Sometimes It Isn’t Rocket Science

Next Fan Up Artwork

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

The Situation

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 9.48.02 AM

The Guy

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

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

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

danny-shelton

The Attempt to Trade Down

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

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

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

The Pick

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

Skipping Bayless and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Phil Thompson at the Chicago Tribune notes that there were no Bears evident at Jimmy Clausen‘s wedding. His Twitter background image is one of himself in a Carolina Panther’s uniform.

    Slow news day.

  • Nate Atkins at chicagofootball.com . Smith’s situation is reminiscent of what happened to current Bear Lamarr Houston. He succeeded as a 3-4 five technique, in his case for the Texans, then signed on with Oakland to be a 4-3 defensive tackle. Like Houston, Atkins struggled with the transition. Also like Houston, he might be a good bet to bounce back in the defensive scheme that he is best suited for. This sounds like good thinking to me – and like something Bears general manager Ryan Pace might very well do.
  • Kevin Fishbain, Hub and Arthur Arkush debate the best and worst free agent signings by the Bears for chicagofootball.com. I’m going to go ahead and agree with Hub that Mason Foster was probably their best signing. There are too many question marks at inside linebacker and they needed someone they could depend on there. Id say dependable is Foster’s floor.

    A mildly disturbing trend that runs throughout this article is the subtle suggestion that the Bears are consistently overpaying for players like Eddie Royal and Alan Ball. These suggestions tend to be a lot more than subtle in the national media where I’ve heard the Royal signing openly ridiculed. These won’t be spectacular errors if they don’t work out but I’d rather see that money spent a bit more wisely.

  • Arthur Arkush evaluates wide receiver prospect Kevin White. I’m starting to become a little wary of White. He relies heavily on his physical ability to beat defenders. That might be OK but what happens when he gets to the NFL and finds out he can’t dominate every corner like he did in college. More and more I agree with scouts that the much more savvy Amari Cooper is the safer pick.

Elsewhere

  • NFL analyst Rodney Harrison isn’t a believer in the Jets. Via Dan Hanzus at nfl.com:

    “‘The Jets are, all of a sudden, on a high thinking they’re going to win a championship,’ Harrison said on NBC Sports Radio, per ESPN. ‘You’re not going to win a championship, you’re not even going to make the playoffs, because you don’t have a quarterback. If you go into the season and you’re expecting Geno Smith to improve, it’s not going to happen. He might get a little better, but when times get tough, when adversity hits, guess what he’s going to do? He’s going to fold just like the last couple years.'”

    Sound familiar Bears fans?

  • Kevin Patra at nfl.com says that the punishment of the Atlanta Falcons for pumping crowd noise into the Georgia Dome has come down. The NFL fined the Falcons $350,000, took away their fifth-round selection in the 2016 NFL Draft, and suspended team president Rich McKay will also be suspended for at least three months from the Competition Committee beginning April 1.

    I think the Falcons are being made an example, here. I’m virtually certain that they’re nowhere near the only team in the NFL to do this. When the Rams were in the same division with the Saints the players talked about the noise being so loud on their bench in the Super Dome that they had to turn the speakers on the sideline around just to hear themselves talk.

  • Bucky Brooks at nfl.com has quarterback Marcus Mariota falling to the Chargers at 17. It’s not impossible. But it’s going to be tough for the Saints who are probably starting to plan for a future without Drew Brees, to pass on him at 13.

    Mariota’s a risky pick for most teams, though. He could easily fall pretty far. The other thing to consider is that’s easy trade up range for the Eagles, who are sitting at 20. Mariota played under head coach Chip Kelly at Oregon and Kelly has called him the best player in the draft.

  • Mary Kay Cabot at cleveland.com thinks that the Browns will try to move up to take Mariota, as well. That sounds like exactly the kind of thing owner Jimmy Haslam might push for.
  • Matt Vensil at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune says that 6-9, 351 lb offensive tackle Babatunde Aiyegbusi, who signed with the Minnesota Vikings after flying over from Poland to try out is now experiencing the items commonly found in an American diet including tacos, pink lemonade, chicken wings and waffle fries. What’s the over-under on his weight by the time training camp starts?

One Final Thought

I really don’t care that a student trashed Cam Newton in his elementary school paper. But the comparison to former Chicago Tribune and current ESPN lazy blow hard Skip Bayless by profootballtalk.com‘s Darin Gantt is right on target:

“And actually, he’s better than Bayless, because there’s at least an intellectual honesty to the kid’s claims.”

Skip-Bayless

I think I’d get more out of it if I switched on the TV and found the 10 year old yelling at me.

Another Example of How Statistics Lie

Derek-Carr1

John McTigue at ESPN Stats and Information thinks that Oakland should give up on quarterback Derek Carr and draft Marcus Mariota:

“On the surface Carr’s rookie campaign compares favorably to other recent seasons by rookie QBs. He threw fewer interceptions (12) and completed a higher percentage of passes (58.1 percent) than Andrew Luck did (18, 54.1 percent) and he was the ninth rookie since the merger to throw at least 20 touchdown passes (21).

“A deeper dive into Carr’s numbers suggest his 2014 season left a lot to be desired, however. Carr finished the season with a 38.4 Total QBR, which ranked 28th out of 33 qualified quarterbacks. His QBR didn’t rank favorably among other recent rookies, either. Of the 27 rookies to qualify since 2006 — as far back as Total QBR data goes — Carr’s QBR ranks 15th, sandwiched between EJ Manuel (38.4) and Geno Smith (35.9).

“Carr’s QBR suffered because of minimal gains made on his passes. He averaged a mere 5.46 yards per attempt last season, which was not only worst in the NFL last season, it was one of the worst all time.”

