Bears

After trade flirtations, Bears invest No. 7 pick in WVU WR Kevin White

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After trade flirtations, Bears invest No. 7 pick in WVU WR Kevin White

Ryan Pace took the next major step in his young tenure as Bears general manager on Thursday, using the No. 7 pick of the 2015 draft to select West Virginia wide receiver Kevin White, expected to start opposite Alshon Jeffery as well as replace the production traded to the New York Jets in the person of Brandon Marshall.

Pace and the Bears had options. The first six picks saw teams take two quarterbacks, a wide receiver, an offensive lineman and a defensive lineman, plus valued pass rusher Dante Fowler.

So when the Bears’ turn came, they had the options of White and edge rushers Vic Beasley from West Virginia and Kentucky’s Bud Dupree.

[NFL DRAFT PROFILE: Bears WR Kevin White]

White is 6-3, 210 pounds, and caught 109 passes for the Mountaineers last year for 1,447 yards and 10 touchdowns.

“I’ve been through so much,” White said. “I’m ready to turn this city around.”

The process was not without some drama, real or imagined.

The Bears were a big part of the pre-draft blizzard of rumors and speculation. General manager Ryan Pace had said on Wednesday that he and the Bears had talked to all of the teams above them and some of those below No. 7, so it was not a complete surprise that the Bears were reported to be one of the teams talking to the Tennessee Titans and their No. 2 overall pick.

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One scenario had the Bears looking to deal quarterback Jay Cutler as part of a package to move up in order to pick Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, whom the Bears had brought to Halas Hall as one of their pre-draft visits. The Titans reportedly did not want Cutler in the deal, although Tennessee GM Ruston Webster denied the reports.

Multiple options

The Bears’ pick at No. 7 could have been used justifiably on either side of the football.

The Bears finished 30th in yardage allowed last season and 31st in points given up, coming on the heels of a dismal 2013 in which they also were 30th in both points and yardage allowed. They ranked no higher than 16th in any of the main defensive categories last season and the problems were both deep and consistent: 11 Bears opponents scored 20 or more points, including three with more than 40.

The offense failed to average 20 points per game for the first time since Kyle Orton and the 2005 playoff season. Over the final five games the Bears scored 17-15-14-9 points, with the lone exception being 28 against the Dallas Cowboys when the Bears trailed 38-7 before scoring 21 points in a throwaway fourth quarter.

Recalling moments in Tom Brady history ahead of his likely last meeting with Bears

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Recalling moments in Tom Brady history ahead of his likely last meeting with Bears

As Tom Brady approaches what in all reasonable likelihood will be his last game against the Bears and in Soldier Field, the first time this reporter saw Tom Brady comes very much to mind. Actually the first times, plural. Because they were indeed memorable, for different reasons.

That was back in 2001, when Brady should have started replacing Wally Pipp as the poster athlete for what can happen when a player has to sit out and his replacement never gives the job back. Drew Bledsoe, who’d gotten the New England Patriots to a Super Bowl, had gotten injured week two of that season. Brady, who’d thrown exactly one pass as a rookie the year before, stepped in and never came out, playing the Patriots into the AFC playoffs the same year the Bears were reaching and exiting the NFC playoffs when Philadelphia’s Hugh Douglas body-slammed QB Jim Miller on his shoulder.

After that the playoff assignments were elsewhere, including the Patriots-Steelers meeting in Pittsburgh for the AFC Championship. Brady started that game but left with an ankle injury and Bledsoe came off the bench to get the Patriots into Super Bowl.

Then came one of those rare moments when you are witnessing history but have the misfortune of not knowing it at the time.

The question of Super Bowl week was whether Bill Belichick would stay with Bledsoe’s winning hand or go back to Brady. Belichick of course waited deep into Super Bowl week before announcing his decision at 8 p.m. on a Thursday night, the second time that season Belichick had opted to stay with Brady over a healthy Bledsoe. And of course Belichick didn’t announce the decision himself (surprise); he had it put out by the team’s media relations director.

