Bears

Imperfect 10: How will Senior Bowl, Kirk Cousins' availability affect the Bears' draft plans?

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USA Today

Imperfect 10: How will Senior Bowl, Kirk Cousins' availability affect the Bears' draft plans?

With both the Senior Bowl and Super Bowl completed, it’s time for another mock draft as teams begin preparing for the draft and free agency in earnest. Check out John "Moon" Mullin and my first mock here, which came before the Senior Bowl. 

1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB, USC
1/22 mock: Darnold

No change here, as Darnold — despite a relatively disappointing 2017 at USC — will head to the NFL Combine later this month as the best quarterback on the board. 

2. New York Giants: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
1/22 mock: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

Allen struggled at times during practices leading up to the Senior Bowl, but then completed nine of 13 passes for 158 yards and two touchdowns in the actual game. He probably has the best arm in this class, and the rest of his physical tools are off the charts, but accuracy was issue No. 1 for him in Mobile. So for now, I’m sending Rosen to New York, which should be an excellent landing place for a quarterback to develop under Pat Shurmur and Eli Manning. 

3. Indianapolis Colts: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
1/22 mock: Bradley Chubb, DE, N.C. State

The Colts have holes to fill on both sides of the ball, but since there’s not a tackle worth going this high, the next best thing Chris Ballard could do to help Andrew Luck is draft the best running back in this class. 

4. Cleveland Browns (from Houston): Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
1/22 mock: Barkley

If the Colts move to take Barkley, the Browns could look at the measly seven interceptions their secondary had in 2017 and try to address that with Fitzpatrick, who picked off nine passes in three years at Alabama. 

5. Denver Broncos: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
1/22 mock: Quenton Nelson, OL, Notre Dame

I though Mayfield did a lot to boost his stock during Senior Bowl practices, which is worth noting because he was working with the Broncos’ coaching staff. Getting that direct Mayfield-to-Allen comparison in January could help sway them toward the 2017 Heisman winner come April. 

6. New York Jets: Bradley Chubb, DE, N.C. State
1/22 mock: Rosen

Kirk Cousins will be playing somewhere besides Washington in 2018, and the Jets have loads of cap space to blow. So in this scenario, Cousins winds up in New York, solving the Jets’ quarterback quandary, and they’re able to add the best pass-rusher in the draft to a defense that only generated 28 sacks in 2017. 

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA
1/22 mock: Nelson

Davenport got off to a slow start at the Senior Bowl, but he’s a freak athlete with loads of raw skill that may push him into being a top 10 pick come April. Tampa Bay had the fewest sacks (22) in the NFL last year. 

8. Chicago Bears: Quenton Nelson, OL, Notre Dame
1/22 mock: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

Is No. 8 too high to take a guard? That’s the bigger question with Nelson than how good he is. The Bears would need to cut a veteran offensive lineman to make this pick work (Josh Sitton or, if they were to shuffle Kyle Long back to tackle, Bobby Massie), but upgrading the offensive line is an important piece of Ryan Pace’s offseason puzzle. Offensive line coach Harry Hiestand developed Nelson at Notre Dame and it’s not unreasonable to think pairing the two back together could produce a Pro Bowl offensive lineman from Day 1 in Chicago. The other thought here: If Allen is still on the board, could the Bears trade down to a team in the market for a young quarterback, like the Arizona Cardinals?

9. San Francisco 49ers: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
1/22 mock: Sutton

If Ridley is still on the board, he could be the guy here, but Sutton was hugely productive in college and would be a huge get for Jimmy Garoppolo and Kyle Shanahan’s offense. 

10. Oakland Raiders: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
1/22 mock: Smith

No change here, either, as the Raiders spring for an elite inside ‘backer to plug into their defense. 

Trubisky believes Bears will stand for national anthem

Trubisky believes Bears will stand for national anthem

Mitch Trubisky met with reporters after OTAs on Wednesday and addressed the NFL owners' unanimous approval of a new national anthem policy that requires players to stand if they are on the field while it's performed. If they don't want to stand, they can remain in the locker room or teams will be subject to fines.

The Bears avoided the media firestorm around the national anthem last season. No one on the roster kneeled. Instead, teammates locked arms and Trubisky believes it will be more of the same in 2018.

"I’m just proud of how our team handled last year. It's in the past and I believe we’ll all stand on the field together this year," Trubisky told reporters at Halas Hall. "It is what it is. I think it’s all about eliminating distractions for the team and for the audience. Just represent yourself and the organization in the right manner.”