This seems to me to be a prime example of why stats are for losers. Can you name one wide receiver on the Oakland roster from last year? How about a tight end? Neither could I. A review of the list of receivers that Carr was dealing to at the end of the year includes such stars as Mychal Rivera and James Jones. Carr’s yards per attempt were so low because running backs routinely led the team in receptions.

I’ll tell you what. If the Raiders wat to take an unknown quantity like Mariota and then trade Carr and a second round pick to the Bears for their first round pick, I’m totally game. Bears fans may not have a good idea of what a quarterback looks like but we certainly know what one doesn’t. I think we’d take Carr in a second.

No, They’re Not Kidding. And Other Points of View.

Bears

  • The Bears re-signed Dante Rosario. Rosario’s value is really on special teams and the Bears probably still need to find a tight end who can block the run. From Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune.
  • Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com points out that Bears head coach John Fox likes a runningback by committee. That leads him to speculate that the Bears might take a running back with their second round pick. That would fit in well with this ESPN report that Georgia’s Todd Gurley had an “extended conversation” with Bears southeast area scout Sam Summerville at his pro day.
  • Former Bears Director of College Scouting Greg Gabriel at the National Football Postthinks the Bears will trade back in the draft. He also thinks the Vikings will fill their need at guard and Detroit will fill their need at defensive tackle. Bud Dupree has that kind of look that would land him in Green Bay ahead of any decline from Julius Peppers.
  • Gabriel also writes for WSCR in Chicago. He does a very good job of breaking down the type players Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio used in the 3-4 defense that San Francisco played. It involved smaller, penetrating linemen rather than the big bodied 2 gappers that teams like Baltimore use. They also had smallish, speedy linebackers and tall corners. Whether these were the players Fangio preferred of this was a case of making the best of the players you are given is unknown. What scheme Fangio will use here is a matter of debate but if you think he’ll try to play the same scheme in Chicago that he did in San Francisco, these are the types of players to expect the Bears to collect.

Elsewhere

  • Matt Vensel at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune dreams that the Falcons, Giants and Rams are all going to over-draft offensive linemen to allow Amari Cooper to fall to them. I think it far more likely that they’ll have their choice of those linemen and, in fact, they could do a lot worse than Brandon Scherff. He’d do a wonderful job of solidifying their left guard spot, vacated by the release of Charlie Johnson.
  • The Vikings biggest need may be a starting cornerback opposite Xavier Rhodes so its no surprise that Vikings general manager Rick Spielman and coach Mike Zimmer were watching Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes rather closely at his pro day. He’s probably a slam dunk pick for them in the first round. Via Ben Goessling at ESPN.
  • Mel Kiper “re-drafts” the 2009 prospects for ESPN. You don’t think the draft is a crap shoot? Out of the 32 new “first round picks” not one was drafted in the original top nine. Michael Crabtree was the highest original pick to make the list at 10 and two of the players in the new round originally went undrafted.
  • Kyle Meinke at mlive.com acknowledges that Detroit has taken a step back n free agency, largely due to losses at defensive tackle. However he believes that the team may make up for it, not by signing more talent, but by continuing to develop the talent that they have.He’s got a point. Good organizations are the ones that not only draft talent but coach it up to get the most out of it. This may be the most overlooked aspect of Green Bay’s success and its one that the Bears are going to have to emulate as well if they want to get younger and more competitive at the same time.
  • Rex Ryan plans to have the Bills practice largely on two fields in camp, a change from Doug Marrone who ran 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills on one field. The idea is to maximize reps for the quarterbacks who are competing to start, EJ Manuel, Matt Cassel and Tyrod Taylor.Both the Bills and the Jets are planning on challenging the old saying that, “If you have two quarterbacks competing to be the starter you don’t have one.”
  • How does an owner solve a problem where he signed a player who abuses women to a huge contract? He trots out his daughter and sells her for the sake of public relations. From David Moore at the Dallas Morning News.
  • Defensive lineman Kevin Vickerson has been signed by the Jets according to Rich Cimini at espn.com. In retrospect I’m kind of wondering why the Bears weren’t interested here.
  • Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com thinks the value of having a veteran combine is minimal. I’m going to mildly disagree. Having a standard medical on these veterans can be pretty valuable and some teams may be holding off on working out and talking to some of these veterans until they get a solid handle on it.
  • Regular readers know that I have a man-crush on Teddy Bridgewater. Those who don’t want to read anymore about it can stop now. Because Bridgewater gets it as he addresses his rookie season via Brian Murphy at the Pioneer Press:

    “‘I wasn’t impressed,’ he told the Pioneer Press this week.

    “‘Yes, we did some good things as a team,’ he continued, ‘but we could have been much better finishing games. That’s what separates championship teams and determining whether you’re playing games in January or watching games in January.'”

  • The Chargers and the Raiders propose a shared stadium for Carson, CA and suddenly Rams owner Stan Kroenke is presenting detailed plans at the NFL owner’s meetings for his Inglewood stadium with offices for two teams… Things are getting even more interesting in Los Angeles.
  • Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com is surprised that it took nearly a week for Chris Borland to conclude that he should voluntarily give back a portion of his signing bonus. I’m not the lest bit surprised. The NFLPA can’t be happy to see anyone give back signing bonus to teams under any circumstances and this decision might further undermine the case that any players brings to keep his bonus in the future.
  • And in the former Bear, LOL department:

One Final Thought

Kyle Samec at the Cowboys Nation Blog says that Greg Hardy makes the Cowboys “a legit threat, whether people like it or not”. Is that to the opponents or just their women?

