Bears

NFL Scouting Combine represents opportunities — good and bad — for Bears

NFL Scouting Combine represents opportunities — good and bad — for Bears

The NFL Scouting Combine convening this week in Indianapolis isn't really the high point of pre-draft assessing being done by NFL teams. Those evaluations have been going on for many, many months — on college campuses, at bowl games — and will go on with Pro Days and selected visits to team headquarters.
 
But what it does represent is two things: a chance for teams to probe for detailed medical information on some 300 potential draftees, and a case study in savvy brand marketing by the NFL that has become its own hot-stove league on steroids (hopefully not literally for any of the participants).
 
Covering the event 25 years ago, representatives of the three Chicago-area newspapers comprised one of the two largest media contingents (the other being New York's) going about the business of football reporting after the sport had largely moved off the sports-front with the wrap-up of the Super Bowl. No TV, no internet, and the Combine operators really didn't want media around for what was set up as a purely team-centric.
 
Now the NFL has created a media event that keeps it in news prominence at what had always been a dormant calendar nadir for pro football, with not only some 1,000 media members and outlets welcome, but also with fans able to attend events like the 225-pound bench press and 40-yard dashes, whose results were once something that reporters dug around for as news scoops.
 
But beyond the observed events, including group media interviews for the majority of athletes, individual draft stocks will be affected by vertical jumps, cone drills and such. And by interviews with individual teams, which are still private. (For now. Somehow, it's not beyond imagination that someday even those will be televised, in an NFL guise of "transparency" or something, but that's for another time.)
 
Strengths, weaknesses and the QB conundrum
 
One annual refrain are the assessments of the overall draft class, what positions are its deepest, its weakest, an evaluation that carries some weight because invitees to the Combine include underclassmen, which the Senior Bowl does not.
 
But a danger within the process is exactly that — the "weight" assigned to results, particularly the on-field ones. On-field evaluations are the best indicators, but the right on-field ones were there on playing fields and now tape, not inside Lucas Oil Stadium this week.

[RELATED - Which direction will Bears go at pick No. 3?]
 
Combine performance has affected drafts rightly and wrongly over the years.
 
ProFootballTalk.com's Mike Florio has made an excellent case for players declining that test for reasons of confidentiality. And frankly, if teams have a problem with a player declining the test, then teams and the NFL need to do a better job of keeping the results in-house, particularly given that correlations between the Wonderlic and NFL success are questionable at best.
 
But some player or players will move up or slip down on draft boards because of drill work. That may be unfortunate for the player, and for the teams.
 
QB or not QB
 
It is at this point that the Combine becomes increasingly relevant to the Bears, or at least to those trying to discern what realistic chances exist for the Bears to address their well-documented areas of need (quarterback, tight end, cornerback, safety).
 
An inherent problem at this stage is the difficulty in arriving at a right decision, particularly at the paramount position. NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock did some checking that illustrates the issue.
 
Between 2007-14, teams selected 21 quarterbacks in the first round. Nine of them are no longer even in the league, and only a handful have achieved something close to the coveted "franchise" distinction: Matt Ryan in Atlanta, Matthew Stafford in Detroit, Carolina's Cam Newton, Andrew Luck in Indianapolis and Joe Flacco in Baltimore. Only Flacco has won a Super Bowl.
 
"It gives a pretty good feel for the 'hit' rate of franchise quarterbacks in the first round," Mayock said on Monday.
 
"My message to NFL teams is, 'you've got to keep trying, keep on swinging.'"
 
Whether the Bears take a swing at a franchise quarterback at No. 3 is still many weeks off. But Mayock didn't endorse making that swing at that point.
 
"I don't have any quarterbacks anywhere near the Top 10," Mayock said. "That doesn't mean I think there's no talent there, because I think there are four quarterbacks that have first-round talent. In my order I had for my initial Top 5, it was [DeShone] Kizer, [Deshaun] Watson, [Mitch] Trubisky, [Patrick] Mahomes. All four of them have holes in their games.
 
"I don't think any of them are ready to start Week 1."
 
More to come over the next week. Make that "weeks."

Thomas Jones tweets plan to fix Bears' struggling offense

Thomas Jones tweets plan to fix Bears' struggling offense

It didn't take Thomas Jones long to become a fan-favorite during his tenure with the Bears, which spanned three seasons from 2004-2006.  Jones, who was the seventh overall pick in the 2000 NFL draft, resurrected his career in Chicago with back-to-back seasons over 1,200 rushing yards in 2005 and 2006.

