Bears

Bears' Moore quickly becoming an impact player

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Bears' Moore quickly becoming an impact player

Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010
Posted: 1:15 p.m.
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Sometimes it really is all in your head. It certainly was with D.J. Moore.

After a virtually invisible rookie season, the former Vanderbilt All-American has emerged as an impact player in the Bears' nickel packages. He had six solo tackles, one for loss, against Philadelphia, and followed that with another half-dozen (three solo, three assists) in Detroit, plus a sack shared with Brian Urlacher, another tackle for loss, a quarterback hit and a pass deflection.

Moore also is among league leaders with four interceptions.

It is a borderline-remarkable turnaround for a fourth-round draft choice from a rookie in which he played in only three games and then mostly on special teams. And that was an especially painful comedown after playing in 37 SEC games for Vanderbilt, starting 34, and being voted All-SEC as both a sophomore and a junior.

Moore didn't exactly pout but his attitude was ultimately as much a problem as anything else.

"I was mad last year," Moore admitted. "I didn't play and I knew I was good, so I was upset. You've just got to work hard and wait for the coach to put you out there. Learned just working hard, just not taking everything.

"I was so upset last year. I don't know what to tell you. Everything. I was mad at everybody and I probably should've been mad at myself for not working hard enough."

Not even one-on-one coaching from former defensive back Lovie Smith was enough to get his head facing in the right direction.

"I think sometimes you've just got to wait and I had a little different attitude last year," Moore said. "I think I could've played last year but sometimes you've got to wait when it's not your time."

Feeling a draft?

What's a little notable with New England is how the organization built its offensive line, the one that takes awfully good care of Tom Brady, himself a sixth-round draft choice an NFL long time ago. The Patriots have a No. 1 at left guard (same as the Bears; OK, so that wasn't the original idea with Chris Williams, but stay with me on the overall) in Logan Mankins.

Their center, Dan Koppen, was a fifth-round pick, same as Bears left tackle Frank Omiyale.

But New England spent No. 2's on right tackle Sebastian Vollmer and left tackle Matt Light. Omiyale is turning out to be arguably the best personnel nugget since Roberto Garza, but both of them were acquired via free agency and right tackle J'Marcus Webb, who may turn out to be the nugget of the 2010 draft someday, was a seventh-rounder.

A No. 1 and two No. 2's out of five starting positions: Is that one explanation behind the long-term New England excellence on offense besides simply Brady? You decide.

But while you're thinking about it, consider this: New England could have three first-round picks in the next draft. The Patriots have their own No. 1 plus the Oakland Raiders' No. 1 via the Richard Seymour deal. And they hold Carolina's second-round pick, which right now (with the Panthers at 1-11) is the first pick of the second round.

New England with three picks in the first 33, after finagling eight trades around the 2009 draft and seven this past draft -- the word you're looking for is "scary."
Big numbers

Coaches look at turnovers as a defining game statistic. The Bears continue to make significant achievements in two others regarded as key.

The offense converted 5 of 9 third downs against the Lions after just 3 of 10 vs. Philadelphia. In their five-game winning streak since the off week, the Bears have converted 36 of 68, nearly 53 percent.

As important, the Bears scored touchdowns on all three of their red-zone possessions, an area of serious concern earlier this season. The 3-for-3 day follows a 3-for-4 against Philadelphia. Since the off week they have scored touchdowns on 9 of 13 red-zone possessions and field goals on two others (vs. Minnesota).
Really big numbers

The Bears had to deal with Michael Vick two games ago and now they draw another top-rated quarterback in Tom Brady, leading the NFL with a passer rating of 109.4. Brady has thrown 27 touchdown passes and only four interceptions and is sacked only once every 22.4 pass plays.

By comparison, Jay Cutler has been sacked once every 8.8 pass plays.

"Tom Brady is a future hall of famer, maybe a first-ballot guy when he's finished playing," said safety Chris Harris. "He's arguably the greatest quarterback in the league."

