Lamar Jackson Isn’t Inspiring Much Confidence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The New Bears Defensive Staff Has a Noticeably Different Style

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

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

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elsewhere

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Final Thought

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elsewhere

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

Peyton Manning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Final Thought

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

Bears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Another good question for Biggs:

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

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

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

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

  • Yet another question for Biggs:

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

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

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

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

  • One more from Biggs:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Final Thought

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    1 — 1st round

    2 — 2nd round (theirs and New Orleans)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Indianapolis isn’t that far south of Chicago.

    One Final Thought

  • Biggs continues to answer your questions:

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

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

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

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

How Far Would Kyler Murray Have Fallen if The Cardinals Hadn’t Drafted Him? And Other Points of View.

  • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times reviews the Bears 2019 NFL draft:

    In his fifth draft, general manager Ryan Pace:

    Didn’t change. He was aggressive as usual, but this time he’s playing from strength instead of weakness — fortifying a playoff team instead of building from the ground up. Even if you consider Khalil Mack and Anthony Miller part of this draft, Pace can’t afford to strike out after that, yet he took some chances on players with big upsides. It’s risky. But with this roster, Pace isn’t playing with scared money.

    As I do annually, I did a mock draft with reps from the other NFL teams for a podcast. I was on last, as the Bears didn’t have a pick until the third round. I thought it was ironic that I was on with the Saints rep who, as usual, didn’t have a pick in the first round either.

    When Ryan Pace came from New Orleans one of the firs things I noticed was that the Saints were always extremely aggressive with the resources that they had available. Pace has definitely been applying whatever he learned there.

    Like most Saints fans, I think we’re going to have to get used to being chronically short on draft picks and cap space. If it means being a consistent contender, I think I can live with it.

  • The writers are the Chicago Tribune describe the new Bears running back David Montgomery’s positive traits:

    “Montgomery is a well-rounded back who will contribute immediately and might even start the season opener.”

    “Where to begin? On the field, Montgomery has great instincts, vision, balance and lateral agility. He’s a human pinball. He led the nation in forced missed tackles in each of the last two seasons, according to Pro Football Focus.”

    One thing you never hear about in these descriptions is the back’s ability to block. That’s because they are rarely asked to do it in college. But that will be the most important factor which determines whether Montgomery will start right out of the gate.

    No one is going to put any running back out there if they think he’s going to get the quarterback killed.

  • Phil Rosenthal and Tim Bannon at the Chicago Tribune cover the draft’s winners and losers and don’t while not being stupid about it. Dolphins fans will want to skip to the last few.

    In the mean time I’d like to add my own winner: Joe Klatt at the NFL Network. Klatt usually covers college football for FOX but he came on and did a great job during Day 2 of the draft breaking down the picks. I spent most of Day 3 wishing he was still there instead of Peter Schrager, who seemed to be there more for the entertainment value.

  • Scott Bordow at the Arizona Republic reviews the pick of quarterback Kyler Murray for The Athletic:

    Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said he didn’t want to take Kyler Murray after trading up to get Josh Rosen in the first round last year but he was won over by Murray’s talent. This is a gamble for Arizona. Few teams had Murray as the No. 1 player in the draft and it’s fair to wonder if the Cardinals would even have considered Murray if they hired anyone other than Kliff Kingsbury as coach. This will either work out spectacularly for Arizona or cost Keim and Kingsbury their jobs some day.

    My guess is that Bordow is right. The Cardinals don’t take Murray if anyone other than Kingsbury is the head coach. The reason is simple. Murray fits what the Cardinals want to do out of the box whereas any other coach outside of Seattle would have had to change their entire offense to make Murray work. Murray’s size makes him less than suitable for an offense that relies on sitting in the pocket and finding the open receiver.

    I tried to figure out where the next likely landing place for Murray was if he got by the Cardinals. My guess is that it would have been a long way down the list. Murray not only landed in the perfect spot to take advantage of his talents. He may have landed in the only spot.

The Connection Between Mind and Body. And Other Points of View.

  • Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times describes his take aways from GM Ryan Pace’s pre-draft press conference.

    “Last week, NFL Network reported that the Raiders sent their scouts home to protect the secrecy of their draft room. That’s not the case at Halas Hall, where Pace said all the team’s scouts — plus [head coach Matt] Nagy — will occupy their new state-of-the-art draft center.

