Bears

Ahead of (and behind) the Bears at No. 19 on draft day

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Ahead of (and behind) the Bears at No. 19 on draft day

The attention of the Bears has been and will necessarily be on the Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings. But in the draft, the teams immediately ahead or behind are sources of particular concern, and this year those happen to include the Lions and Packers.Those NFC North division rivals have draft issues that relate directly to the Bears:Detroit - The investment in the defensive line (Cliff Avril, Ndamukong Suh, Kyle Vanden Bosch) point away from the area and toward a secondary that has effectively negated a lot of the pressure from the defensive line. The Lions have concerns at both running back and defensive back and are expected to go for help in one of those two areas.Green Bay - A one-time fearsome pass rush was anything but in 2011 and this draft has a number of prospects who fit the hybrid 3-4 scheme of coordinator Dom Capers. GeneralmanagerTed Thompson has enough firepower on offense and needs to find the answer on the other side from Clay Matthews.Minnesota - With picks No. 1 and 2 out of the way, this is the de facto first pick of the draft. The question forgeneral managerRick Spielman will be whether to get someone to protect QB Christian Ponder (USC tackle Matt Kalil), catch Ponders passes (Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon) or defend other teams passes (LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne). Or trade down and get a lot of guys, including maybe Notre Damewide receiver Michael Floyd.But unless Detroit (No. 23) or Green Bay (No. 28) wants to make a strong move to move up, they are not immediate concerns to the Bears next Thursday evening. Some other teams are, however:No. 18 San Diego ChargersThe Chargers have seen slippage on offense with departures on the line (Marcus McNeil) and at receiver (Vincent Jackson) in particular. Larry English has not developed atoffensive linebackerbecause of injuries, but while it is difficult to see the Chargers going defensive-front at No. 1 for a third time in four years, they have shown the willingness to stock up on pass rushers.Comment: Some concern here for the Bears and their hope for a premier pass rusher.No. 17 Cincinnati BengalsYoure not sure if the Bengals think they got enough in Benjarvus Green-Ellis to replace Cedric Benson but they got results going hard for receiver help last year (A.J. Green) and they have seen the damage the Steelers have done with the ability to strike through the air.Comment: Not a major threat to address pass rush with the kind of player the Bears are after.No. 16New York JetsThe Jets havent taken a No. 1 pass rusher since Vernon Gholston in 2008 and their defense has gotten the worse for it. They have gone defense with their first pick in four of the last five drafts but only once for a linebacker for Rex Ryans 3-4 scheme.Comment: At this point of the first round a couple of good pass rushers are expected to be gone and the Jets are still looking for an elite impact player off the edge.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?

Seth Gruen (Bleacher Report/”Big Ten Unfiltered” podcast), Chris Emma (670TheScore.com) and Matt Zahn (CBS 2) join Kap on the panel. If the Bears lose badly to the Lions, should Sunday be John Fox’s last game? 

Plus Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill joins the panel to talk Bulls as well as the Niko/Portis cold war.

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

Collecting some final thoughts on if Tarik Cohen isn't getting enough snaps for the Bears

Collecting some final thoughts on if Tarik Cohen isn't getting enough snaps for the Bears

John Fox on Friday sought to clarify some comments he made earlier in the week about Tarik Cohen that seemed to follow some spurious logic. Here’s what Fox said on Wednesday when asked if he’d like to see Cohen be more involved in the offensive game plan:

“You’re looking at one game,” Fox said, referencing Cohen only playing 13 of 60 snaps against the Green Bay Packers. “Sometimes the defense dictates who gets the ball. I think from a running standpoint it was a game where we didn’t run the ball very effectively. I think we only ran it 17 times. I believe Jordan Howard, being the fifth leading rusher in the league, probably commanded most of that. I think he had 15 carries. 

“It’s a situation where we’d like to get him more touches, but it just didn’t materialize that well on that day. But I’d remind people that he’s pretty high up there in both punt returns, he’s our leading receiver with 29 catches, so it’s not like we don’t know who he is.”

There were some clear holes to poke in that line of reasoning, since the question wasn’t about Cohen’s touches, but his snap count. Cohen creates matchup problems when he’s on the field for opposing defenses, who can be caught having to double-team him (thus leaving a player uncovered, i.e. Kendall Wright) or matching up a linebacker against him (a positive for the Bears). The ball doesn’t have to be thrown Cohen’s way for his impact to be made, especially if he’s on the field at the same time as Howard. 

“They don’t know who’s getting the ball, really, and they don’t know how to defend it properly,” Howard said. “… It definitely can dictate matchups.”

There are certain scenarios in which the Bears don’t feel comfortable having Cohen on the field, like in third-and-long and two-minute drills, where Benny Cunningham’s veteran experience and pass protection skills are valued. It may be harder to create a mismatch or draw a double team with Cohen against a nickel package. It's easier to justify leaving a 5-foot-6 running back on the sidelines in those situations. 

But if the Bears need Cohen to be their best playmaker, as offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said last month, they need to find a way for him to be on the field more than a shade over one in every five plays. As Fox explained it on Friday, though, it’s more about finding the right spots for Cohen, not allowing opposing defenses to dictate when he’s on the field. 

“We have Tarik Cohen out there, we're talking about touches, not play time, we're talking about touches so if they double or triple cover him odds are the ball is not going to him, in fact we'd probably prefer it didn’t,” Fox said. “So what I meant by dictating where the ball goes, that's more related to touches than it is play time. I just want to make sure I clarify that. So it's not so much that they dictate personnel to you. Now if it's in a nickel defense they have a certain package they run that may create a bad matchup for you, that might dictate what personnel group you have out there not just as it relates to Tarik Cohen but to your offense in general. You don't want to create a bad matchup for your own team. I hope that makes sense.”

There’s another wrinkle here, though, that should be addressed: Loggains said this week that defenses rarely stick to the tendencies they show on film when Cohen is on the field. That’s not only a problem for Cohen, but it’s a problem for Mitchell Trubisky, who hasn’t always had success against defensive looks he hasn’t seen on film before. And if the Bears are trying to minimize the curveballs Trubisky sees, not having Cohen on the field for a high volume of plays would be one way to solve that. 

This is also where the Bears’ lack of offensive weapons factors in. Darren Sproles, who Cohen will inexorably be linked to, didn’t play much as a rookie — but that was on a San Diego Chargers team that had LaDanian Tomlinson, Keenan McCardell and Antonio Gates putting up big numbers. There were other options on that team; the Bears have a productive Howard and a possibly-emerging Dontrelle Inman, but not much else. 

So as long as Cohen receives only a handful of snaps on a team with a paucity of playmakers, this will continue to be a topic of discussion. Though if you’re looking more at the future of the franchise instead of the short-term payoffs, that we’re having a discussion about a fourth-round pick not being used enough is a good thing.