Bears

Bears NFL Draft Preview: Bears just can’t seem to settle safety positions

Bears NFL Draft Preview: Bears just can’t seem to settle safety positions

CSNChicago.com Bears Insider John "Moon" Mullin goes position-by-position as the Bears approach the 2016 Draft, taking a look at what the Bears have, what they might need, and what draft day and after could have in store.

Bears pre-draft situation

When the Bears secured veteran safety Antrel Rolle early last offseason, then struck gold with Adrian Amos as their fifth-round draft choice, the turbulence that has plagued the Bears at safety appeared to be quieting. But then Rolle, who had missed just one game in nine NFL seasons, was hobbled by ankle and knee injuries that left him inactive for nine games.

The injuries had the Bears scrambling for alternatives, starting Harold Jones-Quartey in four games and Chris Prosinski in five, with decidedly mixed results. The Bears are set with Amos at one safety spot, and with Jones-Quartey and Prosinski as depth, but Rolle at age 33 (34 in December) is nearing a fork in his road, although the hope is he can get in touch with his inner Charles Woodson.

“It was a difficult [post-season] evaluation on him because of the [knee] injury,” GM Ryan Pace said at last month’s NFL owners meetings. “It’s hard to pinpoint exactly the evaluation on him with him being injury but we were satisfied.”

How satisfied is a significant question. Rolle is due $2.7 million in 2016, not a cap-breaker, and the Bears did not cut ties early in free agency as teams sometimes do out of respect for veterans no longer in the plan. But the Bears will not start training camp or the regular season without added insurance, particularly at a position very much involved on special teams.

Bears draft priority: Low/moderate

With added picks in rounds four and six, the Bears will begin the draft with excellent options in the range where bargains at safety can be had (see: Amos). The Bears have a need in the position area, just not at the level of some others. The draft class is adequate, meaning not a lot of, if any, first-rounders, leaving possibilities in the range the Bears may be shopping.

If there’s a problem it is in that something in the water at Halas Hall has skewed evaluations of safety prospects. Over the past 15 years or so, some have come in third rounds (Brandon Hardin, Chris Conte, Major Wright), some have come in fourths (Brock Vereen, Craig Steltz, Todd Johnson), some have come in fifths (Amos, Kevin Payne, Bobby Gray), some have come in sixths (Al Afalava, Chris Harris).

But very few from the seemingly endless list have amounted to enough beyond the occasional Amos or Conte or Harris, usually for a year or two. The Bears project more than that for Amos, and they hope for whomever else they add to that list this draft.

Consensus is that the safety class is less than stellar “but there’s more depth in this class than people are preaching,” said ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay, who added that as many as 10 safeties could be selected in the draft’s first three rounds.

Keep an eye on ...

Vonn Bell, Ohio State: Solid pass defender rather than just a box player. Had nine interceptions, eight over last two years, plus 15 pass breakups. Could fit at CB with coverage skills.

Karl Joseph, West Virginia: Among best cover safeties in the class before tearing his ACL mid-2015. Four-year starter who went against Kevin White in practice; possible bargain late. “Joseph is the most complete safety in the draft,” McShay said.

Jayron Kearse, Clemson: Had seven interceptions in three seasons, with strong a strong 2014 season and size (213 pounds) to be a Kam Chancellor type.

Elijah Shumate, Notre Dame: Physical tackler (136 over last two seasons) with size (6-0, 210). Not a top cover safety but may be ideal fit as nickel LB.

ICYMI: The Bears lose in OT, the Bulls season nears, the Blackhawks make history

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USA TODAY

ICYMI: The Bears lose in OT, the Bulls season nears, the Blackhawks make history

The Bears suffered a heartbreaking defeat (that makes two of those), but the Bulls are days away from the start of a new season and the Blackhawks did something that has never happened before in sports history.