    “’I think, by nature, everybody in my role is a little paranoid,’ Pace said. ’We’ve been together for a long time now, and we have a tight group. Continuity. We’re all in there together. And they’re going to come in tonight and we talk through scenarios. So it’s still very collaborative all the way through.”’

    One of the things I noticed this year was how locked down the Bears were in terms of what they were doing in preparation for this draft. There was a time when a fan could track most of the pre-draft player visits to Halas Hall. That wasn’t the case this year.

    Pace has generally done a good job of keeping things under wraps as general manager. He seems to work harder than most to prevent leaks and I think he gets particularly angry when they happen despite that, as they did when the Bears were negotiating with Roquan Smith last year and his agent leaked information to profootballtalk.com about stipulations he was seeking in the contract.

  • Adam Jahns at The Athletic also interprets what Pace said at the press conference. Jahns addresses the possibility that the Bears might take a running back:

    “It’s widely viewed as a good year for mid-round running backs. The Bears, including coach Matt Nagy, have spent considerable time looking at them, too.

    “In Dane Brugler’s recent mock draft for The Athletic, he projects that five running backs will go in the third round.

    “Moves in free agency also can shroud a team’s intentions in the draft. Don’t forget that the Bears signed Mike Glennon before drafting [quarterback Mitch] Trubisky.

    “The surprise of the Bears’ draft might be them passing on a back in the third round. Still, it’s safe to assume that one will be added during the draft. Pace drafted [Jordan] Howard in the fifth round in 2016, while Jeremy Langford was taken in the fourth in 2015.

    When looking over the Bears draft needs, running back certainly ranks high on the list. But there are a few other positions that it would be no surprise in the Bears addressed. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is on a one year prove it deal and with a contract extension for Eddie Jackson on the horizon a developmental prospect that could be ready to start next year should be at least on the list of possibilities. Same with cornerback where the Bears are paying Kyle Fuller with Prince Amukamara on the other side. Amukamara had 7 pass interference or defensive holding calls against him last year and all came in the second half of the season including one playoff game. Three came in the last two games against the Vikings and the Eagles.

    However, if I were to pick one position to keep an eye on, it would continue to be tight end. I continue to assert that the tight end class is deep in the middle rounds and there’s more than the usual degree of possibility that the Bear could pick up a big, versatile tight end that could push Adam Shaheen for the starting role.

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune does a good job of breaking down the kicker situation, after news broke Tuesday that former Bears kicker Robbie Gould has requested a trade. He has reportedly informed the 49ers that he will no longer negotiate a multiyear contract and that he is no lock to show up for the start of the regular season after the 49ers placed the franchise tag on him.

    “It’s unknown whether the Bears, with three unproven options on the roster, would have interest in acquiring Gould, even though he has been nearly automatic since they surprisingly released him during final cuts in 2016. It’s clear Gould would welcome the opportunity to play for the Bears again. He lives in the area and brought his family to the playoff loss to the Eagles that ended when Cody Parkey’s 43-yard field-goal attempt was partially tipped at the line of scrimmage and then hit the left upright and crossbar.

    “What can’t be overlooked is that performance could not have been the driving factor in the Bears’ original decision to cut Gould and replace him with Connor Barth. Gould didn’t have his best season in 2015, general manager Ryan Pace’s first with the Bears, but he made 33 of 39 field goals (84.6 percent), which at the time was right in line with his career average.”

    “Pace has aggressively addressed nearly every area to restore the Bears into contenders. Bringing Gould back would provide a daily reminder of how Pace and his staff have gotten the kicker moves wrong at just about every turn.

    “The answer to whether Gould can come home again probably lies in the explanation of why he had to go in the first place.”

    I doubt very much that the 49ers are all that worried about this. I don’t think kickers need to be at training camp and I can’t see him skipping the season.

    As Biggs implies, there’s a reason why Gould was let go by the Bears in 2015 and it wasn’t performance. It seems clear that he’s a high maintenance player. It’s possible that with another coaching staff in place that Pace would consider bringing him back but I don’t think the Bears are going to want to commit the cap space to him with an extension for Whitehair pending.

    This is much ado about nothing at a time when the Bears first pick is in the third round and there’s little in the way of news to report.

  • Darin Gantt at profootballtalk.com passes on the fact that the departure of Jake Ryan to Jacksonville last month closes the book on the entire Packers 2015 draft class.

