Bears

Moon: Bears will land DT, Austin in the spotlight

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Moon: Bears will land DT, Austin in the spotlight

Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Posted: 10:17 a.m.
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Draft noodling on final approach.

JMarcus Webbs thoughts after being honored as the 41st Brian Piccolo Award winner were the stuff of character, which is ultimately a big part of why teammates vote for the particular honorees. A respect for what came before him, a sense of what it means to be an inspiration to others those came through eloquently from the rookie tackle who wasnt drafted until the seventh round, yet emerged as a starter on the offensive line, one of the more difficult jobs to secure as a rookie.

JMarcus also was candid, in a quality sort of way, telling me about his hope that hell get a good shot at playing left tackle. He wasnt exactly lobbying, just being refreshingly honest about a position preference, something players sometimes are reluctant to do out of deference to the fact that its always the coaches decision ultimately.

But left tackle was the position he played primarily at West Texas A&M and I feel really comfortable there, he said, so well see.

The reality is that the Bears will draft an offensive lineman, more than likely with the skill set and physical traits of a tackle. If the Bears end up with, say, Nate Solder of Colorado, whos a left-tackle body (6-8-12 and a former hoopster), or Derek Sherrod from Mississippi State (6-5 and a college career LT), Webbs future likely lies on the right side.

If the draft breaks such that the Bears add Baylor strongman Danny Watkins, a right-tackle type who can play guard, Webbs plane to the left side will be boarding.

Consider it a draft stunner if the Bears do not land a defensive tackle with one of their first two picks. Some measure of spotlight continues to fall on Marvin Austin, who had some success at North Carolina but was suspended for all of the 2010 season.

It is still difficult to get a grip on the idea that the Bears, a touchdown from reaching a Super Bowl, would invest a No. 1 or even a No. 2 pick on a player with any questions, particularly given the Tank Johnson episode and how mercurial Tommie Harris became in the closing years here.

But Austin is nothing if not intriguing, and he doesnt shrink from issues. The fact that he said at the Combine that he didnt regret anything was a bit of a jaw-dropper. But Austin will weigh in pretty articulately on matters like whether the NCAA, which suspended him for taking things like free trips, should in fact be giving players a stipend of some sort.

Thats an extremely hard question to answer, because you do get a scholarship, you do get certain privileges that some other non athletes get, Austin says. But at the same time its extremely hard, for me, being a 300-pound guy, to eat lunch and its only 10. That doesnt go very far with inflation and its still the same since like 1997.

So I think theres ways it can be improved and I think that some of the things that the NCAA is doing are good. Just like I said, going through the situation and seeing how some of these situations happened, the NCAA, they have a decent handle on it but there can be room for reform.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

Can the Bears make enough plays to beat the Carolina Panthers?

Can the Bears make enough plays to beat the Carolina Panthers?

Everything changed for the Bears after going up 17-3 last week against the Baltimore Ravens. Mitchell Trubisky’s 27-yard touchdown to Dion Sims was immediately followed by Bobby Rainey running a kickoff back 96 yards for a touchdown, then the offense was bogged down with three fumbles (two lost) on three consecutive possessions. 

But Adrian Amos seemed to seal the game with his 90-yard pick six — that is, until Michael Campanaro ran Pat O’Donnell’s punt back 77 yards for what wound up being a game-tying touchdown after a two-point conversion.

The point is the Bears should’ve cruised to a comfortable win last week; a few critical mistakes didn’t allow that to happen. The Bears haven’t led at the end of the fourth quarter this year, a pretty strong indicator they haven’t played a complete game yet despite having two wins. 

The Carolina Panthers have road wins over the Detroit Lions and New England Patriots this year, and only lost to the Philadelphia Eagles by five points last week (despite Cam Newton throwing three interceptions). The bet here is the Bears keep things close on the backs of a strong defense, but either can’t make enough plays or make too many mistakes to win. 

