Bears

Bears grades and needs: D-line looks set, from Akiem Hicks to Bilal Nichols

Bears grades and needs: D-line looks set, from Akiem Hicks to Bilal Nichols

2018 depth chart

1. Akiem Hicks
Usage: 16 games, 74.1 percent of defensive snaps
2019 status: $10.1 million cap hit

Hicks is one of the very best interior defensive linemen in the NFL, leading all players at his position with 34 run stops (defined by Pro Football Focus as tackles that constitute a loss for the offense) while contributing eight sacks and 53 pressures. He finally earned the Pro Bowl bid he’s deserved for years and will remain an anchor of the Bears’ defense as it transitions from Vic Fangio to Chuck Pagano. That he played nearly three-quarters of the Bears' defensive snaps, too, is a testmant to A) how tough is was to take him off the field and B) how well he conditioned himself to be able to play that much. 

2. Eddie Goldman
Usage: 16 games, 52.5 percent of defensive snaps
2019 status: $7.55 million cap hit

With so much star power highlight reel appearances surrounding him, Goldman perhaps was under-appreciated outside the walls of Halas Hall. But inside the Bears’ facility, Goldman’s impact was celebrated. His ability to absorb interior double teams allowed inside linebackers Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith to shoot gaps and each rack up over 100 tackles, and coupled with Hicks few teams were able to effectively run the ball on the Bears. 

While Goldman indeed only played a little over half of the Bears’ defensive snaps, that was possible because of good depth behind him. Defensive line coach Jay Rodgers — the lone position coach holdover from Fangio’s staff — crafted a plan that allowed Goldman to stay healthy, fresh and effective all season. With Pagano keeping the Bears’ 3-4 base scheme, Goldman will still have a highly important role a year after signing a four-year, $42.04 million contract with $25 million guaranteed. 

3. Roy Robertson-Harris
Usage: 16 games, 33.6 percent of defensive snaps, 27.1 percent of special teams snaps
2019 status: Exclusive rights free agent

Robertson-Harris’ 28 pressures tied for fourth on the team behind the three guys you’d expect to be ahead of him (Khalil Mack, Hicks, Leonard Floyd). He was a disruptive presence able to play just about every defensive line technique, and he used his 6-foot-7 length to bat down two passes, too. 

Robertson-Harris will turn 26 in late July and could still have some untapped potential as a defensive lineman, a position he switched to only a few years ago. 

4. Bilal Nichols
Usage: 14 games, 31.2 percent of defensive snaps, 5.2 percent of special teams snaps
2019 status: $644,870 cap hit

Nichols came up with one of the biggest plays in the early part of the Bears’ season when he dropped Cardinals running back for a three-yard loss on third-and-two just after the two-minute warning, with Arizona driving in Bears territory. From there, Nichols was good for a few plays per game, immediately fitting in as an adept rotational player a few months removed from being a fifth-round pick.

Nichols tied with Robertson-Harris for fifth on the team with four sacks, and in Week 17 he thoroughly terrorized Minnesota’s offensive line: Four hurries, two hits and one sack (after the sack, he mimicked the “Viking Clap” to a largely empty U.S. Bank Stadium). Ryan Pace appears to have unearthed a solid contributor in Nichols, someone who will be a key part of the team’s defensive line rotation again in 2019. 

5. Jonathan Bullard
Usage: 16 games, 28.3 percent of defensive snaps, 15.1 percent of special teams snaps
2019 status: $1,026,630 cap hit

Bullard hasn’t quite capitalized on the potential that led Pace to draft him in the third round back in 2016, and was passed on the depth chart by Robertson-Harris and Nichols last season. He’s adequate against the run and his cap hit is low enough for him to stick on the roster in 2019. 

6. Nick Williams 
Usage: 2 games, 4.2 percent of defensive snaps
2019 status: Unrestricted free agent

Williams won a camp battle to secure a roster spot, but only appeared in two games (Week 1 and Week 9). 

7. Abdullah Anderson
Usage: Practice squad
2019 status: Reserve/future contract

The Bucknell alum and 2017 Patriot League defensive player of the year hung around the practice squad in 2018, and will get a shot at sticking in that role in 2019. 

Level of need (1-11, with 11 being the highest): 3

Between Hicks, Goldman, Robertson-Harris and Nichols, the Bears have four strong contributors to their defensive line rotation. Add Bullard in there and the “need” lessens, though defensive line is one of those positions where you can never have too many bodies. 

Previous grades and needs: QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | OL

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What Bears will miss conducting 2020 NFL Draft remotely from home

What Bears will miss conducting 2020 NFL Draft remotely from home


At least the Bears got to use their brand-new, high-tech draft room last year.

