Bears

Double-booking on draft picks not a workable long-term solution for Bears

Double-booking on draft picks not a workable long-term solution for Bears

A mildly troubling pattern within Bears drafting took some shape as the 2017 selection derby moved through its final day. Not necessarily a serious issue with the organizational mechanism, but...

The problem is re-drafting, a sort of NFL overbooking or double-booking, a dangerous situation that has hurt the Bears at times past when they needed to repeat picks at a certain position because of misses on free agents or draft choices.

It is one thing if the doubling up is at a linchpin position, and some obviously are more that than others. But some of these aren't recurring picks at pass rusher, offensive tackle, quarterback or wide receiver, where a re-draft can be excused because you can never have too many of them.

Drafting Trubisky after signing Glennon – makes sense. Drafting Leonard Floyd with Pernell McPhee and Willie Young in place – check.
 
But consider:

The Bears made a commitment at tight end with a three-year deal to get Dion Sims out of Miami. They then double-committed, using used a second-round pick on Adam Shaheen out of Ashland. If the Bears do not have seriously massive plans for the position, which is certainly possible, then the draft move is a little head-scratching, “best available” notwithstanding.

Elsewhere, Pace use three picks last year on defensive backs; none project to be threatening the starting lineup anytime soon.

After trading up in the fourth round this draft, the Bears used the 112th overall pick on Alabama safety Eddie Jackson. Safety was a consensus need area, which is itself a little notable because since arriving in 2015, the Bears and Ryan Pace have drafted Adrian Amos (fifth round), Deon Bush (fourth), DeAndre Houston-Carson (sixth) and are looking to move Deiondre' Hall (fourth) from cornerback to safety. This on top of making Quintin Demps a priority signing this offseason. Now, Jackson.

Contrast that with results when the Bears used No. 2 picks on Tony Parrish (1998) and Mike Brown (2000) to get it right. When Parrish wasn't re-signed in 2002, and Brown's career dissolved into injury after 2004, the safety position spiraled downward, to the detriment of other positions as well.

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Then with the 119th pick the Bears tapped diminutive (5-foot-6, 179 pounds) running back Tarik Cohen out of North Carolina A&T, which has had one player drafted in the past 20 years (center Junius Coston to Green Bay, 2005). That doesn't preclude anything, and Cohen could be the Bears version of Darren Sproles, but Garrett Wolfe was going to be the Bears' very own Warrick Dunn 10 years ago.

Cohen makes this the third straight Ryan Pace draft with a mid-round pick going for a running back, following Jordan Howard (fifth round) and Jeremy Langford (fourth) into a roster that had Ka'Deem Carey (fourth) from Phil Emery's final draft.

No position is unimportant in the NFL, but the positions at which these re-draftings are happening isn't ideal. Mid rounds ideally yield pass rushers such as Alex Brown (fourth) and Mark Anderson (sixth) or impact  defensive linemen  like Henry Melton (fourth).

Former GM Jerry Angelo conceded that he and his staff had real trouble hitting on offensive linemen (Marc Colombo, Terrence Metcalf, Josh Beekman, Chris Williams, Gabe Carimi, all fourth round or higher), which was largely why the majority of the '05, '06 and '10 O-lines came from free agency.

Pace cannot afford needing too many repeats in the drive to reverse the fortunes of a franchise that has had to retake the same ground too many times in the past.

Under Center Podcast: What did win over Bengals mean for John Fox and Ryan Pace?

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AP

Under Center Podcast: What did win over Bengals mean for John Fox and Ryan Pace?

JJ Stankevitz and John “Moon” Mullin debate what the Bears’ blowout win in Cincinnati meant for John Fox and Ryan Pace. Plus, how can Mitchell Trubisky and Adam Shaheen grow from how well they played on Sunday?

Listen to the latest episode here:

What was it like to coach against Devin Hester? 'You hold your breath'

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AP

What was it like to coach against Devin Hester? 'You hold your breath'

Jeff Rodgers had to gameplan for Devin Hester twice in his career as a special teams coordinator under John Fox: First, in 2010 with the Carolina Panthers, and second, in 2011 with the Denver Broncos. 

“You're holding your breath,” Rodgers, who’s in his third year as the Bears’ special teams coordinator, said. “There's been nobody like him in my generation.”

Neither of those games were necessarily the most memorable performances by Hester, who set an NFL record with 19 special teams touchdowns (14 on punt returns, five on kickoff returns). But the fact that Rodgers — like every other special teams coordinator from 2006-2016 — had to gameplan for Hester was notable in and of itself. 

“He was really the first guy that you really game-planned for and you saw different people take different approaches,” Rodgers said. “You see people try to punt the ball out of bounds. Well, defenses can combat that with some of the rush scheme so you may have to change that. Saw people try to kick fair catch balls and short because the reality is, if you played Chicago when he was rolling and you came out of the game with a 35 or 36 punt, which isn't great, but against him, you're usually taking that every time. He's as good as it gets.”

In that first meeting, on Oct. 10, 2010 in Charlotte, Rodgers’ strategy was to punt out of bounds or away from Hester to prevent him from fielding anything. 

At first, it didn’t work: Hester ripped off a 50-yard return on the first punt he fielded.

“We tried to punt the ball out of bounds and our punter put the ball about four inches from the sideline,” Rodgers said. “He reached in and got it and shot straight up the sideline.” 

From there, punter Jason Baker largely succeeded in kicking away from Hester, with his next six punts not being fielded or being fair caught. But the downside to that strategy was the Bears frequently received good starting field position — though having drives begin between the 40s was preferable to Hester ripping off a big return to set up a drive beginning in the Panthers’ red zone. 

A year later, Rodgers again had to figure out how to mute Hester’s success with the Denver Broncos. He was more successful in this Dec. 11, 2011 meeting, with Hester returning one kickoff for 25 yards and gaining 36 yards on two punt returns. Hester fair caught four punts, and one went out of bounds.

But Hester still notched returns of 26 and 10 yards despite Denver’s strategy to kick the ball as high as possible. 

“In Denver, we tried to hang it up there,” Rodgers said. “Did a good job on the first couple. Actually the best ball that our punter hit that day, that was the 2011 game, the best ball our punter hit that day with hang time and distance, he kind of circled around, went backwards, sideline, all of a sudden he turned a corner and you're holding your breath. We were able to get him on the ground, but he's a game-changer.”

The game-changing success Hester found as a return specialist should get him into the Pro Football Hall of Fame someday, unless the rather strange stinginess on special teamers in Canton continues. But there’s no doubt in Rodgers’ mind when it comes to how great Hester was — and how maddening it was to scheme against him. 

“I'd say (he) changed the game on both kickoffs and punts,” Rodgers said. “He's the best that's ever done it.”