Bears NFL Draft Preview: Always a need for edge pressure

Bears NFL Draft Preview: Always a need for edge pressure Bears Insider John "Moon" Mullin goes position-by-position as the Bears approach the 2015 Draft, taking a look at what the Bears have, what they might need and what draft day could have in store.

Bears pre-draft situation

The organization has spent a lot of recent time and money looking for true solutions in a position group once a set-it-and-forget-it with Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher. Four years ago it was drafting Shea McClellin. Then came Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene. At that point, drafting linebackers stopped in favor of using free agency for defensive ends Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young, who became linebackers.

Last offseason involved staffing the change to a 3-4 and another rash of free agents – Sam Acho, Mason Foster, Pernell McPhee, plus undrafted free agents. This offseason saw McClellin depart for New England and the Bears again resort to free agency with Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan signed for immediate upgrades at inside linebacker. Acho was re-signed, McPhee had surgery on a balky knee and will play lighter than his previous 285 pounds, and the Bears have filler options in Christian Jones, John Timu, Jonathan Anderson and Lamin Barrow.

Jones (No. 2), McPhee (No. 4) and Acho (No. 5) were among Bears leading tacklers, and Houston led the team with eight sacks despite a slow start coming back from a knee injury that ended his 2014 season. Young finished second with 6.5 sacks operating as a de facto defensive end in 4-3 packages.

The Bears used nine different starting linebackers in 2015, with none healthy enough to start all 16 games.

Bears draft priority: Never lower than “moderate”

John Fox and Vic Fangio require impact pass rushing from their outside linebackers in particular, which Houston, McPhee and Young provided but not to the elite level Fox and Fangio count on. It is a role that is impossible to over-staff and too often too difficult to fill.

The 2016 draft is considered to have spots of this premium talent but not in the quantities of, say, the 2011 (Von Miller, Aldon Smith, J.J. Watt, all in the top 11) or even 2014 (Jadeveon Clowney, Khalil Mack, Anthony Barr, all in the top nine).

“We think that’s a deep spot in the draft,” Fox said during NFL owners meetings last month. “I don’t know about elite pass rushers. But defensive front help is obviously a deep area. Those elite pass rushers are hard to find. They don’t come around very often.”

The Bears clearly are looking for pass rushers. They put UCLA linebacker Myles Jack through a private workout, as did multiple teams with the intention of determining the exact state of his rehabbed knee, although he’s not expected to last past Jacksonville at No. 5. Georgia’s Leonard Floyd, Clemson’s Shaq Lawson, Darron Lee from Ohio State and Reggie Ragland from Alabama all had private meetings with the Bears, with Floyd in for a Halas Hall visit this month.

“I think Leonard Floyd belongs in the top 10 and could go even as high as No. 10,” said ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay via conference call. “I think he’d be a perfect fit for what Chicago’s looking for, in terms of a versatile linebacker that can be that outside linebacker, also can play some off the ball. He can drop into coverage on occasion, but what Floyd does best is rush the passer off the edge. Great initial burst, the ability to bend around the edge.”

Keep an eye on ...

Leonard Floyd, Georgia: Used inside at times last season, limiting pass rush, but still had 19 sacks over ’14-’15. Will be 24-years-old in Week 1 but has edge speed and abilities in coverage. “I think while his production didn’t always match up, and the way they used him at Georgia may be different than the way he’s used in the NFL,” McShay said, “I just think he has a chance to be more productive in the NFL than he was even in college. I think for a ’3-4’ team in Chicago, that would be a really good fit.”

Darron Lee, Ohio State: Smallish (6-foot-2, 235) but had sacks (12) and pass defenses (8) in two OSU seasons. Speed player under some NFL radars.

Antonio Morrison, Florida: Knee injuries make him late-round at best if knee injuries check out.

Reggie Ragland, Alabama: Prototypical ILB for 3-4 at 260 pounds but suspect speed for Bears’ template under Fox, Fangio.

