Emery’s First Draft May Suggest a Worrisome Future

Former NFL tackle Seth Payne said a mouth full in 140 characters Friday:

“Seth Payne (@SethPayneTrain)
“4/27/12 7:05 PM
Alshon Jeffrey is big enough for Cutler to see through his earhole as he’s laying on the ground with two defenders on top of him.”

Most Bear fans can appreciate the sentiment.

Why didn’t the Bears take an offensive lineman in the draft?  Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune tries to explain:

“They ended up not selected an offensive lineman or a defensive tackle because of the way the draft broke. The Bears took players at other positions who were graded higher, which is the way you are supposed to do it.”

Indeed, that is the way you are supposed to do it.  But fans weren’t the only ones who were left wondering if that matched reality.  Tribune writer David Haugh also tried to puzzle through the way the Bears handled the draft:

“I asked [GM Phil] Emery if selecting [Shea] McClellin meant the Bears considered defensive end a bigger need than the offensive line — my interpretation.

“’No, it just says that player was the highest-rated player among the seven (players the Bears targeted),’ Emery said.”

And the Tribune’s Dan McNeil seemed to be just as flummoxed as he gets to the heart of the matter:

“I wanted a big guy Thursday night when Emery made the 19th selection in the first round, but I wanted one whose jersey number begins with a 6 or a 7. Stanford’s David DeCastro, the highest rated guard in the draft, was still on the board. Iowa tackle Riley Reiff also was waiting to hear his name called.”

I can understand not taking Riley Reiff.  He was projected to go high in this draft but you could argue he was overrated as one of the few potential left tackles.  But David DeCastro is a completely different story.

DeCastro is considered by some to be the best offensive lineman to appear in years.  He’s certainly considered to be the best guard in at least the last 10 drafts.  Whatever the real reason why DeCastro isn’t a Bear, its going to tell you a lot about Phil Emery and the way he handles the draft.

I have two potential explanations for this.  Both disturb me.

Emery had a plan going in – not a bad thing.  He knew that defensive linemen were the strength of the draft and figured that there most likely would be a number good ones available when the Bears picked.  He had his list of potential picks and he was glad to go down it and take the best defensive lineman he could get.  There’s just one problem:  things don’t always go as planned.

The Bears picked at #19 and there was a serious run on defensive linemen in front of them.  Six defensive ends and tackles went starting with the Chiefs at #11 and ending with the Chargers at #18.  This had two effects – a) it depleted Emery’s list and b) it caused DeCastro to fall into their laps.  Instead of grabbing DeCastro to provide a huge upgrade at a position of – albeit lesser – need (as, for instance, the Lions would have done), Emery chose to stick with the plan.  He took his pass rushing defensive end instead of the best player available.  That’s worrisome.

The second potential reason is even more problematic.  All of Emery’s picks in rounds one through seven were at high impact positions.  Emery’s main goal was to get weapons – and he did that.  He got pass rush, he got receiver, he got speedy defensive backs.  He’s said over and over again that he wants players who show up on film.  He got them.

The problem?  Guard isn’t a flashy position that is going to stick out as you watch game tape and you have to wonder if Emery may have undervalued DeCastro because of that.  Even worse, he may have wanted the defensive end because he wanted his first draft pick to make a statement.  And he wanted that statement to come in the form of sacks not in the form of a guy who would labor for ten years in an unheralded, blue collar interior protection role.

If Emery’s pride got in the way of taking DeCastro, Bear fans might be in for a rough ride.

In any case, my read is that Phil Emery took the guys he had in mind going into this draft rather than adjusting his thinking on the fly and letting the draft come to him.  Shea McClellin may well turn out to be a very good player.  But over time, this is a method that most scouts and general managers will tell you is not the way to play the game.  Hopefully Jay Cutler won’t have to wait and see if that’s true through his ear hole.

Bears Offensive Draft All About the Quarterback

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler spent much of his first three years with the Bears worried about the lack of big receivers.  It appears that someone is finally listening.

In the second round Friday night the Bears traded up to claim WR Alshon Jeffery and followed that up with TE Evan Rodriguez in the fourth.

Cutler once described WR Devin Hester as “not really a back shoulder or jump-up-and-get-it [guy].”  He didn’t say it but he was probably thinking of former Broncos and now current Bears WR Brandon Marshall when he made the statement.  He definitely won’t be saying it about Jeffery who was described by the Chicago Tribune as a “post-up” WR.  GM Phil Emery called him the best wide receiver in the draft at adjusting to the ball:

He should be a hand full as long as he keeps his weight under control.  Dan Pompei at the Tribune comments:

“With hops like that, 33-inch arms and a 6-foot-3 frame, Jeffery can be a matchup nightmare. He can catch the ball away from his body, so he takes advantage of his length and explosion. As long as his belly isn’t lined up offsides, Jeffery can force coverage adjustments.

“It’s difficult for NFL secondaries to match up with one big receiver. It’s almost impossible for them to match up with two. The Bears now have two — Jeffery and Brandon Marshall.”

Indeed, if one were to pick a current NFL player that Jeffery is most like, its Marshall.

Rodriguez will will help Cutler in a more subtle way.  He will stretch the field as a vertical tight end.  Emery comments:

The Rodriguez pick has offensive coordinator Mike Tice written all over it.  Tice, who used the tight end to effect as the head coach of the Vikings, would have never settled for a receiving tight end who couldn’t block like Greg Olsen.  Instead the Bears found him a guy who can catch the ball but who, they hope, will be a good enough blocker to force defenses to respect the run by staying in thier base scheme.  If that’s true, he’s going to be a great asset as another big target while helping the passing offense indirectly by improving the running game.

As he stated in the Alshon Jeffery clip above, Emery’s draft partly aimed to be about adding offensive weapons.  Somewhere Jay Cutler is smiling.

Bears Top Picks Signal Defensive Metamorphosis

One of the buzz words commonly used when describing prospects during last year’s draft was “scheme versatile”.  I didn’t hear it once yesterday but if I did, it would have described the first half of the Bears draft reasonably well.

The Bears started the draft by taking Boise St. linebacker Shea McClellin.  And “versatility” was the word McClellin used when comparing himself to Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel:

In fact, it was suggested (not by the Bears) that McClellin might find his way onto the field as a strong-side linebacker on first down while using him as a rush defensive end on passing downs.  He could eventually even be a replacement for Brian Urlacher at middle linebacker down the road.

In any case, New England was on a lot of people’s minds on Thursday as it was rumored that they were interested in McClellin and might have even moved up to get him.  Via Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times:

“That versatility is one of his greatest assets, the reason 3-4 teams such as the New England ­Patriots and Green Bay Packers were among those intrigued by him, the reason why he skyrocketed the last couple months from a potential third-rounder to a first-rounder.”

Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune also noted this, possibly thinking that Lovie Smith may be replaced after next year:

“There is a hidden advantage with McClellin. If the Bears change their defensive scheme, he will adapt.

“He will fit in almost any defense. You can’t say that about many defenders.

“In the pre-draft process, he was linked most often to teams such as the Packers and Patriots, who could have used him as an outside linebacker in a three-man front. When Emery was with the Chiefs, he evaluated McClellin as an outside linebacker for a 3-4. At the Senior Bowl, most of his work came as an outside linebacker.”

Flexibility was also apparently on the Bears’ mind when it came time to make their third round pick.  They took Brandon Hardin, a big hitting player who the Bears apparently have in mind for strong safety.  But unlike the ones the Bears already have, Hardin was also known as a reasonably good cover corner for his size in college.  That means they might very well put Hardin to covering pass catching tight ends:

So in Hardin’s case, the magic word comes directly from Mark Potash at the Sun-Times:

“Like 2011 rookies Chris Conte and Dom DeCicco, Hardin, at his size, is a hybrid-type player with versatility the Bears are looking for under Emery.”

