ safeties were rolling toward him, walked into the huddle and told Jay Cutler what was going to happen on the next play: the safety would shade to help cover him, and Eddie Royal would be open down the seam for a 19-yard touchdown.”

I also took note of this early in the first half, thinking that Kevin White might have a big game because of it.

I noticed it.  And Jeffery noticed it.  So I have one question:  Where was Loggains?  Why wasn’t he in Cutler’s ear telling him what was going to happen?  Isn’t that his job?

“They made some adjustments,” Jeffery said. “We have to make adjustments. We gotta do better.”

Good luck with that.

“The sacks and quarterback hits were the result of a really good defense and an offensive line that hasn’t had a chance to come together. But you have to wonder if Cutler would’ve been sacked five times and hit 13 times if offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains was calling plays the way Adam Gase did last year. Cutler was sacked as many as five times only twice in 2015, and the most he was hit in a game was eight times. The Bears went through a four-game stretch in which Cutler was hit only 11 times and on average in 2015, the Bears gave up 4.9 quarterback hits per game.”

The answer is “no”.  No way Cutler takes that kind of a beating last year.

Adam Gase called plays where Cutler’s responsibility was to get rid of the ball fast, taking the pressure off of the offensive line.  He also frequently made sure that the tackles had tight end help in pass protection, especially Charles Leno on the left.  That disappeared to Miami yesterday as well.

“The Bears can’t afford for Cutler to treat White the way he treated Devin Hester.”

Yeah, that wasn’t good.  Cutler was caught on camera painting at White, indicating that White had made the mistake on the route that led to an interception.  But even after the game, White obviously wasn’t sure that was really the case.

“I’m not sure,” White said. “We just got to go back and watch film. [It’s] not being on the same page. We’ll figure it out and correct it for next week.”

In fairness, Cutler softened up his comments after the game.  Nevertheless I found head coach John Fox’s reaction on Tuesday to be disappointing:

“I can’t expect people not to show emotion,” Fox said. “I don’t think any of that’s intentional. They’re just all competitors. They want good things to happen and when bad things happen, there’s probably an element of frustration with a lot of people.”

Perhaps.  But Cutler’s attempt to not assign blame after the game was empty given that he couldn’t keep himself from doing it on the field.  He’s got to control himself better than that.

Bottom line, Pompei is right.  I remember the exact same situations popping up with Devin Hester and I remember Cutler’s reaction being exactly the same.  And it was evident from Hester’s comments after he left that he didn’t take kindly to it.

 


After bashing Dowell Loggains for most of this post, maybe the bookies know something I don’t.  We shall see.

  • Biggs also points out that general manager Ryan Pace probably needs a Jimmy Garoppolo tracker.  The Patriots are likely to get multiple first round picks in a trade if he performs the next three games like he did on Sunday.

I’ve done everything but get down on my knees and beg Pace to draft a quarterback in the first three rounds for the last two drafts.  I’m going to do it again.

I’ve heard a lot of nonsense about not reaching for a quarterback and how Pace was justified in not paying the price to get one.  Well, tell that to the Patriots.  The invested a second round pick in a quarterback they didn’t need and spent a few years developing him.  It’s now paying off, just as it did when the Packers drafted Aaron Rogers when they didn’t need him.

Bottom line, the value for the player and the position is set by the market.  If you are consistently evaluating players below that value, you are the one who is undervaluing the position because you are the one who refuses to play the going rate.

Ryan, please, draft a damned quarterback.  And then draft another one.  And then draft another one. And do it and do it and do it again.  I’m begging you.  It’s an investment that ultimately will pay off five fold (at least) if you do it right.