Prediction: Panthers 20, Bears 16

Three and out: What Ron Rivera likes about Mitchell Trubisky played out this week

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USA TODAY

Three and out: What Ron Rivera likes about Mitchell Trubisky played out this week

Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera saw a lot of Mitchell Trubisky last year, with the North Carolina quarterback on TV quite a bit in the Charlotte area. The Panthers, set with Cam Newton, weren’t in the market for a quarterback in the 2017 NFL Draft, but Trubisky nonetheless stood out to the seventh-year Carolina coach and former Super Bowl-winning Bears linebacker. 

For Rivera, more than Trubisky’s arm strength and athleticism jumped off the screen. 

“Leadership,” Rivera pointed to. “When you watch him when he was playing — I love watching guys that either get on their teammates when they’re not doing it or they take accountability when they make a mistake. And you saw that with him.

“… We think the young man has got what it takes. We like who’s he’s gonna become. We do. We think the future can be bright for him. We are big fans here.”

Trubisky took accountability for both of his turnovers against the Minnesota Vikings: The interception Harrison Smith baited him into was certainly his fault, but his sack-strip fumble was more the result of Everson Griffen jumping the snap and blowing past left tackle Charles Leno. Against the Baltimore Ravens, Trubisky also lost a fumble on a sack-strip when cornerback Lardarius Webb hit him and dislodged the ball.

Trubisky’s explanation of that fumble was that he moved off his first read too quickly, causing him to miss Webb making a beeline for him in the backfield. But according to offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, that fumble wasn’t the quarterback’s fault. 

“That’s because he’s a stud,” Loggains said of Trubisky taking responsibility for it. “We screwed the protection up. We should have been sliding to the guy. The guy should not have been coming free. That’s Mitch taking a bullet that he doesn’t need to take. The reality is he saw the guy coming and tried to get over to the check down quickly but we got to do a better job up front protecting him.”

But that Trubisky was willing to say he was at fault for that fumble plays into why he quickly gained the respect of the Bears’ the locker room. That’s what a quarterback should be doing when speaking to the media after the game — accepting responsibility and deflecting off his teammates, even if he’s not at fault. That kind of stuff doesn’t go unnoticed. 

Stopping Superman

Pernell McPhee offered this goal up for his fellow defensive teammates this week: Make sure Newton stays as Clark Kent on Sunday. 

“He’s a very talented guy, but the only thing I told the defense is let's make him be Cam Newton, not Superman,” McPhee said, referring to Newton’s signature touchdown move. “We don't want him opening up the cape.”

So how does a defense stop Newton from being Superman?

“He’s a very versatile quarterback,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “Obviously his running the ball, whether it be through his improvising with scrambling on called pass plays, or the called running plays they do have for him, that’s a strength for him. We can’t just focus on stopping that. We’ve gotta stop Cam Newton the passer and the runner. They’ve got good running backs they’re handing it off to and receivers and running backs he’s throwing it to, so you’ve got a total offense to stop.”

One point to note here: Newton threw three interceptions last week against the Philadelphia Eagles and had been picked off eight times this year. A Bears secondary that intercepted Joe Flacco twice last week could have some more shots at takeaways on Sunday. 

High praise

Sunday will mark Thomas Davis’ 156th game in the NFL, with the linebacker playing every one of those with the Carolina Panthers. He played for John Fox from 2005-2010. But where we’re going here is what he had to say about how the Bears run their offense with a rookie quarterback:

“I think this is probably the best running game that we’ve seen from an offense with a rookie quarterback,” Davis said. “You look at some of the other rookies that come in. Teams want to run the ball. But when you look at the physicality and the style of play that this team plays with, I think that really makes the job a lot easier for a young quarterback. So I definitely feel like that physicality in their running game is definitely going to help him out.”

The Bears ran the ball 50 times against a Baltimore Ravens defense that played a lot more Cover-2 than expected. With star linebacker Luke Kuechly out for Sunday, the Bears may try to use a similar strategy, even if Carolina loads the box more than Baltimore did (a little more than once one every three runs by Jordan Howard). 

But if the Bears’ offense is going to have success, it’s going to be behind Howard, Tarik Cohen and an improving offensive line. Maybe Davis’ comments are hyperbole, but he’s also played a lot more football than you and me.