Bears

What the Bears' depth chart after this week's free agent frenzy could tell us about their NFL Draft plans

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USA Today

What the Bears' depth chart after this week's free agent frenzy could tell us about their NFL Draft plans

The Bears officially announced eight free agent signings this week: Three players were re-signed (Bradley Sowell, Prince Amukamara and Sam Acho) while five were brought in from outside the organization (Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Trey Burton, Chase Daniel and Cody Parkey). Ryan Pace got most of his heavy lifting out of the way this week, but there still are plenty of spots for him to fill on the Bears’ depth chart moving forward. 

From here on out, the only true “impact” players the Bears will likely be able to add to their roster will be through April’s draft. So let’s take a look at what the Bears’ depth chart looks like right now to find some clues about who they could be eyeing with the No. 8 pick:

QUARTERBACK

1. Mitch Trubisky
2. Chase Daniel
3. TBA

Draft possibility: Late round/undrafted free agent

The Bears could opt to draft a developmental quarterback in the sixth or seventh round to try to stash on the practice squad, or they could bring in a few guys for training camp and sign one to the practice squad. If the Bears do draft a quarterback late and he has a strong training camp, he could be a candidate for a 53-man roster spot, but it’s unlikely the Bears would keep two veteran quarterbacks behind Trubisky on their active roster. 

RUNNING BACK

1. Jordan Howard
2. Tarik Cohen
3. Taquan Mizzell/TBA

Draft possibility: Mid/late rounds

The Bears could still try to re-sign Benny Cunningham or another veteran as their No. 3 running back, though that wouldn't necessarily preclude them from taking a running back in the later/mid rounds for the fourth consecutive year. Taquan Mizzell is still on the roster, but “Smoke” only played two snaps in 2017. 

WIDE RECEIVER

1. Allen Robinson
2. Kevin White
3. TBA

1. Cameron Meredith
2. Josh Bellamy

1. Taylor Gabriel
2. TBA

Draft possibility: Second round at the highest, mid-round more likely

The Bears are best off if Kevin White is no higher than their No. 3 outside receiver, behind Robinson and Meredith, and could still opt to draft a receiver as high as the second round. Re-upping with Dontrelle Inman or signing another low-cost veteran backup receiver — even if Markus Wheaton is released — could push this need down to the middle of the draft, where the Bears have two fourth-round picks. But any chance the Bears were going to draft a receiver in the first round — let alone with their No. 8 pick — could’ve gone away with the additions of Robinson and Taylor Gabriel.

“Y” TE
1. Adam Shaheen
2. Dion Sims

“F” TE
1. Trey Burton
2. Ben Braunecker/TBA

Draft possibility: Mid/late-round

What the Bears do with Sims will be key to watch leading up to Friday, when $4 million of his 2018 salary becomes fully guaranteed, according to Spotrac. Releasing Sims would save the Bears about $5.6 million in cap space, and his $6.3 million cap hit for 2018 may be too steep a price to pay for someone who would wind up behind Adam Shaheen on the depth chart. If the Bears don’t sign a backup to Burton or Shaheen (if Sims isn’t the guy) and were to draft a tight end, they could opt for either a blocking-first guy or a receiving-first guy, perhaps in the middle or late rounds in April. 

LT
1. Charles Leno
2. Bradley Sowell

LG
1. Eric Kush/TBA
2. Cameron Lee/TBA

C
1. Cody Whitehair
2. Hroniss Grasu

RG
1. Kyle Long
2. Jordan Morgan/TBA
3. Brandon Greene/TBA

RT
1. Bobby Massie
2. Bradley Sowell

Draft possibility: First round/second round

Going into the draft with Eric Kush, who’s coming off a torn ACL suffered last August, as a starter could be a signal the Bears are looking to draft a starting interior lineman with one of their first two picks. Quenton Nelson would be the guy if they went that direction with the No. 8 pick, but there are legitimate questions if he’ll even be available then, with the New York Giants — who hold the No. 2 pick —heavily investing in their offensive line in free agency. The Bears found Cody Whitehair in the second round of the 2016 draft, and grabbing someone there may be a more realistic option to find a starting-caliber interior player. 