Its not surprising that the word “versatility” would come into play when it comes to teams like New England who are known to value it and know how to use it.  But it isn’t ordinarily connected to head coach Lovie Smith’s defense.  However it may be now and New England might be indirectly responsible for the change.

Most of Smith’s years with the Bears have been characterized by the cover two defense.  Smith’s attitude was, “We’re going to do what we do and we’re going to do it well.”  Then in November 2010 the Bears played New England at home and got whipped 36-7.  WR Wes Welker burned the Bears over and over again as New England moved him around and created mismatches against a zone defense that simply couldn’t handle him.

That game may have been a turning point for Smith.  The only way to beat teams like the Patriots is to match up with them in a man-to-man defense.  Smith eventually realized that and tried to do it but his personnel was drafted to play the cover two.  It became obvious that if he wanted the team to compete at an elite level, they were going to have to do at least a passable job of changing things up.  Enter 2011 where the Bears began to effectively disguise coverages and play more man-to-man defense.

But if the Bears are going to excel, they need to do more than switch up coverages.  They need to acquire personnel who can play effectively in multiple defenses and schemes.  They aren’t there yet but we may look back at the 2012 draft as having been the first step towards doing that.

Quick Comments: NFL Draft First Round

  1. Did the Vikings play the Browns?  Hard to tell. Tampa Bay may have been threatening to move into the pick.  Trent Richardson was considered to be the best prospect in the draft by some analysts.
  2. Why so many trades?  It’s likely because there’s a rookie wage scale. Teams are a lot more likely to trade picks if they know it won’t cost them an arm and a leg in addition to draft picks.
  3. I’m guessing that when Tampa Bay traded back to the seventh pick they thought that they were going to get Morris Claiborne. Then Jaguars took Justin Blackmon and the Rams were likely going to go to another need position.  The Cowboys probably foiled the plan when they traded up to jump ahead of the Bucs. Mark Barron is fine but there wouldn’t have been a thing wrong with Stephon Gilmore in that slot, either.
  4. The Eagles needed to trade ahead of the Rams at 14 because they would have grabbed Fletcher Cox in a heart beat. Nice work getting into the 12 spot by trading with Seattle.
  5. Bruce Irvin at 15, Seattle?  Really?
  6. I was sure the Bears were going to go with left tackle Riley Reiff when he got past St. Louis. Instead they went with the defensive end.
  7. I experienced some disquiet when I saw the Lions benefit from the Bears pass to take Reiff.
  8. Quinton Coples fell but not too far to the Jets at 16.  He’s going to be fascinating to watch.  If he becomes a higher effort guy, he could be one of the best players from this draft.
  9. The Patriots traded up twice in the first round?  Who saw that coming?  I can’t say it was a bad idea, though.  Chandler Jones at 21 and Dont’a Hightower at 25 were both great pickups for their defense.  I’m sure Houston would have nabbed Hightower at 26 and if not them, then Baltimore later in the round.  Jones was a fast riser who might not have lasted long, either.
  10. Shea McClellin does fit the Bears in a lot of ways. I thought the Bears might be scared off by the reported three concussions that McClellin sustained but perhaps they bought into McClellin’s denial that this was the case.
  11. McClellin is apparently a high motor, high effort guy who I think most Bear fans are going to like.  He has the reputation of being a tweener who many thought would be a better fit as a 3-4 linebacker.  Assuming he plays end with the Bears, he won’t see as many double teams with Julius Peppers on the other side.  He’ll probably need work against the run.
  12. Pro Football Weekly has McClellin rated as going at the top of the second round.
  13.  The Bears filled a need but was he the best player available?  I have my doubts.  There were a lot of high rated offensive linemen on the board that the Bears probably didn’t anticipate would be there.  They used their offseason to set up to take a defensive linemen only to see Riley Reiff, David DeCastro, and Cordy Glenn fall to them.  They recently signed guard Chico Rachal with the possible intention of moving Chris Williams back to tackle.  I’m wondering if they might have handled their offseason differently had they known DeCastro and Reiff would be there.

Building the Bears Roster from the Top Down and Other Points of View


“‘We looked at the draft and we do every year in our planning process,’ Emery said. ‘We come up with our own mocks. We do that based on our own research, talking to colleagues, listening, being a good scout, keeping our ear low to the ground, eyes open, ears open, not saying a whole lot, finding out where players are going to fall, putting that together. So in the conclusion, looking at that and versus the average numbers of players at their positions, historically I would say that this is a good draft for wideouts, I would say that this is a good draft for defensive ends and defensive tackles. I’d say it’s a good draft for projecting offensive tackles to guards. There’s a good number of offensive tackles that you can project inside.’”

As noted by Biggs above, Phil Emery went out of his way to mention that he believes that there are a number of tackles that project to be NFL guards in the draft.  So even though the Bears currently have a glut at guard, they may not be done adding to the roster at this position.  Pompei mentions that this could signal a position shift for Chris Williams from guard to tackle.

‘‘If they reach their potential, this could be a good class,’’ [former Bears player personnel director Tim] Ruskell said. ‘‘But that’s a big if.’’

 “Guys can get flagged for certain things,” he said. “We’ll go through a process where we might … we call them tilts and flips. We’ll tilt a player on the board, we’ll turn his card going south a little bit if they’re in that risk area. Usually we move those players to the right of the column. The players that are clean are to the left. We’ll flip them all the way over if the risk is too high, if their medical grade puts them in a situation where we feel the risk is too high, meaning we would not pick them. If they’re tilted, we’re going to have a lot of discussion before we would move forward with that player.”

“You understand why the Bears made some moves in their front office when you break down how badly they’ve drafted. They get some leeway due to the trade that landed them Jay Cutler, but if you ignore the pickup of Matt Forte and selection of Henry Melton, then what do you have? Their late round picking is especially disappointing, with their five seventh round selections in 2008 (none of whom who ever saw the field on offense or defense) highlighting this. Phil Emery won’t have to do much to offer improvement on what came before him.”


  • Rich Exner and Bill Lubinger at the Cleveland Plain Dealer list teams in order of the number of All-Pros they have drafted over the last ten years.  Surprisingly the Bears are middle of the pack.
  • The NFL is trying to treat JaMarcus Russell as if he never existed.  Via Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com.
  • Pro Football Weekly has posted a unique draft value board that’s worth taking a look at.  Its based upon what NFL sources have been telling them about the players.  There are some surprises, especially in the offensive line category where highly touted tackles Jonathan Martin and Mike Adams are rated much lower than most people I’ve seen have them.
  • Dan Wiederer at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune talks to NFL agent Blake Baratz about the draft from his perspective.

“These NFL teams, no disrespect to any of them, but they’re just cramming for a test that they’re not prepared for. That’s why they now have the [East-West] Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl and the pro days and the combine and all of this within three months. They’re just cramming for a test they’re not prepared for. They’re worrying about a thousand guys. There’s free agency at the same time. So it’s not a coincidence that teams miss on draft picks so often. I know our draft picks 100 times better than these teams do. Because I’m only worried about a handful of guys. These teams are worrying about 1,000. And they’re worrying about hundreds of free agents too. You can’t possibly be in tune with all these guys. I realized a long time ago, it’s not all about the talent in the NFL. It’s about working hard and being coachable and doing the right things. This time of year, teams will get so caught up in physique and size and speed. But honestly, if you’re in this NFL business and you can’t watch a guy play football for four years and interview them and talk to their college coaches and figure out if they’re going to be a good player, then you’ve got the wrong guys on your staff. That’s my belief. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong. I know a lot of these GMs. And they have a difficult job. But they can fall into the trap of overanalyzing.”

“As explained by Competition Committee chairman Rich McKay last month, the increase from 80 to 90 will result in a decrease from 90 to 80 players after the third preseason game and a drop from 80 to 53 after the final preseason game, which will flood the market with 864 players less than a week before the first game of the season.”

“YOUTH NOT SERVED The Carolina Panthers did not play a single prime-time game last season. Fans who wanted to see the rookie sensation Cam Newton had to buy a satellite dish or head to a tavern to find the one television dedicated to the Panthers game, which was usually surrounded by two inveterate gamblers and a strange woman in a Steve Beuerlein throwback jersey.

