Bears

Mullin: With the 29th pick the Bears select...

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Mullin: With the 29th pick the Bears select...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Posted: 10:02 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Every draft takes on its own unique character and 2011 should do exactly that, given the precarious state of NFL personnel management right now with free agency on hold. Rarely do drafts play out entirely as envisioned because one pick, one trade, can blow up the best-laid plans of teams, and mock-drafters.

But from a variety of personnel sources and evaluations, View from the Moon has established exactly how the first round of the 2011 draft will unfold.

More or less

1. Carolina Panthers Cam Newton, QB, Auburn.

Comment: The Panthers want to trade down and could throw the draft into early chaos with a big move. But the first pick of the Ron Rivera Era needs to be a franchise-turner. Jimmy Clausen was a No. 2 last year but the chance to get THE guy is rare and Newton is that, even with the questions and lack of extensive track record. The variable is Marcell Dareus as a franchise interior force
2. Denver Broncos Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama

Comment: New coach John Fox is a defense guy, knows what a dominant D-lineman means to a franchise, and he has a chance to get one now to anchor a 4-3 scheme.

3. Buffalo Bills Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M

Comment: Considered by some to be the best single player in the 011 draft, and is there a better 3-4 pass rusher than this?

4. Cincinnati Bengals A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
Comment: The Carson Palmer situation is an organizational crisis and the Bengals could surprise and grab Gabbert ahead of Arizona. But the fourth-best player in this draft is Green and that may turn Palmers head back in the right direction.

5. Arizona Cardinals Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri

Comment: The temptation will be to snag LSU CB Patrick Peterson but a franchise refitting starts at one position: QB. Matt Leinart didnt work out. Neither did Derek Anderson. Kurt Warner is gone. This franchise still has the taste of a Super Bowl in its mouth and thats not going to happen without settling the quarterback issue.

6. Cleveland Browns Julio Jones, WR, Alabama

Comment: Colt McCoy settled some questions at QB and Mike Holmgren knows what a physical receiver can mean to any offense, West Coast or other.
7. San Francisco 49ers Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU

Comment: New coach Jim Harbaugh wouldve preferred another position but hes a former QB and knows this is an elite-value position and Peterson is a gem by all accounts.

8. Tennessee Titans Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn

Comment: Probably one of the bigger boom-or-bust figures in the draft and could be something special. But hes a one-year wonder and Tennessee will be pleasantly surprised if this kind of talent falls to them, even with the question marks.

9. Dallas Cowboys Tyron Smith, T. USC.

Comment: Dallas knows the value of being strong up front and also knows Tony Romos limits if they dont protect him. Smith has major upside and could supplant Marc Columbo whos winding down at RT, but he projects as a franchise LT.

10 Washington Redskins Aldon Smith, LBDE, Missouri
Comment: This is a draft pivot point. Smith is a hybrid at 6-4, 263 pounds and gives the Redskins a disruptor who can be moved around to create mismatches and still play with power at the point. But Mike Shanahan is used to having a quarterback situation better than what hes got now and either Jake Locker or Andy Dalton would not be a complete surprise here.

11. Houston Texans Robert Quinn, LBDE North Carolina

Comment: Wade Phillips lives with his 3-4 scheme and 3-4s live or die with pass-rushing outside backers. If Aldon Smith isnt snapped up by now, the Texans will take him and be grateful. But Quinn, one of the Tarheels suspended for 010, is an elite pass rusher and can fit in two places.

12. Minnesota Vikings Jake Locker, QB, Washington

Comment: A year ago Locker might have gone No. 1 overall. But this is a franchise-grade need and brings another potential elite young QB into a division that already has Jay Cutler, Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford. Do not rule out Donovan McNabb in Minnesota either.

13. Detroit Lions Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska

Comment: Detroit has its QB (Stafford), RB (Jahvid Best), and WR (Calvin Johnson) in place. OT Anthony Castonzo fits a need on the OL but does not carry this high a grade. Detroit needs to keep pace with a division that is staffing up at QB and Amukamara is a 6-foot corner with 4.4 speed. Jimmy Smith may be a surprise instead but a DB behind Ndamukong Suh is a natural.

