Bears

Bears looking beyond rookies for defensive boost

Bears looking beyond rookies for defensive boost

With only one 2017 draft choice spent on defense, and that player — Alabama safety Eddie Jackson, fourth round — being held out as part of rehab from a broken leg suffered last October, the defensive report on this weekend’s rookie minicamp would be ... well ... maybe later.

More to the bigger Bears point than the influx of rookies is the virtual tsunami of veteran players that point to likely no fewer than six new starters from the lineup that finished the 2016 season.

The number might have been as high as seven but middle linebacker Danny Trevathan’s return from a ruptured patellar tendon, suffered in the Nov. 27 loss to the Tennessee Titans, is problematic at this point.

“I think that's in question whether he'll be ready [by training camp] at that point,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said.

But the defense, which stumbled badly when nose tackle Eddie Goldman was out with an ankle injury, has added two starting cornerbacks – Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper — plus a starting safety – Quintin Demps — and added mass on the defensive line with Jaye Howard and John Jenkins.

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The key, however, projects to be Leonard Floyd, whose otherwise standout rookie season (7 sacks) was hampered by two concussions and a total of four missed games.

“He’s got a foundation of a year behind him, and he was only available about half the time last year,” Fangio said. “He had a bunch of those little injuries that interrupted his progress throughout the season. Hopefully with the year under his belt, getting in better shape, better condition, and take off. If he stays healthy, I feel good about him.

“He had a nice stretch there. I don’t remember the exact games, maybe it was like Game 9-12 where he was practicing and playing and you could see him coming. Then he got dinged twice in the last two games, or the last four games and it interrupted again.”

The Bears did not pick up the fifth-year option on cornerback Kyle Fuller, a distinct longshot after missing all of 2016 with a knee injury and clearly not a favorite of this coaching staff. But Fangio is declaring “competition,” which could give Fuller a shot at restarting a career that has faltered badly.

“Absolutely, I mean, it's wide open,” Fangio said. “I hope to see Kyle healthy and out there running around. Moving like he's 100 percent, and we'll go from there.”

Anthony Miller sports Bears uniform at NFLPA Rookie Premiere

Anthony Miller sports Bears uniform at NFLPA Rookie Premiere

Anthony Miller has quickly become a fan favorite on social media. He has the confidence and swagger found in most top wide receivers and it comes through on his Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Miller was one of 40 players in attendance at the 2018 NFLPA Rookie Premiere where he not only learned about the business and marketing side of football, but also suited up in his Bears gameday uniform for the first time. Of course, he shared the moment on Twitter:

Panini America, a sports collectible company, snapped a picture of Miller with fellow rookie receiver Calvin Ridley (Falcons) and quarterback Mason Rudolph (Steelers):

Miller has become something of a standout for the Bears despite not playing a single snap. He's expected to have a big role in an offense that has several new pieces and roles that are up for grabs.

Miller will compete with former first-round pick Kevin White and free-agent addition Taylor Gabriel for reps opposite Allen Robinson. Miller has the necessary skill set to play as both an outside receiver and in the slot which should give him an even greater opportunity to be on the field quite a bit.

The Bears first three draft picks are all vying for starting jobs in 2018. Roquan Smith (first round) is a lock to start next to Danny Trevathan and James Daniels (second round) will start at guard. Miller should make it three-for-three in a draft class that could end up the best of Ryan Pace's tenure.

Ryan Pace ranked among bottom-third of NFL general managers

Ryan Pace ranked among bottom-third of NFL general managers

Chicago Bears GM Ryan Pace is having what many believe is his best offseason since taking the job in 2015, but after three seasons and only 14 wins, he needs a big year in 2018 to justify the confidence ownership has in him. 

According to a recent breakdown of all 32 general managers, Pace ranks among the worst decision-makers in the league.

No. 23: Ryan Pace, Chicago Bears

There’s only so much you can accomplish in one spring. The problem is that Pace let himself accumulate so many needs to begin with. He needs Trubisky and Nagy to springboard a fourth-year turnaround. 

The rankings didn't include six new GM hires, which makes Pace's positioning even more troubling.

Even though the Bears haven't seen wins on the field, Pace has done a solid job through three draft classes and appears to have the right coaching staff in place. His first hire, John Fox, was a calculated move by a rookie general manager to have an experienced football guy to lean on. Now, several offseasons later, the team is starting to take on his identity.

Despite all the talent Pace has added through the draft and the slow but steady transformation of the team's overall culture, it's a win-now business and if his blueprint doesn't start producing more wins than losses, it will be hard to justify more time and patience for his plan to develop.