Bears

Ahead of (and behind) the Bears at No. 19 on draft day

627680.png

Ahead of (and behind) the Bears at No. 19 on draft day

The attention of the Bears has been and will necessarily be on the Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings. But in the draft, the teams immediately ahead or behind are sources of particular concern, and this year those happen to include the Lions and Packers.Those NFC North division rivals have draft issues that relate directly to the Bears:Detroit - The investment in the defensive line (Cliff Avril, Ndamukong Suh, Kyle Vanden Bosch) point away from the area and toward a secondary that has effectively negated a lot of the pressure from the defensive line. The Lions have concerns at both running back and defensive back and are expected to go for help in one of those two areas.Green Bay - A one-time fearsome pass rush was anything but in 2011 and this draft has a number of prospects who fit the hybrid 3-4 scheme of coordinator Dom Capers. GeneralmanagerTed Thompson has enough firepower on offense and needs to find the answer on the other side from Clay Matthews.Minnesota - With picks No. 1 and 2 out of the way, this is the de facto first pick of the draft. The question forgeneral managerRick Spielman will be whether to get someone to protect QB Christian Ponder (USC tackle Matt Kalil), catch Ponders passes (Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon) or defend other teams passes (LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne). Or trade down and get a lot of guys, including maybe Notre Damewide receiver Michael Floyd.But unless Detroit (No. 23) or Green Bay (No. 28) wants to make a strong move to move up, they are not immediate concerns to the Bears next Thursday evening. Some other teams are, however:No. 18 San Diego ChargersThe Chargers have seen slippage on offense with departures on the line (Marcus McNeil) and at receiver (Vincent Jackson) in particular. Larry English has not developed atoffensive linebackerbecause of injuries, but while it is difficult to see the Chargers going defensive-front at No. 1 for a third time in four years, they have shown the willingness to stock up on pass rushers.Comment: Some concern here for the Bears and their hope for a premier pass rusher.No. 17 Cincinnati BengalsYoure not sure if the Bengals think they got enough in Benjarvus Green-Ellis to replace Cedric Benson but they got results going hard for receiver help last year (A.J. Green) and they have seen the damage the Steelers have done with the ability to strike through the air.Comment: Not a major threat to address pass rush with the kind of player the Bears are after.No. 16New York JetsThe Jets havent taken a No. 1 pass rusher since Vernon Gholston in 2008 and their defense has gotten the worse for it. They have gone defense with their first pick in four of the last five drafts but only once for a linebacker for Rex Ryans 3-4 scheme.Comment: At this point of the first round a couple of good pass rushers are expected to be gone and the Jets are still looking for an elite impact player off the edge.

Even without practicing, Allen Robinson is making a strong first impression with the Bears

Even without practicing, Allen Robinson is making a strong first impression with the Bears

Before Bears wide receivers coach Mike Furrey met with the media on Wednesday, Allen Robinson was curious what his position coach would say about him in public. 

“I just told him, I don’t know you,” Furrey quipped. “Who’s Allen Robinson?”

Furrey, of course, knows who Robinson is. But the point behind that joke is that Furrey, the Bears’ court wide receivers coach in four years, is still getting to know all of his receivers — let alone the one who hasn’t participated in a practice yet. For all the positivity that's easy to find around Halas Hall these days, the Bears' biggest offseason acquisition hasn't taken a rep yet. 

The good news for the Bears, of course, is that Robinson’s past play speaks for itself. He combined for 153 catches, 2,883 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2015 and 2016, and has been adamant he’ll return to that high level of play when he’s cleared to practice. The Bears were confident enough in Robinson’s medicals to guarantee him a little over $25 million in March, per Spotrac, about a month before they let Cameron Meredith sign with the New Orleans Saints largely over medical concerns (Meredith’s torn ACL was viewed as more serious than Robinson’s, in short). 

So the getting-to-know-you phase for Furrey and Robinson is largely taking place off the field in the meeting rooms of Halas Hall. 

“What a great young man,” Furrey said. “He’s come in here, obviously, rehabbing and doing all those things. But he’s alert, he comes to meetings, he’s ready to go. Really, really smart, you can tell that from the beginning and he’s a professional.”

What Furrey, in particular, likes about Robinson is that he’s an “alpha,” but is far more than all talk and no action. 

“And a lot of times that alpha talks a lot and they don’t really put it out there,” Furrey said. “He kind of has that alpha quietness to him. He understands what’s going on, you can look at him and you just kind of get that feel of he has a great understanding of how to approach this game at this level. Obviously he’s been highly successful for a couple years with some big numbers, but he doesn’t act like that. He’s still hungry, he wants to learn, and I think he’s got a chip on his shoulder, which is a good trait to have too. So we’re excited about that.”

The expectation all along has been for Robinson to be cleared to fully participate in training camp practices. So while coach Matt Nagy said last week Robinson is “ahead of the game,” that may not mean he takes part in the final round of OTAs next week or veteran minicamp the first week of June. 

But while Robinson can’t prove himself to his new coaches on the field yet, he’s doing the right things off the field to make a positive first impression. 

“He knows you gotta come in early, he knows you gotta be the last one to leave, he knows you gotta study,” Furrey said. “It doesn’t matter five years in, six years in, you gotta take notes. It doesn’t matter if you hear it 10 times, you just gotta keep taking notes. He’s been really good at that, and I’ve been really impressed with that. I’ve been able to get on the field with him a little bit, just kind of throwing some balls to him, and I didn’t know he was that big. But obviously we’re excited for it to happen out there.” 

Protection Issues: Bears O-line ranked 21st in NFL

Protection Issues: Bears O-line ranked 21st in NFL

Mitch Trubisky has been set up for a huge season in 2018 with all the firepower the Chicago Bears added on offense. Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and Trey Burton will give the second-year quarterback a variety of explosive targets to generate points in bunches.

None of the headline-grabbing moves will matter, however, if the offensive line doesn't do its job. 

According to Numberfire.com, the Bears' starting five could be the offense's Achilles heel. They were ranked 21st in the NFL and described as poor in pass protection.

Last year, the Bears ranked 26th in Sack NEP per drop back and 23rd in sack rate. These issues were especially apparent after Trubisky took over. In the games that [Kyle] Long played, their sack rate was 8.2%. It was actually 7.2% in the games that he missed. They struggled even when Long was healthy.

The Bears added Iowa's James Daniels in the second round of April's draft and he's expected to start at guard alongside Long. Cody Whitehair will resume his role as the starting center, with Charles Leno, Jr. and Bobby Massie at offensive tackle.

If Long comes back healthy and Daniels lives up to his draft cost, they should be a good run-blocking team from the jump. But Long has played just 18 games the past two years and is entering his age-30 season, so that's far from a lock. On top of that, the pass blocking was suspect last year and remains a mystery entering 2018.

The biggest addition to the offensive line is Harry Hiestand, the accomplished position coach who returns to Chicago after once serving in the same role under Lovie Smith from 2005-2009. He most recently coached at Notre Dame and helped develop multiple first-round picks. He's going to have a huge impact.

The good news for the Bears is they weren't the lowest-ranked offensive line in the NFC North. The Vikings came in at No. 25. The Packers checked-in at No. 13, while the Lions were 16th.