Bears

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

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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.

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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.

A significant first practice goes well for three Bears critical to 2018 success

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USA TODAY

A significant first practice goes well for three Bears critical to 2018 success

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. — It’s a major Bears story until it isn’t, and in Friday's first practice of training camp ’18, the story was that Leonard Floyd, Kyle Long and Allen Robinson weren’t the story. 

Not even the weather was a story, as coach Matt Nagy continued the two-hour practice without interruption despite repeated torrential downpours. Whether this represented a soggy, wet chapter of Nagy’s campaign of physical practices and getting his team “calloused” is a question, but “It's just a part of what we wanted to do,” Nagy said, with a bit of a smile. “We weren't going inside. We were coming outside unless that (lightning/tornado) horn went off. So it was a good day. The guys fought through it.”

Getting through it was of franchise-grade import for three linchpins coming off significant injuries that cost them all or part of their 2017 seasons. All had been largely held out of minicamps and training camps, making Friday a de facto shakedown cruise for three players the Bears need at the elite levels projected for them.

Floyd practiced without the large brace he’d worn during minicamp work and which he admitted was an impediment to performance. Bears medical and training staff and Floyd have been pointing to this moment as the first step toward full health for the regular season.

“I basically, this whole offseason, I've been working on getting my leg right,” Floyd said on Friday. “I’m not really looking into who's playing where. I've been looking to get back healthy. ... Yeah, I'm able to go full force.”

Floyd’s pursuit speed was noteworthy as he ran down several offensive players with the football.

Players were not in pads, but Robinson similarly flashed, at one point making a difficult catch of a ball slightly behind him as he was tumbling to the ground. If he was holding anything back, it was not apparent in his cuts, routes and runs after catches.

“I feel great,” Robinson said. “It's been a process that we've taken a little bit slower, but I think that was for the best. It just was all about getting me ready for this time right here, so I feel great. I feel 100 percent.”

Long has been buffeted by injuries requiring surgeries over the past two years. The setbacks have taken him down from the Pro Bowl level at which he played his first three seasons.

But he turns 30 in December and is entering his sixth NFL season having missed 14 games the past two years after just one the first three.

“I’m feeling great,” Long said. “It’s really a lot of fun to get out here with my teammates and start camp without any limitations and be able to contribute from Day 1. It feels good. I spent a lot of time with our training staff. I got to know Andre Tucker really well, our new head trainer. He has done a tremendous job.

“You know, it’s Day 1 and I was out there at practice, and I got to hit other guys, and that was fun. I don’t look much into psychological hurdles. But a physical hurdle? Yes, it was. I had a lot going on this offseason. I’m just really happy to be out here.”

All was not good news physically for the Bears as inside linebacker Danny Trevathan and cornerback/special teamer Sherrick McManis were held out of practice after hamstring issues surfaced in their pre-camp physicals. Nagy said neither was considered serious but gave no timetable for their returns.

WATCH: Kyle Long says Ryan Pace has done a great job adding young talent to Bears roster

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USA Today

WATCH: Kyle Long says Ryan Pace has done a great job adding young talent to Bears roster

Chicago Bears guard Kyle Long met with the media after practice on Friday and discussed a variety of topics ranging from his health to the young talent GM Ryan Pace has managed to add to the roster.

Long, 29, is now one of the elder statesmen on the Bears. And he's not old by offensive linemen standards. Still, he said he's at the point in his career where he's not quite understanding the pop culture references made by his younger teammates, a sign that he's now entered that next stage of his career.

Have a listen to Long's complete comments here: