15 on 6: Urlacher proves his greatness


15 on 6: Urlacher proves his greatness

Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010
6:33 PM

By Jim Miller

I remember when the Bears selected what scouts and analysts dubbed "an extremely athletic safety" out of New Mexico.

Everyone thought he was too big to excel at safety in the NFL and would be converted to linebacker. Head coach Dick Jauron did just that immediately declaring strong side linebacker may be Brian Urlacher's ideal spot.

I also remember guys on the team somewhat frustrated that our first round draft pick was going to be a project.

When he arrived, we all saw the athleticism, but we also saw tight ends shredding him at the line of scrimmage in minicamps and through training camp. It was all new to Urlacher as he had not experienced being in the box face up against a tight end. It wasn't just the release techniques of tight ends Brian struggled to adapt to early, it was fullback iso's and releases, wide receivers crack blocking or guards pulling to kick out block. Urlacher kept plugging along but ultimately lost a hard fought training camp to Roosevelt Colvin for the starting job.

Since that time I have witnessed him fill the "A" gap on a playaction iso fake and still get to 15 yards depth in coverage to break up the pass to a tight end on a middle read. Brian stays vertical or attacks middle.

It wasn't long before injuries started to deplete the depth at linebacker. Barry Minter was a team leader, good player and our starting MLB, but went down with injury forcing Jauron and the coaching staff to throw the young buck in there. His true position had been found by accident.

Urlacher was amazing to watch while as he was out there simply reacting and flying to the football. I remember defensive coaches and teammates coming out of the defensive meetings buzzing about what Urlacher was putting on tape.

I was even more impressed competing against him following his initial training camp, but now as our starting MLB. He and I would mess with each other, each winning our individual battles, then letting each other know about it. He was now confident and becoming a true stud at his position in the NFL.

All of the success has never has gone to his head because he has always respected the game too much.

It is now time to pay him our respects as the bears all-time leading tackler. He is truly one of the greats who has changed the game - the mold of MLB - and is headed for Canton.

Just for the record, he could of done it as a safety too!

Jim Miller, an 11-year former NFL quarterback, is a Comcast SportsNet Bears analyst who can be seen each week on U.S. Cellular Bears Postgame Live. Miller, who spent five seasons with the Bears, analyzes current Chicago QB Jay Cutler in his "15 on 6" blog on and can be followed on Twitter @15miller.

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Hub Arkush (Pro Football Weekly/670 The Score), Mark Grote (670 The Score) and Mark Carman (WGN Radio) join Luke Stuckmeyer on the panel. Quenton Nelson works out at Notre Dame’s pro day. If he’s still on the board at 8, should the Bears take him? Plus the panel talks about the Cubs outfield heading into 2018 and if it’s time to shut down both Jonathan Toews and Lauri Markkanen.

Could Quenton Nelson increase his value by playing tackle?

USA Today

Could Quenton Nelson increase his value by playing tackle?

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Quenton Nelson hasn’t met with the Bears yet during this pre-draft process, and doesn’t have a local visit scheduled with them. But maybe that’s not too surprising.

Harry Hiestand has better intel on him than anyone else after coaching him for the past four years at Notre Dame, after all. 

“Coach Hiestand, he’s known me since I was an immature freshman that wasn’t good at football, until now being a lot more mature and responsible and doing the right thing and a good football player,” Nelson said. “He knows everything about me.”

Could part of that intel provided by Hiestand be that Nelson has the ability to eventually play tackle?

Nelson might be the closest to a “sure thing” prospect in this year’s draft, with his reams of dominant film and off-the-charts work ethic projecting him as an All-Pro for years to come. But that he plays guard is a stumbling block, given interior positions generally don’t hold as much value as tackles in the NFL.

So here’s a potential scenario for the Bears: They draft Nelson at No. 8 — which is still "high" for a guard — and plug him at left guard in 2018. They then, under the careful watch of Hiestand, slide him to tackle in 2019. 

“I’m pretty convinced that Q could do whatever he sets his mind to,” Mike McGlinchey, a first-round tackle in his own right who's Nelson’s ex-Irish teammate and workout buddy, said. “If that’s what teams want him to play, I’m sure he’ll take that head on and perform to the best of his ability.” 

Nelson, to his credit, is confident he could make the switch to tackle (he was recruited by Hiestand as a tackle, and began his college career backing up Zack Martin at tackle). He said the only team that’s asked him about it so far is the Cincinnati Bengals, though it’s unlikely he’ll still be on the board when they pick at No. 21. 

But maybe the thought of guards being significantly less valuable than tackles is slowly becoming antiquated in today’s NFL. Four of the top 10 highest paid offensive linemen, by total contract value, are interior linemen. Three of the top 10 offensive linemen with the most guaranteed money are guards, led by Andrew Norwell, who inked a five-year, $66.5 million deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars earlier this month with $30 million guaranteed at signing. Only one offensive lineman — Nate Solder, who just signed with the New York Giants — is guaranteed more money. 

Following the money, if teams are willing to splash down loads of cash for the best guards in the league, a team may be willing to spend a top-10 pick on a guard who could immediately be among the best at his position in the NFL. Or the calculation for whatever team drafts him may be this: Would you rather have him as a perennial All-Pro guard or "merely" a solid-to-good tackle? 

Regardless of where he ends up playing, though, Nelson is one of those supremely-talented players who takes the right approach to his craft — in other words, one of those guys you just want to get in your building. And while Nelson said he’d love to play for his hometown New York Giants — who could be interested in him with the No. 2 pick — he said getting to link back up with Hiestand would be an incredible opportunity, too. 

“That would be amazing to play for him,” Nelson said. “He’s the one that made me into the player I am today. I wouldn’t be here without him or be in any conversations in the draft without him, so it would mean a lot to play for him again.”