Bears

Bears' brass not on edge, or rushing to fill hole

pacecloseup.png

Bears' brass not on edge, or rushing to fill hole

As we assessed the Bears' needs and what was available heading into Friday's second and third rounds of the NFL Draft, there still appeared to be quality and depth available at outside linebacker. That's where 3-4 defenses get their pass rush, and besides veteran free-agent signees Pernell McPhee and Sam Acho, there was no one else on the roster with experience at that position.

There still isn't.

The Bears have to be hoping Acho returns to his 2011 rookie form, when the fourth-round draft pick had seven sacks and four forced fumbles for Arizona, but he has just six in the three years since, in part due to injury. After Acho, the main candidates John Fox and Vic Fangio have to choose from are former defensive ends Jared Allen, David Bass, Lamarr Houston, and Willie Young. Houston had some experience at outside linebacker during his time in Oakland.

[MORE: Around the NFL Draft: Checking out Bears' competition]

Among the collegians picked between Bears choices Eddie Goldman and Hroniss Grasu in those two rounds were Hau`oli Kikaha of Washington, Utah's Nate Orchard, Markus Golden of Missouri and the gamble Dallas took on first-round talent Randy Gregory of Nebraska.

But Ryan Pace, in is first draft as general manager, stuck to the overall grades on his board, rather than reach to fill a potentially greater need. As colleague John Mullin wrote Saturday in the team's recent mistake-laden history of forcing choices into specific areas, it's not something Pace wants to follow, despite what could be fan disappointment.

"You have to be disciplined with that," Pace said after all his picks were in from his first class. "When I've seen mistakes, it's because you do that, and so we promise ourselves and pride ourselves that we won't do that."

John Fox's first drafts in Carolina and Denver successfully went the pass rusher route, with Julius Peppers and Von Miller. As for what he and Fangio are left to work with:

"I personally think it's the way the board fell. If there had been certain guys that would have fit our 'Bears Box,' as far as all the ramifications of that, it would have gone just like we did the whole draft — next best player."

[SHOP: Get the latest Bears gear here]

After getting his new team "on the grass" for three days last week (minus the injured Houston, Young and Jon Bostic) the only addition this weekend to the defensive front seven he'll head to battle with is Goldman.

"I think we pass the eye test," Fox said late Saturday afternoon. "We only saw a few practices in their underwear (helmets, jersey, shorts). In the front, it's really hard to get a great idea until you get in pads and we get to camp and a chance t see the physicality of the group. I think Eddie will give us some flexibility up front and we'll see how that works out."

That won't happen until Bourbonnais, however, with a sneak peek at veteran minicamp in mid-June. It'll be interesting to see how the coaching staff gets what it needs out of the existing group.

Programming note: Be sure to join Jim Miller, Dave Wannstedt and me at 10:30 tonight (or after Blackhawks Postgame Live) for our 30-minute special recapping the Bears' draft.

Chicago Bears Training Camp: Veteran and rookie report dates

6-8trubiskyqbs.jpg
USA Today

Chicago Bears Training Camp: Veteran and rookie report dates

Chicago Bears training camp is right around the corner with the first practice (non-padded) scheduled for July 21. 

Bears veterans and rookies will report a few days ahead of that first session to acclimate themselves to their new (for some) surroundings. Rookies report on July 16, with veterans coming three days later on July 19.

All eyes will be on QB Mitch Trubisky and the potentially high-flying offense under coach Matt Nagy. Training camp will take on extra importance because of the plethora of new faces on the roster and coaching staff as well as the installation of a completely new offensive scheme. It's critical that Trubisky builds chemistry with wide receivers Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and Kevin White, all of whom he's never thrown a regular-season pass to. Add Trey Burton to that mix and a lot of miscues should be expected in the preseason.

The rookie class is led by linebacker Roquan Smith, who remains unsigned. With less than 30 days until rookies are required to report, a greater sense of urgency -- even if it's not quite a panic -- is certainly creeping in. Assuming he's signed in time, Smith should earn a starting role early in training camp and ascend to one of the defense's top all-around players. 

The Bears have higher-than-usual expectations heading into the 2018 season making fans eager for summer practices to get underway.

Leonard Floyd picked as potential Pro Bowler in 2018

Leonard Floyd picked as potential Pro Bowler in 2018

The Chicago Bears need a big season from outside linebacker Leonard Floyd. He's the team's best pass-rush option and the only legitimate threat to post double-digit sacks this year.

Floyd joined the Bears as a first-round pick (No. 9 overall) in 2016 and has flashed freakish talent at times. The problem has been his health; he's appeared in only 22 games through his first two seasons. 

Floyd's rookie year -- especially Weeks 5 through 9 -- showed a glimpse of the kind of disruptive force he's capable of becoming. He registered seven sacks and looked poised to breakout in 2017. Unfortunately, injuries limited him to only 10 games and four sacks.

Despite his disappointing sophomore season, NFL.com's Gil Brandt has high hopes for Floyd in 2018. The long-time NFL personnel executive named Floyd as the Bear with the best chance to earn a first-time trip to the Pro Bowl.

CHICAGO BEARS: Leonard Floyd, OLB, third NFL season. Floyd had seven sacks as a rookie in 2016, but missed six games last season due to a knee injury. He's a talented guy who can drop into coverage or rush with his hand on the ground and should play much better this season. He also has become much stronger since coming into the league.

The Bears will be in a heap of trouble if Floyd doesn't emerge as a Pro Bowl caliber player. There aren't many pass-rushing options on the roster outside of Floyd aside from Aaron Lynch and rookie Kylie Fitts. Neither edge defender has a resume strong enough to rely on as insurance.

It's a critical year for Floyd's future in Chicago, too. General manager Ryan Pace will decide whether to pick up Floyd's fifth-year option in his rookie contract next offseason. If he plays well, it's a no-brainer. If not, Pace could be looking at two straight first-round picks (see: Kevin White) that he's declined the extra year.

We're a long way from that decision. Until then, the Bears' season may sink or swim based on its pass rush. It begins -- and ends -- with Floyd.