Bears

Bears' 'Viewers Guide' to the Divisional Round

972795.png

Bears' 'Viewers Guide' to the Divisional Round

The playoffs generally make for compelling viewing in Chicago even if the Bears are not in the games. But the state of their roster and head-coaching situations should raise the interest level in the 2012 postseason.

GM Phil Emery declared last week that his quest was for excellence in his coaching candidate. Some of that is organizational, as Emery said, but ultimately the only excellence that matters is on the field. That applies to coaches and players.

To enhance playoff viewing, CSNChicago.com has selected a small number of figures of note to keep an eye on during the weekends games. Some are current coaching candidates (How is this guys system working?); others are among the better free agents (How would this guy look in a Bears uniform?) in areas of need for the Bears offseason. For instance, the value of Bruce Arians may have been subtly evident last weekend when the Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator was hospitalized for the playoff game against Baltimore, in which the Colts never got into the end zone and lost.

Baltimore at Denver (Sat., 3:30 p.m.)

Ravens to review

Dannell Ellerbe, LB - The Bears went into 12 thin at linebacker and came out even thinner with Brian Urlachers status unclear. Nick Roach should be re-signed but the corps needs stocking and Ellerbe, who had nine tackles in the win over Indianapolis, has played both MLB and SLB at 6-1, 240, picking up 5.5 sacks this season.

Dennis Pitta, TE - The Bears have picked up restricted free agents in the past, but the question here is how highly the Ravens regard this restricted free agent and the tender on him. Best guess: very high, after 61 catches and seven TDs. But there are few pass-catching tight ends available at this level.

Broncos to browse

Mike McCoy, OC - The Baltimore defense is not what it was when Ray Lewis was in his prime. But the Ravens are about pressure, and how McCoy and Peyton Manning conspire to exploit a good unit will be a solid test for a head-coach hopeful.

RELATED: Papa Cutler's (lack of) role in Bears' coaching search

Ryan Clady, LT - Denver may never let Clady hit the market but he is the highest-rated available, according to ProFootballFocus.com. Baltimores Paul Kruger was an edge-rushing force against Cincinnati and will be Cladys assignment.

Green Bay at San Francisco (Sat., 7 p.m.)

Packers to peruse

Tom Clements, OC - Mike McCarthy is the acknowledged coach of the offense so Clements role is always a little fuzzy to isolate. But hes part of the plan.

Aaron Rodgers, QB - Rodgers doesnt win every game he plays; it just seems that way when the game involves the Bears. The Bears need to figure out how other teams do it.

Niners to notice

Delanie Walker, TE - Vernon Davis is a foundation part of the offense but Walker is a consistent producer: averaging 20 rec. per year for the past six. Bears interest may be limited given that hes 6-1, 241, which is Evan Rodriguez-ian.

Seattle at Atlanta (Sun., noon)

Falcons to follow

Keith Armstrong, STC - Former Bears assistant Armstrong is in charge of Atlanta special teams and was among the first interviewees in the Bears search process. The Falcons have been solid but not at the Bears level on teams.

Sam Baker, LT - A thoroughbred from the USC OT tradition, Baker is old school, smaller (6-5, 301) than the preferred current prototype. But Matt Ryans blind side has been well protected and Baker has worked in a zone-blocking scheme.

Seahawks to survey

Darrell Bevell, OC - Somebody has brought rookie QB Russell Wilson along very nicely and Bevell is a name in play with the Bears. His head-coach opportunities have been sparse but Seattles offense has done more than just pound with Marshawn Lynch.

Alan Branch, DT - Branch is a massive (6-6, 325) interior player who does not fit the mold of Lovie Smith linemen. But he is a 4-3 fit who can dominate at the point, and if the Bears cannot retain Henry Melton, they will need interior help.

Houston at New England (Sun., 3:30 p.m.)

Texans to target

Rick Dennison, OC - The Texans offensive coordinator is on GM Phil Emerys candidate list. Houston is a run-based offense going against a Patriots front that controlled the Texans in their week 14 meeting. How Dennison schemes against in a rematch against one of the NFLs top defenses is a working interview.

Ryan Harris, RT - An under-the-radar right tackle, Harris allowed just two sacks playing 438 snaps in 2012. Harris 6-5, 300 pounds and a five-year veteran out of Notre Dame, already is a fit in a zone-blocking system that could come in with a new coach. Has had some health concerns and Derek Newton has had more playing time.

Patriots to ponder

Sebastian Vollmer, RT - Vollmer, 6-8, 315, is one of those draft hits that keep New England stocked. He was a No. 2 in 2009 and has been a quality starter at both tackles but has had some injury downtime that may be too much of a red flag. Hell see a lot of J.J. Watt for evaluation purposes and pass-pro is Vollmers strength.

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: