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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.

How Tarik Cohen is thriving as the Bears continue to put more on his plate

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USA Today

How Tarik Cohen is thriving as the Bears continue to put more on his plate

Mitchell Trubisky shook his head and grinned when he fielded yet another question this week about the touchdown pass Tarik Cohen threw against the Baltimore Ravens.

“Dang, you guys can’t get enough of this,” Trubisky said. “I talked about it after the game. Dowell (Loggains) was saying it was the best pass of the game. I’m like, ‘All right, geez, let him play quarterback.

“… He threw a dime ball. I love how he was fading away on it and celebrating on the 50-yard line. Zach (Miller) made a great catch. So A-plus; really impressive spiral, especially with the gloves on. Can’t count any of that out. Tarik’s a special player and it was an awesome throw.”

The point here is less about Cohen’s throw and more about the Bears finding yet another way for the rookie running back to make an impact. So far this year, Cohen has rushed 50 times, caught 26 passes, returned 14 punts and now thrown that historic touchdown. He’s been asked to block in pass protection more frequently, allowing him to be on the field more. And he’s worked with wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni and Kendall Wright (who Cohen referred to as another receiver coach for him) to expand his route tree, leading him to be the most-targeted player (33 targets) on the Bears through six weeks. 

That may seem like a lot to put on the plate of a fourth-round draft pick from an FCS school, but it hasn’t been too much for Cohen. 

“We need Tarik to be that guy for us — the best playmaker we have,” Loggains said. “There’s no secret there. And he’s a guy who we’ll continue to use, and people are aware of him. So how creative can we get with him? How many different things can we do with him? 

“Like, we’re stretching him. Mentally, he’s stretched to the max playing all these positions — motioning out to wide receiver, playing running back and doing more in the backfield with more carries. So we have to keep stretching him and keep using him in the offense.”

Opposing defenses have keyed on Cohen since his explosive debut Week 1 against the Atlanta Falcons, scheming to muffle his playmaking ability. But he still managed to nearly have a walk-off 73-yard run against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 3, and then in Week 6, with defenses figuring they could crash down on him on sweep plays to the edge, he (literally) threw another wrinkle into how to gameplan against him. The next time the Bears run a toss sweep to Cohen, opposing safeties will have to think twice about bolting toward the line of scrimmage to stop him. 

Every time Cohen seems to hit a rookie wall, he and the Bears find a way to knock it down. The discussion a week ago about Cohen was that he was dancing too much and not cutting upfield quick enough; this week, it’s all about his perfect quarterback rating. 

“Our coaches do a good job of continuing to put him in places so he can be successful,” fellow running back Benny Cunningham said. “But ultimately I feel like he has such a genuine love of the game, I don’t see that happening (hitting the wall). Since the day he’s been here, from Day 1 to today, I’ve seen no drop-off in his desire to be successful and to help this offense.”

The Bears have known this about Cohen's mentality since they scouted and drafted him back in the spring, and his potential only blossomed after getting him into Halas Hall in May — “Early on, we knew Tarik was going to be pretty special,” coach John Fox said. But Cohen wouldn’t be able to reach that potential without the ability to handle the responsibilities of all the different tasks the Bears have asked of him so far. 

Cohen’s ability to do so many different things makes him an important player for this team, and his ability to do them with an exciting, playmaking flair has made him a fan favorite since training camp. So what’s next for the 5-foot-6 rookie?

“I think we’ve got something — I’ll punt the ball this week,” Cohen joked. “Naw, I’m playin’. I can’t put the ball for nothing, I don’t think. It’ll probably go like 20 yards.”

The Bears defense is trending up, and could get Nick Kwiatkoski back as soon as this weekend

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USA Today

The Bears defense is trending up, and could get Nick Kwiatkoski back as soon as this weekend

Nick Kwiatkoski was a full participant in Bears practice on Friday, marking the first time the second-year linebacker has done that since he suffered a pec injury Sept. 17 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Officially listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers, Kwiatkoski sounded confident he could make his return five weeks after suffering that painful injury. 

“It’s not really my decision,” Kwiatkoski said. “I’m preparing like I am, so we’ll see. … “In my head I am (playing). But we’ll see.”

The Bears’ defense, despite placing three key players — linebackers Willie Young and Jerrell Freeman and safety Quintin Demps — on injured reserve, has been solid at worst so far this year. Pro Football Focus has Vic Fangio’s group as the third-best defense in the NFL through Week 6, behind only the Minnesota Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars. 

While Christian Jones played some quality snaps next to Danny Trevathan (and John Timu — he struggled after Timu’s injury against Minnesota), Kwiatkoski represents an upgrade at inside linebacker. The Bears liked what Kwiatkoski did last year in place of an injured Trevathan, and were confident they wouldn’t miss a beat with him filling in after Freeman’s Week 1 injury. 

“He’s a smart guy who has been willing to work,” coach John Fox said. “And I’ve seen that improvement from last year to this year. And anytime you get whacked or injured or taken out for some reason, you’ve got to kind of regain that again. It’s like a do-over. So he has had a good week.”

Kwiatkoski stayed sharp by going through meetings and film study as if he were playing while that pec injury — which he said felt like a “bad pulled muscle” — kept him sidelined for practices and games. If Kwiatkoski indeed is active and/or starting Sunday against Carolina, the hope is he can step in and pick up where he left off in Week 2. 

“I have all the confidence that he'll do fine,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said prior to Kwiatkoski’s injury. And that confidence, in all likelihood, still exists.