Best Available Aside, Give Me Defensive Line

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune thinks the Bears needs match up well with the strengths of the draft. Yeah, well that’s bound to happen when you need virtually everything on defense. Biggs thinks they should draft a pass rusher:

“[Pernell McPhee] alone isn’t going to prop up a pass rush in need of a boost as the Bears transition to a 3-4 front under coach John Fox and coordinator Vic Fangio. McPhee was a role player for the Ravens and blossomed last season with 7-1/2 sacks playing less than half the time behind Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs behind a line Haloti Ngata anchored. McPhee is versatile and had 64 quarterback pressures, so the belief is the arrow is pointing up.”

Biggs has a point. You can’t have too many pass rushers. But at least the Bears have two starting quality outside linebackers in McPhee and Lamarr Houston, a player who has shown in the past that he can do it at a high level with the Raiders. Its true that neither is “dominant”. But both are ascending players who might develop in that direction. The Bears were already betting on it when they signed each of them.

Baltimore Ravens Training Camp August 20, 2009

The key to Biggs’s statement above was “behind a line anchored by Haloti Ngata [above]”. The Bears don’t have even three good quality starting 3-4 defensive linemen who can keep blockers off of the linebackers, let alone the depth they’ll need at the positions. You have to stop the run first and right now, given what they have up the middle, I wouldn’t trust the Bears to stand in the face of a gust of wind.

I don’t believe in drafting for need so if a pass rusher is the best guy available, by all means take him. But I still put defensive line at the top of their list of needs.

Fox Clashing Too Much with Management-Types? Well, You Can Hardly Blame Him for This One…

Neil Hayes at the Chicago Sun-Times recalls covering the Raiders in 1996. New Bears head coach John Fox quit as the defensive coordinator late in the exhibition season after an apparent dispute with owner Al Davis. This one should make Bears fans feel a little better about last season’s version of their team. A little.

“If you thought the 2014 Bears were rife with dysfunction, you should’ve seen the Raiders in the mid-1990s. Strange seasons, such as the one the Bears endured in 2014, were the norm for them.

“Davis’ bizarre leadership created paranoia so profound that [the Raiders head coach Mike] White refused to identify the person responsible for calling offensive plays. He insisted plays were called by committee, with himself, offensive coordinator Jim Fassel and offensive line coach Joe Bugel all offering input before a call was made prior to the play clock expiring.

“Yeah, right. I was a beat reporter covering the team that season. By midseason, I would ask Fassel to comment about the weather because it was the only subject he could discuss without fear of repercussion. His daily weather updates became a running joke.”

In all seriousness, I’m starting to worry about Fox’s apparent penchant for clashing with high level organizational employees. At least his parting with the Broncos was apparently more amicable.

Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times addresses the topic:

“… Broncos executive vice president of football operations and general manager John Elway seemingly questioned Fox’s desire to win after the sides parted ways last week.

“Fox’s peculiar departure from the Broncos raises a red flag. Coaches with 46-18 regular-season records and four division titles in the last four seasons don’t get the boot often.”

Technically, Elway didn’t question Fox’s desire to win. He questioned the team’s fire. When describing Fox he used words like “tenacious”.

Still, its noticeable that the quotes in the articles in local newspapers have mostly come from players in Fox’s days with Carolina. In fact, I can’t remember a single one from a current Bronco. It does make one wonder what went on there. In that regard, this article from Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com where he details reports from the Denver media is worth a read.

Bottom line, here’s hoping he and Bears general manager Ryan Pace remain on the same page.

One Step Back, Two Steps Forward and Other Points of View

Bears

“The Bears that got [former head coach] Lovie Smith fired won 10 games. Would fans – and the organization – view anything less in 2013 as a disappointment? Would missing the playoffs again be more acceptable if noticeable offensive strides are made under Trestman, but a defense facing turnover at certain spots (while generating fewer turnovers) can’t match what it did this year? That would’ve been difficult even if Smith, Rod Marinelli, and that staff remained intact. “

My own answer is “No, it would not be a disappointment if the Bears took a step back” and not because I expect less out of the defense. The truth is the Bears didn’t beat anyone who I thought was really good when they played them. Certainly they showed themselves to be definitively inferior when they played the top teams in the league, including Green Bay, San Francisco and, to an extent, Seattle. A good part of that was and is lack of talent and I don’t consider a quick turnaround to be likely.

Bottom line, it all depends on the circumstances. A lesser record with definitive progress where the Bears play better against the better teams in the league would be more acceptable than a soft 10-6 where its evident that the team was never going to progress into the top echelon of the league.

  • Here’s a little positivity from an Audible in Pro Football Weekly:

“Marc Trestman is a natural for [general manager] Phil Emery. Phil will appreciate guys who are really intelligent, organized and prepared and very careful with what they say — that is Trestman. He already has a relationship with Jay Cutler. There are a lot of positives about the hire.”

“[Rich] Gannon’s first two Oakland seasons with Trestman were the two most accurate of his career. His two with Trestman in Minnesota were decidedly pedestrian despite having Anthony Carter and Cris Carter as his receivers.

“[Steve] Young’s two seasons with Trestman were very good but neither were as good as the 1994 season before Trestman or 1997 after Trestman. Bernie Kosar had a Pro Bowl 1987 with Cleveland but 1988 was right about Kosar’s career averages for passer rating, completion percentage, etc. as he lost some time to injuries.”

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune thinks Michigan quarterback turned wide receiver/punt returner Denard Robinson is an intriguing prospect:

“With offenses becoming more dynamic, it’s all about finding ways to utilize athletic players in space, and that’s what makes Robinson intriguing. Take a player with his skill set and turn him loose.”