Bears

The Bears had a slow first half, failing to score against the shorthanded Dolphins, but picked things up in the third quarter. It all fell apart late in the fourth quarter and then again in overtime in a 31-28 defeat. Miami went up against the Bears without starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill, but Brock Osweiler threw for 380 yards and three touchdowns. What does that say about the Bears' defense?

Matt Nagy was a bit chippy with the media after the game, but there were still positive signs from the offense.

Plus, Dwyane Wade was there and repped the Bears on the road.

Bulls

The Bulls wrapped up the preseason Friday with a 98-93 loss to the Nuggets. Wendell Carter Jr. and Bobby Portis both showed well in the preseason finale and Jabari Parker flashed his potential as well.

With the preseason complete, Mark Strotman graded each player on the Bulls roster. You may not want to calculate the team GPA.

The roster is being finalized as well, with Ryan Arcidiacono making the team and local product Tyler Ulis getting picked up off waivers.

Blackhawks

Saturday was an eventful day for the Blackhawks. First, it marked the 1,000th career game for Duncan Keith. Keith talked about the emotional night after the game.

As for the game itself, the Blackhawks beat the Blues 4-3 in overtime. That was the second time the Hawks beat the Blues in OT this season, adding to a 5-4 OT win in St. Louis on Oct. 6.

Unbelievably, that was the fifth straight OT game for the Blackhawks. Every game has gone to overtime this season, and not one of those has even gone to a shootout. No NHL team has done that since the league introduced a regular-season overtime period in 1983-84, per the Elias Sports Bureau. Overtimes are more rare in other sports, but that also holds true for the NBA, NFL and MLB.

The Hawks don't play against until Thursday, when the host Arizona.

Bears notes: Was Trey Burton’s penalty justified?

Bears notes: Was Trey Burton’s penalty justified?

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — In a game full of pivotal moments, one seemed to irk the Bears in particular following Sunday’s 31-28 overtime loss to the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium.

Driving on the Dolphins three-yard line, the Bears lined up in a T formation with Jordan Howard, Trey Burton and Tarik Cohen lined up left to right in the backfield behind Mitch Trubisky, who was under center. Burton motioned out of the backfield and to the right, and ran his route into linebacker Kiko Alonso.

Trubisky threw a short pass to a wide open Cohen for a touchdown, with Alonso late getting to the running back after being hit by Burton. But that score was taken off the board for offensive pass interference, with officials ruling what Burton did amounted to an illegal pick play.

“Trey did everything I asked him to do,” Matt Nagy said, sharply.

On the next play, Trubisky forced a pass into double coverage in the end zone, which was easily picked off by Dolphins safety T.J. McDonald. Miami turned that interception into eight points on Albert Wilson’s 43-yard touchdown and an ensuing two-point conversion.

The way Burton understood the rule was that offensive pass interference was only assessed on a pick play if he intentionally ran into a defender without running a true route. That’s what Burton felt he did; the officiating crew disagreed.

“I thought I ran a route and the guy ran into me,” Burton said. “I thought they changed the rule this year or last year — if you run the route, it doesn’t matter if you pick the guy or not, you’re good. Obviously they called it.”

A Rough Return

The conversations surrounding the Bears Sunday into Monday would be awfully different had a number of things happened — Trubisky doesn’t throw that interception, the Bears’ defense gets a stop, Tarik Cohen doesn’t fumble near midfield, etc. In that same group: If Cody Parkey hits what would’ve been a game-winning 53-yard field goal in overtime.

Parkey, instead, missed that kick wide right. His career long is 54 yards, which he hit last year while with the Miami Dolphins (and that was a game-winner with about a minute left against the Los Angeles Chargers).

“I had the distance, I just didn’t kick it straight enough, bottom line,” Parkey said. “But you’ve got to move on. I’ve made game winners, I’ve missed game winners. As long as I keep playing, I’m just going to keep trying to kick my best.

“… I control what I can control, and unfortunately I missed a field goal. I’d like to have that one back, but it is what it is and I’m just going to focus on the next game. That’s all I can do.”