You did have to respect Belichick, though, going into his first Super Bowl as a head coach with a sixth-round draft choice at quarterback and leaving a former (1992) No. 1-overall pick with a $100-million contract on the bench. The Patriots upset The Greatest Show on Turf Rams in that Super Bowl, Brady was MVP, and Bledsoe was traded to Buffalo that offseason.

History.

That Super Bowl also included one of those performance snapshots the Bears envision for Mitch Trubisky but missed a chance to let him attempt last Sunday at Miami in his 17th NFL start. Brady took the Patriots on a drive starting at their own 17 with 1:30 to play and no timeouts, ending with an Adam Vinatieri field-goal winner.

If Belichick was all right letting his second-year quarterback in just his 17th start throw eight straight passes starting from inside his own red zone, the next time Matt Nagy gets the football at his own 20 with timeouts and time in hand, best guess is that the decision will be to see if his quarterback lead a game-winning drive with his arm instead of handing off.

It may not happen this Sunday. Brady is a career 4-0 vs. Bears, and if there is one constant it is that his opposite numbers play really bad football against him, or rather his coach’s defense. Bears quarterback passer ratings opposite Brady, even in years when the Bears were good: Jim Miller 51.2 in 2002, Rex Grossman 23.7 in 2006; Jay Cutler 32.9 and Cutler again in the 51-23 blowout in Foxboro. Cutler finished that game with a meaningless 108.6 rating, meaningless because Cutler put up big numbers beginning when his team was down 38-7 after he’d mucked about with a 61.7 rating, plus having a fumble returned for a TD, while the Bears were being humiliated.

A surprise would be if Trubisky bumbles around like his predecessors (New England allows an average opponent passer rating of 91.6), but whether he can produce a third straight 120-plus rating…. Then again, Pat Mahomes put a 110.0 on the Patriots last Sunday night, but Deshaun Watson managed only a 62.9 against New England in game one.

Trubisky will make the third of the three 2017 first-round QB’s to face the Patriots. The first two lost.

Brian Baldinger: 'I'm not so sure anybody could've seen the jump that Mitch Trubisky is making right now'

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Brian Baldinger: 'I'm not so sure anybody could've seen the jump that Mitch Trubisky is making right now'

On Thursday, Brian Baldinger released another video clip on Twitter for his #BaldysBreakdowns series, this one praising the recent play from Bears QB Mitch Trubisky.

Baldinger states that Trubisky is "making some kind of jump", referring to how impressed he was with Trubisky's play when compared to his rookie season. 

In the video Baldinger explains in the video how you expect franchise QBs to make a big leap from year one to year two, and a big part of that leap for Trubisky is being unafraid to make aggressive throws downfield.

Baldinger highlighted a play where Trubisky hit Taylor Gabriel 47-yards down the field, choosing to trust his wideout after he hit him with perfect ball placement despite tight coverage. He continued this theme later on in the video, showing Trubisky's TD strike to Allen Robinson, which was whipped right past a Dolphins defender. 

But Baldinger's video wasn't exclusively compliments for Trubisky. He discussed Tarik Cohen's effectiveness as a pass-catcher, saying that you "can't cover him" and comparing him to a Ferrari with his ability to go from first to fifth gear "about as fast as anybody."

He ended his video by showing Trubisky punishing the Dolphins for a blown coverage, hitting rookie Anthony Miller in stride for a 29-yard TD. Baldinger's point in including this clip was to show Trubisky's improved recognition, as he may not have spotted the blown coverage last year. Noticing when and how to take advantage of defensive sloppiness is one of the many things that seperate a "franchise QB" from a stopgap, and Trubisky is trending in the right direction. 

If Baldinger's breakdown is any indication, we should expect Trubisky to keep his incredible momentum rolling when the Bears take on the New England Patriots on Sunday. New England is 3rd worst in the league in passing TDs allowed, giving up 15 scores through the air in six games.