Fire

In draft, 'expect the unexpected'

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In draft, 'expect the unexpected'

Gossip, buzz and other things percolating in the hours before the end of mock drafts and the start of the real one
DT or DE for Bears?

the Bears are expected to select a defensive lineman with their first pick, whether at No. 19 or thereabouts. But an end or a tackle? And which one?

One NFL personnel vet told CSNChicago.com that he thinks the Bears opt for Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones, with this reasoning:

First, the Bears do at least have three starter-grade D-tackles (Henry Melton, Stephen Paea, Matt Toeaina) but only two proven D-ends (Israel Idonije, Julius Peppers). If theres a need, its on the outside. Besides, Idonije can contribute as a nickel rushman inside.

Second, Idonije, Peppers and Corey Wootton all are 6-6 or taller. Jones is the only one of the top handful of ends even as tall as 6-4. Jones didnt have the production of Melvin Ingram (6-1), Whitney Mercilus (6-3) or some others but the Bears like long bodies in quarterbacks fields of vision.

Chances are very, very good that the Bears opt for a little more explosion and pure speed in Mercilus if they have a choice.

Well see

Perspective, please

CSNChicago.com has stressed the need for perspective amid the breathless acclaim some have accorded GM Phil Emery for the Bears being so active in free agency, because the real measure of Emery is the draft and effecting a turnaround in that difficult area. Indeed, the Bears have been about the same degree of active this year as last.

The Bears this offseason have signed nine free agents from other teams.

On offense: running back Michael Bush, quarterback Jason Campbell, receivers Devin Thomas and Eric Weems and guard Chilo Rachal. On defense, cornerbacks Kelvin Hayden and Jonathan Wilhite and linebackers Blake Costanzo.

In the drastically truncated offseason after the lockout last year, the Bears signed nine free agents from other teams.

On offense: running back Marion Barber, guard Chris Spencer, receivers Roy Williams and Sam Hurd, and tight end Matt Spaeth. On defense: tackle Amobi Okoye and end Vernon Gholston, plus punter Adam Podlesh.

The trade for receiver Brandon Marshall makes the 2012 addition total 10 and represents the only sure position-player starter. Spencer (at center), Podlesh and Williams were presumed starters after their 2011 signings.

Repeating: It's all about the draft.

The draft "starts" at No. 3 overall

...the No.3 pick continues to roil as Minnesota Vikings do the eeny-meeny-miny-mo dance with USC tackle Matt Kalil and LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne. The surprise will be if Kalil indeed goes No. 3. The Vikes need a left tackle but cornerback is arguably a higher need.

More importantly, teams are drooling for Claiborne and Alabama running back Trent Richardson, considered the next two best players in this draft after the quarterbacks. Who trades up to No. 3 for Claiborne or Richardson, to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the former or the Cleveland Browns to the latter? The Vikings are taking bids that will add picks and let them take Kalil a few picks later if they dont stay right where they are and take Claiborne.

Expect an unexpected

something will happen ahead of the Bears. It always does somewhere in the first round, whether a trade that scrambles the order of selection because a team wanted someone or because a supposed popular choice went unselected (Brady Quinn-like) and left options there for a team in the No. 19 range.

GM Phil Emery isnt concerned as much about a team turning the day upside down so much as a player possibly creating an opportunity or a need to move out of 19.

Not necessarily a team, Emery said. Its the players on the board. Whos still available? When it comes time to our pick, whos still available? Thats why we have seven players in the mix, so that we have a solution to whatever scenario happens in front of us or around us.

For instance:

Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox could go top 10. He could slide into the teens. Same with massive D-tackles Dontari Poe from Memphis or LSU giant Michael Brockers. Same with enigmatic North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples.

Alabama safety Mark Barron has gone higher with each days mock drafts. The Dallas Cowboys hoped hed be there at No. 14. Not likely now.