As part of a massive renovation and expansion of Halas Hall, the Bears built a new state-of-the-art draft room with general manager Ryan Pace's fingerprints all over it. The media got to sneak a peak at it last year, and it’s truly impressive in how it helps, functionally, to conduct a draft.

The size of the draft board, in particular, is stunning. Nobody's squinting at a grainy screen to watch tape of a prospect.

“It's tied into our scouting database, so there's a million things we can pull up on this wall or however you want to do it,” Pace said last year. “The ability to sit in one room as a staff and, really the draft is one thing, but (for) all these meetings. We can pull up multiple things at the same time at our fingertips.”

A player’s measurables, interviews, comps, etc. are all immediately available to everyone in the room, helping foster the discussions that lead to the Bears making a pick. It’s not like the team can’t function without it, but as Pace said in 2019, “It's kind of endless what we have, and I feel like we're just kind of scratching the surface now, and we have the staff to keep on pushing that.”

A year later, the Bears — like every other NFL team — are mandated to conduct the draft remotely from home. No small gatherings in a large event space. No popping over to a scout’s house for a face-to-face discussion. And certainly no congregating around the gigantic digital draft board in that room at Halas Hall.

RELATED: NFL tells teams to keep facilities closed for "fully virtual" draft

On a teleconference last week, Pace said, “Obviously there are some challenges with that.” He talked about the possibility of using the technology in that draft room with a limited number of people or conducting the draft at an offsite location.

It’s clear that nobody — not in Chicago, not in any front office — really wants to do the draft over a Zoom teleconference. But it’s how the 2020 draft will happen, and the Bears are going to have to make the best of it.

The Bears are confident in their ability to technologically adapt to 2020’s unprecedented but necessary way of drafting. Coaches and scouts have remote access to the Bears’ internal video and scouting systems, and one would figure even the most old-school coach or scout has had to become technologically savvy over the last few weeks. 

‘We appreciate the hard work with our IT and video department, they’re studs, they’ve been amazing,” coach Matt Nagy said. “Coaching staff, personnel, everyone’s been working really hard together. It’s been different but unique, and it’s been fun finding out solutions and new ways with technology of how to do things, whether it’s through the draft or coaching staff meetings.”

My thought here is that the Bears should be fine making their 2020 picks from home. That goes for the other 31 teams in the league, too.

But Pace and his front office like to be active in the college free agent market, which is always a fire drill of sorts as the draft comes to a close. And the social distancing and work from home mandates amid the COVID-19 pandemic have lessened every team’s ability to connect with those undrafted free agents. It’ll make things more chaotic for the Bears’ front office on April 25.

“A lot of our 30 visits are guys that we're projecting as college free agents we're trying to recruit,” Pace said last year (all interviews have to be done over the phone or via FaceTime this year). “Us going out to colleges, spending time at their pro days or having private workouts are for those reasons. Building relationships with their agents. Because the groundwork has to be done before then or you're going to lose out.”

There’s often way too much hype over undrafted free agents (Remember Emanuel Hall last year?). But the Bears have found a number of productive players from those ranks. Bryce Callahan, Roy Robertson-Harris, Cameron Meredith, Kevin Toliver II were all undrafted free agents who made it in Chicago, to varying extents. Signing the next Robertson-Harris or Callahan might be a little harder this year.

The draft, though? It won’t be ideal to conduct it from everyone’s individual office or basement as opposed to a buzzing draft room. But that should be fine… so long as no one’s WiFi cuts out.

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Jay Cutler is waiting out the outbreak in The Bahamas to predictable results

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USA TODAY

Jay Cutler is waiting out the outbreak in The Bahamas to predictable results

Jay Cutler traveled to The Bahamas with family and friends as the COVID-19 outbreak escalated and now it seems like he will be waiting out the pandemic in island paradise.

The former Bears quarterback’s Instagram account, run by his reality star wife Kristin Cavallari, has some shots of what Cutler has been up to. It’s a long way from sitting on the couch and watching Netflix.

First of all, he has his own version of the Wilson volleyball from “Castaway.”

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Day 12. Just me and Molten. She's the best.

A post shared by Jay Cutler (@ifjayhadinstagram) on


Then there’s this one, which is up to the viewer's discretion to figure out what’s going on here.

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Day 28. No TP needed

A post shared by Jay Cutler (@ifjayhadinstagram) on


Apparently, Cutler went to the Bahamas with Cavallari, their kids and two friends who also appear on “Very Cavallari,” the currently running reality show that Cutler has unwittingly become the best part of.

There’s more info here on the logistics of how they got stuck there and just how stuck they really are. It’s a wild ride.