“The N.F.L. has made a similar miscalculation this year. If the Colts draft Andrew Luck, most fans will have to wait until Nov. 8 to see him play on a Thursday night, and they will be forced to endure the opposing Jaguars. Assuming the Redskins draft Robert Griffin III (just try to stop them), fans will have to rely on highlight clips or their cousin’s dish package until Washington hosts the Giants on Monday night, Dec. 3.”

MEL’S ANALYSIS: This night lacks the kind of depth that we may have seen in recent nights, but that doesn’t change the fact that we have a clear cut number one here.  All the scouts agree, she is the total package.  The only downside may be her history of holding out, but I firmly believe that when you and your friends discuss this draft a year from now, she will be the name most often mentioned.

One Final Thought

I knew there was something bothering me about the way that the Bears have handled their off season.  Lance Briggs described it as a “miracle” but I have hard a hard time generating that kind of enthusiasm.

I was listening to the Chicago Tribune/WSCR draft round table last night when Brad Biggs hit the problem on the nose as he started talking about building the roster from the “top down”.

Scouts talk about improving your football team by bringing in potential starters to compete with the current players.  The loser provides depth.

The Bears have not done a good job of building their team in this way in the offseason.  I can forgive them for Jason Campbell – after last year it was evident that they needed a veteran QB.  But other than Brandon Marshall, the guys they’ve brought in have been back ups who won’t compete to start at their respective positions.

The Bears are providing depth by supplying guys who are just that and only that – depth.  Here’s hoping they hit on enough players in the draft tomorrow to provide the kind of immediate top down competition that leads to excellence rather than settling for mediocrity with the guys they already have.

Who Is on Phil Emery’s List of Seven?

What to do in the NFL draft.  There are as many opinions as there are people and sports writers are no exception.  For instance, Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune indicates that he thinks the Bears should seriously consider trading down in the 2012 NFL draft:

“The way I see it, this draft isn’t about acquiring one player who can push the Bears over the top. It’s about acquiring a number of players who can help establish a foundation for the future.”

On the other hand, Brad Biggs, also at the Tribune has a slightly different point of view:

“It’s rare to find elite talent with the 19th overall pick, but the Bears have such needs that they can draft a defender at any position and make a sound case for doing so. The same thing can be said on offense for any position except quarterback and running back.”

“What matters is Emery hits with his picks. The Bears struggled drafting and developing players under [former GM Jerry] Angelo, an issue for the coaching staff too. They must succeed now to build a foundation. You can argue names and positions between now and training camp. The bottom line is Emery must find impact performers.”

No doubt both men are right.  As Pompei indicates, the Bears should draft as many solid prospects as they can.  But I agree more with Biggs in that the goal with each pick should be that he be an impact player.  I would under no circumstances trade down if I thought there was even the smallest chance that the guy I ended up with might not be one.

Biggs indicates that the Bears have narrowed down the possibilities for their first round pick, the 19th overall, to seven prospects.  They will likely trade down if either:

A) there are multiple players on that list still on the board when their turn comes or
B) none of the prospects on the list are on the board when their turn comes

So who the prospects on that list are is the real issue.  I have, therefore, decided to make my best guess.  To do so I have used evaluations from draft sites around the Internet (NOT my own).  I have primarily relied upon those of Pro Football Weekly and Scouts Inc.  I then took a guess as to what characteristics GM Phil Emery was looking for based upon what he has told us about his evaluation process:

1.  He’s emphasized that players need to show up on tape.
2.  He’s said that the days where a player will be red shirted for a year while he develops are over.  Emery subscribes to the New England system where rookies are expected to compete to start from day one.
3.  He’s not afraid of players with off the field issues.
4.  He wants the player who will “get us there the fastest”.
5.  He doesn’t want players who might be good but are physically limited to a low ceiling

Looking down the list of players who might realistically fall to the Bears, it was fairly easy to narrow it down to about 12 players.  After that things got really tough.  Based upon the list of characteristics above you’ll find that I generally:

a)  emphasized production in college above all else
b)  didn’t worry too much about character concerns unless they were major
c)  did worry more than most about durability concerns, especially concussions (e.g. Shea McClellin)
d)  looked for at least above average measurables.

Here is my best guess for who makes the cut, who doesn’t and why:

The seven players on the list:
Luke Kuechly, LB – he’s tough, competitive, he was productive in college, no injury concerns.  There’s some question about whether the Bears would have eliminated him simply because he’s so unlikely to still be on the board.
Stephon Gilmore, CB – he’s competitive, durable, and he was also productive
Riley Reiff, OT – also tough and competitive.  He was also durable.  You might ask for better measurables and there was one odd off the field incident with a police chase.
Courtney Upshaw, DE – Upshaw has some mild character concerns and apparently he might not be the sharpest knife in drawer.  His measurables are average.  But he’s tough, competitive and a hard worker and its hard to argue with his production.
Melvin Ingram, DE – playmaker with good production and average measurables.  Similar to Kuechly, he may not be on the list because the Bears may figure him to be long gone.
Chandler Jones, DE – tough with good production.  Maybe some durability concerns.
Dont’a Hightower, LB – tough, competitive and instinctive, some durability concerns.

Players that didn’t make the cut but could very easily be on the list:
Whitney Mercilus, DE – this was by far the toughest decision.  Many will put him on the list over both Upshaw and Jones and with good reason.  I didn’t only because he was a one year wonder but it was a very good year.  If you figure that Kuechly and Ingram aren’t realistic possibilities, Mercilus is the first name you add back.
Michael Floyd, WR – another tough cut.  He’s got some character concerns and he was apparently suspended from the team at one point.  His production in college was only above average but he’s a playmaker.
Michael Brockers, DT  – a REALLY tough cut.  Brockers is a just bit of an underachiever and I’m guessing that’s going to be a bigger issue with Emery than with most GMs and scouts.  H’e drake a pretty good penetrating three technique tackle in Lovie Smith‘s defense.
Cordy Glenn, OT – the Bears could use offensive line help and Glenn is the type of massive player Mike Tice might favor.  But according to PFW he might be lacking a bit in mental acuity.  He might not be a good fit because the Bears may not want to go with the right tackle/guard type in the first round.
David Decastro, OG – frankly I only took him off because he’s a guard and the Bears really have a glut at the position.  They may figure that he’ll go well before their pick anyway.  Most would agree that he’d be good value at 19, though, and you’d get no criticism from me if they took him as the best player available.
Mark Barron, S – some durability concerns.  He’ll probably be gone by the time the Bears pick anyway.  Tough cut.

Occasionally connected with the Bears but did not make the cut:
Nick Perry, DE  – PFW has him as a second rounder and though you’ll find him with the Bears in some mock drafts, he’s probably a bit of a reach that the Bears are unlikely to have to make.
Jonathan Martin, OT – strength deficient
Mike Adams, OT – very talented but very inconsistent.  PFW has him as a third rounder.
Quinton Couples, DE – classic underachiver
Dre Kirkpatrick, CB – mild medical/durability concerns, character concerns
Dontari Poe, DT – underachiver and really more of a 3-4 nose tackle.  He’ll probably go high but not to the Bears.
Shea McClellin, LB – durability concerns.  There are reports that he’s had three concussions (though he disputes this).
Janoris Jenkins – major off field issues.  This probably won’t scare of off the Bears if he free falls to them in the second round but that’s unlikely.
Stephen Hill, WR – underachiver, work ethic concerns.    Probably a reach at 19 overall.
Peter Konz, C – medical/durability concerns.  Probably a reach at 19 overall.

Some Phil Emery Guess Work and Other Points of View


  • Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune describes the kind of player the Bears need from this draft and one reason why new GM Phil Emery might be able to deliver him:

“But it is a young defender who can be a big piece of the team’s foundation, who is consistent from game to game and year to year and who almost always answers the bell. It is a playmaker who will be recognized as one of the best. It is an athlete who can transcend future scheme changes.”

