Bears

Bears LB Draft Preview: Offseason moves lower need level

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Bears LB Draft Preview: Offseason moves lower need level

CSNChicago.com Bears Insider John "Moon" Mullin goes position-by-position as the Bears approach the 2015 NFL Draft, taking a look at what the Bears have, what they might need and what could be in store.

Bears pre-draft situation

No position group was addressed more aggressively by the Bears this offseason than linebacker in what will be the team’s iteration of a 3-4 scheme, as directed by new coordinator Vic Fangio. The priority signing was former rush linebacker Pernell McPhee from the Baltimore Ravens, with the Bears subsequently adding Mason Foster from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Sam Acho from the Arizona Cardinals.

Along with that, GM Ryan Pace said that Lamarr Houston, recovering from surgery to repair a torn ACL, is ticketed for linebacker after spending his Bears’ half-season at left defensive end.

[DRAFT PREVIEW: OL Rebound in 2015 a must but not via draft]

All of these moves come on top of three drafts by former GM Phil Emery that brought in linebackers Jonathan Bostic, Khaseem Greene and Shea McClellin.

Bears draft priority: Moderate

Pace, Fox and anyone in the NFL know the value of and priority placed on pass rushers. The change to a 3-4 simply shifted that priority from the linemen to the linebackers, and the Bears reflected that in their aggressive work to add linebackers (Acho, Foster, McPhee).

Notably, those moves make a strong secondary statement about the questionable results of the drafts that included McClellin in the 2012 first round, and Bostic and Greene in the 2013 second and fourth. None of the draft picks established themselves as impact linebackers regardless of scheme or specific position.

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Gear up, Bears fans]

Regardless of the offseason additions in the position group, however, the priority placed on pass rushers effectively sets the need level permanently at “moderate.” Fox and Pace come from organizations that built strong pass rushes.

Keep an eye on...

Vic Beasley, ClemsonWith 25 sacks over his past two seasons, Beasley flashed at the Combine as well.

Alvin "Bud" Dupree, KentuckyHas size (6-foot-4, 269 lbs.) and speed (4.56) that could be a find at No. 7 of round 2.

Lorenzo Mauldin, LouisvilleA pass rusher who won’t go high in the first round but has the length (6-foot-4) that Bears prefer.

Former Bear Greg Olsen randomly walks into marriage proposal, catches whole thing on video

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USA TODAY

Former Bear Greg Olsen randomly walks into marriage proposal, catches whole thing on video

Scenario: you're walking down the street and randomly walk into a marriage proposal. What do you do?

For former Bear and current Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen, the answer was to capture the magical moment on video. 

Olsen was in Nashville this week to give a keynote speech at a healthcare conference. While walking back to his hotel on Thursday, he randomly stumbled into a marriage proposal. His first response: hit record on his phone and capture the whole thing on video.

"Did she say yes? I got it on video, dude," Olsen said emphatically. "I'm going to send it to you!

"She said yes and I got it all on video, and you don't even know me, but I'm going to send it to you."

The couple, according to the Panthers, is Max Harvat and Brooke Hartranft. The two were visiting Nashville for the week, but Harvat didn't necessarily plan the proposal. It was as much of a sporadic moment for him as it was random for Olsen.

"Oh my god, you're my hero," Harvat said to Olsen after the proposal.

As it turns out, Harvat grew up a Panthers fan. However, he had no idea that Olsen was the person recording the proposal in the moment, only happy that someone caught it on video. When he stood up, he realized who the mystery man was.

“When I stood up, I looked over and I started having a mini heart attack," Harvat said to panthers.com. "I was like, ‘I’m 90 percent sure that’s Greg Olsen from the Panthers!’

“I'm a huge Carolina fan. I was like, ‘Oh my God, you're telling me that Greg Olsen just recorded the whole thing?’ I was so excited. It was amazing."

The moment wasn't just special for Havrat and Hartranft, though.

"It's the best thing I've ever witnessed," Olsen said in the video.

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Bilal Nichols eyes an even bigger impact for Bears in 2019

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USA Today

Bilal Nichols eyes an even bigger impact for Bears in 2019

Even if Bilal Nichols repeated his 2018 performance in 2019, the Bears would be lauded for unearthing a solid rotational player with a fifth-round draft pick. But Nichols isn’t resting on his rookie accomplishments, and is aiming to be an even more impactful player on the Bears’ defensive line as he enters Year 2 in the NFL. 

“More consistent, more dominant,” Nichols said. “That’s the biggest thing for me right now.”

Nichols was a top-50 run defender in the NFL last year, as rated by Pro Football Focus — he made a “stop” on 8.7 percent of his run defense plays, ranking 44th in the league (PFF defines a “stop” as a play that constitutes a failure for the offense). For reference, Akiem Hicks ranked eighth at 13.3 percent, Eddie Goldman was 17th at 11.6 percent and Jonathan Bullard came in 40th at 9.1 percent. 

Nichols’ biggest “stop” came in the Bears’ narrow Week 3 win over the Arizona Cardinals, in which he dropped running back Chase Edmonds for a three-yard loss on a third-and-two play inside Bears territory just after the two-minute warning. While Nichols debuted a week earlier against the Seattle Seahawks and recorded a pressure of Russell Wilson, that play against the Cardinals was critical in an important victory for the Bears. It also proved to Nichols that what he was doing was beginning to work. 

“That was really a situation where I had cut it loose and went,” Nichols said. “I knew what i was doing on that play, I knew the possible things I could get from the offense and that was just a situation where I cut it loose and just played football. And I happened to make a big play. 

“I can’t wait to do that this year.” 

Nichols, as he was figuring out how to form a routine and study opponents in the NFL after making the jump from FCS-level Delaware, played a shade under a third of the Bears’ snaps last year as part of a rotation that proved critical to the team’s defensive success. Hicks played the most snaps (780), followed by Goldman (552) and Roy Robertson-Harris (353). Nichols (328) pushed Bullard (298) to the bottom of the rotation, which helped keep members of Jay Rodgers’ unit fresh and at their most effective when they were on the field. 

The Bears’ defensive line is arguably their best and deepest unit, one which can collapse pockets and stymie opposing run games (the latter of which is especially important, given the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions’ renewed commitments to running the ball this year). Nichols was already a big part of it in 2018, and may be an even bigger part of it in 2019. 

“Last year, I was still trying to figure things out, still trying to figure the league out, figure myself out as a player,” Nichols said. “And now that I got everything figured out, I’m just able to go. I could just play and play fast and cut it loose.”