14 St. Louis Rams Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
Comment: The Bears would have loved a shot at this Tommie Harris replacement but the Rams will get there ahead of them with an inside force that will make their entire defense better.

15. Miami Dolphins Andy Dalton, QB, TCU

Comment: Chad Pennington is not the solution and there are other options here, like Ryan Mallett. But Mallett has some maturity questions and Dalton is a career winner, a leader, and showed character with offseason work to master skills of an under-center QB after being a shotgunner til now.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue

Comment: Jack DelRio is in jeopardy and needs an impact pass rusher to make his defense work, which it hasnt always.
17. New England Patriots (from Oakland) Muhammed Wilkerson, DE, Temple

Comment: The run on D-linemen in Round One continues. Wilkerson on one side of Vince Wolfork is an athletic 310-pounder in the Richard Seymour mold physically and is a perfect edge presence in Bill Belichicks 3-4.

18 San Diego Chargers J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin

Comment: Watt may go to New England the pick before this, in which case Wilkerson becomes a fit in San Diego. Watt projects to bookend with Luis Castillo on a Charger front three that needs to take a next step in dominance.

19. New York Giants Mike Pouncey, C, Florida

Comment: Thisll be a pick from the group of Castonzo, Gabe Carimi and Pouncey, but the bloodlines here and the Giants need in the middle is critical.

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College

Comment: Finally, after so many defensive linemen, the dam starts to burst for the run on offensive linemen. The Bucs have something in QB Josh Freeman and a move on Alabama RB Mark Ingram, a surprise drop in the draft, is there for them but a potential franchise LT is harder to find.

21. Kansas City Chiefs Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin

Comment: The debate in the draft room will be between Carimi and UCLA rush-linebacker Akeem Ayers. But Carimi is starter-grade at either right or left tackle and the Chiefs were pedestrian in pass protection for Matt Cassel.

22. Indianapolis Colts Nate Solder, OT, Colorado

Comment: Bill Polian doesnt panic on draft day but his offense was No. 1 in sack percentage only because of Peyton Mannings savvy. The Colts were 27th in rushing average and Polian went defense last year. He finds quality character players and has chosen defensive players with two straight first picks just once since 1992. He wont this year either.

23. Philadelphia Eagles Cameron Jordan, DE, California

Comment: Another turning-point pick. Michael Vick was hoping for help up front but the run on tackles drained a lot of depth from the talent pool. This pick will come down to help on the OL with either Danny Watkins or Derek Sherrod, or on defense with an edge player, likely one of the Camerons (Heyward or Jordan). Adrian Clayborn fits the Hugh DouglassTrent Cole mold but Jordan is bigger and as fast.
24. New Orleans Saints Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado

Comment: The Saints have some force up front but ranked 32nd in interception percentage and posted an NFL-low 9 INTs. Help in the secondary is a major priority.

25. Seattle Seahawks Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina

Comment: Another surprise pick but a reasonable one for a team that needs a disruptor up front, particularly with under-tackle Brandon Mebane a possible loss through free agency. QB looms as a need but the Seahawks need to stop people and Austin was a first-round talent before his 010 suspension.

26. Baltimore Ravens Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State

Comment: Ozzie Newsome has built a premier franchise drafting linemen in his first rounds and Sherrod is a quality individual who will be a rookie starter at one OT spot. QB Joe Flacco and RB Ray Rice behind an elite line makes for a Super Bowl threat.

27. Atlanta Falcons Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State

Comment: DaQuan Bowers is still on the board and may be too good to pass up even with his knee questions. But Heyward is a power player who fits either inside or outside and rates a physical edge over Adrian Clayborn.
28. New England Patriots Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama

Comment: The Pats took care of their defensive front at No. 17 and Ingram is a solid pick for an offense that knows how to use running backs to augment No. 12.