So, when he speaks about how to improve the offense through the running game, coach Matt Nagy and the rest of Chicago's offensive staff should at least give it a listen.

Technically, Jones tweeted his plan to repair the Bears' struggling offense. But, the point remains.

"Nagy should learn the history of the Bears," Jones tweeted. "When they've won in the past it's because they ran the ball 1st! The fans & the makeup of the Bears is blue-collar. Hard-nosed, physical fundamental football. Limit turnovers, chew up the clock & let the defense get you the ball back.

"And where is their fullback? How can you run the ball in Chicago without a fullback in the game? When u have a fullback in the game the linebackers know they have to strap up their helmets. It's going to be a physical game & some of them don't want that. Can't make it easy for them."

To be fair, fullback is a nearly extinct position in the NFL. But Jones' suggestion runs deeper than that; the Bears need to at least appear like they want to run the ball in order to make the defense respect the threat of a running game.

"They NEVER try to establish the run which puts all of the pressure on a young QB who is still learning & trying to figure out who he's going to be in this league," Jones said. "The O line won't get into any rhythm if they don't run block enough & the defense can only hold up for so long."

According to Jones, Mitch Trubisky isn't ready to be the centerpiece of Chicago's offense just yet.

"Mitch is too young to have all of that pressure on him at once. He's talented but he's not ready yet. You have talented backs & an incredible defense. The O Line just needs to gain confidence run blocking in real-time. They have to establish a running game or things won't change."

Jones drew on some experience from the 2005 season when the Bears kept things pretty basic for then-rookie quarterback Kyle Orton, who enjoyed some moderate success that year. He also chimed in on the Trubisky vs. Patrick Mahomes and DeShaun Watson debate.

"Everyone matures at different times in the NFL. He's not those other guys so comparing him to them isn't going to help them win games right now. Establish a run game & take pressure off of him. Simplify the offense by giving him basic pass plays like we did with Orton in 05."

So how do the Bears get their offense back on a winning track? You guessed it: run the ball!

"It's not a old times sake thing. It's football. Every winning team establishes some sort of running game. Even if it's running back by committee or a running QB. The more tired a defense is from having to chase & tackle the more mental mistakes they're going to make.

"Which gives you a higher chance to win the game. When you run the ball you can take more chances throwing the ball downfield, running specialty plays such as screens and reverses. The defense can't just lay their ears back because they know they can get gashed at any time."

Head over to Jones' Twitter page to follow along with his complete Bears breakdown. It's pretty epic and is a great reminder of just how passionate he is about this team, this city, and winning.

Power Rankings Roundup: The free fall continues, and the NFC North is really good

Power Rankings Roundup: The free fall continues, and the NFC North is really good

The Bears' two-game losing streak is doing them no favors in The Web's power rankings, but even pessimistic reviews haven't totally sold them off yet (thanks defense!). What's a bit more daunting, however, is how quickly the other teams in the NFC North are rising. Some fun road games ahead huh?? Here's what they're saying: 

NFL.com –– #15
Trubisky is clearly pressing as the pressure mounts on his shoulders. He's taken a big step back in his third season ... how long can Matt Nagy stand by the former No. 2 overall pick?

ESPN.com –– #16
The Bears no longer resemble a playoff team -- not with Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback. Chicago's offense ranks 30th in total yards per game, 30th in yards per play, 28th in passing yards per game and 28th in rushing yards per game.

CBS Sports –– #16
Their offense is woeful at times and just won't allow them to win many games. The defense hasn't been as good the past two games either, which makes Sunday's game against the Chargers a must-win for both teams.

Sports Illustrated –– #17
Maybe Matt Nagy isn’t a cure-all. Maybe the defense is feeling the weight of carrying the offense and starting to crack (36 points to a backup QB with two weeks to prepare at home). Or maybe, just maybe, this team was never that good in the first place.

Bleacher Report –– #13
To say that the Bears are having issues offensively is an understatement. In Mitchell Trubisky's first game back from injury, he had fewer than 100 passing yards into the final quarter. Chicago had seven carries for 17 yards on the ground—for the game.

Chicago Tribune –– #18
Classes in Offense 202 need to be canceled. Nearly all the students are failing miserably. That’s reality when the Bears have yet to total 300 yards of offense in a single game. High-powered offenses will come close to that total in a good half.

Sporting News –– #19
When the Bears don't play good defense and can't run the ball, they're in trouble, because it puts games on the right arm of Mitchell Trubisky. They have a few schedule breaks coming up, but they need their third-year QB to play a lot better for that to matter.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.