Bears clearly thinking 'outside' the box at linebacker


Bears clearly thinking 'outside' the box at linebacker

Second in a series

Who’s in: Lamarr Houston, Pernell McPhee

Where do they fit? Sam Acho, Jared Allen, David Bass, Cornelius Washington, Willie Young

McPhee was the launch point of the Bears’ offseason personnel acquisitions. But he is far from the only significant move coming at outside linebacker, perhaps the single most important spot in the still-forming Bears 3-4 because of its pass-rush role in an NFL tilted toward enabling that style of offense.

Houston’s rehab from a torn ACL suffered at New England last year for the time being frees up reps for others who will be trying to secure a spot in the changing defense. Pending his recovery, Houston is one of the expected eventual starters, back at outside linebacker where he gained some experience while with the Oakland Raiders.

“What’s good about Pernell is his flexibility,” Bears general manager Ryan Pace said. “So you can say, ‘OK, he’s going to play 3-4 outside linebacker,’ but if we’re getting our best pass rushers on the field, he’s flexible enough to do multiple things. Just like Houston is.”

[MORE BEARS: Bears' lineup of 'bubble' players growing with each signing]

The fits of Houston and McPhee, however, did not stop the Bears from acquiring Acho, an emerging rush threat with the Arizona Cardinals before suffering a broken fibula early in the 2013 season.

With his combination of size and pass-rush ability, McPhee likely will lead the Bears D in snaps this year. But it may come at someone’s expense, and Allen and Young may move from starters in the Bears’ 4-3 of 2014, to situational tweeners in Bears’ 3-4 of 2015.

One notable trend in the OLB acquisitions is the sheer size: Acho is 257 pounds, McPhee 280, and Houston played last year in the 275 range. That translates into a mix of rush ability and strength at the point vs. the run, and none of Allen, Bass, Washington or Young fit that template.

Both Pace and head coach John Fox met with Allen, an Arizona resident, while they were attending the recent NFL owners meetings.

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Pace places a premium at OLB on pass rush, followed (in order) by setting the edge and then dropping in coverage. Allen and Young are likely restricted to situational pass rushing because neither is as much as 260 pounds.

“Physically, [Allen] had a rough year last year,” said Fox, who had hoped a year ago to lure Allen to the Denver Broncos. “In particular for big guys or really any position, your weight, your strength level, all those things physically have a lot to do with how you perform on Sundays.

“I think in his case he got pneumonia, he lost 19, 20 pounds, and in the middle of a marathon that is hard to recover from. That’s an analogy I use for a football season. So, I don’t know if it was his best season.”

Did Patriots owner Robert Kraft crush Bears' hope for Tom Brady?

Did Patriots owner Robert Kraft crush Bears' hope for Tom Brady?

The Bears are one of the first teams mentioned when speculation about where New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady could play in 2020. The Bears are the most quarterback-needy club that also has a chance to make a Super Bowl run with a player like Brady under center, so it's logical to assume the soon-to-be free agent will at least entertain the idea of playing home games at Soldier Field next year.

Much of what happens with Brady will come down to how the Patriots view the 42-year-old (he'll be 43 at the start of next season). If all things are equal, and New England makes him a fair offer to come back, it's likely Brady would return to the only franchise he's ever played for. And if owner Robert Kraft's recent comments are sincere, it's more than likely that he will.

RELATED: Top 30 free agents of the 2020 NFL offseason

Kraft, who was in New York City on Tuesday, was asked by TMZ reporters whether the Patriots will re-sign Brady this offseason. His response? 

"We plan to," Kraft said.

Well, there you have it, right? If the Patriots plan to re-sign Brady, then the Patriots are going to re-sign Brady; assuming, of course, you believe what Kraft is saying in January before New England's decision-makers have had enough time to assess their quarterback situation with, and maybe without, No. 12 under center.

Brady is coming off of one of his worst seasons as a pro, which is saying something considering he's been playing for two decades. His completion percentage was the lowest it's been in six years, his yardage total was the second-lowest in the last 10 years, and his 24 touchdown passes were the fewest he's thrown in a season since 2006. 

It's natural to wonder whether Father Time has finally caught up to him. Maybe, however, his down year was a result of lacking talent at wide receiver and tight end. Regardless of the reason, his 2019 campaign has called into question where he'll be in 2020.

But there are those three words Kraft said — 'we plan to' — that can't be ignored. At the very least, Bears fans can't get their hopes up. The Patriots tend to get what they want, and if they want Brady back in 2020, they'll have him.

Bears showing strong interest in Dayton TE Adam Trautman

Bears showing strong interest in Dayton TE Adam Trautman

Add Dayton tight end Adam Trautman  to the growing list of tight ends the Bears have met with at the 2020 Senior Bowl.

After confirming Purdue's Brycen Hopkins and Vanderbilt's Jared Pinkney spent time with Bears scouts (in the case of Pinkney, nearly 35 minutes), Trautman told's Chase Goodbread that Chicago's scouts have expressed a strong interest in his skill set.

"They're interested in me," Trautman said of the Bears. "They tell me they like what they see."

RELATED: Top 30 free agents of 2020 NFL offseason

Trautman had one of the best lines of the week when he said he prefers driving opposing defenders into the ground against their will over scoring touchdowns, and at a well-built 6-foot-5, 251 pounds, he has the perfect physical makeup to project as a guy who will do that on the next level. He needs development in that area of his game (run blocker), but his 'want-to' is half the battle.

Trautman wasn't the best tight end this week, but he was far from the worst. He's been consistent, and for a team like the Bears who are searching for a tight end who can be relied on as a second-level target for whoever is playing quarterback in Matt Nagy's offense, Trautman's consistency will be viewed as a plus.

Trautman had 916 yards and 14 touchdowns for Dayton in 2019. Scouts wanted to see whether he could handle the jump in competition at the Senior Bowl, and he's answered that question with a resounding yes.

He projects as a Day 3 pick with upside to develop into a starting quality tight end.