SEE SIDEBAR FOR BEARS 29TH PICK

30. New York Jets Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA

Comment: Ayers was high on a number of draft boards but did not help himself at the Combine. The proliferation of 3-4s, however, have boosted the stock of hybrid LBDE types like Ayers, who has played showed flashes of stardom but not consistently enough. Rex Ryan is looking for someone to be what Vernon Gholston was supposed to be.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers Aaron Williams, CB, Texas
Comment: The Steelers havent taken a DB in the first round since Troy Polamalu and Mike Tomlin wants to keep a Pittsburgh defensive tradition at the highest level.

32 Green Bay Packers Justin Houston, LB, Georgia

Comment: With Green Bays record of landing quality LBs well beyond drafts early picks (Nick Barnett, Desmond Bishop, Clay Matthews), this is always a pick of note. Dom Capers gets another bit of ammunition for his attack 3-4. Houston may be gone a couple picks ago (Jets) but if hes there, he fits a number of roles in the Green Bay version of the 3-4.

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.

For Mitch Trubisky, key ball security extends well beyond just third downs

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USA TODAY

For Mitch Trubisky, key ball security extends well beyond just third downs

John Fox has mentioned Mitch Trubisky’s third-down passing on more than one occasion, and not simply as a stroke of what his staff has done in the way of player development as a coaching decision of tectonic-plate degree looms. The fact is that third-down passing is a defining measure of an NFL quarterback; as Loggains stated, it’s where quarterbacks earn their money, and by extension, make it possible for a lot of other folks to earn theirs.

But it’s far bigger than only third downs. Case in point: Trubisky completed 25 of his 32 passes at Cincinnati. All of those passes came during the Bears’ first nine (of 11) possessions. Significantly, the Bears had at least one first down on every one of those possessions, and more than one on seven of the nine.

Meaning: The offense sustained drives and the defense was able to recover on the sideline. That would comprise two-thirds of “complimentary football” the way it’s designed.

(It also did not hurt that every drive on which the Bears didn’t draw a penalty, with the exception of the one ended by halftime, the Bears scored a touchdown. Probably just coincidence…but…maybe not…)

Putting all of this in the broader context of Trubisky’s development, the self-professed gunslinger has thrown zero interceptions in six of his nine games, none in four of the last five. That points to the rookie being schooled hard in ball security, something that has been a hallmark of quarterbacks under coordinator Dowell Loggains’ auspices. Brian Hoyer and Jay Cutler in 2015 played with a level of ball security at or among the best of their careers.

Trubisky’s 1.8 percent interception rate overall is the larger point. As mentioned in this space and elsewhere previously, coaches aren’t going to “breed” Trubisky’s core aggressiveness out of him by drilling “ball security” into his head.

And while the concept is simple enough, implementing it isn’t. For all of his meteoric success before his season-ending knee injury, Deshaun Watson was being picked on 3.9 percent of his throws. Cutler has reverted to his career base course (3.2 percent) while Trubisky keeping his throws out of harm’s way percentage-wise better than all of Matthew Stafford (1.9), Russell Wilson (2.3), Matt Ryan (2.6) or Ben Roethlisberger (2.6).

Maybe it’s “generational:” Jared Goff (1.4) and Carson Wentz (1.6) seem to have been schooled the same direction. And how’s that working for them?

Marcus Mariota is having his worst (by his reckoning) NFL season, with 14 interceptions making him so testy that his Mom yelled at him for being grumpy to reporters while discussing his play.

Key to Bears defeating Detroit

The obvious is how well the offense and Trubisky control the football without turning the football over and without self-destructing with penalties that put them behind the sticks. It’s not a sure-fire formula; the Bears didn’t turn the ball over vs. San Francisco and had half the number of penalties assessed as the 49ers and still took incompetence to epic levels. But it is a foundation starting point.

Actually, it’s more than that where the Detroit Lions are concerned.

Detroit has lost three of the four games in which its opponents didn’t give them at least one turnover.    