“So how do the Bears go about finding players like [Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs]?

“Certainly, it isn’t easy. New general manager Phil Emery might have an idea though. He was on the Bears scouting staff in 2000 when Urlacher was drafted and in 2003 when Briggs was picked.”

  • From Rafael Vela at the Cowboys Nation blog we have a couple little blurbs about a players the Bears have been connected with:

“— The buzz meter on Bruce Irvin has gone still.  The character concerns probably put him in the 3rd or 4th rounds now.”

“— Quinton Coples may fall into the 20s.  The claim is that character concerns have teams uneasy.  One source wondered if a team or teams in the teens were trying to spook their neighbors into passing on Coples, but this rumor came up more than once.”

  • On a similar note, ESPN’s NFC North blogger, Kevin Seifert, wonders if Quinton Coples will fall to the Bears in the same way that Nick Fairley fell to the Lions last year.
  • And Pompei’s sources rate both Whitney Mercilus and Courtney Upshaw ahead of Coples.

“He is the top-ranked end by many analysts and one of the most gifted players at any position. However, he could fall on draft day because teams question his love of the game. Some believe he was trying not to get hurt in 2011. Coples is highly inconsistent. When he wants to, he can dominate, but he doesn’t want to very often.”

  • Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times weighs in on a player for the Bears that I havnen’t read much about, Nebraska DE Jared Crick.
  • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times talks Whitney Mercilus with NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock:

”But I think that’s only real downside, is can he be stout enough at the point of attack down the road to justify being a first-round pick?”

“Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor: Trading for wide receiver Brandon Marshall could pay off huge for the Bears, but general manager Phil Emery knows that two clubs already grew tired enough of Marshall’s antics to trade the Pro Bowl receiver during his prime. As such, don’t disregard the fact that Chicago head coach Lovie Smith and wide receivers coach Darryl Drake took Wright out to dinner the evening before his impressive Pro Day workout. They did the same with another potential first round receiver, Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill, prior to Pro Day.”

He has them passing on Coples as well as Cordy Glenn, who most analysts would say provides good value for this pick.

“Nick Perry, DE, Southern California: Even with the addition of receiver Brandon Marshall, the need at receiver still exists for Chicago, but it’s not nearly as great, giving the Bears some flexibility here. In order to maximize the abilities of Pro Bowler Julius Peppers (who recently turned 32), Chicago must add quality pass rushers around him to take some of the pressure off. Nick Perry led the Pac-12 in sacks last year (9.5) and had one of the best combine performances last week, recording top results in the bench press (35 reps), 40-yard dash (4.64), vertical jump (38.5) and broad jump (10’4). He isn’t the most physically imposing specimen, but Perry has NFL-level athleticism.”

Though this appears to be a definite possibility, most of the analysts I’ve read would consider this to be a bit of a reach, especially considering that the Bears would be passing on OT Riley Reiff.  Brugler apparently doesn’t think much of Reiff.  He has him rated lower than Jonathan Martin (who the Bears also pass on in this scenario).  Every other mock draft I’ve seen has Reiff going well before the Bears pick.

  • I thought this article about Emery’s immersion in the Patriot way from Jensen provided some insight:

“When the Patriots stacked their draft board, [Bill] Belichick often would get frustrated because the game had changed, emphasizing and de-emphasizing different positions. The third cornerback, for example, could play 60 percent of the defensive snaps in a game.

“‘So the third corner is a starter in today’s game,’ [Kansas City GM Scott] Pioli said. ‘We were talking about guys who were third corners and weren’t given high-enough grades.’”

“‘It’s not anything that’s genius. It’s just trying to look at today’s league and understanding matching value versus just saying, ‘He’s a starting running back.’ ’ ”

  • David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune and I are of one mind on at least one reason why former GM Jerry Angelo was fired:

“Nothing can damage a GM’s credibility on draft day more than a botched phone call, which Jerry Angelo learned the hard way. The league voided a trade with the Ravens because the Bears’ phone miscommunication caused the deal to be called in late.

“The resulting furor from the Ravens marked the beginning of the end for Angelo, who, aside from once selecting Michael Haynes in the first round, never experienced a bigger draft-day embarrassment.”

Some might say the beginning of the end for Angelo was the check box fiasco early in his tenure as GM.  Looking back on it, the botched phone call and the personal embarrassment it caused ownership may have been the end of the end.   Here’s hoping that Emery can do a better job of avoiding such management issues.

  • Adam Schefter at ESPN reports that Matt Forte “is not signing anything until he has a long-term deal”.  Via Josh Alper at profootballtalk.com.
  • Former NFL safety Matt Bowen, writing for the Chicago Tribune, thinks that the Forte contract stalemate is not a big deal.  I can only agree.  There was a time when I blasted Urlacher for not showing up to “voluntary” workouts in a contract dispute.  But Urlacher is a team leader who was actually under contract and was looking for extra money.  This is a totally different story.
  • Pompei answers this good question:

“Now that Mike Martz is gone, does that mean that Nathan Enderle is no longer in the Bears plan? Wasn’t he drafted because he fit Martz’ scheme? Dave Mestdagh, Medicine Hat, Alberta

“I would say the chances of Enderle making the team are not as good as they would have been had Martz been around. But that doesn’t mean he’s a goner. Mike Tice’s quarterback profile probably isn’t that much different than Martz’. If Enderle takes a step forward and performs well in camp, a good chance exists he will stick around. If he bombs or stagnates, he’s gone.

“I’m not entirely sure the profile is the same. Campbell?  I think Tice might like more athleticism.”

“Can you explain why the Bears refuse to give D.J. Moore a chance to play on the outside? It can’t be because of his height since he’s actually taller than Tim Jennings, the incumbent opposite Peanut. And I can’t imagine that Jennings is much faster than Moore, if at all. Plus, D.J. is a much bigger playmaker than Jennings, who drops many more potential interceptions than he holds on to. I’m afraid that Moore might leave when he becomes a free agent because Lovie [Smith] won’t let him spread his wings as a legit outside corner and not just a nickelback. Reggie Carolina, St. Paul, Minn.

“Good question. You can get by on the outside without ideal height, as Jennings does. You can get by on the outside without ideal speed, as Nathan Vasher did. But it’s difficult to get by on the outside without ideal height and ideal speed. A cornerback who is short and not particularly fast has no chance of matching up with a Calvin Johnson on the outside. That explains the Bears’ hesitation to try Moore outside. At the 2009 combine, Moore measured in at a shade below 5-9, and his best 40-yard dash time was a 4.56. Jennings, for comparison sake, measured in at a little below 5-8 at the 2006 combine, but he ran a 4.32 40-yard dash. Jennings is considerably faster. Moore, however, is exceptionally quick and athletic. And he’s exceptionally instinctive. He also has outstanding ball skills, which Jennings does not. All of that makes Moore uniquely qualified to play over the slot receiver. He was drafted for that role, and it’s probably what he always will do best.”


  • One of the free agents I had an eye on for the Bears was DE Andre CarterMatt Williamson at ESPN tells us in a fan chat why he hasn’t been more popular.

“Joe (uk)
“where will andre carter play next season?

“Matt Williamson  (12:43 PM)
“His quad is still an issue apparently. He would be a great fit for the Bears. Has to go to a 4-3 team, but I was very impressed with Carter in NEng. Assuming he gets healthy quick, he will have a substantial market”

  • Vela explains why there may be plenty of defensive players available in the mid to late first round:

“Consider that three quarterbacks ([Andrew] Luck, [Robert] Griffin and [Ryan] Tannehill) could go in the top 10.  If Trent Richardson, Justin Blackmon and [Michael] Floyd join them, that’s six skill position players.  Add two offensive tackles, say Matt Kalil to Minnesota and perhaps Riley Reiff to Buffalo and you have eight offensive players up top.  Only Morris Claiborne and another defender would go in the top 10. “

“One source said he’s heard that as many as six wide receivers could go in the 1st round.  If this happened, it would affect Dallas’ 2nd round pick, and perhaps push some defensive options into that early 2nd.