Quick Game Comments: Bears at Texans 9/11/16

Offense

  1. Bears came out in three wide and tried to mix it up.  They had 20 runs Vs. 20 passes with six minutes left in the game they started playing from behind.  The Texans played it mostly straight up with seven in the box and did a decent job of holding them, particularly in the second half when they prevented the Bears from putting anything together at all.
  2. What a first half for Alshon Jeffery.  Four catches for 105 yards in the first half alone.  Unfortunately the Texans quickly figured out that he was the offense and stymied him in the second half.  Nevertheless, this could be the first step in a great, contract season.
  3. Jay Cutler (16/29 216 yds) also had  some really nice throws but my heavens, he holds the ball a long time.  I know he’s trying to make plays but when the Texans are bringing the house you can’t stand back there forever and not expect to get killed.  The receivers were probably having a tough time getting open but it doesn’t help that he’s also not throwing with anticipation like he did last year.  In fairness, he threw some bullets in some big spots just as he always does.  But he’s regressed since Adam Gase left, perhaps yet another sign that he’s losing confidence in the team and the coaching (*cough* Dowell Loggains *cough*).
  4. The Texans didn’t blitz or stunt much but it still worries me that when they did, it worked pretty well.  This is a carryover from the preseason where they also struggled with these things.  Cutler definitely saw some pressure, especially in the second half and specially late in the second half when the whole stadium knew they had to pass. As noted, it was a lot worse when Cutler held the ball trying to make a play.
  5. Jadaveon Clowney had a good game today.  The Bears left their offensive linemen without much help pass blocking for much of the game and both Clowney and Whitney Mercilus got good pressure.  Credit the Bears offensive line for doing a good job on J.J. Watt, though.
  6. I also thought the line did a decent job of run blocking at times.  Unlike in the passing game, it looked like the Bears were helping out Bobbie Massie by giving him help from tight end Logan Paulsen.   The Bears ran mostly to the right.
  7. Cody Whitehair’s inexperience showed on a snap where he didn’t get the ball up to Cutler on a quarterback sneak.  Cutler never had a chance to get the first down fourth and less than one.  This was a case where rookie play cost them.  You have to wonder if they wouldn’t have been better giving Whitehair a game or two to get adapted to the position as suggested here.
  8. But what stuck out the most to me about the running game was the way that running backs Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey did a good job of finding daylight and running to it.  Both showed some good vision today.
  9. Kevin White was up and down.  He apparently went the wrong way on a Cutler interception.  He also had a false start, something that should never happen to a wide receiver.

Defense

  1. From the first snap this was a contest between the Houston running game and the Bears trying to stop it with seven in the box.  Overall the defense didn’t play badly but generally speaking I thought the Texans got the best of them on the ground as they dominated the line of scrimmage.  In fairness, to my eye they did better stopping the run in the second half.
  2. The Texans did all that blocking with a shaky offensive line, making the Bears performance a bit more disappointing.  Right tackle Derek Newton has been fighting a hamstring problem and Left tackle Dwayne Brown has a torn quad and was replaced by Chris Clark.  Center Greg Mancz is a back up as well.   It helps that Lamarr Miller was running well.
  3. Mitch Unrein was sliding inside on passing downs.  Leonard Floyd was also seeing time in the defensive rotation along with Cornelius Washington.  Floyd held his own but didn’t get much pressure.
  4. Generally speaking I thought the defensive backs did a surprisingly good job.  They played the Texans mano-a-mano in man coverage most of the game.  Tracy Porter did about as well as you can do on an island with Deandre Hopkins.  Notably Adrian Amos was around the ball a lot.  That’s a change from last year where Amos rarely shows dup on camera when the ball was sin the air.
  5. Brock Osweiler was up and down (22/35 231yds).  He looks accurate enough but his decision making was questionable at times.  He also stares down receivers.
  6. There wasn’t much pressure on Osweiler in the first half but I thought the Bears did better after half time.
  7. One other thing that stuck out about the Texans.  They seem to be pretty decent at getting themselves into third and manageable.  That puts plenty of pressure on a defense.