Stopping the run is a standard “key,” but in the Lions case, they don’t run the ball much anyway. They are last in the NFL in rushing yards per game (76.3) and yards per attempt (3.3). Nine different individuals, including Jordan Howard, average more per game than the Lions. They did win the only two games in which they rushed for more than 100 yards (but those were against the Giants and Browns, so those don’t count).

But Detroit is 7-6 overall without any appreciable rushing offense. So stopping the run, while always a factor, isn’t necessarily a game-changer vs. the Lions.

Ball security is. Keeping Matthew Stafford off the field, as it is with most elite quarterbacks, is everything. Stafford is tied for second for taking sacks (39) and is even taking them at a concerning rate of one every 13 pass plays – statistically significantly higher than nearly every other top passer – and he is still passing to a rating of 97.9, good enough for No. 8 in the NFL.

So getting after Stafford helps. Stopping the run helps. Forcing takeaways helps. But the only element that directly correlates to upending the Lions is not so much creating turnovers as avoiding ones of your own.

Has Adam Shaheen actually lived up to expectations in 2017?

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USA Today

Has Adam Shaheen actually lived up to expectations in 2017?

If the broad expectation for Adam Shaheen on July 26, when the Bears reported to training camp in Bourbonnais, was that he would be mostly deployed as a red zone threat and catch a handful of touchdowns in his rookie year…is it fair to say he’s met that expectation?

With three games remaining in the 2017 season, Shaheen has 12 catches on 14 targets for 127 yards with three touchdowns. He may not have the volume of receptions and yards to match how high the Bears drafted him in April, but he has proven to be difficult to cover in the end zone. 

There’s more to it than the numbers — while Zach Miller and Dion Sims were healthy in the first half of the season, Shaheen was primarily used as a blocking tight end (50 of his 100 snaps in the Bears’ first eight games were in three-tight-end sets, for example). And he had some missteps as a run blocker after Miller’s injury, like this one against the Philadelphia Eagles

But statistically, Shaheen’s numbers stack up somewhat favorably to those of recent rookie tight ends. 

There have been 144 tight ends to play as rookies in the last 10 years. Of those, only 24 (17 percent) have caught at least three touchdowns. Among those 24 tight ends, Shaheen currently has the highest catch percentage (85.7 percent) and the sixth highest average yards per target (9.07), though those are perhaps skewed by a small sample size (14 targets). 

With three games to go, let’s say Shaheen catches one more touchdown and eight more passes (that may be a conservative estimate, given how well he played against Cincinnati). But that would give Shaheen 20 receptions and four touchdowns; only 12 rookie tight ends have hit those benchmarks in the last decade. 

Comparatively, in the last 10 years, there have been 24 second-year tight ends to have at least 20 receptions and at least four touchdowns. The players to hit those marks in each of their first two seasons: Mychal Rivera, Aaron Hernandez, Hunter Henry, Rob Gronkowski, Jermaine Gresham, Jimmy Graham and John Carlson. For the most part, that's an impressive list. 

It’s still too early to tell what direction Shaheen’s career is taking. Even as he wasn’t doing much of anything in the first half of 2017 — he only was targeted twice — it was always too soon to label him a “bust” given the rarity of tight ends making a significant impact in their rookie seasons.

“So much of it is the blocking,” coach John Fox said why the adjustment to the NFL takes time for a tight end. “In this league, a lot of 4-3 teams, it’s a big defensive end, not some smallish linebacker type. So the blocking element, they’re like an offensive tackle. Technique-wise, especially when they’re 250 to 260, blocking a guy that’s real athletic, maybe at that weight or more, can be problematic.

“In the NFL the tight ends are involved a little bit more in protection, so there’s pass protection things—how you fit, where your help is—aside from the route running and the hot reads and all the stuff … I think NFL defenses are pretty complex as far as the things that they do. You have third-down defenses, you have first and second down defenses. There’s just a lot to learn for a college guy coming into the NFL.”

The best-case for the Bears is Shaheen will exit 2017 with a solid foundation on which to build in his second year in the league. We've seen signs that could be the case both as a run blocker and pass catcher, and it'll be interesting to see if he continues progressing over these final three games.