“The Bears are keeping Tucker off limits to the media at the Senior Bowl, but word is he will keep the status quo with virtually all facets of the defense. Even though Tucker has experience in both a three- and four-man fronts, he is not expected to make any radical changes in Chicago.

“In fact, a source said he even is retaining Lovie Smith’s terminology, meaning he will have to adjust more than his players.”

There’s a lot of good information in this article. It recommended reading.

Elsewhere

  • As many Bears fans will testify, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton isn’t the only guy who deserves the criticism leveled at him in this Audible from Pro Football Weekly:

“(San Francisco QB) Colin Kaepernick can run faster than any quarterback in the league. He is faster than RG3 [Robert Griffin III] running the ball down the field, and he is a whole lot stronger and more physical. He can take a hit and pop back up. I really liked him when he was coming out. He is a leader. That was the difference between him and Cam Newton. Cam is a frontrunner who is good when things are good. When it’s (bad), he’s part of the reason and will make it worse.”

  • There are probably a whole lot of Bear fans out there who will agree with this Audible as well:

“You know what I don’t get. There are a lot of smart people around this league. I’m surprised they have not figured it out yet. If you want to have success, why not go get a guy who has done it already and is willing to do what it takes. Why not pay a guy like (Falcons GM) Thomas Dimitroff or (Niners GM) Trent Baalke a little extra money to be your president. It’s happened with a lot of coaches — Mike Holmgren and Bill Parcells. Teams will pay these head coaches $6 (million) or $7 million. Why not go pluck the guys who have done the best job stacking rosters and building the culture in the locker room and finding the right talent? They have proven they can run the ship. You can put a plan in place to delegate authority on the other side of the building. If you can find the right coach and find the right quarterback, you have a chance every year. If I’m an owner looking for someone to run my franchise, I’m looking for the guy who has proven he can fill those roles with the right people. That’s the key to this whole thing.”

“Matt Ryan did not get any further with Tony Gonzalez, Julio Jones and Roddy White than Jay Cutler did with Earl Bennett, Devin Hester and Johnny Knox. When you are guilty of an interception and unforced fumble within 20 minutes of a Super Bowl, it’s not about ‘weapons;’ it’s about the plays you make or don’t make when it matters…”

  • I’ve been as critical as anyone can be of Lions head coach Jim Schwartz. But I totally agree with him here as he argues against changing his defensive scheme. The Lions defense could have done better, no doubt, but the wide 9 alignment they the problem. This fascination with the 3-4 defense by fans and media puzzles me, especially in a situation like this one where more discipline and better play within the existing scheme is so obviously what’s needed. Via Michael David Smith at profootballtalk.com.
  • Let’s just say that the NFL Coaches Association might a problem with NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith. Florio quotes NFLCA executive director David Cornwell as he apparently goes on the rampage in response to some implied criticism from Smith:

“‘DeMaurice Smith is the best thing that has happened to NFL owners since they became NFL owners,’ Cornwell said in a statement provided to PFT.

“‘De controlled both the NFLPA and the NFL Coaches Association from 2009 to 2012. During this period, De threw 3 generations of NFL players under the bus in exchange for a photo op with Roger Goodell and Robert Kraft; threw the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys under the bus to conceal from NFL players the truth about the declining salary cap; and, De threw NFL coaches under the bus when he: (1) sat silently as NFL teams unilaterally changed coaches’ retirement benefits; (2) filed an unauthorized legal brief under the NFLCA’s name during the NFL lockout; (3) kicked the NFLCA out of the NFLPA’s offices for challenging the filing of the brief, and he rolled the bus over NFL coaches when he snatched $308,000 in coaches’ dues money and sued the NFLCA because NFL coaches understandably want competent representation.

“‘I intend to address all of the issues that confront all NFL coaches and clean up the mess that De left behind. While I do, perhaps De will answer these questions: When you controlled the NFLCA, did you fight for uniform retirement and health benefits that will follow NFL coaches from team-to-team? Why does the salary cap continue to decline while League revenues and team values continue to increase? If you stand by the CBA that you negotiated, why do you shift money from other player benefits to the salary cap to create the illusion that the salary cap is flat or slightly rising?'”

  • Patriots head coach Bill Belichick takes finding unknown players and maximizing their talent to a whole new level. From The Onion.

 

One Final Thought

Want to see something sick? According to footballsfuture.com 28 teams needed to find offensive line help in the 2012 off-season. That’s not counting teams that were looking for depth. Know how many offensive linemen are in Scouts Inc.‘s top 32 prospects this year? Four.

Not many scouting services have released lists of team needs yet this year but as they roll out over the next month or two the bet here is that, if anything, there will be more teams on that list of line needy teams not less. With that in mind, Pompei takes a look at the likely first and second round offensive tackles here. Mullin adds this encouraging thought:

“The Bears added a highly regarded Central Michigan lineman in the 2007 draft but it was defensive end Dan Bazuin, not Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley, who went to the 49ers three picks before the Bears chose Greg Olsen. The Bears, coming off a Super Bowl appearance with an offensive line four-fifths free agents, picked Bazuin 62nd overall before Marshal Yanda went to Baltimore 86th and tackle Jermon Bushrod went to New Orleans 125th.”

“[S]econd-guessing is easy, and Jerry Angelo conceded that finding offensive linemen was not a strength of his regime. If anything, the bigger point is that the likes of Yanda and Bushrod, both Pro Bowl selections, were taken in mid rounds of drafts.”