Miscellaneous

  1. I thought Thom Brennaman, Charles Davis and Peter Schrager were adequate.  Davis didn’t add much insight to the broadcast but Brennaman is one of the best in the business.
  2. Both teams had more penalties than I’m sure they’d like with some sloppy first game play (Bears: 4 for 30 yards, Texans: 6 for 69 yards).  More than the usual number of calls were questionable but it wasn’t the cleanest game on either side.  The Texan’s offensive line was jumpy early with a false start by Derek Newton and a holding penalty by Chris Clark on the same series.  Hopkins had a very damaging pass interference call in the end zone that basically resulted in the Texans settling for a field goal in the first half. Zach Miller had a pass interference call that cost the Bears about 25 yards on a nice screen pass near the ned of the first half.  Fortunately they overcame it to score anyway.
  3. Drops weren’t a huge part of this game but I note that Houston’s Will Fuller had a terrible one that probably cost the Texans a touchdown near the end of the first half.  That was his MO coming out of college.  Alshon Jeffery had a big drop that killed a drive late in the third quarter.  DeAndre Hopkins dropped a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
  4. I thought special teams were OK on both sides.  The Bears are going to have to do a better job of blocking on punts and kickoffs.  Eddie Royal had a good return in the first half.  He won’t be the speediest guy but he’ll do, I’m betting.  Notably both teams ran a lot of balls out of the end zone despite a rule change bringing touchbacks out to the 25 yard line.
  5. Turnovers were, of course, huge.  The Bears took advantage of a Tracy Porter interception to get a touchdown in the first quarter.  Kevin White showed his inexperience as he apparently went the wrong way on a route resulting in an interception.
  6. As expected, the Bears offense hung the defense out to dry as the Texans dominated time of possession (23:41 Vs. 36:09).  The number of drives was identical (12 a piece not counting the final kneel down) and so were the yards per play (4.8 Vs. 4.9).  The difference?  The Bears flat out couldn’t execute and put together a drive, especially in the second half once the Texans took Jeffery away.
  7. I’d say this was a game where the Bears youth and inexperience showed on some big plays.  Cody Whitehair held his own generally but the bad snap on the quarterback sneak in the first half cost the Bears.  Kevin White cost them an interception on a poorly run route.  These may be things that we’re going to have to live with for a while.Other than that, things were pretty much went as expected.  I had hoped that the defense might have been a little better but that was nothing compared to the poor performance by an offense that couldn’t seem to put it together in the preseason and now can’t seem to put it together in the regular season.

Random Post-Draft Thoughts

Now that the NFL draft is behind us I thought it might be time to wrap it up with some odds and ends left over in the wake of the annual selection process.

  • I for the most part agreed with the assessment of the Dolphins post draft roster roster for the Sun-Sentinel on Tuesday. But I have to take exception of his assertion that the defensive backfield is weaker than it was in 2015. The additions of Byron Maxwell and Xavien Howard have transformed an under-sized unit into one with considerable more length that should be able to better deal with the rigors of divisional play with some huge tight ends and wide receivers on the docket. Rashad Jones remains with the team and the addition of Isa Abdul-Quddus is being under-rated.

I’m more in line with Armando Salguero at the Herald when he says that the the success of the Dolphins draft class rides on how well Howard develops. The Dolphins paid a steep price to get him, the 42nd overall pick along with a fourth-round pick (107th overall) to move up four slots in the second round. If he works out it will be well worth it as the Dolphins should be very solid across the board on the back end. If it doesn’t, it will go down as just one of a series of draft failures for the team at the position.

  • Quarterback Cody Kessler may be the luckiest player in the NFL right now. Most believed going into the selection process that he was a late-round pick, if not an undrafted free agent. But all it takes is one and Kessler found an NFL coach that apparently believes in him.

Drafted in round 3 by the Cleveland Browns, presumably at the recommendation of head coach Hue Jackson, Kessler has none of the dominant physical tools that most coaches believe they need to mold a less instinctive quarterback into the next star (see Christian Hackenberg below). Instead, Jackson is betting on savvy and decision making. It will be interesting to see how Kessler develops and, if Jackson is right, if it won’t affect the way that other teams approach drafting the position in the future.

  • This draft was widely believed to be among the deepest ever in terms of defensive tackles and players that would have gone in the first round in other drafts were available as late as the third round. The Dolphins decidedly under-performed opposite Ndamukong Suh at this position and you have to wonder if they won’t regret simply sticking with Deandre Coleman and Jordan Phillips.