STANKEVITZ: NFL Anthem policy won’t keep Sam Acho, others from standing up for what they believe in

Trubisky is the unquestioned leader of the Bears, only one year removed from Mike Glennon's proclamation that this was his team. Now, with a new coach and elevated expectations, Trubisky must weather the off-field issues that naturally come with a leadership role.

No off-field issue is bigger than a comment by the President of the United States, which happened Thursday in response to the national anthem policy during in an interview on "Fox and Friends".

“Well, I think that’s good. I don’t think people should be staying in locker rooms. But still, I think it’s good," Trump said. "You have to stand proudly for the national anthem, or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.” 

This is an issue that isn't going away anytime soon. Fortunately, Trubisky appears ready to shoulder the heavy burden and potential strain a social issue like this can bring to a locker room. 

Bears coaching upheavals portend inevitable stumbles

Bears coaching upheavals portend inevitable stumbles

Call it a small Bears reality check, if not a full wake-up call, then at least a nudge in the night. And this sort of thing should be expected, not just in OTAs, not just in training camp or preseason, but when it all counts.

And it should serve as a lesson of sorts. Because some of the underlying reasons are worth a little highlighting and patient understanding around a team that has spent its offseason and millions of dollars refashioning an offense, beginning with coach Matt Nagy and coordinator Mark Helfrich, and that offense wasn’t particularly good on Wednesday.

In a sport where the operative cliché is “just get better each and every day,” the Bears didn’t, but as far as their coach is concerned, “there’s two ways to look at it,” Nagy said. “Whether you say on our side, on offense, trying to see a bunch of different looks a defense can give you, is it too much or not? It’s good for us. It’ll help us out in the long run. It’s good for our players and they’ve handled it well. There’s going to be mistakes but they have it on tape to be able to look at. “

This is about more than just a few bad reps or missed assignments. It’s part of the good-news-bad-news reality that a sea change brings to a team.

The good news is that the Bears have a new coaching staff on offense.

The bad news is that the Bears have a new coaching staff on offense.

The Bears defense is predictably ahead of the offense, hardly a surprise, given that most of the core of the top-10 unit has remained in place. That said, you do have to like the attitude of the barely-above-rookie No. 1 quarterback challenging that assessment Wednesday, with a “Who says that?”

This while the offense has myriad moving and new parts, and interceptions, blown plays and such were occurring for an offense that, like Halas Hall, is a massive building work in progress.

“Well, today was a bad ‘build,’ but that’s to be expected,” Helfrich acknowledged. “We’re adding a chunk each day, I thought today was the first day where we had somebody do something that just like, ‘wait, OK’ – a few positions here and there, a few new guys, obviously a few veterans here and there that it’s all new to, hit the wall.”

It’s a “wall” that arguably is inevitable with a coaching change.

Not to make excuses, but….

For a sense of perspective, scroll back to Jay Cutler, who went through offensive coordinators perhaps faster than he went through socks: a year with Ron Turner, two with Mike Martz, one with Mike Tice, two with Aaron Kromer, one with Adam Gase, one with Dowell Loggains, who at least was a holdover from the Gase year. (Whether Cutler’s failure to match potential with production was the cause of or because of that turnover, this humble and faithful narrator leaves to you, the reader).

More than a few current Bears can only dream of that kind of “stability.” And because of that, the 2018 pre- and regular seasons may be bumpier than the optimism surrounding the Nagy hire was anticipating.

Guard Kyle Long, still not practicing full-go while he rehabs from surgeries, is on his fifth offensive-line coach in six NFL seasons. Center Cody Whitehair, who has started every game since the Bears drafted him in the 2016 second round, has had three different line coaches in as many seasons: Dave Magazu for 2016, Jeremiah Washburn for 2017 and now Harry Hiestand. Left tackle Charles Leno was drafted in 2014, making Hiestand Leno’s fourth O-line coach.

And this is the offensive line, the unit that most engenders use of the term “continuity.”

“Each coach brings in a little bit, different techniques,” Whitehair said. “There’s a lot of time for us to hone in and get to know what he’s trying to teach us. But in the end it’s still football.”

Kevin White is entering his fourth NFL season. He is on his fourth receivers coach (Mike Groh, Curtis Johnson, Zach Azzanni, Mike Furrey) and third different season-starting quarterback (Jay Cutler, Mike Glennon, Mitch Trubisky), not including offseason battery mates ranging from Jimmy Clausen, Brian Hoyer, David Fales and Connor Shaw, depending on how much rep time he spent with which unit at various times during his training camps.

“It doesn’t matter,” White said. “Roll with the punches, come here and do my job every day.”

Regardless of how many bosses you’ve reported to.