Bears

As #BowlesWatch hits fever pitch, why the Bears would want the ex-Jets coach to be their defensive coordinator

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USA Today Sports Images

As #BowlesWatch hits fever pitch, why the Bears would want the ex-Jets coach to be their defensive coordinator

Update, 2:30 p.m.: Todd Bowles, apparently, will indeed be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' defensive coordinator:

*Original story is below*

Bruce Arians talked on the radio as if Todd Bowles had already agreed to be his defensive coordinator. A radio host in Kansas City tweeted that Bowles had agreed to be the Bears’ next defensive coordinator. #BowlesWatch officially became a thing barely two hours after the Broncos reportedly made their decision to hire Vic Fangio away from Chicago. 
 
The Bears are indeed considering Bowles to replace Fangio as their defensive coordinator, and Bowles does appear to be considering the Bears instead of the Bucs:
 
https://twitter.com/greggabe/status/1083055505461964800
 
The allure of the Bears is easy to see for Bowles: This was the league’s best defense in 2018, one stocked with loads of talent in every unit. He’s also friends with not only Matt Nagy, but the Nagy family — Nagy’s father and uncle coached Bowles in high school. Bowles and Nagy, too, coached together with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2012. 
 
For the Bears, though, Bowles would be a fantastic replacement for Fangio. It starts with the head coach’s trust in him, and that he’d be a natural fit for the kind of culture built over the last year at Halas Hall. 
 
“I have so much respect for him, what he does defensively, but on top of that, too, I think he’s such a great human being,” Nagy said in October. “He does things the right way. He treats people the right way. I like how he does things.”
 
Bowles’ defenses with the Jets regressed over time, going from No. 5 in defensive DVOA in 2015 to 21st, 18th and 21st from 2016-2018. Those Jets defenses had talent, like safety Jamal Adams and defensive lineman Leonard Williams, but not close to the across-the-board talent possessed by the Bears. 
 
But while Bowles was the Arizona Cardinals’ defensive coordinator — under Arians — in 2013 and 2014, his defenses ranked No. 2 and No. 7 in DVOA. The Cardinals ranked seventh and fifth in points allowed per game in those two years, too, pairing efficiency with success on the scoreboard. 
 
A thought here is that Bowles could be the ideal candidate to help this Bears’ defense avoid stagnating, or regressing significantly, with the loss of Fangio. He’s an aggressive, attack-oriented defensive mind and former defensive back who’s adept at scheming and calling blitzes, as Nagy explained last year. 
 
“They’re an aggressive defense,” Nagy said. “They like to bring pressure. That hasn’t changed with Todd. He’s always been that way. He picks and chooses when to do it. He knows good times to do it and then he’s got good players too that he can use with that.”
 
The prospect of Bowles figuring out different ways to use Khalil Mack with a full offseason of OTAs and training camp is surely tantalizing around Halas Hall. A former safety, he did some good things with Adams in New York and could help boost the play of All-Pro safety Eddie Jackson, though he’s a different, more rangy player than Adams. 
 
Bowles’ base scheme is 3-4, so he’s a good fit for the personnel the Bears already have in place (like defensive tackle Eddie Goldman, who signed a four-year extension in September). 
 
The ball, seemingly, is in Bowles’ court with interest from both Tampa Bay and Chicago. The Bears will have other quality options if Bowles does wind up re-uniting with Arians, but if Nagy is able to convince him to join him at Halas Hall, it would surely soften the blow of Fangio’s departure. 

Bears will have plenty of mid-round running back options to evaluate at NFL Combine

Bears will have plenty of mid-round running back options to evaluate at NFL Combine

The Bears will head to Indianapolis next week for the NFL Scouting Combine with a number of goals, chief among them to determine if there’s a running back in this year’s draft pool who could be part of the fix to the team’s inconsistent ground game. 

The good news, to a point, is that running back generally is a good “need” to have going into a draft. As ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. pointed out on a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, running backs aren’t usually in demand in a given draft, which often pushes players lower than the grade they’re assigned. For instance: A player with a second-round grade could fall to the third round, a third-round player could fall to the fourth, etc. 

So that means the Bears will be able to cast a fairly wide net in seeking out a running back who not only would fit Matt Nagy’s offense, but would carry the “best player available” designation that’s guided Ryan Pace’s drafts over the last four years. 

That last bit is important — even though the Bears seemed to have a clear and glaring need at outside linebacker last April, Pace only drafted one edge rusher: Kylie Fitts, with the team’s sixth-round selection. This was long before Khalil Mack was a remotely realistic trade possibility. The Bears stuck to their board and didn’t reach to take a player based on need. 

So with that backdrop, Kiper offered a few suggestions for running backs that could interest the Bears in the coming weeks and months. The first name the longtime draft guru floated: Penn State’s Miles Sanders. 

“I was really impressed with the way he played in some games, in other games he didn’t get a lot of help from the line and that was a factor for him,” Kiper said. “But to me, he’s a talented football player. He came in highly regarded, he’s got an ability to make people miss in the hole, he runs with good body lean.”

Sanders was Saquon Barkley’s backup his first two years at Penn State, but exploded for 1,274 yards on 220 carries (5.8 yards/rush) with nine touchdowns as a junior in 2018. He doesn’t have the pass-catching profile, though, the Bears may want — he only had 24 receptions for 139 yards last year. 

Two other names mentioned by Kiper as potential mid-round options: Kentucky’s Benny Snell and Stanford’s Bryce Love. Snell is a powerful, bruising back who rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of his three years in Lexington, while Love is a former Heisman Trophy contender who tore his ACL in December and could miss his rookie season. Neither have much pass-catching experience in college. 

Still, just because a player didn’t do something in college doesn’t mean he can’t do it in the pros. Different offenses ask different things of running backs, and in-person interviews and raw testing data can reveal someone with the potential to do more than they put on tape in college. 

Trying to project who the Bears may be interested in with picks in the third through seventh rounds may feel like blindly throwing darts at a board right now. The picture may become clearer after the combine and then into various schools’ pro days in March. The good news is the Bears will have options — they’ll just have to work hard to identify the right one.

Dick Butkus gave nephew his blessing to coach for Packers

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@NBC Sports Chicago

Dick Butkus gave nephew his blessing to coach for Packers

Bears Hall of Fame linebacker Dick Butkus is as Chicago as they come, but this fall, he might start wearing some Green Bay Packers colors.

His nephew Luke Butkus joined the division rivals as assistant offensive line coach, and the Bears legend is being supportive of his brother’s son.

“He was excited for the opportunity that I have to be a part of this, being back in the NFL,” Luke Butkus told ESPN. “We’re going to make sure that I get a lot of Green Bay gear for them. I know they’ll have that Chicago Bear gear, too, but those two times a year they better know what to wear.”

The Packers new offensive line coach said Buktus took some grief for his last name during the interview process in Green Bay, but NFL coaching jobs are too rare to pass up.

Luke even had a shot with the Bears in the same position back from 2007 to 2009, and he’s just trying to advance his career and live up to his family name.