The Dolphins have staked a lot on the effect of another year’s experience and better coaching when it comes to these players. There’s little hope that the run defense will be better unless there is improvement in the play at defensive tackle.

  • If you’re already tired of seeing new Minnesota Viking Moritz Boehringer on your TV screen, I’ve got some bad news for you. You’re going to see a lot more of him this summer and, heaven help us, into the fall.

Boehringer is a German born wide receiver who saw a video of Adrian Peterson when he was 17 and decided that he wanted to be a NFL football player. He comes to the league as a former member of the Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns of the German Football League.

Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer was apparently thrilled as he said, “That’s kind of what the draft is all about — making dreams come true.”

Zimmer has been around long enough to know that is most certainly not what the draft, or anything else associated with the NFL, is about.

Dollar signs appeared in owners eyes all over the league as an opportunity to further promote football in Europe presented itself on a silver platter and the NFL Network has run with it, making it one of the stories of the draft.

If Boehringer had been Chinese, commissioner Roger Goodell would have probably had to change his pants.

We can only speculate about what precipitated this release but it wasn’t the draft as the Dolphins failed to select a defensive end. Perhaps the reason had something to do with this explanation from Salguero .

It’s also worth noting that Moore was released from the Giants after violating team rules, reportedly after an altercation with Cullen Jenkins over headphones. Jay Glazer at Fox Sports reported that it was only one of many such altercations.

Similar incidents would be a pretty good reason to release such a player in Miami. The release may also be a sign that the Dolphins are counting on the return of troubled player Dion Jordan more than they ought.

  • The Cowboys have received a lot of good publicity for taking linebacker Jaylon Smith in the second round.   Smith was widely believed to be amongst the best players in the draft until he suffered a brutal knee injury in the Fiesta Bowl. The images of Smith’s relief at being drafted so high were heart warming but ultimately the Cowboys may pay a high price for the good feelings this evoked.

Smith’s injury included a damaged nerve similar to what running back Marcus Lattimore suffered in 2012. Lattimore was drafted in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL draft and never played a down for the 49ers.

This is the trouble with nerve injuries. There’s nothing you can do to fix them. Either the body heals on its own or it never heals at all. Before the draft I figured that there were 32 team doctors all telling 32 general managers the same thing: “We don’t know. It could come completely back or it might not.” I was wrong. It was 31 team doctors.

That’s because the surgeon who fixed Smith’s knee is the Cowboys team doctor. The assumption here is that owner Jerry Jones thought he was getting inside information on this injury but he really should know better.

Surgeons as a group are a different breed. They carry a confidence about them such that I’ve never met one yet that would look you in the eye and say, “Naw. He may never recover.” That confidence is part of what makes them good surgeons. But it makes the advice that Jones got in this case highly questionable.

Feel good or not, Smith should have never come off the board before the fourth round.  The guess here is the his recovery is a coin flip at best.

Here’s the problem with that theory. Fuller is an under-sized body catcher who had 21 drops the last two seasons. Miller made the conversion from quarterback to wide receiver last year at Ohio State and was very athletic. Unfortunately he too has trouble not only with running routes but with just holding on to the ball as demonstrated graphically by his less than stellar performance in the Senior Bowl.

Sure these players are athletic. But how much help are they going to be if they lack the hand-eye coordination to perform the most basic function of any wide receiver: catching the ball.

  • One Final Thought: Message to the New York Jet, who pulled off one of the surprises of the draft when they took Hackenberg in the second round. It’s not a good thing when the NFL Network flashes up a graphic about your pick and under “Weaknesses” it simply says, “Game Tape”.

Good luck with that.

Bears Concerns About Hard Knocks Genuine, Make Sense

Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com passes on the news (as reported locally) that the Bears have no interest in being on HBO‘s Hard Knocks. Which really isn’t news since it’s no different from the stand that they’ve consistently taken over the years:

“[Bears chairman George] McCaskey’s position generally about the show isn’t new or surprising. The Bears have become one of the most secretive organizations in football, routinely declining interview requests and at times alienating local reporters with a seemingly gratuitous lack of honesty and candor (e.g., the Kevin White injury). Part of the attitude comes for the ill-advised, Belichickian ‘anything we say can and will be used against us’ mindset. But the Bears also have developed a strong desire to funnel news and access through their own website, via EXCLUSIVE! sit-downs between, as a practical matter, coworkers.