    “First-round defensive back Damarious Randall was traded to Cleveland a year ago, for backup quarterback DeShone Kizer. Second-round cornerback Quinten Rollins never made much of an impact, and they tried to convert him to safety a year ago before releasing him. He made a brief appearance with the Cardinals last fall but isn’t on a roster now.

    Third-round wide receiver Ty Montgomery was converted to running back, and released last fall after fumbling a kickoff he was supposed to down in the end zone.

    After Ryan in the fourth round came quarterback Brett Hundley (who signed with Arizona having been previously pawned off on the Seahawks), fullback Aaron Ripowski (who was signed to a future contract by the Chiefs this offseason), defensive tackle Christian Ringo (who has bounced around to a second stint with the Bengals), and tight end Kennard Backman (who appeared in seven games as a rookie).

    Much has been made of the decline in talent in the latter years of Ted Thompson’s reign as Green Bay GM. But I’m going to cut Thompson a little break. A very little break.

    Talented or not, I saw very little difference between the draft classes that Thompson produced late in his career compared to early in his career. I thought the blame for the decline of the franchise lies elsewhere.

    First, they aren’t developing talent like they used to. Second, quarterback Aaron Rogers flat out refuses to get rid of the ball on time, preferring to run around and try to make plays rather than throwing with anticipation into tight windows as he did during his best days.

    It’s going to be very interesting to see if that franchise does better under new GM Brian Gutekunst or if they remain stuck in the mud with many of the same coaches and the same quarterback.

    One Final Thought

  • Biggs also answers your questons:

    “We often saw Mitch Trubisky overthrow wide open receivers. What can you tell us about what he’s doing to improve his accuracy? — @dg122985

    “Accuracy is something football folks will tell you a quarterback either has or doesn’t have. Guys who aren’t accurate from the start usually don’t become super accurate. The good news is Trubisky set the Bears’ single-season record for completion percentage last year at 66.6. Yes, he missed some open guys downfield. Trubisky has worked with wide receivers this offseason, which could help when they get back to Halas Hall. It was a new offense for everyone last year, and with the players not having to go through that process again, you would expect things to be a little more crisp. That could make him more accurate.”

    I think Nagy’s thoughts on Trubisky’s occasional poor throws at the NFL owners meetings are particularly relevant:

    “I feel strongly about this. None of it was a physical thing. It was all just him learning where to go with the ball. See, your clock goes so fast that everything you see … Boom! Ball’s out. You know? When you know what’s going on and things become slower, you can make that more accurate throw. None of it was physical. It was all just mentally learning the offense. And the other guys too. Sometimes the quarterback makes a throw and it looks like it’s a bad throw or a poor throw, but it was a terrible route. Right? You guys don’t know that though. And I’m not going to call a guy out in the media.”

    I think this is spot on. It was very evident that Trubisky got more accurate last year as he got more comfortable in the offense. People don’t think about it but your mind and body are connected and when one isn’t right, the other isn’t going to be right either.

    I look for Trubisky to continue to progress as the game slows down for him more and more and he gets more and more mentally in tune with what is going on out on the field. If his body follows, we could finally start to see the North Carolina quarterback who was so accurate that it was an event whenever the ball hit the ground in practice.

The Bears Were Uncommonly Healthy and Will Have to Overcome Adversity to Succeed in 2019. And Other Points of View.

Bears

  • Adam Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times describes how new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano will receive more defensive support than he did as the head coach in in Indianapolis:

    “Pagano is less than two months into his new Bears job, but working for [general manager Ryan] Pace and [head coach Matt] Nagy must feel different already. Pace and Nagy over-communicate. The Colts, according to an ESPN report, hired psychologists to improve the strained relationship between Pagano and former general manager Ryan Grigson, who was fired after the 2016 season.”

    “[I]n Grigson’s five years with Pagano, the Colts drafted only two defensive players in the first two rounds, and both were major misses.”

    “The only pick made by Grigson who started last season for the Colts’ defense was safety Clayton Geathers. A fourth-round pick in 2015, Geathers does not have an interception in his career.”

    Yes, things will be different and there’s a lot of reason to believe that the Bears defense will continue to be very good next season.

    But you also can’t overlook the effect that Vic Fangio and his staff has in terms of developing players. That was an excellent staff and almost all of them are now gone. The big question now is can Pagano and the new staff continue that excellence.