“One intriguing rumor has Brandon Weeden making the 1st, with the Dolphins selecting him if they trade down and out of the 8th slot.  A fourth 1st round QB would combine with a WR rush to push another defensive option to 45.”

  • It would appear that Vela isn’t the only one that heard that rumor.  From Pompei:

“Brandon Weeden is starting to look like a key player in the draft. A good chance now exists the QB is going to be selected in the later stages of the first round, and it seems likely teams will try to jockey for position to get Weeden. If the Browns don’t select Tannehill early, they could take him with the 22nd pick. Or another team could try to jump the Browns by moving up from the early second round. The Browns also could try to move down in the late 20s to take Weeden.”

“After getting a surprisingly effective boost from low-profile O-line additions Paul McQuistan and Breno Giacomini last season, we hear the Seahawks are hoping for the same from free-agent pickup Frank Omiyale, who had worn out his welcome with the Bears but has the versatility that Seahawks assistant head coach/offensive line Tom Cable savors. ‘Omiyale was in Atlanta’s system when Cable was there, and they think a fresh start might help him,’ said one team source. ‘They got him for a real good price, and (ORT) James Carpenter’s return from knee surgery is still a big question mark.’”

  • I think as highly of the Lions talent as anyone.  But if their fans really believe that they are going to go 15-1 then they are setting themselves up for some major disappointment.  From Tim Twentyman at detroitlions.com.
  • No players who fall under restricted free agency got offers from other teams.  The word “collusion” is being bandied about.  Personally, I think the problem is simply that price of signing these players is too high.  Its too cheap to sign them to higher grades of FA where more compensation is required and no one wants to both give up draft picks for these players and pay them to boot.  Via Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com.
  • Former Bears front office man Tim Ruskell takes Joe Fortenbaugh at The National Football Post through the anatomy of a draft day trade.
  • I thought this article on how GM’s run thier scouting departments from Jack Bechta at The National Football Post was fascinating:

“One of the biggest frustrations I hear from regional NFL scouts is how their opinion and their work gets minimized the closer we get to the draft. It’s not like this in every organization but it exists within several for sure.

“Area scouts spend months even years collecting data and intelligence on players in their region just to have it become under-appreciated in April. One NFC scout told me the other day that he ‘gets paid $85,000 to work and travel like a dog to get his opinion diluted by people with bigger titles and even bigger egos’. Another said, ‘I wrote 300 reports that will be referenced a few times and won’t get the attention they deserve’.”

“Instead of fine-tuning the draft boards in April, some scouting directors go through some last minute damage control. It usually comes when the head coach’s opinion varies greatly from the scouting staff. The HC may have watched just one game where he saw something that turned him off, or on about a player. And as Bill Parcells said to me once, ‘Sometimes it can just take one play to form an everlasting opinion, but coaches are more short term focused because of their desire to win now, emotional, and more influenced by what they’re eyes tell them.’ A former GM told me that it’s not uncommon to spend a few days on damage control because of a last minute opinion change by a Head Coach or even an owner.”

“Jason (Texas)
“Now that it’s been a few years, what do you think about the 3 day draft?

“Kevin Seifert  (2:52 PM)
“I agree with Ted Thompson. I wish the first two days weren’t at night. I get why they are, but I’m a morning person in this job and would prefer not to see a team making its first-round pick at 11 p.m. Other than that, I’m fine with it and kind of glad it ends on a Saturday instead of Sunday.”

Its a long time between January and July.  I miss the days when I could settle down in front of the TV for the draft and totally immerse myself in football for a weekend.

One Final Thought

Todd McShay at ESPN has updated his mock draft and he gives a number of different scenarios to choose from:

“Chicago BearsRecord: 8-8 | Top needs: LT, CB, DE, LB, TE, DT, G, Stephon Gilmore*, CB, South Carolina

“Scenario 1: Gilmore could be a top-15 pick, and while he’s still developing in terms of instincts he has the size, athleticism and speed to become a No. 1 corner. And a team that will face Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford four times a year has to be able to cover on the perimeter.
“Scenario 2: Upgrade at defensive end with Courtney Upshaw, who could add to the pass rush and bolster the run defense.
“Scenario 3: Address a need at left tackle with Ohio State’s Mike Adams or Stanford’s Jonathan Martin.
“Scenario 4: If Gilmore is off the board the Bears could choose to address their corner need with Alabama’s Dre Kirkpatrick or North Alabama’s Janoris Jenkins. There are character concerns with Jenkins, but he has more man-to-man cover skills than Kirkpatrick.”

Figuring out what kind of scenario the Bears will actually follow is always a challenge but praticularly this year with a new general manager.  Haugh thinks the Bears should go offensive tackle in the first round:

“The weakest position remains offensive line — which is why I would use the Bears’ first-round pick to select athletic left tackle Jonathan Martin out of Stanford.

“Martin protected quarterback Andrew Luck’s blind side in 37 starts over three seasons before turning pro after his junior year. He needs to add strength and offensive coordinator Mike Tice would relish coaching the finesse out of Martin, but he exemplifies the technically-sound, high-character prospect the Bears like.”

The problem with the offensive tackles that are likely to be available to the Bears is that they are all high on potential but low on consistency.  I don’t think this is the type of the player that GM Phil Emery is likely to look for.

If we look at the scenarios McShay describes and try to take a guess as to what direction Emery will go, we have to consider what he has said about how he will handle his job:

1.  He’s emphasized that players need to show up on tape.
2.  He’s said that the days where a player will be red shirted for a year while he develops are over.  Emery subscribes to the New England system where rookies are expected to compete to start from day one.
3.  He’s not afraid of players with off the field issues.

Taken together, I think we can safely guess that Emery is going to be looking for production in college above all else.  And he’s probably going to be wary of one year wonders and workout warriors who have the physical tools but haven’t put it all together (i.e. Coples).  That’s not to say he won’t take these players.  But on balance they aren’t ideal fits based upon what little we know about his way of evaluating personnel.

The kind of choice that Emery is likely to be facing is illustrated perfectly in this question to Pompei:

“There’s a good chance Courtney Upshaw still will be on the board for the Bears when they pick in the 19th spot. Wouldn’t he be a much better selection coming from the Alabama program than Illinois’ Whitney Mercilus, who seems to be a one-year wonder? Dale Dombrowski, Grants, N.M.

“Scouts I have spoken with are split as to whether Upshaw or Mercilus is the better prospect, but I believe Mercilus is rated more highly by most teams. It’s true Upshaw had more production in 2010 than Mercilus, but Mercilus had way more production in 2011. Last season Mercilus had 7.5 more sacks and seven more forced fumbles than Upshaw. In fact, Mercilus nearly had as many sacks in 2011 as Upshaw had in his entire career (16 to 16.5), and he had three more forced fumbles. He also worked out better than Upshaw (4.68 40 yard dash to 4.76), and he has better intangibles. The Alabama program might be better than the Illinois program, but Mercilus is a better prospect in my eyes.”

Its not a black and white issue.  Certainly by most reports, Mercilus is an immense talent.  And he did produce for one year.  Having said that, based upon what little we know about Emery, I’m guessing that he’s going to mildly disagree with Pompei here.  Mercilus took three years to get to the point where he was productive at Illinois.  On the other hand, Upshaw is exactly the kind of solid, productive player who can step right in that Emery is likely to value.

Its all guess work, of course, and unless Emery totally goes off the deep end few people are going to be disappointed any way he goes.  But for what its worth I’d look at the characteristics above when figuring which available player the Bears will take when their turn comes.