What the Pro Bowl Roster Tells Us and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune stresses that the reception gap between Brandon Marshall and the rest of the receivers isn’t good for the team. This passage might be a telling one:

“The Bears sorely miss a presence in the middle of the field as tight end Kellen Davis has not met expectations. Asked why the Bears can’t get other wide receivers more involved, [quarterback Jay] Cutler quietly said, ‘Don’t know,’ perhaps a reflection he’s not happy in the system.”

  • Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times suggests that the return of Johnny Knox next year might be the solution to the Bears problems finding a second wide receiver opposite Brandon Marshall (he’s not).

“Is there a big difference in what side a lineman plays besides stance? Obviously, left tackle is the all-important blind-side protector but what about left vs. right guard? Chris Spencer seems to play better the last two years at right vs. left. Joe B., Oxford, Conn.

“There are some differences, depending on the system and the specific game plans. Some teams like to put their most physical guard on the right side, and their most athletic on the left. Some players are more comfortable in a particular stance. But generally speaking, if a guard’s play drops off considerably on one side, he’s probably not a very good guard. There isn’t that much of a difference between left guard and right guard.”

I’ve listened to host Ross Tucker on ESPN‘s Football Today podcast repeatedly say that he thinks right guard is the tougher position to play. Teams are typically “left handed” meaning they slant their blocking schemes to the left. The right guard takes the left defensive end leaving the right guard on an island with no help more often than the left guard.

“How do you see Bears addressing o-line? Draft first two rounds, free agency or both? @jimsammons, from Twitter

“It’s early to say, but my hunch is they will sign a mid-level free-agent offensive lineman, probably a guard, and then go for an offensive tackle in the first two rounds of the draft. At this point, I don’t think they could afford to use their first two picks on offensive linemen, given the needs they have on defense and at other positions. That would mean they would come out of the top three rounds with no defensive help.”

  • I love Brandon Marshall but I think his tendency to shoot his mouth off, natural in a good wide receiver, is rubbing off on his teammates as he takes more and more of a leadership role. This time its Henry Melton. Via Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times. Lions center Dominic Raiola‘s response was predictable.
  • And then there’s this comment from Major Wright via Dave Birkett at the Detroit Free Press:

“‘You’ve got Matthew Stafford; he’s definitely having an OK season,’ Wright said. ‘He can make any throw on that field, so you have to be aware of putting pressure on him because you put a little pressure on him, he kind of folds.'”

I cannot express how much I dislike this kind of thing. According to Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune, some of Melton’s teammates agree with me privately criticizing him for his comments. Its totally unnecessary and, given the way its being reported in Detroit, there’s every reason to believe its going to provide extra motivation for a talented team that has little to play for otherwise.

“‘More than just [head coach] Lovie [Smith]’ Briggs said. ‘You want to win it for us. If you’ve enjoyed your time here in Chicago and the way Lovie has treated you and us together and this camaraderie that we have, then win it for that. If Lovie is not here, that goes with him.

“‘I’ve enjoyed every moment of being here in Chicago and I don’t intend on that changing. So, it’s time to go out and beat Detroit.'”

If those sentiments help the Bears perform well on Sunday, that’s great. But if the Bears lose there will be a lot of us reading those comments and others like them who will be left wondering if the players aren’t just a tad too comfortable under Smith…

 

  • A comment from this article on potential forthcoming Black Monday changes by Don Banks at Sports Illustrated struck me as odd:

Frankly, Banks couldn’t be more off base. The Bears are amazingly consistent. They’re probably the only team in the league that actually beat all of the teams they should beat. If they don’t win them all its simply because they aren’t good enough to win them all not because they aren’t consistent.

and on [quarterback Jay] Cutler‘s failure to show up in big games:

Smith and Cutler have a prime opportunity to prove both Rosenbloom and me wrong in the next one or more games. Now, with the pressure on and the odds stacked against them, is the time to show up and prove they can compete, some day, for a Super Bowl. Perhaps more than any other time as a Bears fan, I would love to see this team come alive offensively. It’s probably because more than any time in many years, I’m convinced they can’t.

  • Smith might be wearing a new piece of head gear if the Bears manage to beat the Lions Sunday. From the Chicago Sun-Times

 

Lions

Schwartz denies the report.

“‘Shoot, they were able to high/low on the outside of the field,’ he said of the zone coverage. ‘So, we can’t just stay on the outside. We have to move around a little bit more and use all parts of the field.'”

  • Former Lions tackle Lomas Brown says he purposely missed a block to get quarterback Scott Mitchell knocked out of a game. Via the Chicago Tribune:

“Brown, now an NFL analyst, told ESPN: ‘We were playing Green Bay in Milwaukee. We were getting beat (24-0) at that time and (Mitchell) just stunk up the place. He’s throwing interceptions, just everything. So I looked at Kevin Glover, our All-Pro center, and I said, ‘Glove, that is it.’ I said, ‘I’m getting him out the game.’ … So I got the gator arms on the guy at the last minute, he got around me, he hit Scott Mitchell, he did something to his finger … and he came out the game. Dave Krieg came in the game.'”

I can only agree with Mitchell’s comment that this was reprehensible. I’ll be interested to hear what Glover has to say. Mitchell obviously doesn’t think he was involved. This time via James Jahnke at the Detroit Free Press:

“‘I hope Kevin Glover wasn’t involved in this, because he’s one of my favorite teammates of all time. I remember when (Lions linebacker) Reggie Brown was seriously injured on the field (spinal cord contusion), and Kevin Glover ran the length of the field and through the tunnel to get the ambulance. I don’t even want to think that he was involved in any way.'”

Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com chimes in with the disturbing thought on many minds:

“…it’s hard not to wonder whether other offensive players have done similar things over the years, either because the quarterback was struggling or because they simply didn’t like him. Still, it’s something that should never happen.

