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.

'Adapt or die' is the perfect motto for Matt Nagy's coaching staff

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USA TODAY

'Adapt or die' is the perfect motto for Matt Nagy's coaching staff

Bears special teams coach Chris Tabor offered a, well, interesting assessment of his coaching philosophy while meeting the media at Halas Hall for the first time on Thursday.

“One thing that we say is adapt or die,” Tabor explained. “The dinosaurs couldn't figure it out and they became extinct.

“Coaches, they don't figure it out, they get fired. So we'll adapt, and I'm looking forward to the challenge of it.”

This wasn’t some veiled shot at John Fox — far from it, though it’s worth mentioning Fox did say last year: “I’m not an offensive coordinator, I’m not a defensive coordinator, I’m not a special teams coordinator, but I coordinate all three.” More than anything, Tabor’s comment pointed out the dinosaurs didn’t have a distinct schematic advantage over an asteroid.

But Cretaceous reference aside, Tabor’s more relevant point is one that seems to mesh well with Matt Nagy’s style: Be open to ideas, and be willing to change them if they’re not working.

And that’s exactly how a 39-year-old first-time head coach should approach things. Nagy comes across as supremely confident in what he’s doing but also secure in his own coaching talents to accept criticism or other ideas from those he trusts. In short: He doesn’t seem like a my-way-or-the-highway kind of a guy who could get caught trying to be the smartest guy in the room. This was a pitfall that, for example, Josh McDaniels encountered in his ill-fated tenure with the Denver Broncos (one of his notes after he was fired in 2011 was “listen better,” as Dan Pompei detailed in an enlightening story here).

“Each and every one of these guys has a lot of experience in that world and so for me, being a young coach coming into it for the first time, surround myself with people that have strong character and have been through those situations and know how to deal with it,” Nagy said. “Trust me, throughout this process, I'll be going to these guys for advice, and that's OK because it's only going to make me better.”

Offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich doesn’t have any experience in the NFL, but Nagy didn’t view that as a problem. Instead, Nagy pointed to Helfrich’s experience running Chip Kelly’s innovative Oregon offense, which he feels can, among other factors, “help me grow not only as an offensive coach but as a head coach.”

And on the other side of that, Nagy said he and Helfrich are deep in discussions of what the Bears’ offense will look like in 2018, and the exchange of ideas has already been positive. Specifically, Nagy said Helfrich’s openness to different run- and pass-game philosophies stands out.

“That’s some of the stuff that we’re literally in right now, going through some of the things we do offensively and brainstorming,” Nagy said. “What do you like? What do you don’t like? And so, you know, for us, that’s the fun part, just trying to go through some of the offensive stuff and seeing where we’re at."

As for Nagy’s approach to the Bears’ defense, it’s simple: “Don't let teams score points,” he said. There’s obviously more to it than that, but Vic Fangio said he’s appreciated Nagy’s willingness to discuss different philosophies and ideas with him so far.

“He’s attacking it with enthusiasm, an open mind, open to finding out better ways to do things potentially,” Fangio said. “Especially since he’s been under one head coach his whole career, that’s not the only way to do things. And I think he’s open to that. So it’s been all positive.”

Saying and doing all the right things in terms of openness to new ideas doesn’t guarantee that Nagy’s reign will be a successful one in Chicago. But it does bolster the thought that Nagy — and his coaching staff — are on the right track in the nascent stages of turning around the Bears.

Bears' offense touts a new identity whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts

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USA TODAY

Bears' offense touts a new identity whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts

When the Bears hired Matt Nagy, they were getting a disciple of the West Coast offense as evolved under one of its foremost practitioners in Andy Reid. What they got when Nagy secured Mark Helfrich as his offensive coordinator was a proponent of the spread offense as practiced by the high-speed Oregon Ducks.

Now what they are developing, based on their respective ideas laid out this week, is an offense that may defy simple descriptors as it incorporates two different systems. But rather than appearing to lack a clear identity, the meshing of schemes projects to be something that is at the same time neither, and both. The result in fact projects to something new, and for a football team in need of some kind of breakthrough on offense and something to actually occasionally confound opposing defenses, that is a very, very good thing.