The Danger of Jumping to Conclusions and Other Points of View


  • Former Bears safety Doug Plank comments on the audio of a Gregg Williams pregame speech where he talked about targeting players for injury.  Via Fred Mitchell at the Chicago Tribune:

“’I can understand how that is pretty chilling to a person that has never been involved in a violent sport like football,’ Plank said. ‘It takes a lot to run into someone. I don’t think that’s natural human behavior. Most of it is mental conditioning. Not only the practices all during the week, but it’s also some of the dialogue that comes from your (coaches).

“’To play this game, you have to play with high emotion. … I like to feel I was one of those. You have to take yourself to some other mental state to do that on a regular basis. You have to ignore your survival instincts. Every time you run into someone, there is that fear factor. … You have to condition yourself.’”

“’We’re all players, and we’re all trying to accomplish the same thing to help our team win and make the fans happy. But at a certain point, there is an accountability factor.’”

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune has some good reasons to believe the offensive line will improve even with no changes:

“First, the sacks didn’t pile up last season until after [Jay] Cutler went out with the thumb injury in Week 10. He was sacked 23 times in 10 games, which put the Bears on pace for a manageable number of 37. Cutler was sacked only five times in his last five games.

“When Caleb Hanie entered, chaos ensued. He was sacked 19 times in four games before being benched, and Josh McCown was sacked seven times in the season finale against the Vikings in Minnesota.

“So, a healthy Cutler should trigger improvement. And when he left, [former offensive coordinator Mike] Martz took most plans for seven-step drops with him. The introduction of quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates to the system likely will bring some elements that helped Cutler be successful for the Broncos with rollouts and moving pockets. Those wrinkles also should help against pressure just as the addition of a top-flight receiver in Brandon Marshall should.”

“[Gabe] Carimi (knee) and left guard Chris Williams (wrist) are returning from injuries. That will allow Lance Louis, who spent nearly all of 2011 at right tackle, to move back to guard where he is a better fit.”

  • Vaughn McClure at the Chicago Tribune reports that DT Amobi Okoye signed a contract with Tampa Bay.  That leaves the Bears definitively short of defensive tackles.  They’re likely looking to draft defensive line help.
  • John Mullin at CSNChicago.com believes that the Bears have turned CB from a position of weakness to a position of strength with the signing of Kelvin Hayden and Jonathan Wilhite.  I don’t know if I’d go that far.  Its still on my list of needs but it certainly is farther down the list now.
  • Speaking of the list of needs, my corresponds pretty well with Dan Pompei’s at the Chicago Tribune:  defensive end, defensive tackle, offensive tackle, linebacker and cornerback.
  • Pompei, this time writing fort The National Football Post, reports that DE Bruce Irvin out of West Virginia may creep into the first round of the draft.  The Bears have shown interest and head coach Lovie Smith attended his pro day.  But I’m guessing the Bears are interested in him in the second round, not the first.
  • Wes Bunting at The National Football Post has the Bears taking WR Stephen Hill in the first round:

“Hill is going to need to become a more consistent route runner. However, at 6-5 he showcases some natural short-area quickness to his game and knows how to go up and get the football vertically. He’s one of the draft’s elite size/speed combos at the receiver spot and his stock is on the rise.”

“Wide receiver—Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech. In the triple option offense, Hill’s primary role was to block. He had only 1,248 receiving yards in college. The routes he was asked to run were pretty much straight ahead or slants. Hill may be the most gifted wide receiver in the draft, but he needs to learn to run routes and get in and out of breaks.”

“Offensive lineman—Jonathan Martin, Stanford. He could have used another year in college to refine his techniques. One scout found him to be “raw” and “inconsistent” on tape, but said he wouldn’t be surprised if eventually he turned out to be the best tackle in the draft. Martin also needs to be stronger to thrive in the NFL.”


  • Pompei also explains why QB Ryan Tannehill is climbing so high on draft boards.  Tannehill has tremendous physical talent at a position teams are desperate to fill.  But he only played 19 games at QB at Texas A&M and no one knows what kind of a feel for the game he has or whether his decision making will get better.

“Really, the best chance for Tannehill to succeed and reach his potential is for him to be chosen where he should be chosen, in the second round. He is a quarterback who needs to be developed. If he goes as high as it appears he will go, he will be faced with unreasonable expectations and pressure to produce too quickly.

“Ultimately, Tannehill’s meteoric rise probably will not work out well for the team that drafts him, or for Tannehill.”

“Some teams prescribe maximum heights for each position, and if a prospect is taller than the second tallest productive player in the NFL at that position, he is flagged. [Brock] Osweiler is flagged on those team’s boards. Other teams say a quarterback can’t be too tall. Most agree the ideal height for a quarterback is 6-5.”

“Still, Red flags can cause a player to slide, and parting ways with an agent three weeks before the draft always is a red flag, no matter who initiated the breakup.”

  • The Sports Pickle brings you your tweets of the week like this pearl of wisdom from Raiders linebacker Aaron Curry:

  • And on a related note, we have this photo of Lions Mikel Leshoure contemplating his latest run in with the law.

One Final Thought

ESPN‘s NFC North blogger Kevin Siefert addresses Morris Claiborne‘s score on the Wonderlic Test.  Claiborne’s scored a 4 out of 50, the lowest score in at lest 10 years according to ESPN‘s Adam Schefter.  Siefert makes the case that the score isn’t a big deal.

I was all ready to go off and make the case that Claiborne’s score should be a big deal.  A good agent can prepare a player for it with just a little effort now a days and I would have claimed that there was no excuse for scoring so low.  In fact, I had the comment written.  Then I read this from Pompei:

“Morris Claiborne’s reported Wonderlic score of 4 didn’t shed light on Claiborne’s intelligence as much as it shed light on his learning disability. Claiborne, according to NFL front office men who have done their homework, has trouble reading. At Louisiana State, the cornerback was given extra time for tests. The consensus is Claiborne has enough football smarts and instinct to play at a high level in the NFL for a long time. Cornerbacks don’t have to be Einsteins in the large majority of NFL schemes, and many are not. Claiborne’s coaches will have to make allowances for him, however. Claiborne can’t be expected to learn through a playbook, rather, he will learn best from walk throughs. The only issue is whether or not that will impact the other cornerbacks on his team. But multiple personnel men have said Claiborne is a great, unspoiled, engaging kid who they would like on their team.”

I guess I can’t blame myself for being ready to criticize Claiborne based upon what I knew.  But the lesson learned is that no matter what you think, you always have to keep you opinions moderate and leave room for alternative explanations.

Looking Towards a Defensive Draft and Other Ponts of View


“If Quinton Coples begins to fall in the draft, should Chicago trade up and select him? If so what would it take for the Bears to move up five to seven selections? — Scott Dennler, Columbus Junction, Iowa

“I wouldn’t move up for Coples, and I’m not even sure I would take him if he fell to me if I was picking 19th. He has top-of-the-draft talent, but Coples doesn’t always play like it. NFL scouts question his motor, his passion for the game and his coachability. I think he is going to drop in the draft. To move up five to seven picks in the first round probably would not be cheap, either. It depends on how badly the trading team wants to move and if there is competition, but I would say it would probably cost a third-round pick for such a move.”

This answer surprised me because I’ve read a lot of good things about Couples.  He’s currently at number nine in the Scouts Inc. Top 32 and number 13 on Mel Kiper’s Big Board at ESPN (though he’s slipping).  So my initial thought was that the Bears would be extremely happy to have him.  But obviously there’s a strong difference of opinion among scouts and where he goes could be one of the more interesting stories of the draft.

“Quick off the edge, Mercilus utilizes great anticipation and some natural gifts as a pass-rusher, with closing speed and long arms once he has the quarterback in sight. He’s coming off a brilliant final season for the Illini, and Rod Marinelli could do wonders with him. The Bears could use some pass-rushing insurance with Julius Peppers not getting any younger.”

He has them taking Randall in the second round.

  • And Los Angeles Times columnist Sam Farmer came out with his mock draft:

“Chicago: OG David DeCastro, Stanford — Andrew Luck says DeCastro plays angry, and that’s just the kind of player who can help Chicago’s line. This also could be a spot for a receiver.”