“‘It’s like a fire department going on a call and the captain saying, ‘Hey, let that guy go in the building and burn because we really don’t like him. He’s not holding the hose enough,’’ Mitchell said Wednesday. ‘People get seriously hurt in this game, and it’s hard enough to play and to stay healthy when all things are equal, but for someone to just lay down like that, it’s just unacceptable.'”

One more interesting note: Andy Barall at The New York Times went back and looked at the tape. What it shows conflicts with Brown’s version of events.

 

Elsewhere

  • Although his absence from the list of candidates is an egregious error, this excerpt from Banks’ column is good news for Bears special teams coach Dave Toub:

“‘When you’ve got some guys who are in different places mentally and athletically, you try to play to their strength,’ Rodgers said.

“For instance, he doesn’t want to call on the back to pick up a blitzing linebacker if the 5-foot-7, 203-pound [DuJuan] Harris is in the game, just as he wouldn’t want to check to an outside zone play better-suited for [Alex] Green than for Grant. He may be comfortable having Grant chip on a defensive end, but if he knows he’s going to have to dump the ball over the middle, [John] Kuhn would be a better choice.

“If he switches to a play where he’s going to swing the ball out to his back, it’s better to have the speedy Green or Harris carry it out than Kuhn or [Ryan] Grant.”

 

One Final Thought

It seems odd to me that the Bears have five Pro Bowlers and Green Bay has only three. In fact, Kevin Seifert at ESPN doesn’t even think Packers center Jeff Saturday should be on the list.

Perhaps this fact more than any other points to the realization that its Green Bay’s depth that sets them apart from the rest of the division. Either that or its coaching…

Fumbling the Snap And Other Points of View

Bears

  • From Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune, Devin Hester did his best not to point the finger after the game Sunday when it came to who was to blame for the interception to him from quarterback Jay Cutler. Wide receivers coach Darryl Drake has no such scupples:

“‘If Devin was wrong, Jay would have said it, or Devin would have said it,’ Drake said. ‘He wouldn’t have hid it.'”

Time for head coach Lovie Smith to pulls Drake aside and tell him to keep it all in the locker room. Heaven forbid someone should give the fans any information, especially when its something critical of Cutler.

“Does Jay Cutler make most of his passes off of his back foot? And if so, is it due mainly to pressure from the defense, or is it his throwing mechanics? Rex Grossman took a lot of grief as a Bear for passing off the back foot. Looks like Cutler also passes off the back foot, but he can still throw hard and get the ball where he wants it to be. Would Cutler’s passing improve if he threw more off the front foot? — Robert, Homewood

“A lot of times Cutler throws off his back foot because of pressure. Sometimes he does it because of poor form. I have talked with Bears quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates about this, and he does not think it’s a problem. In fact, he thinks Cutler’s ability to throw from different angles and body positions is one of his strengths. Certainly, Cutler gets amazing velocity on passes sometimes when he is throwing with nothing but arm. So while this is a plus for Cutler, I also think he could be more accurate if he threw with more consistent technique.”

I would, of course, agree with this. But like a lot of things with Cutler, you take what you get and yo live with it. Its evident that he’s never going to have great mechanics in the same way its evident that he’ll ever be able to throw with anticipation. He’s not the most coachable quarterback. I’m sure that mentally he learns fast and well. But its now evident that physically you live with what you’ve got.

 

“With Chris Conte and Major Wright showing improvement this season, what are the chances of Brandon Hardin being moved back to his natural CB position? With Charles Tillman aging and Tim Jennings being undersized and fragile, the Bears could use a big corner. Or is he too slow to play CB at this level? — George Mckeown, Phoenix

“Speed is not the issue. If Hardin lined up at cornerback for the Bears, he might be the fastest player at the position. He ran a 4.43 40-yard-dash pre-draft. I think the issue would be whether or not he is athletic enough to play cornerback. Hardin might be too stiff to be able to flip his hips, run and change directions with quicker wide receivers. Some even wonder if he might be too stiff to excel at the safety position. But just because the Bears have two promising safeties does not mean they could not use another. You know how this team goes through safeties historically. If Hardin can play, he’ll get his chances at the safety position.”

 

  • Potash makes the unique argument that Lovie Smith needs to get fired for his own good. Somehow I doubt Smith would see it that way.

“I think teams make a mistake when they lock into hiring one specific kind of coach. You have to be open-minded when you enter a hiring process. The objective is to find the best man who can lead an entire organization, not the best offensive mind. The NFL has seen a lot of offensive wizards come down the pike who have made terrible head coaches. Just being able to run an offense well does not quality a coach to run a whole team. That being said, I think it’s always preferable to hire a head coach with an offensive background, if all things are equal. The reason is it’s difficult to find good offensive coordinators, and if you can find one and he does a good job, he’ll probably leave to be a head coach before long.”

Point well taken. But if you are going to hire a defensive head coach you’d better be absolutely sure he can consistently attract and hire good offensive coordinators who can coach quarterbacks. Because you’ll get nowhere without them.

The more I think about it, the more I think the Packers Tom Clements may be the man for the job. I like the idea of hiring Bruce Arians, who was Peyton Manning‘s first quarterback coach, from Indianapolis as well. Both men would fit the bill.

 

Cardinals

“With a skilled quarterback, the Cardinals could be a legitimate team in an improving NFC West. They’re sunk until they get that guy, and rookie sixth-round pick Ryan Lindley really doesn’t give them a chance. Lindley is completing only 51.1 percent of his passes. With a mixed look of zone coverages, the Bears should be able to come away with multiple takeaways. Unfortunately for the Cardinals and the other quarterback-poor franchises, this draft doesn’t offer much in the way of hope.”