“So maybe the real message is that the Bears would do Hard Knocks, but only if they had full control over the content — and if the episodes would appear solely the team’s official, in-house website.”

Florio is, of course, quite correct in that the Bears have become more secretive under the influence of head coach John Fox. But he’s wrong in his conclusion.

The Bears aren’t refusing to be on the show because they want control over the content. Every team wants that and, to an extent, has been given it.

The Bears concerns are more genuine and require nothing more than common sense to see. They’re afraid the show will be a distraction which, despite politically correct protestations to the contrary, it certainly has to be.

In any case, the Bears will never volunteer to be on the show as long as the McCaskey’s own the team and as long as they are hiring like-minded executives to run it. Despite that, it is possible that they will be on. But the guess here is that it will happen only if the league can’t find a volunteer and asks them to do it for the good of the collective business and not with any extra-ordinary strings attached.

Lots to Interest Fans at the NFL Combine on Saturday

Having spent most of my day yesterday watching the Combine coverage on the NFL Network, I thought I would share a few impressions. Yesterday was the on field workout day for quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends. The Bears have needs in all three areas and, though none is immediately urgent, they are probably looking closely at the prospects at all three positions.

Of the wide receivers, the one that you never heard of that impressed me the most was Josh Doctson out of TCU. Dotson apparently surprised everyone with a 4.50 second 40 yard dash. What wasn’t a surprise was the smooth way that he moves at 6’2″, 202 lb nor the ease with which he catches the ball. He might be a hand full on the next level. Braxton Miller continued to get a lot of love from the media analysts even as he continued to show that he can’t catch the ball. He must have a hell of an agent.

Hunter Henry out of Arkansas got the most love of all of the tight ends but I’m not seeing it. The guy who continued to impress me the most was Ohio State’s Nick Vannett. Vannett had a very good Senior Bowl and he continues to show that he can move well despite his size. He looks to me like he’s going to be a good all around blocking and receiving tight end and one that should interest the Bears.

At quarterback Carson Wentz was, of course, the king of the class. Physically he’s the guy who is going to stand out in this type of environment and the smooth, quick way that he dropped back showed his comfort under center, having played in a pro style offense at North Dakota State. No surprises there. Also as you’d expect, California’s Jared Goff was smooth as well, though physically slight standing next to Wentz. Paxton Lynch out of Memphis was the raw, physical specimen that his reputation tells you that he is. All of these guys look like the NFL quality players that they’ve been cracked up to be.

Of the second level quarterbacks that the Bears are likely to be looking closely at, I liked Dak Prescott out of Mississippi a little better than I did after his Senior Bowl. I still have major questions about how he actually plays but in this environment he looked more like the type of third round prospect that scouts seem to think that he is. It’s now evident that Stanford’s Kevin Hogan just doesn’t have an NFL arm.

The other guy in this category who threw well was Arkansas’s Brandon Allen. While media commentators continued to go on and on about Michigan State’s Connor Cook and Christian Hackenberg, neither of which looked good and neither of which have shown me anything special on the field, Allen’s performance seemed to slip by almost unnoticed.

Actually, the fascination with Hackenberg is understandable. He has the physical tools and looked good his freshman year under then head coach at Penn State and now for the Texans, Bill O’Brien. As noted by field reporter Kimberly Jones during the broadcast, Hackenberg seems to be a polarizing prospect. Apparently, the scouts don’t like him but the coaches do. You could practically read their minds: “If O’Brien can get the most of this guy, then I should be able to as well, right?” It will be interesting to see where Hackenberg goes in April.

Nevertheless, Allen continues to get my attention. The comments of one unnamed scout, which were passed on by Jones, were of interest. After the first session, in which Cook, Goff and Hackenberg threw, the scout had virtually nothing good to say about any of the prospects (including Goff) but mentioned Allen as a guy who “threw well”. The comment went by the media analysts on hand without apparent notice.