I think most scouts would agree that DeCastro would be good value at this pick and the Bears would consider themselves luck to have him.  They really need a tackle more than a guard but if they are going to be serious about drafting the best player available DeCastro’s probably their guy in this situation.

  • Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune assesses the current state of the Bears:

“Anyway, [Brian] Urlacher’s point was that [GM Phil] Emery filled so many needs in free agency that the Bears don’t have to make the killer mistake of drafting for need, which leads to reaching for a player, which leads to bad evaluation, which leads to empty drafts, but enough about [former GM] Jerry Angelo.”

Its worth noting that Angelo worked this way, too. The problem is that, though he could often take the best player available, he couldn’t identify him.  That’s know as a problem in execution, not planning.

“I know it’s still early and J’Marcus Webb hasn’t given up a sack yet, but I see a lot of Bears momentum right now. The arrow is pointing up for a team coming off a death spiral. I don’t just see them as a playoff possibility, but I expect them to challenge Green Bay and the Packers’ sloppy defense atop the division.”

“No, Stevie Sunshine isn’t smoking anything. Fortunately, the Detroit Lions are.”

“Personally, suspension or not, it’s probably best I’m never in a room with Gregg Williams and wonder if such an order crosses the line of the aggressive, competitive spirit we all know and love about the sport; and leans closer to a criminal act and therefore a litigious matter.”


  • The Chicago Tribune reports that the new Nike uniforms will have built-in foam padding in the knee, thigh and belt.  Many players remove such padding to increase their speed on the field.  Though the story describes the padding as being “adjustable” one wonders if these players aren’t going to be forced to keep those pads in now.
  • Though I believe the Saints deserved the punishment they got from the NFL over the “bounty scandal”, there is a part of me that figures that they aren’t the only guilty parties out there.  As a Bears fan, you just hope it isn’t everybody and, in particular, you hope it isn’t your team.  So it was nice to see ESPN’s NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert’s post which seeks to destroy the “happens all the time myth”.
  • From Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com we have this abject lesson for the Bears with their apparent recent change in philosophy regarding finding guys with “football character”:

“Three of the Lions’ five draft picks last year have been arrested for possessing marijuana since the season ended, and that’s bringing into renewed focus what many observers said about the Lions’ 2011 draft class at the time: Detroit brought in some talented players, but some questionable characters.”

“Today’s shining example of Wilbon repugnance began with a rant about the Redskins. There’s nothing wrong with going off about the Redskins, per se, but when Wilbon does it, it’s usually in the service of defending a player for the wrong reasons or because it’s a player Wilbon claims he’s friends with. In this case, it’s Donovan McNabb, who last week got all pissy in saying he wasn’t used properly by the team, a story that clashed with the reality that McNabb had nothing left by the time he arrived in D.C.’His blast was the same as mine; it was great,’ Wilbon said. ‘I called him and said ‘Good, I’m glad you had the guts to say it. I know you’re getting ripped. Good.’ I’ve said it on our show. The Redskins, if the next Joe Montana fell out of the sky, why would anybody look at them and give them the benefit of doubt that they could get it right?’  Their quarterback utilizing skills are JUNK. Did you know that Wilbon is friends with McNabb? Has it dawned on you since the last four dozen times that Wilbon mentioned it? Makes sense; you would have to be extremely close with McNabb to compare him as a faded 34-year-old to a Hall of Famer in his prime. If you can’t gameplan for bounce passes to a receiver, what can you do?”

One Final Thought

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune reports that the Bears appear to be unlikely to resign Amobi Okoye.

“The Bears missed adding a defensive end in free agency when Jeremy Mincey re-signed with the Jaguars. They were successful in bringing back starting end Israel Idonije but now they could be faced with trying to add a third end and finding a replacement for Okoye and nose tackle Anthony Adams, who was released. That’s work that likely will have to be done in the draft.”

Biggs conclusion would appear to be further supported Vaughn McClure’s report, also for the Chicago Tribune, of the signings of cornerbacks Kelvin Haden and Jonathan Wilhite.  Hayden is very experienced in the cover two defense from his days as a Colts.  Unfortunately he’s also been often injured.

These were low risk, on year signings that weren’t for much money.  But they were sorely needed.  The depth at CB was practically non-existent and now that they Bears have some insurance at the position, they can take the best players available.  As Biggs points out, the Bears obviously believe one or more of those players will likely be defensive linemen.  McClure also points out that the Bears do plan to add depth at safety so that’s a real possibility as well.

In any case, one look at the roster tells you that the Bears are looking to draft a fair number of defensive players this year.

A Little Knee Bending for Bears Offensive Line? And Other Points of View.


Devin Thomas has never taken off as a wide receiver in the NFL.

“What are the odds he will with the Chicago Bears? That’s hard to say right now. But the Bears certainly don’t have the kind of depth chart Thomas was up against as a member of the New York Giants. Opportunity could come with his new team.”

“Despite what Dolphins owner Stephen Ross allegedly told a fan, the Dolphins had no intention of cutting Brandon Marshall without getting anything in return for him. It is true, however, that the team was intent on purging Marshall at some point. Marshall was persona non grata in Miami for a number of reasons. He was perceived as a quarterback killer because of his complaining. New coach Joe Philbin was looking for a different style of receiver. Marshall is high maintenance off the field. And the Dolphins needed cap space. However, if the Dolphins couldn’t have traded Marshall in the offseason, it is likely they would have brought him to training camp to see if a trade market might develop for him after teams started losing players to injuries. As it turned out, they received two third round picks from the Bears.”

“Unfortunately, by our numbers, Marshall hasn’t exactly played up to that skill set. Last season, he had a 9.8 percent DVOA, good for 36th in the NFL. (DVOA is Football Outsiders’ defense-adjusted value over average metric, explained here.) That was his best career ranking in DVOA and only the second time he finished a season with a positive score. Despite his eye-popping traditional numbers, Marshall has had just one season with a catch rate above 60 percent. His statistics deserve some slack since Marshall has always been the focal point of his team’s passing game, but when you consider the opportunity cost of two third-rounders and Marshall’s fairly hefty contract, trading for Marshall wasn’t exactly the slam-dunk move many have called it.”

WR Michael Floyd: Notre Dame (6-3, 224)
DE Whitney Mercilus: Illinois (6-4, 265)
OT Jonathan Martin: Stanford (6-6, 304)
DE Quinton Coples: North Carolina (6-6, 285)
WR Kendall Wright: Baylor (5-10, 190)

I’m guessing that there’s no way Floyd, Mercilus or Couples falls that far.  It seems to me like a fantasy but if scouts are right about Coples and he is there, you take him and start doing cart wheels.

Martin is intriguing and could fill a need but a lot would depend on how much OL coach Mike Tice thinks he can coach him.  Most scouts seem to thin he has a pretty low floor and the Bears don’t need to draft a tackle who turns out to actually be an average (at best) guard (*cough* Chris Williams *cough*).

“What do you make of all the attention this week on Kendall Wright? Is it due diligence or real interest by the Bears? I’m sure he is a good football player, but don’t we have enough 5-10 wide receiver experiments? I would preferMichael Floyd and if he is not avail at 19 then Stephen Hill based on speed and frame. Do you think Phil Emery will stick to his comment, which I support 100 percent, about football being for big players? Andrew Los Angeles

“Look, Kendall Wright is a pretty good prospect. You can be 5-10 and be a lot better player than someone who is 6-3. I wouldn’t turn up my nose at him just because he isn’t big. There have been plenty of outstanding receivers who are shy of six feet. The Bears already have a big receiver in Brandon Marshall. If the Bears draft a receiver, they need to draft the best receiver they can find, regardless of how tall he is. Emery likes big players, but he likes good players more. In Kansas City, he drafted 5-foot-8, 170 pound Dexter McCluster.”

