Bears

Mullin: A change in draft philosophy?

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Mullin: A change in draft philosophy?

Thursday, April 21, 2011
Posted: 10:01 p.m.
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Offensive line is one of the four positions being targeted by the Bears in the 2011 draft, and their current offensive line is anything but settled.

But a clear sense of direction is apparent. It has been taking shape over the past couple of seasons. And it will be the driving factor behind the name the Bears choose, presumably in the first or second round, next weekend.

We want to go bigger for that because weve got bigger people in our division that were playing against, Pro Bowl type players, said general manager Jerry Angelo. In fact theres three, referring without naming them to defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh in Detroit, Kevin Williams in Minnesota and B.J. Raji, a Pro Bowl alternate for Green Bay.

So that is something were mindful of. So were not really looking at that guardcenter type of player. Its not that we would pass up a player that we felt was a really good player. Were not going to miss the forest for the trees. Were still going to evaluate the quality of the player. But if everything is even, bigger is the way we would go.

What that means is that there will be no Josh Beekman drafted this years by the Bears. Nor an Olin Kreutz for that matter, were he in the draft pool.

Angelo said as many as seven tackles could come off the board in the first round. But if one comes to Chicago, it may not necessarily be a tackle.

The last couple of years with, obviously a lot of talking with our coaches, weve kind of shifted in that we want bigger people, Angelo said. So were looking for tackles that can play guards rather than guards who can play center.

So theres a little bit of a shift in our thinking that way philosophically. I know coach Mike Tice, coach Mike Martz want bigger people. Staffs weve had before, they werent as committed to that thinking. But theres a little bit more of a shift. So when we look at offensive linemen, wed like to think that the tackleguards can be interchangeable.

That has implications for a number of draft possibles.

Consensus opinions have Tyron Smith, Anthony Castonzo and Gabe Carimi gone before the Bears pick at No. 29. Mike Pouncey was that centerguard player at Florida, is listed in the 305-310-pound range and is not considered a tackle in most evaluations.

Angelo was complimentary of Mississippi States Derek Sherrod, a character player at 6-5, 321, and who has played guard and tackle. Colorado tackle Nate Solder is not expected to be available at No. 29 but is rated a tackle talent who projects as a starter for the Bears and would send Chris Williams and Frank Omiyale inside competing for a guard job.
Thinking wide

One offseason objective for the Bears was to add to a receiver corps that the organization considers solid and has proved to be such but could use someone taller than 6 feet now that Devin Aromashodu is out. That addition could still be made in the form of Braylon Edwards or Roy Williams once a free-agency signing period arrives but it is not a priority in the draft.

Yeah, were looking at the position. Wed like to get the big receiver like everybody, Angelo said. So much has been made about the No. 1 receiver. But its hard to find a No. 1 receiver.

Weve looked at the position hard this year. I dont anticipate that we, collectively as a group, see anybody thats going to fit that definition. But we do like the drafts receiver group given how they complement what we have. We looked at it in depth. Its not a great group, but there are some players there that we like that we feel can come in and help us...

I just dont want to overrate the position. We certainly like our receiver corps. We certainly want to build on it. But thats not the end-all.

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 one writer, Hall of Fame semifinalist selection of Brian Urlacher closes a career circle

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USA TODAY

For one writer, Hall of Fame semifinalist selection of Brian Urlacher closes a career circle

The news on Tuesday wasn’t really any sort of surprise: Brian Urlacher being selected as a semifinalist for the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. Some of the immediate thoughts were, however, for one writer who covered Brian from the day he was drafted on through the unpleasant end of his 13-year career as a Bear.

Good thoughts, though. Definitely good.

The first was a flashback, to a Tuesday in late August 2000 when the ninth-overall pick of the draft, who’d been anointed the starting strong-side linebacker by coach Dick Jauron on draft day, was benched.

It happened up at Halas Hall when Urlacher all of a sudden wasn’t running with the 1’s. Rosie Colvin was in Urlacher’s spot with the starters and would be for a few games into the 2000 season. I caught up with Brian before he walked, in a daze, into Halas Hall after practice and asked about what I’d just seen.

"I'm unhappy with the way I'm playing and I'm sure they are, too," Urlacher said. "I don't think I've been playing very well so that's probably the cause for it right there. I just don't have any technique. I need to work on my technique, hands and feet mostly. I've got to get those down, figure out what I'm doing. I know the defense pretty good now, just don't know how to use my hands and feet."

Urlacher, an All-American safety at New Mexico but MVP of the Senior Bowl in his first game at middle linebacker, had been starting at strong side, over the tight end, because coaches considered it a simpler position for Urlacher to master. But he was not always correctly aligned before the snap, did not use his hands against blockers effectively and occasionally led with his head on tackles. His benching cost him the chance to be the first Bears rookie linebacker since Dick Butkus to start an Opening Day.

It also was the first time in his football life that Urlacher could remember being demoted.

"It's not a good feeling," he said. "I definitely don't like getting demoted but I know why I am. I just have to get better."

Coaches understood what they were really attempting, subsequently acknowledged privately that the SLB experiment was a mistake. While the strong-side slot may have been simpler than the other two principally because of coverage duties, "we're trying to force-feed the kid an elephant," then-defensive coordinator Greg Blache said.

"So you see him gag and what do you do? You give him the Heimlich maneuver, you take some of it out of his mouth, try to chop it up into smaller pieces. He's going to devour it and be a great football player. But he wouldn't be if we choked him to death."

Urlacher didn’t choke and eventually became the starter, not outside, but at middle linebacker when Barry Minter was injured week two at Tampa Bay.

We sometimes don’t fully know the import or significance at the time we’re witnessing something. Urlacher stepping in at middle linebacker was not one of those times – you knew, watching him pick up four tackles in basically just the fourth quarter of a 41-0 blowout by the Bucs.

That was the beginning. Over the years came moments like Urlacher scooping up a Michael Vick fumble in the 2001 Atlanta game and going 90 yards with Vick giving chase but not catching him. Lots of those kinds of moments.

And then cutting to the ending, in 2013, when he and the organization came to an acrimonious parting after GM Phil Emery managed to alienate the face of the franchise both with the one-year contract offer and the way it was handled. Butkus had a nasty separation at the end of his Bears years, too, and Bill George finished his career as a Los Angeles Ram after creating the middle linebacker position as a Bear. Maybe that’s just how Bears and some of their linebackers wind up their relationships.

In any case, while there is no cheering in the pressbox, the hope here is that Brian goes into the Hall in a class with Ray Lewis in their first years of eligibility. Somehow that just seems like it all should close out for that confused kid from New Mexico who lost his first job out of college, but responded to that by becoming one of the all-time greats in his sport.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Who deserves the most blame for Bears losses?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Who deserves the most blame for Bears losses?

Mark Potash (Chicago Sun-Times), Ben Finfer (ESPN 1000) and Kevin Fishbain (The Athletic) join Kap on the panel. It’s another losing season for the Bears. So who deserves the most blame: Ryan Pace, John Fox or the players? Plus Mark Schanowski drops by to talk about the Bulls future and if the Celtics will win the East.