I really couldn’t tell you if Allen has the stuff to start in the NFL. It looks to me like a definite “maybe” because he’s just a tad short at 6’1″ and he has small hands. His arm strength looks good but not great and he’s just not impressive physically the way that Wentz and Lynch are. Nevertheless if the Bears are looking for value at the position, Allen is a guy who could easily slip through the cracks to a spot where they feel comfortable taking him.

Aren’t the Bears Supposed to Be Hoarding Draft Picks?

Here’s another good question for Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com, one that I also had:

“Why did the Bears trade a draft pick away [for TE Khari Lee]?”

“My understanding is it’s a sixth-round pick in 2017, not next year. To justify that pick, all he has to do is become a solid No. 2 and you can get two years of production out of him that you don’t get with that pick if you keep it.

“That’s why they did it.

“My analysis is they better be right and he better become at least a No. 2 tight end in the league. I can’t ever remember a team trading a sixth-round draft choice for a player who was an undrafted rookie free agent out of a D II (or whatever they call it these days) school.”

Who cares about production over the next two years?Khari Lee

I’ll take this farther than Hub. Lee better turn out to be more than a strictly blocking tight end, which is what he’s been characterized as. You can pick better ones than Lee up in the sixth or seventh round of any draft and nothing should tell you that more than the fact that Lee was undrafted.

When Is Due Diligence Called For and When Isn’t It?

Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times profiles defensive tackle Danny Shelton:

“[G]iven that the team will morph into 4-3 defense on nickel and dime situations, the Bears could be cautious drafting someone who could be limited to two downs.”

“The 6-foot-2, 339-pounder has been compared to Haloti Ngata and Vince Wilfork. But he’s athletic enough that, growing up, he wanted to be Steelers safety Troy Polamalu.”

“He showed that athleticism when, in the rival Apple Cup matchup with Washington State this year, he barrel-rolled along the ground at line of scrimmage before the snap, lining up in a new position, and then sacked the quarterback.”

Having looked at some video of Shelton I can say that the comparison to Wilfork is a pretty good one. He’s plenty athletic and I think its entirely possible that he could be more than a two down player. But even as a two down player he’d be valuable. Finley points out that the Bears might be better off drafting a pass rusher – and they might. But there’s a decent chance that with proven 4-3 defensive ends like Jared Allen and Willie Young on the team, any pass rusher they take could well be restricted to being a two down player as well.

But here’s the paragraph that really caught my eye.

“Shelton talked extensively with the Bears at the Senior Bowl and at the NFL Scouting Combine, and, he said, with a Chicago scout after that. His only official visit after the combine was with the Browns, though he said teams have learned enough about him during his showcases to not need one-on-one visits.”

Do the Bears do their “due diligence” by brining in Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota – two players who are unlikely to be there at the seventh pick. They bring in Mario Edwards and T.J. Clemmings presumably on the off chance they find a way to trade down. But they don’t bring in Shelton, who is likely to be there when you pick and who fits the defense to a T? And not just the Bears – nobody seems to be brining him in.

I don’t get this. Each team gets 30 visits with prospects. The Packers general manager Ted Thompson restricts his mostly to low round players and free agents who weren’t at the Combine. That makes sense. But if you are a team like the Bears, how do you decide which prospects you do “due diligence on” and which you don’t?

The process seems random. Hopefully its not.

On a Positive Note and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times apparently didn’t read my article indicating that they haven’t changed as he outlines the Bears needs post-free agency. In fairness, the list looks a lot like the one from two months ago.
  • Plenty of people have claimed that the Bears overpaid for wide receiver Eddie Royal. But Eric D. Williams at ESPN points out that Royal’s reliable, high quality play had an impact on the Chargers last year. They’ll likely miss him.
  • Michael C. Wright at ESPN is asked if he’d take linebacker Vic Beasley or wide receiver Amari Cooper if both were on the board for the Bears. Wright goes with the wide receiver because he thinks its currently a greater need.