DE
1. Akiem Hicks
2. Roy Robertson-Harris

1. Jonathan Bullard
2. TBA

Draft possibility: Mid-to-late rounds

With Mitch Unrein off to Tampa, Jonathan Bullard could be an option to be the second defensive end here. It’s probably time the Bears figure out what they have in their 2016 third-round pick, for better or for worse. Don’t expect the Bears to break the bank, either in free agency or through a high draft pick, for a defensive end given Unrein only played about 50 percent of the Bears’ defensive snaps in 2016 and 2017. A later-round pick could be used for depth here. 

DT
1. Eddie Goldman
2. Rashaad Coward/TBA

Draft possibility: Late rounds

With Eddie Goldman due for a contract extension, he’s firmly locked in as the interior anchor in Fangio’s 3-4 defense. The Bears need to find a backup for him, whether it’s signing a veteran free agent (as they did last year with John Jenkins) or drafting someone to fill out the depth chart. 

OLB
1. Leonard Floyd
2. Isaiah Irving/TBA
3. TBA

1. TBA
2. Sam Acho
3. Howard Jones

Draft possibility: First two rounds, plus mid-rounds

The issue here for the Bears is there may not be that clear-cut, elite edge rusher available at No. 8. N.C. State’s Bradley Chubb is unlikely to last that long, so perhaps the Bears angle to trade down a few spots — keep an eye on the Miami Dolphins (No. 11) and Arizona Cardinals (No. 15) there — and grab a high-upside project like UTSA’s Marcus Davenport or a more polished guy like Boston College’s Harold Landry. But with the free agency dust settling, the Bears’ biggest need is to find an edge rusher to pair with Leonard Floyd. This could be a position at which the Bears use multiple draft picks, too. 

ILB
1. Danny Trevathan
2. TBA

1. Nick Kwiatkoski
2. Jonathan Anderson/TBA

Draft possibility: First two rounds/mid rounds

This all depends on how Fangio grades Nick Kwiatkoski, who’s been solid but banged up since being drafted in the fourth round of the 2016 draft. If the Bears stay at No. 8, they could look at Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds or Georgia’s Roquan Smith as long-term solutions at inside linebacker. Edmunds, too, could be kicked to outside linebacker if the Bears are confident in his pass-rushing abilities — he’s one of those super-talented guys that you just want to get in your building. If the Bears go another direction with their first two picks, it could be a signal of their confidence in Kwiatkoski, and then they could draft a mid-round guy as a reserve. Either way, the Bears do need to address the depth at this position, as Danny Trevathan and Kwiatkoski haven’t been able to put together fully healthy seasons yet in a Bears uniform. 

CB
1. Kyle Fuller
2. TBA

1. Prince Amukamara
2. TBA

1. Bryce Callahan
2. Cre’von LeBlanc

Draft possibility: First round/second round/mid-rounds

The Bears are committing at least $20 million to Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller in 2018, and that’d be a pretty high amount of cash to throw at a position only to draft someone with the No. 8 overall pick. But if the Bears are sold on Ohio State’s Denzel Ward or Iowa’s Josh Jackson, having Amukamara and Fuller in place wouldn’t necessarily be a deterrent to drafting a cornerback with the eighth overall pick if the Bears are convinced he’s a playmaker. If the Bears lose Bryce Callahan to an offer sheet they don’t want to match, or they want to upgrade at nickel corner, they could look to draft someone at that spot — Callahan frequently played, on a per-game basis, between 60-85 percent of the Bears’ defensive snaps last year. However the Bears do it, though, look for them to take a cornerback sometime in April. 

S

1. Adrian Amos
2. Deon Bush

1. Eddie Jackson
2. DeAndre Houston-Carson
3. Deiondre’ Hall

Draft possibility: Mid round/late round

The only way a wrench gets thrown in this is if Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick slips to No. 8, in which case the Bears could take a super-talented player who can play both safety and cornerback. That would be a case of the Bears not wanting to pass on an elite talent, and would be less indicative how the team feels about the Adrian Amos/Eddie Jackson pairing. More likely, though, is the Bears drafting for depth here, with Amos and Jackson proving to be a solid duo in 2017. 

PK
1. Cody Parkey

P
1. TBA

LS
1. Patrick Scales/TBA

Draft possibility: Undrafted free agents

The Bears were reportedly interested in Bengals punter Kevin Huber, but he re-signed with Cincinnati. Pat O’Donnell, then, could be a candidate to return. Cody Parkey is locked in as the team’s placekicker, and if the Bears don’t re-up with Patrick Scales, they’ll try to find a long snapper via free agency or the pool of undrafted free agents in April. With so many other needs, using a draft pick on a specialist (specifically, a punter) seems unlikely.

