Bears

Protecting your QB vs. getting to opponent's QB

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Protecting your QB vs. getting to opponent's QB

Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Posted: 10:29 a.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

A couple of Bears draft folk will have some things to say later this week but there is still no shortage of information flowing with the draft barely a week away.

Peter King at Sports Illustrated is among the growing chorus of voices that say Cam Newton will go No. 1 overall to Ron Rivera and the Carolina Panthers. After a bit of a run on offensive linemen, and with defensive tackles like Marvin Austin out of North Carolina off the board by No. 29, Peter runs a little against the grain with a return to the offensive line in the form of Mississippi States Derek Sherrod.

Makes sense, from the standpoint of protecting Jay Cutler, and the underlying question through all of this, for the Bears, is whether its more important to protect your quarterback or to get to the other guys. Both matter, obviously, but look at it this way:

On a mythical scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the Steel Curtain for a defensive line and maybe the Super Bowl XX Bears O-line, is the Bears 2011 offensive or defensive line closer to the elite level youd ideally want?

Reaching out

ESPNs Mel Kiper voiced a sentiment that GM Jerry Angelo has expressed, that you have to draft offensive linemen sometimes higher perhaps than their pure grade on your draft board.

Theres a reason to move guys up because you have to, Mel said, with an expectation that all of the commonly acknowledged top talents will be gone in the 20s, which isnt promising for the Bears sitting at No. 29.

I think youre going to get offensive linemen drafted higher because of the position.

Finding tackles is usually the assumed goal when the draft subject is offensive line but it could well be argued that the Bears have more needs inside than outside on the line. With JMarcus Webb and (the Bears hope) Chris Williams, the Bears may have enough at tackle.

But the years on right guard Roberto Garza and center Olin Kreutz (assuming he re-signs as a free agent) and the clear void at left guard make the interior a bigger need area, at least in the opinion of View from the Moon. And guards aren't as pricey (6-7 million a year) as tackles anymore.

Mels take on the 2011 class, which has seen far more attention played to tackle, is that there are 10 potential centers for the NFL in this draft, he said, and not all of them are centers now. Given the age of Kreutz (34) the Bears need to find one of them sooner rather than later.

Cutting corners

CBSSportsline.coms Clark Judge has the Bears skipping either line and going with Aaron Williams, a 6-foot cornerback out of Texas and a clear fit for the Bears. Mel in fact cited the Philadelphia Eagles (No. 23), the Bears and the Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 31) as three teams with DB needs that would be well served by grabbing Williams, who also has the potential to be a safety.

I think initially hell be a corner and hell be drafted as a corner, Mel said. If you can get him at No. 29... that would be a good spot for an Aaron Williams."

Catching on

The Bears had intended to add to their receiver group this offseason before the labor impasse shut off free agency. But the draft will have talent below the first round, which is off-limits for taking a wideout anyway for Jerry Angelo.

Mel likes Kentuckys Randall Cobb as a wild-card, and Cobb was IDd by Wes Bunting of National Football Post as a potentially very good pick with little downside. The other notables will be Miamis Leonard Hankerson, a favorite of Matt Bowen over at National Football Post as well, and Titus Young out of Boise State. Both Hankerson run sub 4.5 in the 40, although Young is a bit undersized at 174 pounds.

A few heads might shake on draft day but a late-round nugget may be Edmund Gates, another speed guy who is 25 but someone on Kiper radar. The chuckle here is that Gates is from Abilene Christian, which sent the Bears Johnny Knox and Danieal Manning.

Heres where the switch from Greg Gabriel as college scouting director to Tim Ruskell as director of all player personnel. Gabriel clearly liked the small-college Texas kids (more than just Texas ones, actually) and it remains to be seen how Ruskell leans on the projects from smaller programs.

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.