  • I understand that Lindley hasn’t earned much respect. But I’d just as soon the Bears were a little more circumspect in their comments about him. The last time they got caught trash talking the Packers made them eat the ball.

“Winners of their first four games, the Cardinals dropped nine in a row before awakening from their slumber Sunday with a 38-10 thumping of the wildly underachieving Lions.

“But one positive for the Cardinals has been their secondary, particularly cornerback Patrick Peterson.

“The Cardinals’ pass defense has limited opposing quarterbacks to a combined passer rating of 68.0 this season, the lowest in the NFL.”

  • Biggs points to a couple match ups to keep an eye on in the Cardinals matchup. One is rookie Patrick Peterson against the Bears special teams. He’s an outstanding punt returner. In addition, defensive end Julius Peppers is up against a rookie left tackle, Nate Potter.
  • Fred Mitchell at the Chicago Tribune bemoans the loss of the Bears-Cardinals rivalry dating back to when both teams were in Chicago. It means nothing to Chicago now but as someone who is spending Christmas with relatives in St. Louis I’m thanking the gods that the Beas are playing them this week. Because the Cardinals were in St. Louis for many years and because many local fans picked up the Bears when they left for Arizona, the game is being televised as the most interesting match up in the St. Louis area. Hopefully the Rams’ noon game doesn’t go into overtime and I see the whole thing.

 

Elsewhere

“Q. You interviewed about 20 coaches, many of whom have won the Super Bowl. What is a common trait?

“A. They are all extremely competitive and some of them are ultra-paranoid about being outworked by the coach they are facing on Sunday. Andy Reid sleeps in his office most nights during the season. He goes to bed at 1 a.m. and starts his day at 4:30 a.m. Even with all the money the coaches make and the fame that comes with holding one of these 32 prestigious positions, they make this job much harder than it needs to be.”

“Browns: whatever is left in the fridge in Mike Holmgren‘s old office”

  • Also from The Spots Pickle, I wonder what took commissioner Roger Goodell so long to suggest this?


 


  • I understand that everyone, including Carson Palmer, has to make a living but I just don’t think you could pay me enough money to do this one. Via The Sports Pickle:



One Final Thought

This video is from 2009 but the Bengals still aren’t getting the snap count right. I blame Mike Tice. Happy holidays, everyone:

 

A Final Word on the Tragedy in Kansas City and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune believes that Lovie Smith made the right call by going for it on fourth and inches in the first quarter Sunday because an NFL team should be able to gain half a yard in that situation. Too bad the game is about what you can do not what you should be able to do.

“After gaining just 14 yards on eight carries in the first half [Sunday], Matt Forte gained 52 yards on 13 carries in the second half to finish with 66 yards on 21 carries. But he also caught three passes for 30 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown when he lined up wide on third-and-four in the third quarter.

“Why can’t the Bears do that more often? Coming into the game, Forte had 27 catches for 184 yards, 47 of them on a screen pass against the Titans.”

Former Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz seemed to use Forte much more effectively in the passing game than current coordinator Mike Tice does. The touchdown reception was nice to see. We should see more of it.

“I’m surprised the Bears have not tried (ORT Gabe) Carimi at left tackle. That’s what he played at Wisconsin. Chris Williams looked better than Carimi at right tackle, and Williams had to be bailed out from playing on the outside. He couldn’t get it done at tackle or guard.”

I like this feature and I tend to respect the opinions of scouts. But this is one of the dumber comments I ever heard. There’s no way Carimi’s going to play left tackle on a bum knee. Maybe next year. I doubt it but at least it won’t be a dumb comment at that point.

  • Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times lauds Carimi’s play Sunday. To my eye Carimi did a pretty good job of pass blocking but that big, tall frame of his really isn’t made for run blocking at guard. I didn’t watch every play but I think it really hurt the Bears running game.
  • Craig Steltz says via Jahns that he knew he might be playing Sunday with Chris Conte having the flu. That may be so bt he sure looked rusty. FOX highlighted two striaght plays where he apparenlty left a Seattle tight end wide open in the endzone.

“(Bears DE Corey) Wootton has been a surprise this year. He is having by far his best year in terms of creating sacks and pressures. (Having your team use) a first-round pick on a player at your position can have that effect.”

“And if the team does miss the playoffs, where does that leave coach Lovie Smith? The suspicion is that Smith’s future isn’t tied to Urlacher’s, but that Urlacher’s future certainly is tied to Smith’s. The player is out of contract at year’s end and the Bears plan to assess the situation then.”

  • You can put this Audible into the “truth hurts” category:

“There are some bad football teams right now with good records. I’d put Baltimore and Chicago in that category. Losing to Charlie Batch at home is not a good sign. … I didn’t think Russell Wilson was going to be as good as he has been. He is the biggest reason the Seahawks beat the Bears. I was too hard on him coming out of college. The kid is a good player.”

I wouldn’t say the Bears are a bad football team. But I think even some of the hard core fans now realize that they aren’t as good as thier record. With the Packers and two dome games coming up, I think that will become even more apparent shortly.

  • Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune notes the punter Adam Podlesh is doing a much better job after the Bears sent a warning shot across his bow by bringing in a few punters for workouts two weeks ago.
  • Jack Betcha at The National Football Post goes through the signs that your team is going nowhere. The Bears were doing well until he threw in this comment in almost an offhand way at the end:

“I also believe that teams that have 5 year droughts of not drafting O-lineman in the first three rounds are setting them self up for failure.”

