Bears

15 on 6: Urlacher proves his greatness

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15 on 6: Urlacher proves his greatness

Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010
6:33 PM

By Jim Miller
CSNChicago.com

I remember when the Bears selected what scouts and analysts dubbed "an extremely athletic safety" out of New Mexico.

Everyone thought he was too big to excel at safety in the NFL and would be converted to linebacker. Head coach Dick Jauron did just that immediately declaring strong side linebacker may be Brian Urlacher's ideal spot.

I also remember guys on the team somewhat frustrated that our first round draft pick was going to be a project.

When he arrived, we all saw the athleticism, but we also saw tight ends shredding him at the line of scrimmage in minicamps and through training camp. It was all new to Urlacher as he had not experienced being in the box face up against a tight end. It wasn't just the release techniques of tight ends Brian struggled to adapt to early, it was fullback iso's and releases, wide receivers crack blocking or guards pulling to kick out block. Urlacher kept plugging along but ultimately lost a hard fought training camp to Roosevelt Colvin for the starting job.

Since that time I have witnessed him fill the "A" gap on a playaction iso fake and still get to 15 yards depth in coverage to break up the pass to a tight end on a middle read. Brian stays vertical or attacks middle.

It wasn't long before injuries started to deplete the depth at linebacker. Barry Minter was a team leader, good player and our starting MLB, but went down with injury forcing Jauron and the coaching staff to throw the young buck in there. His true position had been found by accident.

Urlacher was amazing to watch while as he was out there simply reacting and flying to the football. I remember defensive coaches and teammates coming out of the defensive meetings buzzing about what Urlacher was putting on tape.

I was even more impressed competing against him following his initial training camp, but now as our starting MLB. He and I would mess with each other, each winning our individual battles, then letting each other know about it. He was now confident and becoming a true stud at his position in the NFL.

All of the success has never has gone to his head because he has always respected the game too much.

It is now time to pay him our respects as the bears all-time leading tackler. He is truly one of the greats who has changed the game - the mold of MLB - and is headed for Canton.

Just for the record, he could of done it as a safety too!

Jim Miller, an 11-year former NFL quarterback, is a Comcast SportsNet Bears analyst who can be seen each week on U.S. Cellular Bears Postgame Live. Miller, who spent five seasons with the Bears, analyzes current Chicago QB Jay Cutler in his "15 on 6" blog on CSNChicago.com and can be followed on Twitter @15miller.

Tom Brady to meet with other teams in 2020 free agency

Tom Brady to meet with other teams in 2020 free agency

Let the games begin! After spending his entire NFL career at Gillette Stadium with the New England Patriots, Tom Brady is entering free agency. Per CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora, Brady is open to talks with other teams for what is to be his last contract of his playing career. Brady has been a staple of the Patriots franchise for 19 years. There are young New England fans who haven’t ever been alive during a time without Brady under center. The Patriots are certain to undergo changes in the future, with many wondering how much longer Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick will be at the helm of the organization, so it is understandable to see Brady ready to explore his options.

At 42-years-old, Brady has been telling those close to him that, unless he is sidelined by injury, he anticipates playing until age 45. Brady is also excited at the prospect of mentoring a young quarterback so that whatever organization he plays with during his final NFL stint, it is set for success after he retires. The question for Bears fans is, could that young quarterback be Mitch Trubisky?

After an uninspiring season, there is much talk about creating some competition at QB for the three-year Bears starter. Some healthy competition could drive Trubisky to play like the draft pick that Ryan Pace hoped he would be. The Bears are currently in the bottom-five of salary cap space in the NFL, meaning they would have to do some serious budgeting to be able to afford Brady, but fans will have to wait and see what Pace intends to do this off-season after a disappointing 2019 campaign.

La Canfora reports that it would “extremely surprising” if Brady were to agree to a new deal with the Patriots before free agency begins in March. There have been other reports of the Brady family moving to Connecticut (still technically in New England, but a move nonetheless) and a deep clean of Giselle Bündchen’s suite at Gillette Stadium, indicating that Brady is indeed ready to move on. We will all just have to wait and see where Brady will end up in 2020. 

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Which of these 2 Titans free agents should the Bears consider signing?

Which of these 2 Titans free agents should the Bears consider signing?

The Tennessee Titans' 2019 campaign should provide Bears fans with hope that Chicago's underachieving year can quickly turn around in one season, assuming GM Ryan Pace makes calculated decisions to protect the team from another regression.

Tennessee's trade for quarterback Ryan Tannehill was the kind of chess move that allowed the Titans to give Marcus Mariota one more season to prove he's the franchise quarterback so many draft experts predicted he'd be, while also making sure the team could still compete if he failed. Mariota didn't take advantage of that opportunity, and he was out of the lineup for good by Week 7.

But Tannehill doesn't deserve all the credit for the Titans' breakout on offense. Two other players, both of whom will be unrestricted free agents in March, deserve some attention and potentially an offer from the Bears in free agency: Running back Derrick Henry and offensive tackle Jack Conklin.

RELATED: Top 30 Free Agents of the 2020 NFL Offseason

Henry ran for a league-leading 1,540 yards and 16 touchdowns in 15 games and would probably be the 2019 NFL MVP if it wasn't such a quarterback-tilted award. In fact, an argument can be made that Henry is the engine behind Tannehill's success. With so much attention paid to stopping the 250-pound workhorse, play-action and downfield opportunities were easier to complete. Tannehill did, after all, complete over 70% of his passes in 2019.

Imagine if Mitch Trubisky had the luxury of handing the ball to a player like Henry 25 times per game. His job would become, well, easy. And this isn't to suggest running back David Montgomery can't be an effective bell-cow back who can rumble for 1,250 yards. But Henry is an elite player who will remain at or near the top of the league's running backs for the next few seasons.

Will Ryan Pace pay nearly $14 million per season for a running back? It seems highly unlikely considering the limited salary-cap space the Bears have and the pressing need to add a Tannehill of their own. If Henry's asking price drops a bit, then who knows. But assuming a team with a lot of money to spend is willing to pay up, the Bears would be better served looking elsewhere.

So what about Conklin? Chicago needs an upgrade along the offensive line and while Charles Leno, Jr. and Bobby Massie have proven to be adequate starters during their careers, Conklin was at one time considered one of the NFL's top young tackles before injuring his knee in the 2017 playoffs.

He returned to form in 2019 and was graded as the 15th-best tackle in the league by Pro Football Focus. Compare that to Leno, Jr. and Massie, who graded 86th and 65th respectively.

According to Spotrac, Conklin's projected market value is $15 million per season, which is a little bit higher than Henry but is also for a position that is much harder to fill. 

The Titans declined Conklin's fifth-year option last May and as a result, he's going to cash-in on the open market. Tennessee may end up using the franchise tag to keep him, which would all but eliminate him from consideration for the Bears.

If, however, both Conklin and Henry are allowed to flirt with new teams, it seems pretty clear that Conklin would be the better use of funds. Sure, Henry would be a lot of fun to watch pound opposing defenses into submission, but Montgomery has the potential to be the same kind of fan-favorite. Conklin, on the other hand, is a clear upgrade over Leno, Jr. and Massie, and would provide more long-term returns for the money, too. 

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