    Cooper in my opinion is far and away the better prospect. He’s as close to a sure thing as your going to get at receiver with a lot of speed and polish. Beasley, on the other hand, scares me. He’s another one of these late risers who shot up boards after the draft. I watched one of his games during the season and was mighty unimpressed. Guys like this, who don’t stand out based upon the tape but who catch your eye after showing they can run track, have a bad habit of busting. This is where teams need to anchor their board.

  • Dan Hanzus at nfl.com constructs a team out of the remaining free agents. Its not too bad and there are some guys the Bears could use here at the right price at spots like tight end (Jermaine Gresham), along the offensive line (e.g. Jake Long), and safety (Stevie Brown, Bernard Pollard). My guess is that the hey phrase for a many of these guys it “at the right price”. At some point, that almost has come down and we might see some of these guys.
  • Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times interviews linebacker turned defensive end turned linebacker Lamarr Houston. He claims he was often played out of position last year at defensive tackle. He was listed at 300 lb but actually weighed 265.

    Houston was mostly being asked to rush the passer from that spot. It was quite an adjustment and one that he didn’t make quickly. Or perhaps some would say the old coaching staff didn’t adjust and switch him back to a position he’d be more more likely to succeed in quickly enough. I’m certain he’ll be happier and more productive this year.

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune reports that the Bears are having offensive tackle T.J. Clemmings in for a pre-draft visit. I’m glad the Bears aren’t ignoring the offensive line, which has to get better if they’re really going to run the ball more. Clemmings is targeted for the middle to late first round. This may be an indication that the Bears are looking to trade back.
  • chicagofootball.com rounds up a whole lot of mock drafts. The most popular choices are Amari Cooper and Danny Shelton. Clearly the Bears are going to get a very good player in the first round if the stick in the seven slot.

Elsewhere

    • Judy Battista at nfl.com does a nice job of detailing the limbo that both Jadeveon Clowney and the Texans are in after his micro-fracture surgery. As bad as this is for Clowney, it’s worse for the Texans. They can only hope that Clowney’s recovery goes smoothly but it would be unwise to count on it.
    • Gregg Rosenthal at nfl.com points out that the NFL offseason calendar changed and that could affect when free agents are signed. In previous years, unrestricted free agents signed by other teams counted toward the league’s compensatory pick formula until June 1. That day has been moved to May 12. So a lot of signings could happen right after that day.
    • Victor Mather at The New York Times reports on the current state of the Aaron Hernandez trial. I’ll summarize for those who don’t want to read the details: The evidence is all circumstantial and he’s going to get off.
    • On the other hand, those who don’t want to believe that will want to read this from Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com.
    • Nate Atkins at chicagofootball.com has a little fun with his mock draft, projecting a straight up trade of Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers to the Titans for the number two overall pick. I think I would demand more if I were the Titans but I guess its not impossible. 
    • Michael Rothstein at ESPN details the likely loss of yet another defensive lineman for the Lions in George Johnson. The guess here is that its not a huge loss in that Johnson never did much in the NFL until he was paired with Ndamukong Suh. Nevertheless it would be yet another significant loss in terms of depth. The Lions are cap strapped and they’ve got holes popping up on that defense.

One Final Thought

You won’t find many positive articles about the Bears in the national media (believe me I’ve looked). So this one by Elliot Harrison at nfl.com was mildly refreshing. It’s not head-over-heels positive but overall its evident that Harrison likes what he sees here from Ryan Pace.

As a side note, Elliot highlights the fate of Stephen Paea, arguably the Bears best defensive player last year. Most of us figured that Paea was gone with the transition from a 4-3, where he was a nose tackle, to the 3-4 where he presumably didn’t have a position. The Redskins picked up Paea in free agency after the Bears apparently showed little interest. Guess where they’ll play him. Defensive end in a 3-4, an area of weakness for the Bears right now. It will be interesting to see how that transition works out.

Time Is a Quarterback’s Best Friend. And Other Points of View.