    No matter how many first and second round picks he got to work with, the fact of the matter is that Pagano’s staff in Indianapolis didn’t do a good enough job for the team to succeed, at least defensively. Even the two high round picks he got turned into busts and coaching is a part of that.

    Success or failure of a team is a balance between talent and development and of the two, I’m not entirely sure development isn’t the bigger part. The NFL is not known as a coach’s league for nothing. Pagano has big shoes to fill.

  • Patrick Finley, also at the Chicago Sun-Times, talks about the possibility that the Bears will take a running back:

    “Whether he meant to or not, Penn State’s Miles Sanders successfully summarized the Bears’ running back debate Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine.

    “Sanders, who met with the Bears late Tuesday, was asked about the team not drafting until No. 87 overall.

    ‘‘’They told me, maybe if I’m available, they might take a .?.?. they’re going to take a .?.?. they might take a running back,’ he said. ‘Because I don’t know the situation with Jordan Howard.’

    “That’s it right there. The Bears have made no secret of their desire for a versatile young running back to plug into coach Matt Nagy’s system. Whether that player serves as a complement to Howard next season — the last of Howard’s rookie deal — or replaces him altogether is another question.

    First I sympathized with the predicament that this poor prospect was in. You could almost read his mind: “Ummmm… they told me they were looking for running backs. But they might not want that out there. How am I going to answer this without lying.” The result was a somewhat confused effort to hide something we all know – the Bears have running back at or very near the top of their list.

    Sanders needn’t have worried. Nagy pretty much gave it away with talk about bringing in Kareem Hunt a long time ago. He obviously felt that he was hamstrung by the lack of a versatile back who could do it all. And its clear from Pace’s most recent comments that is how the Bears plan to correct the problem, at least in general terms. Via Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune:

    “’The creativity on offense, the variety on offense, we’re an exciting offense to watch,’ general manager Ryan Pace said. ’And we’ve got a lot of pieces that can do a lot of different things and that’s only going to grow in Year 2. Now from a personnel standpoint, do we need to add to that? Yeah. Do we want to get faster and more explosive? Yes. That’s our challenge.”’

    It will surprise no one who is reading this – the Bears need a special running back and they need a better blocking tight end who can run a route and catch a pass. If those two positions aren’t at the top of the list, it’s only because they found that they couldn’t re-sign cornerback Bryce Callahan and/or safety Adrian Amos.

  • Jahns addresses the Raiders loss of Khalil Mack in the context of the fact that the Raiders got only the #24 pick overall this year rather than a higher pick from the Bears. He makes an excellent point:

    “[Raiders general manager Mike] Mayock said this year has a strong class for edge rushers. He just has to the select the right one — or two — after [head coach Jon] Gruden parted with one of the league’s best last year.

    “Ohio State’s Nick Bosa is widely viewed as a candidate for the Cardinals’ first overall pick, but Kentucky’s Josh Allen could be available at No. 4.

    “Michigan’s Rashan Gary, Mississippi’s Montez Sweat, Florida’s Jachai Polite and Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell are edge rushers who also are viewed as high-round picks.”

    This is an excellent point. Defensive line is the strength of the 2019 draft. Seven of the top 8 draft prospects from NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah are edge rushers or defensive linemen. Sports Illustrated has 16 going in the first round of one of their mock drafts.

    It would be hard to get a player as good as Mack is. But the Raiders have a good chance of hitting on a very good pass rusher to replace him. One who could perhaps still be a future star.

    The Bears should be happy with this trade no matter what. But I’m not inclined to pass final judgment on it from the Raiders perspective just yet.

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune on the cap space that the Bears made available by restructuring Khalil Mack’s contract

    “It seems unlikely the Bears will make a splash addition… Former Seahawks running back Mike Davis figures to be featured prominently in the offense, and the space created by the bookkeeping could prove to be for a few more smaller moves and then for the operating space the team will require for the season. Keep in mind that an extension for center Cody Whitehair could become a business item general manager Ryan Pace attacks during the summer.”

    I think a lot of people are forgetting Whitehair. He is entering a contract year and, as the Bears’ best offensive lineman, they will try hard to lock him up later in the offseason. The guess here is that is where most of the cap space that they freed up goes.

  • Speaking of Davis, Dan Durkin at The Athletic did a nice job of describing some film of him to give Bears fans an idea of what the team got.

    “[Davis] gets defenders to commit to him, before sliding away to gain extra yards. This run also shows another standout trait — his contact balance, which has to do with his compact build and lower center of gravity at 5-foot-9 and 217 pounds.”