***

So looking at this, these positions are needs for the Bears moving forward:

-No. 3 quarterback
-No. 3 running back
-Reserve wide receivers
-Backup “move” tight end
-Starting interior offensive lineman (either guard or center)
-No. 1 or No. 2 defensive end opposite Akiem Hicks
-Backup defensive tackle
-Starting outside linebacker, plus at least one backup
-No. 1 inside linebacker opposite Danny Trevathan, or at least one reserve inside linebacker behind Trevathan and Nick Kwiatkoski
-Two reserve cornerbacks
-Maybe a backup safety
-Punter
-Long snapper

Some of these could be filled internally by guys who shuffled between the practice squad and active roster last year. Others could be filled in the coming days and weeks through free agency — mostly the lower-down-the-depth chart spots. 

But while it’s easy to identify the Bears’ most pressing needs and connect them to the direction the team could go in April’s NFL Draft, this overarching reminder still needs to be given: The Bears are a team short on proven playmakers, and that larger “need” may take precedent over a “need” at a certain position. 

Prince Amukamara and CDW surprise teens at MSI event

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USA TODAY

Prince Amukamara and CDW surprise teens at MSI event

This past Saturday, Prince Amukamara provided a great surprise when he showed up during a graduation ceremony to honor high school seniors who had been a part of the Museum of Science and Industry's (MSI) "Welcome to Science" initiative.

Students listened to brief speeches from CDW Vice President of Networking, Digital Workspace and Security Solutions, Bob Rossi, a number of Bears employees and Amukamara. 

Students engaged in open discussions on how they can further their dreams with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).  And through a donation from CDW’s Tech Fore! Kids program, students got perhaps the biggest surpise of all, as they were provided new laptops. CDW continues to help enable the MSI the opportunity to work with youth and further their interaction with STEM.

CDW Tech Fore! has done previous work with Chicago Bulls College Prep, and other schools and Boys and Girls clubs over time. The MSI's program looks to provide a diverse array of teens the chance to dive deeper into what it takes to have a career in science. On top of this, students are able to collect service leearning hours while simultaneously furthering their leadership and public speaking skills. 

Three compulsories loom as make-or-breaks for Mitch Trubisky Bears 'installation'

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USA TODAY

Three compulsories loom as make-or-breaks for Mitch Trubisky Bears 'installation'

The popular focus of the Bears offseason has been on a new offensive coaching staff phasing in a radically different system and playbook, integrating new “weapons” brought other teams and other schemes, and fusing them all together around a trigger/detonator in the person of quarterback Mitch Trubisky.

More than any of that, however, is Trubisky himself, the real linchpin “weapon.” All of the offseason additions, beginning with coaching staff, projects to make only marginal more impact than Dowell Loggains, Josh Bellamy, Dontrelle Inman and Kendall Wright if Trubisky himself is not much, much better than he was last season.

In three primary areas.

In figure skating and diving, the obligatory must-do’s were called “compulsories” – basic skills at which competitors were required to demonstrate proficiency. For Trubisky, improvements in three specific compulsories are the keys to this young quarterback’s development.

Trubisky is in his own molten state, still a raw, largely unknown with fewer NFL starts (12) than all but four projected starting quarterbacks (Jimmy Garoppolo, Pat Mahomes, AJ McCarron, Deshaun Watson) for 2018, but the poorest record (4-8) of any other anticipated starter, those four included. “Work in progress” is an understatement.

The Trubisky “installation” is in fact massive. Beyond the specifics of scheme, RPO’s and all the rest, Trubisky will go to training camp with precious little shared game experience with virtually any of his chief so-called weapons. Trey Burton, Taylor Gabriel and Allen Robinson weren’t Bears last year. Kevin White worked chiefly with Mike Glennon and the No. 1 offense while Trubisky was primarily with the 2’s. Anthony Miller was in Memphis.