“This is a tough time. This is the time where it’s easy to point fingers at people. The one thing about this organization, this team, this coaching staff, the players, we are going to come together through adversity. Through training camp and OTAs, little things that happen, I’ve been able to witness that. So that’s the promising thing for this moment right now. Very disappointed, but not discouraged.”

Give both Marshall and quraterback Jay Cutler credit. These are tough, competitive guys with reputations for being disruptive. But things aren’t going well out there right now and they are the ones trying to lead the team out of it. Kudos.

    • Jahns reviews the Bears defensive struggles with the read option play Sunday. I’m no expert. I didn’t even know what to call it in my game comments. But I can tell you that I watch college defenses stop this play pretty much every Saturday. I’m surprised it turned out to be such a challenge. Apparently the Seahawks were, too, because it took them four quarters to finally convince themselves that they could consistently run it.

Steve Rosenbloom comes to a similar conclusion:

“So, to recap, the Bears weren’t ready for [Seatlle quarterback Russell] Wilson’s read-option, didn’t adjust successfully during the game, and still couldn’t figure it out a day later. Indeed, there’s a great chance that we’ll come back to this game and its fallout as the time the Bears decided they needed a coach who can resolve at least one of those things.”

Pesonally, I’ve always thought that Smith was a good head coach who was working on limited talent. But there’s no getting around the fact that he has failed to attract the kind of offensive coaching talent that’s necessary to win in the NFL. If the team doesn’t make the playoffs this year, Smith might not survive it. And its not just panic talk to say they definitely might not make the playoffs. I think they’ll win at Arizona. But they’re probably going to have to surprise me by winning in one of those domes, Detroit or Minnesota, to make it in.

Many die hard Bears fans will try to blame injuries if the team collapses. Don’t. Neither the defense nor the offense was playing well against good teams even before the injuries. It isn’t entirely Smith’s fault – as I said above, aging talent is still the major issue. But I’ve walked away from more than one game this season thinking that they lost in part because they got definitely out coached. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Smith pay the price.

      • Anyone actually own one of these? Yes, they actually sell them. Via profootballmock.com:


Vikings

“Watching how Adrian Peterson has worked his butt off to get back to where he is — gutting it out at the beginning of the year to get to the bye week. He’s the best story in football. It’s always been an attitude with him. It’s a mentality. He’s unrelenting. It is a nightmare for defenses to account for. … (QB Christian) Ponder has hit the wall. There’s no consistency week to week.”

Elsewhere

“I’ve heard talk about (Eagles GM) Howie Roseman already meeting with (Oregon head coach) Chip Kelly. Obviously, there are no rules preventing a GM from talking to a college coach during a (school) visit. I think San Diego would be a better fit for Kelly, myself. The run-and-shoot (scheme) worked at first back in the 1990s, and the Lions drafted Andre Ware and were plucking players to run it. NFL staffs were pulling out all the stops to figure out how to stop it, and once they did, it fell hard and hasn’t worked since. If you want the blueprint for how to stop Kelly in the NFL, watch the Stanford game. I guarantee you NFL coaches are calling up (Stanford head coach David) Shaw and saying, ‘Send me that tape.’ With Oregon’s running game trickling to the NFL, (NFL coaches) need to snuff it out.”

      • But I’m not too sure about this one:

“(Patriots offensive coordinator) Josh McDaniels is going to be a hot ticket (on the coaching circuit). He’s been a head coach before — did he have too much authority? I don’t know. … He believes in his system. The offense has been humming.”

The guess here is that McDaniels doesn’t get another shot at a head coaching job until he shows that he can do it somewhere other that New England. Too much authority or not he made a mess of things in Denver.

“The problem with Mark Sanchez ­— I always thought it was more mental than physical. Playing quarterback is hard in this league. You need to put in the time to prepare. It has always been about more than the game to him — using his celebrity status to his advantage. … You usually only get one chance to bring in a head coach and one swing at selecting a quarterback. (The Jets) traded up for Sanchez and it didn’t work. (Eric) Mangini didn’t turn out too well. Say what you will about Rex (Ryan) — I think he is refreshingly honest — I don’t know how much time he has left.”

Sanchez might have lost his job to third string quarterback Greg McElroy on Sunday.

Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum:

One Final Thought

Mike Florio at ProFootballTalk.com comments on this quote from Brady Quinn following the tragic murder-suicide by Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher:

“‘The one thing people can hopefully try to take away, I guess, is the relationships they have with people,’ Quinn told reporters after the game. ‘I know when it happened, I was sitting and, in my head, thinking what I could have done differently. When you ask someone how they are doing, do you really mean it? When you answer someone back how you are doing, are you really telling the truth?

“‘We live in a society of social networks, with Twitter pages and Facebook, and that’s fine, but we have contact with our work associates, our family, our friends, and it seems like half the time we are more preoccupied with our phone and other things going on instead of the actual relationships that we have right in front of us. Hopefully, people can learn from this and try to actually help if someone is battling something deeper on the inside than what they are revealing on a day-to-day basis.’

“These are words that we should all study, and heed. I’ll be printing them out, keeping a copy on my desk, and reminding my son of Quinn’s thoughts whenever I can.

“It’s impossible to know whether greater sensitivity by those around Jovan Belcher could have prevented Saturday’s events. Chances are it wouldn’t have mattered. But the lesson is that we should all be more attentive to the people whose lives are intertwined with ours, through our families or our friends or our places of work. We enter and exit this world alone, but we are in between those moments part of a broad and complex fabric that both provides us with support and commands it from us.

“Let’s remember that the next time — and every time — we’re more worried about interacting with someone who isn’t in the room than someone who is.”