Bears

Bears need more from '4’s' in drafts after recent misses

jeremylangfordbearsinsiderslide.png

Bears need more from '4’s' in drafts after recent misses

The Bears’ release of linebacker Khaseem Greene on Monday after two undistinguished seasons was no surprise even against the backdrop of their change to a 3-4 defense and its increased job opportunities for linebackers.

But Greene’s departure points to a pattern that GM Ryan Pace need to change, and appears to have to have taken a step toward doing just that.

Greene was Chicago's 2013 fourth-round draft choice. The year before, the Bears’ fourth-rounder was Evan Rodriguez, who contributed even less than Greene in his one season with the Bears. Last season the fourth-round pick was used on running back Ka’Deem Carey, who got on the field for just 100 of the Bears’ 1,005 plays and did not contribute even an assisted tackle on special teams. The Bears invested their 2015 fourth-round pick on running back Jeremy Langford from Michigan State, making Carey very much of a roster longshot in large part because of special-teams shortcomings.

[MORE BEARS: Bears waive LB Khaseem Greene, add QB Pat Devlin]

The Bears stayed on point with their draft-board ratings in selecting Langford. But the fact that the Bears regarded running back as a need does not bode well for Carey.

“We did have it as a need but honestly It was still best player and he was the best player on the board," Pace said. "That’s one of those situations where it kind of worked out hand in hand.”

Franchises do not typically turn on fourth-round draft choices. But the Green Bay Packers, for example, fashioned three-fifths of their offensive line (tackle David Bakhtiari, guards T.J. Lang and Pro Bowler Josh Sitton), one-third of their defensive line (right end Mike Daniels) and their nickel cornerback (Davon House) from fourth-round picks.

Prior to the Rodriguez-Greene-Carey run, the Bears had found Corey Wootton, Henry Melton, D.J. Moore and Craig Steltz in successive fourth rounds.

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Get the latest Bears gear here]

Because of Le’Veon Bell on the Michigan State depth chart, Langford necessarily developed other skills in order to get on the field. Those other skills loom as tipping points and possible keys in reversing the fourth-round “slide.”

“When I was younger, it was a little frustrating playing DB and playing receiver,” Langford said. “I just wanted to find a home. I think in the long run, learning the whole offense and really reading defenses better, it helped in the long run.

“I played all special teams, so I can tackle.”

That would put him ahead of recent Bears No. 4’s.

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

10-20codyparkey.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

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.”