But the Trubisky developmental group – coach Matt Nagy, coordinator Mark Helfrich, quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone, backup Chase Daniel – has three chief points of attention with what was drafted to be the foundation of the franchise:

Rediscover accuracy

For all of the positives coming out of his abbreviated rookie season, Trubisky completed just 59.4 percent of his passes – not good enough for an offense based in significant part on ball control with the pass. Substandard receivers account for some of the accuracy issues for a quarterback who completed 68 percent in his one year as a college starter. But Mike Glennon completed two-thirds (66.4 percent) of his throws in his four games throwing to largely the same group.

More to a larger point, the Bears were 2-4 when Trubisky completed less than 60 percent of his throws. His completion rate is nothing short of pivotal in keeping possessions sets of downs and entire possessions on schedule, converting third downs and resting his defense.

Nagy dialed back the offense at one point during OTA’s, Trubisky played faster “and you saw completions out there,” Nagy said, “and that's what it's all about.”

Only the Carolina Panthers reached the playoffs with a quarterback (Cam Newton) completing less than 60 percent of his passes. Slightly better statistically, Philadelphia quarterback Carson Wentz (60.2) was leading the MVP discussion before a season-ending knee injury, and Blake Bortles (60.2) had Jacksonville a fourth-quarter away from the Super Bowl. But the Eagles and Jaguars were top-five in both scoring offense and scoring defense. And Nick Foles got the Eagles to a Lombardi Trophy completing 72.6 percent in the postseason filling in for Wentz.

Tom Brady completed 63.9 percent as a rookie and never below 60 percent in 17 years as a starter. Aaron Rodgers, never below 60 percent in 10 years as a starter. Drew Brees, 15 of his 16 seasons at 60-plus, including the last 14 straight. Ben Roethlisberger, 12 of 14 seasons at 60-plus percent. Peyton Manning, 15 of his 17 seasons at 60-plus percent. Those five account for 17 Super Bowl appearances.

Trubisky was drafted to be that echelon of quarterback. Reaching that level begins with completing passes.

Stay the ball-security course

Trubisky may not have been dominant in any area as a rookie, but he bought into the emphasis placed on ball security by John Fox and coordinator Dowell Loggains. He ranked 12th with a very respectable 2.1-percent interception rate. Of the 11 passers rated ahead of him, only Jacoby Brisset in Indianapolis failed to get his team to .500, and eight of those 11 were in the playoffs. Ball security matters.

And it is something to watch through training camp and preseason. Adam Gase made ball security the No. 1 objective with Jay Cutler when Gase arrived in 2015. Cutler went a dozen straight practices and his 33-pass preseason without throwing an interception. The carryover was obvious; Cutler had the best season (92.3) and second-best interception rate of his career in 2015.

The same is expected, and needed, from Trubisky for the new offense, and the “old” defense, to work.

“He had, I think was a three-to-one or maybe even a four-to-one touchdown to interception ratio in college,” Helfrich said. “That works. That’s a good thing. We need to continue that. We can’t put the defense in a bad situation, our team in a situation, because there’s times in the NFL they’re going to get you and I think a quarterback kind of has that innate ability to take care of the football versus turning it over when he, for lack of a better word, panics.” 

Trubisky lost two fumbles in the span of 12 games. Very respectable and a strong starting point for his year two.

Get the ball off on time

Trubisky in 2017 tied for fourth in percentage of pass plays sacked (8.6), a problem that might be laid at the feet of an offensive line forced by injuries into seven different starting-five combinations. Might, but far from entirely.

Nagy’s passing offense is rooted in timing. Receivers during practices have precision drilled into them, meaning being exactly where they’re supposed to be at precisely the instant they’re supposed to be there. Trubisky’s tutoring has stressed plays being on time.

Only the Buffalo Bills reached the playoffs with a quarterback (Tyrod Taylor, 9.9) taking sacks at a rate higher than 6.6 percent. Alex Smith went down at a rate of 6.5 percent running the Kansas City offense under Nagy and coach Andy Reid.

Trubisky’s mobility is an obvious asset for extending plays. But getting the ball out of his hands is the goal, and his decision-making and execution will be key in how long his line has to sustain blocks. Trubisky early on evinced a grasp of balancing the reward of rescuing a play under pressure against the risk of taking a sack.

“Ball security is very important so I'm just trying to take care of the football,” Trubisky said not long after taking over for Glennon last season. “But at the same time you want to stay aggressive and you could say the sacks are a result of that.”