Nick Vigil, Utah State: Extremely productive but 6-foot-2, 240 may not have mass to play inside or speed at OLB.

Bears still see Dion Sims as a valuable piece to their offensive puzzle

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Bears still see Dion Sims as a valuable piece to their offensive puzzle

Dion Sims is still here, which is the outcome he expected but perhaps wasn’t a slam dunk — at least to those outside the walls at Halas Hall. 

The Bears could’ve cut ties with Sims prior to March 16 and saved $5.666 million against the cap, quite a figure for a guy coming off a disappointing 2017 season (15 catches, 180 yards, one touchdown). But the Bears are sticking with Sims, even after splashing eight figures to land Trey Burton in free agency earlier this year. 

“In my mind, I thought I was coming back,” Sims said. “I signed to be here three years and that’s what I expect. But I understand how things go and my job is come out here and work hard every day and play with a chip on my shoulder to prove myself and just be a team guy.”

The Bears signed Sims to that three-year, $18 million contract 14 months ago viewing him as a rock-solid blocking tight end with some receiving upside. The receiving upside never materialized, and his blocking was uneven at times as the Bears’ offense slogged through a bleak 11-loss season. 

“The situation we were in, we weren’t — we could’ve done a better job of being successful,” Sims said. “Things didn’t go how we thought it would. We just had to pretty much try to figure out how to come together and build momentum into coming into this year. I just think there were a lot of things we could have done, but because of the circumstances we were limited a little bit. 

“… It was a lot of things going on. Guys hurt, situations — it was tough for us. We couldn’t figure it out, along with losing, that was a big part of it too.”

Sims will be given a fresh start in 2018, even as Adam Shaheen will be expected to compete to cut into Sims’ playing time at the “Y” tight end position this year. The other side of that thought: Shaheen won’t necessarily slide into being the Bears’ primary in-line tight end this year. 

Sims averaged 23 receptions, 222 yards and two touchdowns from 2014-2016; that might be a good starting point for his 2018 numbers, even if it would represent an improvement from 2017. More important, perhaps, is what Sims does as a run blocker — and that was the first thing Nagy mentioned when talking about how Sims fits into his offense. 

“The nice thing with Dion is that he’s a guy that’s proven to be a solid blocker,” Nagy said. “He can be in there and be your Y-tight end, but yet he still has really good hands. He can make plays on intermediate routes. He’s not going to be anybody that’s a downfield threat — I think he knows that, we all know that — but he’s a valuable piece of this puzzle.”

Bears logo ranked in bottom five of NFL in recent fan poll

USA Today

Bears logo ranked in bottom five of NFL in recent fan poll

The Chicago Bears logo has withstood the test of time. In a sports era full of uniform changes, the Bears have maintained the classic orange 'C' for most of their nearly 100 years in Chicago.

Unfortunately, tradition doesn't equate to popularity.

Chicago's logo ranked 28th in the NFL, according to a recent poll of nearly 1,500 football fans. Only the Redskins (29), Bengals (30), Jets (31) and Browns (32) were worse.

I’m not sure how I feel about the underbite on the “C.” I can see how this would be a polarizing feature of this logo. I wish to an extent that it met up more evenly. I think they could have had the bottom meet up in a more even fashion and still maintained the sharpness, of the “C,” which I like. I don’t mind the point [ON THE BACK SIDE OF THE “C”], without the point it would be super boring. The point actually does add something from a design standpoint that makes it stand out.

Bears fans will take exception with the results. Wins have been hard to come by in recent seasons, but there's still something special about seeing the familiar navy and orange on Sundays in the fall. The 'C' is arguably the biggest part of that. Sure, it's not a complex design overflowing with colors, but it represents a long and storied history. 

It's interesting that each of the bottom five teams have struggled to string together winning seasons. On the flipside, teams like the Saints, Falcons, Rams, Vikings and Eagles rank in the top six. Maybe it's recency bias.

In the NFC North, the Lions rank No. 2 (which is a shocker) and the Packers are No. 20.