Dexter McCluster is a multi-demential player who was drafted as a slot receiver.  Drafting Kendall Wright for the Bears would be like getting another Johnny Knox for the Packers to knock off the line of scrimmage and sit on.  Like McCluster, he’s too small to be anything but a slot receiver and Earl Bennett has that pretty much wrapped up.

  • Pompei, this time writing for the Chicago Tribune, quotes Bears head coach Lovie Smith on Wright:

“‘When I watch video, I don’t want to see all these bad plays,’ he said. ‘If we’re coaching a guy up to his max, OK, what can he be? It’s about the ceiling, always. This is what he’s capable of doing.’”

I found this to be interesting because it clicks together with another quote from Smith via Pompei, this time about his relationship with GM Phil Emery:

“We watched a little tape together. It’s on video what type of guys we like. And it’s constant communication, normal flow of day, going over everything we want at every position. It’s continuing still.”

Hard not to notice that Emery’s emphasis on evidence-based evaluation and watching tape is catching on with Smith.  I like that.

  • On a related not, from Mark Eckle at the Times of Trenton we have this comment on DT Dontari Poe:

“He’ll be overdrafted,” one personnel man said. “He did all of that at the Combine, so some team will take him way higher than he should go. I mean watch him play, just watch. He didn’t do anything. And he wasn’t playing at a very high level, either.


“All I know is he had one sack last year and it came against Austin Peay. You probably didn’t even know Austin Peay had a football team.”


Poe might be available for the Bears at 19.  If he is it sounds like a good test of GM Phil Emery’s philosophy to judge prospects primarily by seeing what show up on tape.

“Are you as sold as Mike Tice is on J’Marcus Webb as our left tackle? I like him as a person but I think he’s a swing tackle at best in the league. Also, Tice and Lovie Smith need to remember that Webb was a seventh-round pick from a tiny school that nobody had ever heard of. He was never meant to be a starting left tackle in the NFL. I think the Bears should trade up in the early teens of the first round to secure Jonathan Martin, who I’m sure would eliminate the only question mark on our offense now. Jim Lee, Platteville, Wis.

“It’s possible Webb could develop into a starting left tackle you can win with. He has done enough good things for the coaching staff to have faith in him, it’s just that he hasn’t done them consistently enough. He clearly still is a work in progress, as you might expect someone with his background to be going into his third season. There have been Hall of Famers who have come from “tiny schools that nobody ever heard of,” so that is not an issue. What is an issue is Webb allowed 14 sacks, tied for most in the NFL according to Stats, and that he was flagged an NFL-high eight times for false starts and five times for holding. It’s important that everybody, especially his offensive coordinator, understands this isn’t Anthony Munoz. Don’t expect him to be able to handle the best pass rushers in the game one-on-one, and he’ll have a chance. But there is no question he has some serious improving to do in order to be the Bears’ long-term left tackle.”


  • Former Bears Director of College Scouting, Gabriel Gabriel, on QB Ryan Tannehill for The National Football Post:

“Yes, Tannehill will get drafted high and I know of at least three clubs that are praying that it actually does happen because that drops a good football player to them. It has been my opinion all along that some evaluators and people in the media are ‘creating’ a player just as they did Blaine Gabbert last year and others like him in previous years. Don’t forget, J’Marcus Russell was the first pick of the draft the year he came out.”

  •  And, as if to prove Gabriel right, from Pro Football Weekly’s Whispers column:

“The Vikings continue to hope that the Ryan Tannehill buzz keeps flowing. After his strong pro-day effort, there is more buzz about teams having to trade up ahead of the Browns at No. 4 to get the athletic-but-green quarterback. The Vikings will be all ears — they would love to slide down a handful of spots, pick up additional picks and still get a top-rated player. It would be the ideal situation in their minds.”

 “The union possibly has deferred comment on the situation until it has a chance to obtain more information.  The NFLPA is in a tight situation on this one, balancing its obligation to protect both the alleged participants in the bounty system and the targets of the bounty system.  It’s possible that the union will eventually contend that the players who participated were coerced by their coaches, making both the player-participants and the player-targets the victims.

“Frankly, any other argument would make it hard for the NFLPA to aggressively and properly represent the interests of both ends of the bounty spectrum.”

“Line him up as an H-back. The players who have been most successful as package quarterbacks have been the ones who are on the field in other roles. If a player comes off the sideline only when he’s part of a package, it’s a red flag for defenses.

“And Tebow can play H-back. ‘Look the way he’s built,’ McCarthy said. ‘He’s an athletic, powerful man. He’s bigger than people realize.’”

I don’t know that Tebow will ever be a good QB.  But I’m reasonably certain he’s a player.  He can do a lot of things on the football field.

“You can improve in the offseason not just through free agency.  We’ve improved every year with our offseason program and I believe that’s going to be the case again this year.”

Want to know why the Packers are successful as an organization?  Notice that McCarthy concentrates on what he does best when commenting on how to improve the organization.  Its fairly evident that he never stops coaching while letting GM Ted Thompson do what he does best in evaluating players.

  • Former NFL safety Matt Bowen at The National Football Post provides some coaching points while reviewing tape of North Alabama’s Jenoris Jenkins.
  • Bowen also talks about the importance of adjusting to the ball using Appalachian State’s Brian Quick as an example.
  • Jon Gruden gives QB prospect Andrew Luck a hard time about this play.  It’s really just guess work but watching the film and judging from the way that Luck goes right to the receiver without a glance to the left, I’m guessing that he’s being a good soldier and covering for a poor play call.  Its even posible that Gruden is baiting him in an effort to get him to call the coach out.  To his credit, Luck doesn’t give in to the temptation.
  • Gabriel tells lots of Bear fans what they’d like to hear as he describes the big wide receivers available in the draft.
  • I actually laughed out loud when I read this headline from profootballtalk.com before I even read the article.  Glad to know Donovan McNabb is still good for something.
  • Like most people who have been in this situation, I don’t know whether to laugh at this or cry. From A Factory of Sadness.
  • The Sports Pickle wonders what might have been had Internet commenters been around to ruin great moments in sports history.  Here’s a good example:

One Final Thought

If anyone needs any further evidence as to why Jerry Angelo deserved to be fired, this excerpt from Pro Football Weekly’s Whispers column provides some:

“Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said at the annual NFL meeting that 2011 third-round RB Alex Green is well ahead of schedule in his recovery from the torn ACL that cut his rookie campaign short in Week Seven. McCarthy also said that 2011 first-round OT Derek Sherrod, who also suffered a season-ending injury (broken right leg), has been conscientiously rehabbing on a daily basis at the Packers’ facilities.”

This is the kind of thing that drives Bears fans insane.  The Packers lose thier first round offensive tackle to jury and they nearly go undefeated.  The Bears lose theirs and the whole right side of the line falls apart.

One look at the statistics, as reviewed in this very good article by McCown, tells you what you need to know.  Also taking into account his analysis of Brandon Marshall above, he sums up the Bears offseason moves:

“The Bears did upgrade another area of weakness by signing QB Jason Campbell to back up [Jay] Cutler. But unless they start working to improve their offensive line, the Bears are in for a season much like the past two: one in which good defense and solid quarterback play are undone by an inability to punch the ball into the end zone and in which goal-line sweeps are buried in the backfield due to missed blocks.

But at least there will be one key difference: This time [Michael] Bush gets to be the scapegoat instead of [Matt] Forte.”

But Bears head coach Lovie Smith and, presumably, GM Phil Emery continue to bury thier heads in the sand and state that the Bears are happy with the status quo on the offensive line (Via Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times).  Florio comments:

“‘There are some things you have to do to help [J’Marcus Webb] out a little bit more at times, which we plan to do,’ Smith said, per Jensen.  ‘So you can make a case and throw out stats on what he did.’

“You can, but not many Bears fans will be willing to do it.  Instead, Bears fans will hope, and perhaps pray, that the stated faith in the team’s offensive line is part of a broader plan to dupe other teams into thinking the Bears won’t be targeting guards and tackles in the draft.”