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

The Bears are getting a different type of nickel cornerback in Buster Skrine

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USA Today

The Bears are getting a different type of nickel cornerback in Buster Skrine

When the Bears’ defense takes the field against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers on Opening Night, they’ll be returning 9 of the 11 starters that were part of a 2018 squad that was one of the best in Bears’ history. 

One of the few new faces that figure to be among the starting 11 is cornerback Buster Skrine. Gone is Bryce Callahan, who left for Vic Fangio’s Denver team after spending the first four years of his career in Chicago. Though Bears’ scouts have had their eye on Skrine for a few seasons now, it was his more palatable three-year, $16.5 million contract -- compared to Callahan’s three-year, $21 million contract -- that finally got him in house. 

“Me and Buster came out the exact same year, and I’ve watched him,” Prince Amukamara said after OTAs on Wednesday afternoon. “He actually played with my best friend and he would always talk about how fast Buster is -- especially when Buster played gunner. 

“I’ve always watched him, and I feel like he’s very similar to Bryce [Callahan] by being quick and being active. I’m definitely happy with the pick up.” 

Once considered a spot to place the third-best, less-athletic cornerback, no position has seen it's value increase so dramatically over the last decade. Offenses are changing dramatically; no team saw more three receiver sets in 2018 than the Bears’ defense. Per Sharp Stats, opposing offenses lined up in 11 personnel against Chicago 78% of the time. The next closest was the Chiefs at 71%, and the NFL average is 65%. 

“I think nickel is a different ball game,” Amukamara added. “I would say it can be one of the hardest positions on the field, just because you’re on an island, but the receiver has so much room to work with. Plus, it’s a lot of mental gymnastics, so you’ve got to know when you’re blitzing, know when you’re running, and so we put a lot on our nickel.” 

Despite not being considered part of a what teams have traditionally considered base defense, the pass-happy nature of this era in the NFL has all but mandated that nickel corners are on the field for most of the defensive snaps. It’s no coincidence that before breaking his foot against the Rams in Week 12, Callahan was on pace to set a career-high in snap percentage. 

“Nowadays, you see a lot more sub packages,” Bears defensive backs coach Deshea Townsend said. “You’re probably playing 70% in sub during a game now… Otherwise, it hasn’t really changed - he just plays more. That’s the thing - he is technically a starter. He’s probably going to run on the field first in a lot of games, and by rule that’s a starter.

“One thing about the nickel position is that you’ve got to do a little bit of both. You can’t just go out on 3rd down and cover and run the option routes. Now they’re going to hand off the ball and find out where you’re at and you’re going to have to make a tackle. That’s the difference in the position now - it’s a first and second down type of guy that has to be able to do it all.”

While Skrine isn’t considered as good a cover corner as Callahan, Skrine’s pass rush and run defense looks pretty similar. Per Pro Football Focus, Skrine’s run defense graded out significantly higher (80.7) than Callahan’s (57.8). 

“With Buster, it’s about his playing experience,” Townsend added. “He’s a guy who will mix it up in the run. He can blitz, and he’s reliable. He’s tough.”

Brian Urlacher misses Top 10 of all-time Bears list

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AP

Brian Urlacher misses Top 10 of all-time Bears list

Brian Urlacher played his way into the pantheon of Bears linebackers and the Hall of Fame over his 13-year career in Chicago, leaving no question he belongs among the all-time greats.

Where he stacks up with the best of the best in team history is still up for debate.

Hall of Fame writers Dan Pompei and Don Pierson ranked the top 100 players in franchise history for the team’s official site, and Urlacher fell outside of the top 10.

Urlacher came in one spot ahead of fellow legendary linebacker Mike Singletary, but the greats of pre-merger era earned many of the top spots on the list.

Dick Butkus came in second to only Walter Payton, while old school legends Bill George and Bulldog Turner ranked seventh and eighth, respectively.

It’s difficult to compare linebackers that played 50 years apart, especially when stacking them up with players at other positions.

Urlacher is still near the top of the list of the best Bears ever. They just have so many all-time greats, the likes of Dan Hampton, Richard Dent and Jimbo Covert just don’t have a spot in the top 10.

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