Stanford guard David DeCastro has been projected as high as No. 7 and as late as 25. Same with Notre Dame wideout Michael Floyd.

Do the math: Someone will drop and it could give the Bears a nice problem decision at No. 19, or later via trade-down.

Joao Meira spills the first news of the Fire's offseason

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USA TODAY

Joao Meira spills the first news of the Fire's offseason

The wait to find out which players have their options picked up or declined by the Fire might still be a couple weeks, but the first news of a player move in the Fire's offseason came via Twitter.

Defender Joao Meira announced he won't be returning to the club in 2018.

Meira signed with the Fire just before the start of the 2016 preseason after being out of contract in Europe. The Portuguese center back signed a one-year deal with a club option for the second year.

After he played 28 matches with 26 starts in 2016, the Fire picked up his option. He became even more of a fixture at center back in 2017, beating out Jonathan Campbell for the other starting spot alongside Johan Kappelhof. Meira played in 30 regular season matches and made 27 starts, finishing fourth on the team in minutes played (2,412).

That Meira won't be back isn't a major surprise for a few reasons. First, he was out of contract. He was one of two players, along with Bastian Schweinsteiger, on the Fire's roster that the team had no control over for 2018. On top of that, the 30-year-old had made it clear that he wanted to be closer to his home and family in Portugal.

Meira's departure leaves a gap at the center back position for the Fire. Kappelhof, who enters the third year of a three-year guaranteed deal in 2018, and Campbell, who will likely have his club option picked up, enter as the only healthy center backs in 2018. Christian Dean was added in August via trade, but is coming off a broken foot, an injury that has plagued him before. His status for the start of the 2018 season is unclear.

Grant Lillard, a potential homegrown signing and a senior at Indiana, could compete for time at center back next season. He is one of the top rated players in the country for the Hoosiers, which are the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. While Lillard could step in from a numbers perspective and would add size to the Fire's back line (Lillard is 6-foot-4), he wouldn't be able to replace Meira's ability on the ball. Meira wasn't as effective of a defender as Kappelhof, but was arguably the best passer among the Fire's center backs and helped alleviate pressure at times.

This also opens up an international spot on the Fire's roster. The Fire went over the alloted total last season, but were able to put John Goossens and Jorge Bava on the disabled list to clear room. Meira's exit gives a bit more flexibility in that department.

Bears-Lions prediction: Will special teams continue John Fox's NFC North woes?

Bears-Lions prediction: Will special teams continue John Fox's NFC North woes?

Only three of John Fox’s 12 wins as Bears coach have been against NFC North opponents, while 12 of his 29 losses have come against divisional opponents. 

That’s a recipe for back-to-back-to-back last place finishes in the NFC North. And if the Bears can’t beat an Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers team, why could it beat a Detroit Lions team that has a healthy franchise quarterback?

The positive end of that answer is the Bears do have wins over two playoff teams (Pittsburgh and Carolina) while six of their four losses have been by eight points or fewer. Sunday’s game will probably be close, again (if it’s not, and the Bears are on the losing end of it, it would raise some significant concerns about the state of Fox within the locker room). 

So if the game is decided by one possession or less, this could be the difference: Detroit has one of the best special teams units in the NFL, ranking second in Football Outsiders’ DVOA, while the Bears are 28th by the same measure. 

Getting Sherrick McManis back this week should help solidify Jeff Rodgers’ special teams units, but Jamal Agnew has two punt return scores and is averaging 18.3 yards per return. 

“Tough guy — he’ll return inside and outside,” Rodgers said. “He’s got multiple longer returns against people this year. it’s not just, ‘I had a long return in Week 2 or Week 1,’ and kinda held onto that. he’s been productive in a lot of games. certainly a guy that we’ve gotta do a good job against.”

If the Bears don’t do a good job bottling up Agnew, though, he could be the reason why the game flips to Detroit — or, at least, why the Lions keep the Bears at arm’s length. 

Prediction: Lions 24, Bears 16