Bears

Could Shaq Lawson be a meaningful addition to the Bears?

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USA TODAY

Could Shaq Lawson be a meaningful addition to the Bears?

Shaq Lawson was the 19th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. And since the Buffalo Bills selected him with that pick, there have been many reports stating that the team may be interested in moving on should he not show some improvement.

In a recent Q&A with The Athletic, Bills GM Brandon Beane said "Shaq is a guy that this franchise put a lot of stock in with a first-round pick [in 2016].....It’s no secret he hasn’t lived up to that."

Lawson's struggles in the NFL have been linked to problems picking up the playbook, issues with weight and a general lack of production. He has six sacks through 21 career games. But after only having seven tackles in 2016, Lawson more than doubled that total last year with 17 tackles. So he has already proven that the production can catch up to his impressive physical profile. 

There is a belief that front offices around the league know that they can offer low-ball trades for Lawson, as he may be on his way to being released. While this is fairly routine in the "what have you done for me lately? NFL", it is important to keep in mind that Lawson is just 23-years old, entering his third season in the league. And again, the talent is clearly there. Lawson led the nation in tackles for loss in 2015, and was a part of some truly special teams in his three years at Clemson.

Positional fit may be the biggest issue for Lawson, who played DE in all three years at Clemson, but played LB in his first year in the NFL, before switching back to DE last season.

Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is an elite defensive coach, known to bring the best out of players in his aggressive 3-4 schemes. He has helped transform Chicago's defense to a respectable unit that already has enough youth to improve into one of the league's best. Now imagine if Lawson was added to the mix. 

Last season under Fangio, the Bears finished in the top 10 in 1st downs, passing TDs and rushing TDs allowed.  The Bears also finished in the top 10 in sacks, finishing with 42 on the season. So there is evidence that Fangio may be able to get Lawson back to the level he played at in his three seasons with Clemson. In his junior season in 2015, Lawson along with leading the nation in tackles for loss,  he also amassed 12.5 sacks that year, showing that he can be a force off the edge. 

With the Bears having so many capable and developing pass rushers, Lawson—provided he is healthy—would be a great option to lineup up opposite of Akiem Hicks, who finished with 8.5 sacks in 2017.

Lawson has stated that he has cut weight to get back to 265 lbs. ,and this means lining him up at LB could give Fangio unlimited options with his impressive defensive front.

The Bears defense has been praised as one that could become the best in the league, and finding a way to acquire the potentially on-his-way-out Lawson could be a buy-low move to put this team over the top.

 

Is Jordan Howard underrated in fantasy football?

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USA Today

Is Jordan Howard underrated in fantasy football?

Jordan Howard has accomplished some pretty amazing things to start his career. Most notably, he's the only running back in Chicago Bears franchise history to finish his first two seasons with more than 1,000 rushing yards, including 1,313 yards as a rookie, good for a team rookie record.

Still, Howard has been the target of criticism this offseason because of his questionable set of hands. He was plagued by a case of the drops last season and he's been labeled as a guy who can't catch the ball heading into 2018. Combine that with the player nipping at his heels -- Tarik Cohen -- and the overwhelming theory advanced by analysts is that he'll give way to Cohen on passing downs.

This presumption has made its way into the world of fantasy football, too. Howard is rarely if ever mentioned as one of the first running backs that should be drafted this summer and in a recent player vs. player showdown on Pro Football Focus, 49ers starter Jerick McKinnon was selected as a more appealing fantasy starter in 2018.

It’s close, but I give the nod to Jerick McKinnon. Howard’s troubles in the passing game are very real and it’s clear the Bears want to focus on that more this year. Meanwhile, McKinnon was handed a fat contract and has little competition when it comes to carries.

McKinnon, a career backup, was signed by San Franciso to be Kyle Shanahan's feature running back. He has a real chance to be a stud in fantasy circles, but should he be valued over a guy like Howard who's proven to be a contender for the NFL's rushing crown?

All of this offseason chatter will serve as great motivation for Howard who has to prove, first and foremost, that he can be a three-down back for coach Matt Nagy in the Bears' new offense. If he has a consistent training camp as a receiver and carries that momentum into the preseason and regular season, those fantasy players who draft McKinnon or another less-proven player over Howard will long for a redo.

15 Most Important Bears of 2018: No. 8 - Eddie Goldman

15 Most Important Bears of 2018: No. 8 - Eddie Goldman

Eddie Goldman is entering the final year of his contract this season and in order to cash in on a big payday, he'll need to stay healthy and make good on his top-tier potential. 

If he does, he'll become a very wealthy man and the Bears defense will have an even better year than its top-10 finish a season ago.

Goldman, 24, came to Chicago via the second round of the 2015 NFL draft and quickly became a household name among Bears fans. He started 12 games that season and finished with a surprising 4 1/2 sacks, a total that was more productive than his college scouting report predicted. He was pegged as a breakout star for 2016, but injuries ultimately derailed his second season. He played only six games that year (started five) but still flashed a surprisingly productive set of pass-rush traits; he finished 2016 with 2 1/2 sacks.

This past season represented something of a mixed bag for Goldman. He started 15 games and quieted some of the injury concerns that started bubbling around him, but his production dipped. He managed only 1 1/2 sacks. That said, he set a career-high with 27 tackles, nearly doubling his output as a rookie.

Still, Goldman wasn't a dominant force in 2017. He finished the year ranked 69th among interior defenders with a 76.3 grade from Pro Football Focus. Despite being healthy and available, it was the lowest season grade of his career from PFF.

Nose tackle is arguably the most critical position for any defense running a 3-4 scheme. It's no exception in Chicago. Goldman will set the table for linebackers Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith and the more bodies he can consume or attention he can draw from offensive lines, the more room second-level defenders will have to work. It's not just about filling up the stat sheet for Goldman. If he clogs running lanes and collapses the pocket consistently, he'll be worth every penny of a big contract extension despite lacking numbers.

The Bears need Goldman to bring his A-game in 2018, especially as a pass rusher. Chicago resides in arguably the most talented quarterback division in the NFL and for the defense to make those quarterbacks uncomfortable, Goldman has to apply pressure up the middle. He's proven he can do it, as evidenced by his rookie year production. But he's been on a steady decline in this area of his game since then and there's no room for more regression in 2018.

Players entering contract years tend to bring extra motivation to the field and there's no reason to expect anything less from Goldman. If he can combine his rookie year production with last season's availability, he could end up with the most well-rounded year of his career en route to leading the Bears' defensive line on a late-season playoff push.