Bears 'edgy' when Round 2 of NFL Draft starts?


Bears 'edgy' when Round 2 of NFL Draft starts?

John Fox began drafts in his two previous stops by addressing the pass rush for Carolina and Denver teams in sore need of just that.

The Bears team he inherits isn't far behind, especially considering the 3-4 base defense they'll operate out of. Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young have little, if no experience rushing out of a two-point stance, where they've been slotted at outside linebacker on the roster. Top free agent prize Pernell McPhee is more of a chess piece to move around where needed.

[MORE: Kevin White speed fits Bears GM Ryan Pace WR mold]

But after drafting wide receiver Kevin White to fill one need in Round 1 Thursday, that spot screams for attention when Round 2 begins Friday evening. Dante Fowler was the only candidate for that role drafted prior to White, while Clemson's Vic Beasley was chosen by Atlanta on the next pick. But the only other edge rushers chosen came back-to-back, 22nd and 23rd, when Pittsburgh went with Kentucky's Bud DuPree and Fox's ex-team, Denver, traded up with Detroit with the Shane Ray roll-of-the-dice.

Ray was cited for marijuana possession Monday morning following questions about the severity of a turf toe condition which could possibly require surgery.

The positive marijuana test/admission by super-talented Randy Gregory of Nebraska has kept him waiting until today. Is that a sufficient penalty and wake-up call for general manager Ryan Pace to invest in the 39th overall pick tonight, provided he's still there? Or would he go with the more under-the-radar Nate Orchard of Utah, a former wide receiver without the issues? Virginia's Eli Harrold is also still around. Hau'oli Kikaha of Washington might be also. Scheme-versatile defensive ends Henry Anderson of Stanford and Arkansas' Trey Flowers are still on the board, as well.

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If nose/defensive tackle's a priority, Oklahoma's Jordan Phillips, Florida State's Eddie Goldman, and Carl Davis of Iowa are still playing the waiting game.

Safeties Landon Collins — once seemingly a top-15 choice — is waiting until Day 2, as is rising Utah prospect Eric Rowe, among others in a position where the Bears have just four players.

There remains quality at running back and inside linebacker heading into the weekend, the former seemingly holding a greater priority than the latter, especially when looking to add between-the-tackles size to the backfield.

Pro Football Focus: Bears could be surprise playoff team in 2018

Pro Football Focus: Bears could be surprise playoff team in 2018

There's a lot of optimism about the Chicago Bears in 2018 largely because of the incredible offseason had by GM Ryan Pace. It started in free agency with several big-name additions on offense and continued in the NFL Draft with the selection of Roquan Smith, arguably the top all-around defender in the class.

Pace now finds himself in unfamiliar territory. He's entering a season with actual expectations. While those expectations vary, one thing is consistent: Improvement is expected.

According to Pro Football Focus, Chicago should end up challenging for a playoff spot.

No less than five additions on offense this offseason could make key impacts for the Bears, including wide receiver Allen Robinson who was one of the NFL’s best in 2015 before a down year in 2016 and essentially missing all of 2017 through injury. He’s joined at the position by Taylor Gabriel, who had three touchdowns on throws 20 yards or further downfield in 2016 and rookie Anthony Miller, who was tied for fourth among wide receivers in this draft class with 19 missed tackles forced on receptions. Add in tight end Trey Burton, who had three touchdowns from just 16 targets when lined up in the slot and rookie offensive lineman James Daniels from Iowa and it’s easy to see why this offense led by Mitchell Trubisky has the potential to trend upwards big time in 2018.

The Bears were one of five teams PFF listed as a surprise Wild Card candidate. The road to the post-season will be challenging, however. Not only do all of the new pieces have to gel, but they have to do it while playing in one of the toughest divisions in football.

The NFC North could have three teams -- not including the Bears --  playing in January. The Vikings may be the most talented club in the NFC and the Packers will always be a contender with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. The Lions have some vulnerability, but they've had more success than Chicago in recent seasons.

Still, Pace deserves credit for winning the offseason.

How the new kickoff rule may impact the Bears

How the new kickoff rule may impact the Bears

NFL owners voted for sweeping changes to the kickoff play Tuesday, a decision that presents a new challenge for Bears special teams coach Chris Tabor.

Player safety was the focus of the rule change. Collisions will be reduced and the play will look more like a punt than the traditional kickoff fans have become used to. Here's a breakdown of what's coming in 2018:

With less contact and physicality in the play, Tabor's game planning will be tested. Kickoffs won't require as many power players like the ones traditionally seen in the wedge block. Skill players like receivers, running backs and tight ends could be viewed as more valuable special teams pieces, as was suggested by NFL Network's Bucky Brooks.

Tarik Cohen could become even more lethal under the new rules. If kick returners end up with more space to navigate, Cohen will improve on the 583 return yards he managed as a rookie. He'll conjure memories of the recently retired Devin Hester.

The ability to contribute on special teams is critically important for players on the roster bubble. It'll be interesting to see if the Bears apply the approach suggested by Brooks. If they do, undrafted players like Matt Fleming and John Franklin III suddenly have more value and a better chance to make the team. 

For a complete breakdown of the new kickoff rule, click here.