    I’m not thrilled with the acquisition of Davis, though I’m willing to wait and see what he looks like for the Bears. My impression is that he’s a lesser version of what Jordan Howard was in 2017. He’ll be tough to bring down with that low center of gravity and he’ll have better hands than Howard did. But his receiving skills look only average to me and he lacks speed.

    Davis looks like a Howard replacement, not the do it all Kareem Hunt-type that Nagy may really be seeking. They may only find that in the draft.

  • Biggs answers your questions.

    “What is keeping Adam Shaheen from ascending to become a more productive tight end? Speed? Agility? Strength? Technique? Toughness? Durability? Football Intelligence? — @rto58

    “Durability is the No. 1 issue right now. Shaheen was injured late in his rookie season shortly after his playing time was increased due to injuries to others at the position. Then, he lost the first half of his second season when he was injured in preseason in August. He’s got to get more time on the practice field and more game reps to improve. He’s never going to be a speed guy and comparisons to Rob Gronkowski have been wildly off base since Day 1. That doesn’t mean Shaheen cannot be a productive player for the Bears and right now, he’s in line for a much greater role after Dion Sims was released. The Bears will be leaning on Shaheen to give them more as a run blocker unless they go out and sign another Y tight end or draft one. It’s my belief the Bears liked Nick Boyle but knew the market was going to get too big for him for them to be involved. He wound up re-signing with the Ravens for three years at $6 million per season.”

    I’m pretty sure that the bears will be seeking help at tight end as well as running back in this draft. An I like what I see.

    Despite statements like this one from Mike Florio suggesting that people tune in to the NFL Combine just to watch workouts (i.e. the “Underwear Olympics”), most people really watch not so much for the drills as for the opportunity to hear what the experts have to say about the players. For most of us, this is our first introduction to most of them.

    Having said that, one of the sets of drills that I think are interesting to watch are the pass receiving drills for tight ends, running backs and defensive backs. The players at these positions will be expected to be able to catch passes in the NFL despite sometimes not being asked to do it much in college. It’s worthwhile just to watch guys and see if they are natural pass catchers or if they are fighting the ball all the way in as they catch it.

    To my eye, most of the bigger tight ends that the Bears will be looking for looked pretty good. Most of the mid-round-type running backs also looked better than I expected based upon the pre-combine comments from the experts. I think its going to be a good, deep draft at both of these positions.

  • Mark Potash at the Sun-Times on why what the Bears did in free agency won’t be that critical to the teams future success:

    “Regardless of what happens in free agency, the Bears’ chances of taking the next step in the playoffs and winning the Super Bowl are predicated on growth from within:

    “1. Mitch Trubisky and the offense parlaying a foundation year in 2018 into a quantum leap in 2019 — with or without running back Jordan Howard. The story lines of better communication, improved chemistry, reacting instead of thinking and Trubisky’s ability to read the defense instead of setting the offense will be over-written and tiresome by training camp. But nobody the Bears add on offense is going to change that scenario.

    2. The defense avoiding a significant drop-off — and potentially improving — in the transition from Vic Fangio to Chuck Pagano. Even without nickel back Bryce Callahan and safety Adrian Amos, the Bears still have 10 starters returning on defense. And that includes four 25-and-under players who should be better in 2019 no matter who is coaching them: linebacker Roquan Smith (22), safety Eddie Jackson (25), nose tackle Eddie Goldman (25) and defensive lineman Bilal Nichols (23 on Sept. 14).”

    This is all true enough but there’s one factor that has been typically overlooked. The Bears were uncommonly healthy last year. In fact, according the mangameslost.com, the Bears were the second healthiest team in the NFL behind only the Buffalo Bills in terms of games lost due to injury.

    That statistic is a little bit skewed because Mack played through some injuries during the year that severely hampered his play, including the playoff game against the Eagles. But it isn’t skewed that much.

    The Bears had a lot of things go right for them last year and the odds are very good that they’ll have more adversity to overcome this year. How they handle that will, as usual, determine more than anything how well they perform.

Elsewhere

  • Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com passes on this nugget regarding Kyler Murray’s height. Specifically the fact that some scouts don’t believe it was an accurate measurement.

