Bears

Bears draft picks a positive during tough season

617140.png

Bears draft picks a positive during tough season

Very, very few meaningful positives are to be found in a five-game collapse that cost the Bears a virtual playoff lock. But there actually have been a couple, beyond the odd Kahlil Bell or Josh McCown.

An issue plaguing the Bears for the past decade has been failed draft choices. A combination of indicators suggests that this may be changing, at least slightly.

Of the five Bears selected to this seasons Pro Bowl, four were Jerry Angelo draft choices (Lance Briggs 03, Matt Forte 08, Corey Graham 07, Charles Tillman 03). It is the highest number of Angelo picks ever selected to one Pro Bowl, and Forte is the first Angelo offensive draftee to make a Pro Bowl.

Returner Devin Hester (06) and defensive tackle Henry Melton (09) were among the alternates. Of the combined 11 Bears selected for some level of Pro Bowl honor (five voted, six alternates), only Brian Urlacher was not acquired by Angelo, whether by draft, free agency or trade.

Of the starting offense for much of the offensive surge that contributed to the five-game run to the 7-3 record, seven of the starters were draft picks and that does not include right tackle Gabe Carimi.

Not anything to get particularly excited about, after the general draft malaise of the Angelo era.

But two of the Bears top three 2011 draft picks also were starters before injuries sent them to IR: Carimi and safety Chris Conte, besides defensive tackle Stephen Paea.

The draft choices have been great and our rookie free agents have been awesome too, said Urlacher. Since my 2000 class Mike Brown, myself, Paul Edinger this is one of the better classes Ive seen.

Paeas playing time has increased substantially after dealing with a knee injury in training camp and being inactive for the first five weeks of the season. He has 2 sacks on the season, 6 quarterback pressures and 2 tackles for loss.

Paeas production is notable in part because he has been tasked with playing both nose tackle and three-technique.

The only true difference is youve got to have patience on the nose and on the three youve got to go, Paea said. Ive got to have that mentality.

I hate waiting on the line and having patience. I can get to aggressive and not have patience to play my keys, which is perfect for the under-tackle.

The No. 2 tackler on special teams behind Pro Bowl starter Graham is Dom DeCicco, an undrafted rookie free agent.

I still feel a little like a rookie, DeCicco said, but like Ive learned so much and its night and day from preseason and even the first few games.

With Leonard Floyd going on injured reserve, will the Bears have a pressing need at outside linebacker in 2018?

floyd-ir-1123.jpg
USA TODAY

With Leonard Floyd going on injured reserve, will the Bears have a pressing need at outside linebacker in 2018?

The Bears placed Leonard Floyd on injured reserve Thursday morning, ending the second-year outside linebacker’s season following a knee injury suffered Sunday against the Detroit Lions. Floyd suffered an MCL and PCL injury and will have surgery in the next week, coach John Fox said, and the Bears do not have a timetable for his recovery yet. But that Floyd didn't suffer damage to his ACL is potentially good news for Floyd's recovery timetable. 

Still, with Floyd on injured reserve and out for the season, the Bears’ current outside linebacker depth chart consists of two veterans (Pernell McPhee and Sam Acho) and two practice squad signees (Isaiah Irving and Howard Jones). These final six games of the 2017 season could serve as auditions for all four players for roles on the 2018 Bears. 

If every team needs at least three good pass rushers, the Bears can count on Akiem Hicks and Floyd for 2018, provided Floyd comes back healthy. But who’s the third?

The Bears could save about $7.5 million in cap space if they release McPhee in 2018; if they were to cut ties with Willie Young, who’s on injured reserve right now as well, it would provide $4.5 million in cap relief. McPhee will be 29 in December, while Young will turn 33 next September. 

The Bears won’t necessarily need the cap relief next year, and could certainly decide to keep both players, who’ve shown they’re still productive when healthy. But even if both players are back, the Bears may need to add another outside linebacker via free agency of the draft — remember, the team could’ve began the season with Floyd, Young, McPhee, Acho and Lamarr Houston as their outside linebackers; an injury Houston suffered in the fourth preseason game ended his time in Chicago. 

Needs at wide receiver and cornerback are pressing, but outside linebacker may need to be in that same conversation. If the Bears have a top-10 pick for the fourth consecutive year, plus some cap space, they perhaps could have the ability to address all three needs in March and April. 

That may be looking a little too far into the future, though. The best-case for the Bears is McPhee finishes the season strong and Irving and/or Jones shows something in the opportunities they receive in these final six games (Jones, for what it’s worth, had five sacks as a rookie with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2015). But the worst-case — and perhaps the most realistic — is that the Bears go into the offseason needing to fill at least one pass-rushing spot. 

Under Center Podcast: Can Mitch Trubisky follow Carson Wentz’s path to stardom?

trubisky.jpg

Under Center Podcast: Can Mitch Trubisky follow Carson Wentz’s path to stardom?

JJ Stankevitz and John “Moon” Mullin are joined by NBC Sports Philadelphia Eagles reporter Dave Zangaro to offer an encouraging connection between Carson Wentz’s growth and that of Mitchell Trubisky.

Check out the entire podcast here: