Bears have rare chance for 'elite' D


Bears have rare chance for 'elite' D

During the NFL Scouting Combine last month, former NFL safety and current National Football Post columnist Matt Bowen visited with in the wake of coach Lovie Smiths press session.

Bowen had heard Smith discuss (to a limited point) what the Bears wanted for next season. What he also heard, in between the lines of the requisite we want to get better everywhere, was a stronger emphasis on upgrading the pass rush beyond the everywhere group.

Bowens conclusion at the time was that a course of action should be to look in free agency for the impact wide receiver the offense craves, where the Bears would be getting a proven pro vs. a far less certain rookie who cant be projected to have top-shelf numbers this first year. Then the Bears should be all over an edge rusher in the draft, which has a number of them.

And Bowen is going one step further in NFP with a statement that the Bears should be after Houston Texans end Mario Williams as a chance to pair with Julius Peppers for a truly rare combination of elite rushers in a defense built on just that.

Beyond the obvious of simply pointing to a really good player and saying, get him, the Williams scenario is a shot at something the Bears havent come close to since Richard Dent was at one end and Dan Hampton at the other.

Dent himself once said that all elite defenses have three true pass-rush threats, whether specific individuals or in a combo pack (like with a Ray Lewis). Dent-Hampton-McMichael. Eller-Marshall-Page (Minnesota). Greene-Greenwood-White (Pittsburgh). Davis-Jordan-Aldridge (Green Bay). Jones-Martin-White (Dallas).

The Colonels Rule of Three can be argued, but not what Williams could mean opposite Peppers. As noted previously, Williams has never won anything with the under-achieving Texans. But with Peppers and Henry MeltonAmobi Okoye, the Bears have the building foundation for a very, very good defense. Very.

Forget about the age theme with the defense. Charles Woodson is older than Peppers, Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman or Brian Urlacher. So is Ray Lewis.

The issue isnt whether the defense is too old. Its whether its good enough up front, which is why Smith rightly has pass rush as the high priority he does.

Getting Reggie White was a rare fortuitous chance that the Packers grabbed. So is a chance to pair Peppers with someone his equal or better as a pass rusher.

Whether if that someone is Williams or a first-round draft choice, a double-digit edge rusher added to what the Bears already have in place is arguably as much a golden opportunity as may come again in quite some time.

Rob Gronkowski 'highly unlikely' to play Sunday against the Bears

Rob Gronkowski 'highly unlikely' to play Sunday against the Bears

Sunday's game against Tom Brady and the Patriots will be a tough test for the Bears, but it looks like they're going to receive a big break.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski didn't travel with the Patriots to Chicago and is "highly unlikely" to play Sunday.

Avoiding Gronkowski, who is one of Brady's favorite targets, would be a huge break for the Bears' defense. In six games this season, the tight end has 26 receptions for 405 yards and a touchdown; in 14 games last season, Gronkowski had 69 catches for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns.

Gronkowski has not officially been ruled out yet, though time is running out for the Patriots to make a decision.

Meanwhile, Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday despite dealing with an ankle injury. Between having Mack on the field and Gronkowski off of it, good news keeps coming for the Bears' defense.

Final thoughts: Cody Parkey quickly moves on from missed game-winning kick

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Final thoughts: Cody Parkey quickly moves on from missed game-winning kick

There’s, probably, only one position in sports that can match the you-had-one-job scrutiny of a placekicker attempting a critical field goal late in a football game. As in: If you make the kick, it was expected; if you miss it, well, you didn’t do the one thing you were brought on to do. 

The comparison here is a closer in baseball. The expectation is whoever is called upon with a one-to-three-run lead in the ninth inning will convert the save and win his team the game. 

But when a closer blows a save and is in the spotlight during baseball’s regular season, there’s always a game the next day or, at worst, in two days. The immediacy and pace of a Major League Baseball team’s schedule lends itself to closers having to “flush” a bad outing and move on to the next one, since it might be tomorrow. 

For Bears kicker Cody Parkey, though, he’s had to wait a week until he gets his next “meaningful” chance at making a field goal after missing a game-winning 53-yard attempt last weekend against the Miami Dolphins. But moving on from a critical missed kick has never, and is not, a problem for the fifth-year veteran. 

“(It takes) five minutes,” Parkey said. “You kick the ball, and if it doesn’t go in you’re not going to sit there and cry on the field, you’re going to continue to move on with your life. I don’t think there’s really much to it other than knowing you’re going to have to kick another one sometime throughout the season, next game, in the next week, you never know. You stay ready so you’ll be ready for the next week.”

Not allowing those missed kicks to fester is an important trait for a placekicker to possess. What helps Parkey quickly work through his misses is focusing on having a good week of kicking in practice, and also an even-keel mindset that’s been instilled in him since a young age. 

“I think I’ve always been pretty mellow,” Parkey said. “At a young age, my coaches told me never let the highs get to high, never let the lows get too low. And I’ve kind of taken that to heart. If I miss a game winner, make a game winner, I’m going to have the same demeanor. I’m just going to be super chill and knowing it’s a game, it’s supposed to be fun, we’re supposed to go out there and try our best. I put in a lot of work and I try my best on the field.”

That’s something, too, that special teams coach Chris Tabor sees in Parkey. 

“He's always been like that,” Tabor said. “He hit a good ball, his line was just off. In his career going in he was 7-of-8 over 50 yards. I'll be honest with you, I thought he was going to make it. And next time we have that situation, I know he will make it.” 

Age is just a number

Sunday will mark the 6th time in Tom Brady’s career that the 41-year-old has faced a head coach younger than him, but the first time it’ll be a coach other than Miami’s Adam Gase (who’s 40). Brady is 3-2 against Gase’s Dophins. 

Matt Nagy, meanwhile, is also 40. Brady just missed playing Kyle Shanahan (38) and Sean McVay (32), facing the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams in 2016, a year before both those youthful coaches were hired. 

Meanwhile, the youngest player on the Bears — 21-year-old Roquan Smith — was three years old when Brady made his unassuming NFL debut on Nov. 23, 2000. 

They said it

A couple of amusing one-liners out of Halas Hall this week…

Nagy, when it was brought to his attention that Mitch Trubisky (105.6) has a better passer rating than Brady (98.2), chuckled: “You want to say that one more time?” 

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, when asked if he’d ever heard of “Baby Gronk” Adam Shaheen: “(long pause)… Sometimes.”