    “’I think that his height was inflated,’ an unnamed scout told Dan Patrick on Tuesday, and Dan relayed the story on the Wednesday edition of his show. ‘Maybe it’s the tin-foil hat theory. I just don’t see it. If he refuses to be measured at the Pro Day, that will be telling.”’

    If its a tin hat theory, then its going around because I’m wearing a similar one. The possibility that this number wasn’t accurate was the first thing I thought of when I heard the result. Murray was measures at 5’9-5/8” at Oklahoma. Suddenly he is half an inch taller, meaning that his college substantially under-estimated his height rather than inflating it as is the more standard procedure.

    I’m having a hard time with that.

  • Michael David Smith, also at profooballtalk.com, points out that if the New England Patriots trade for defensive tackle Michael Bennett, it could get awkward with new Pats defensive coordinator, Greg Schiano. Bennett had this to say about Schiano in 2013 when Bennett played for him in Tamp Bay:

    “I think he just wants to flex his power He has small [man’s] syndrome. I still talk to guys who are there, and trust me, there’s not much respect for him in that locker room.”

    Bennett also let it be known that he will be staying in the locker room during the playing of the national anthem this season:

    “’I explained to them is that my integrity mean everything,’ Bennett said, according to ESPN. ’I think they respect that about me, they respect who I am as an individual.’ ”

    Yeah, Bennett is an individual all right. Just like his brother Martellus, Michael is an individual to a fault.

    There’s a reason why Bennett will be going on the fourth team of his career (the Seahawks twice) and the third in three years. He’s an immature, high maintenance player who can be a hand full in the locker room. The Patriots are betting that they have the culture to tame Bennett but it says here that if he plays for them in 2019, he won’t be there in 2020. Talented as he is, New England could be his last stop.

  • According to a report from Barry Wilner at the Associated Press, the NFL teams are proposing major changes in replay and in overtime for the upcoming season. Most of the replay proposals to the NFL’s competition committee have suggested an increase in the number of plays subject to video review.

    I have never like the league’s procedures for replay and in my opinion this is a step in the wrong direction. The challenge system for review is hopelessly broken in part because NFL coaches are expected to do both their own job and that of the officials under the current rules.

    I really don’t care what sort of system the league implements but it should be one that relieves coaches the responsibility for cleaning up the mess created by poor calls. Personally, I favor an extra official in the booth who is responsible for deciding whether a play should be reviewed. And, of course, any on field official should also be allowed to request a review of a call they weren’t sure of.

  • This item from Florio explaining how badly the Steelers blew the way they handled Antonio Brown also caught my eye.

    “The Steelers got a third-round pick and a fifth-round pick for Antonio Brown. The Giants got a lot more than that for Odell Beckham Jr.

    “The reasons for the differences are obvious. First, the Steelers made it clear that they wanted to move on from Brown. The Giants, in contrast, insisted that they were keeping him. And the “we’ll keep him” posture often becomes the best leverage in trade talks.

    “Second, Antonio Brown embarked on a scorched earth/bleached ‘stache effort to get out of town. Beckham had engaged in no similar campaign to be traded.

    “It adds up to the Browns giving up a lot more to get Beckham (a one, a three, and Jabrill Peppers) than the Raiders gave up to get Brown, because the Giants were committed to perpetuating the ruse that under no circumstances would they trade him. The Giants played it the right way, and the Steelers simply didn’t”

    Florio’s point is well taken. But there is so much more to it than that. This was really a hard and cold lesson for the league in terms of how teas should handle disgruntled players.

    Pittsburgh’s problems started the minute head coach Mike Tomlin hit the stage after the Steeler’s week 17 game against the Cincinnati Bengals when he explained that Brown went AWOL before a contest with playoff implications. Instead of simply stating that Brown didn’t play because was hurt (he was) and that they would handle anything else that was abnormal about the situation internally, Tomlin devalued Brown with the less than tactful way that he handled the situation with the media.

    I don’t blame Tomlin for being angry and I don’t blame him for not playing Brown after receiving a phone call fro his agent the morning of the game. But there’s no way at that point you publicly degrade a player that you had to at least suspect was going to need to be traded in the offseason.

    The Steelers chose to play hard ball with Brown and it back fired. They should, instead, have buttoned up this entire situation. They should have met with Brown and his agent the minute it became evident that he wanted out and they should have promised a trade way before Brown went all Terrell Owens on them and did things that hurt both himself and the team.

    You can be sure that the next team that finds itself in this situation will handle it far differently. If they are smart.