Bears

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune interviews new Bears cornerback Alan Ball. Ball is a big defensive back at 6-2, 197 lb. You can’t have too many of them. Bears general manager Ryan Pace would seem to agree.
  • Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times goes down the Bears defensive depth chart. A couple thing become clear in this exercise. Defensive line is still by far the biggest need with Ego Ferguson backing up all three positions. The cornerback position is interesting with Demontre Hurts, Ball, Tim Jennings and Kyle Fuller lining up to compete for two spots. The guess here is that Fuller is established at one outside spot and that one of the other three ends up playing nickel.
  • Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com is down right enthusiastic about the signing of linebacker Mason Foster.
  • The 49ers are continuing to stick with Blaine Gabbert (left) as their backup quarterback. Similar to Bears backup Jimmy Clausen (right), Gabbert got thrown into the fire immediately his first season and performed poorly. Also like Clausen, he never got another chance to prove himself.

    Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 6.25.40 AM

    There was a time when quarterbacks sat for years developing behind an established starter. Former Packers head coach Mike Holmgren once famously said that quarterbacks didn’t really pick up the offense until the THIRD YEAR. High round picks don’t get that kind of time anymore. But you have to wonder if both Gabbert and Clausen aren’t benefiting from their roles as backups in the same way that those quarterbacks of long ago did. If so, we may not have seen the last of either of them as starters.

  • Say what you want about former Bears head coach Marc Trestman, he apparently knew many of his players better then some would think. From John Mullin at csnchicago.com:

    “A footnote to the 2014 ‘leadership’ season: Trestman, who began naming weekly last season rather than the traditional team-vote method, appears to have had some sense of what he did and didn’t have as far as locker room leaders. Through 15 games, [Jared] Allen and [Jeremiah] Ratliff were captains six times each, Jay Cutler three times.

    Brandon Marshall was a captain just twice, the second and last time being the Miami game, after which Marshall erupted with a postgame rant at teammates.”

Elsewhere

  • Conor Orr at nfl.com passes on that Mike McCarthy wants to put Packers quarterback Aaron Rogers in the pistol more often next year. The formation has most of the advantages of being in the shotgun but puts the runningback behind you, allowing for runs and making play action effective. I don’t see much of a downside.
  • Orr assesses the effectiveness of the NFL general managers in the draft by looking at the percentage of their picks that make the all-rookie team.

    “Jags GM Dave Caldwell is only two years in, but there’s no doubt he’ll need to hit on one this year. Three years without an All-Rookie selection is unheard of for gainfully employed GMs.”

    Carolina’s Dave Gettleman ranks at the top of the list. Bears general manager Ryan Pace isn’t ranked as he hasn’t made a pick yet.

  • Chris Wessling, also at nfl.com, comments on the staff’s division power rankings. The NFC North ranked third amongst the eight divisions:

    “Even with the acknowledgment that the Lions and Vikings are potential wild-card teams, the NFC North’s third-place ranking reflects respect for the Packers as the primary threat to the Seahawks’ NFC hegemony. Nobody knows what to think of Chicago, mirroring the Bears’ puzzlement at quarterback.”

  • Texans owner Bob McNair defended their signing of nose tackle Vince Wilfork by saying that players are more likely to lose speed than strength with age. Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com calls the notion “a bit simplistic”. I call it dead wrong.
  • Former Bears head coach Lovie Smith is returning to his familiar ways, limiting himself to free agents he either knows (Henry Melton, Chris Conte) or that people he knows know (Bruce Carter and Sterling Moore). That’s a similar strategy to the one he employed as head coach of the Bears when hiring assistants and, like the players he’s signing now, that meant he was drawing them from a very limited pool. There’s always going to be a cap on how much success coaches like Smith have. From the Tampa Tribune.
  • Still wondering why teams don’t spend high round picks on running backs anymore? The Broncos selected Ronnie Hillman in the third round of 2012, took Montee Ball in the second round and signed C.J. Anderson as an undrafted free agent in 2013. Guess which one is going into OTAs as the starter? Via Michael David Smith at profootballtalk.com.

One Final Thought

A reminder to everyone not to forget to register to get tickets for you and a guest to the NFL Draft in Chicago at NFL.com/DraftTown. As long as I get the second ticket.