That was axiomatic in Helfrich’s appeal for Nagy, with both inclined to push stylistic envelopes. “As you could tell from some of the things we did in Kansas City offensively, we were trying to be a little bit out of the box and new wave type of stuff,” Nagy said.

Not that just throwing together ideas ensures anything, good or bad. But from a defensive dean who knows something about the difficulty of going against new concepts, the chances of creating a dangerous hybrid that gets a jump on and forces defensive adjustments are there.

Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio faced the Oregon offense while he was on the staff at Stanford. It was a problem for him. “They had an ‘X and O’ advantage but [also] a method advantage that people hadn’t caught up to yet at that point, and they had good players doing it,” Fangio said on Thursday. “Kind of like back in the ‘90s when we started the zone blitz, and we were ahead of the curve then and we had a lot of success beating teams that possibly had more talent than we did… . At that point the newness was still in their favor.”

That newness has multiple aspects, not all simple to judge at this point.

Under center or shotgun?

Young quarterback Mitch Trubisky is beginning work under his third different offensive staff in three seasons. That didn’t work to the benefit of Jay Cutler (although Cutler was in fact the reason some of those changes happened in the first place), but two things here:

One is that the Trubisky Nagy and Helfrich are inheriting is one with 12 NFL starts. The one that Dowell Loggains was handed came with 13 college starts, so Trubisky’s starting point is advanced from what it was last year.

And the other is Trubisky’s background is in the spread offense. The incoming offense won’t necessarily be that, but whatever form/forms it takes, Trubisky won’t be spending time just learning to take a direct snap.

Nagy/Helfrich also come into a quarterback imbued with the importance of ball security. Despite seeing NFL defenses for the first times, Trubisky’s INT rate of 2.1 percent was only a few ticks higher than that of his entire college career (1.7 percent). Helfrich said that one thing that jumped out about Trubisky “is his accuracy and taking care of the football.”

But Trubisky will again be tasked with learning something dramatically different from what he’d had the year before, being coached into him by three former quarterbacks. “Teaching” will involve a strategy as well as specific tactics: “You have to get in their corner at the beginning, challenge them like heck until that first snap,” Helfrich said, “and get them thinking about as little as possible at the snap.”

Personnel considerations

GM Ryan Pace didn’t plan on making a massive coaching makeover this time last year. But he could scarcely have drafted more accurately for what his team’s offense will be if he’d set out to staff it.

The West Coast and Oregon’s offense make extensive use of tight ends and running backs as receivers. Besides quarterback Trubisky, Pace’s second-round pick last draft was Adam Shaheen, a pass-catching tight end. His fifth-round pick was Tarik Cohen, whose 53 pass receptions ranked second on the Bears and tied for 11th among running backs. (Seven of the 10 ahead of him were components of playoff teams.)

Coincidentally, Pace invested a third-round pick in his first (2015) draft on Oregon center Hroniss Grasu, the starting center for Helfrich and Chip Kelly. Notably, of the 20 offensive linemen on Helfrich’s 2014 Oregon team, only one was listed at bigger than 300 pounds. Even guard Kyle Long the year before played at 300 pounds, going eventually up to 330 with the Bears.

All of which points to the Bears already having myriad pieces in place for what Nagy and Helfrich are designing. Reid himself was a tackle under LaVell Edwards at BYU, another of the crucibles where the West Coast principles were forged, and Nagy comes from the Reid school with an understanding of O-line physiology that works.

Same with Helfrich, who succeeded Chip Kelly as Oregon coach and watched with great interest what Kelly did in the NFL, what worked and what didn’t. Kelly’s Philadelphia Eagles put up consecutive 10-6 seasons before he flamed out and did it running plays at a pace considerably faster than the NFL norm. Not all of his concepts worked, however, and won’t be coming to Halas Hall with Helfrich.

“The biggest difference is literally size and plays,” Helfrich said. “Size of squad and plays in a game. College football, you can run however many plays you want almost – 80 or 90. At the NFL level, that’s not going to happen. You cannot practice like you do in college in the NFL. 53-man roster. Limitations. All those things… . There are a lot of things that we learned from that. And there are a lot of good things they did as well.”