Bears

Could Tommie Harris be key for Bears vs. Pats?

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Could Tommie Harris be key for Bears vs. Pats?

Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010
Posted: 11:23 a.m.
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Another thoughtful Thursday go-round with Mac and Spiegs on "The Danny Mac Show" on WSCR-AM 670, which I always like not just because the guys are fun to hang and talk football with, but because I get story ideas when we visit...

Like it occurring to me that there is likely to be a surprise player for Bears who could have a dramatic influence on this game if the Bears are going to win. Danny and Matt didn't instantly buy in (they will) but my quick pick for that player is Tommie Harris.

Harris has done little of note all season, making him one of the few legitimate personnel disappointments in a season otherwise relatively free of them. But Harris also has been played sparingly and at this time of year, when he has traditionally worn down a bit, he has a chance to be the impact player against a New England offensive line that is one of the NFL's best but also gave up three sacks of Tom Brady last Monday night. We'll see.

Harris or Julius Peppers or Israel Idonije or Henry Melton rank as keys to the game if only because pressure is the only reliable way to cope with Tom Brady. The Bears have fared well through this mid-section of the season relying primarily on their front four creating pressure, with the occasional D.J. Moore blitz sack, and leaving the back seven to create a weed patch for Brady to get through is crucial.

But the game strategically could be taken out of Harris' and a lot of others' hands if, as we talked over, Bill Belichick can goad, scheme, entice, force, whatever, Mike Martz into abandon the offensive recipe that has been instrumental in the Bears' 5-0 run the past month-plus.

I do expect Chester Taylor to play Sunday, by the way. The veteran running back was held out of Wednesday's practice with a sore knee but he has missed just five games in a career of nearly nine years.

Taylor and Matt Forte have been instrumental in the Bears' season turnaround simply by their utilization in Mike Martz's "new" offense. The two have caught 19 passes over the last five games while combining for no fewer than 20 carries in any of those five.

Some observers want to dismiss the New England wins over Martz's Detroit and San Francisco offenses in 2006 and 2008, respectively. The reasoning is that Martz simply didn't have the personnel to match up with Belichick's defense.

The problem with that, as I detailed in a previous blog, is that the Lions turned the ball over on their final three possessions to lose. The 49ers led 14-7 roughly 10 minutes into their game with the Patriots and then could score just once in the final 50 minutes.

The point really isn't to pick on Martz so much as to look objectively at his history vs. one of the elite defensive schemers in the NFL.

Looking forward now to visiting with the guys again next Thursday. By then we'll know how Harris, Martz, Belichick and all the rest played out.

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.

Is Marcus Mariota the most logical QB target for the Bears?

Is Marcus Mariota the most logical QB target for the Bears?

Chicago Bears fans are sick and tired of the quarterback conversation surrounding this team as we enter the most important two month stretch of the offseason. My Twitter timeline (and vicious replies) are evidence of that. 

Duly noted.

That said, it's an unavoidable truth that GM Ryan Pace has no choice but to do something at quarterback in free agency or the NFL Draft. The most diehard Mitch Trubisky fan has to admit that. The former second overall pick hasn't developed into a franchise player through three seasons under center, and while the optimist would argue there's still time for him to become that guy, the realist is who must prevail when it comes to roster construction.

Marcus Mariota may be the perfect compromise. He doesn't have a resume that will immediately threaten Trubisky in 2020, but his sneaky upside combined with his youth and overall skill set is an ideal combination that could make him a long-term answer if Trubisky fails in the short-term.

According to Sports Illustrated, Chicago -- and coach Matt Nagy -- would be an ideal destination for Mariota, even if there's an inherent conflict of interest because both Mariota and Trubisky are represented by the same agent.

There are coaches out there—cough, Chicago, cough—who could slide him in easily under the guise that Mariota is a high-quality backup and develop him into a weapon under center who could take over when the starter falters.

Mariota, like Trubisky, hasn't lived up to the hype that he entered the NFL with back in 2015 when he was the second overall pick of the Titans. He's logged 61 starts and a career record of 29-32. He's completed just under 63% of his 1,110 career pass attempts and has 76 touchdown passes to 44 interceptions.

His stat sheet isn't impressive. His on-field play, at times, hasn't been, either. But he'd be an ideal reclamation project that the Bears can sell as the perfect backup even if the hope is for him to emerge as a starter.

There’s an advantage for QB-needy teams here who don’t want to deal with the public courting of Tom Brady, who don’t want to sacrifice mobility by signing Philip Rivers, who don’t want to roll the dice on every snap by signing Jameis Winston, and who don’t have the trade capital or cap space to go after someone like Nick Foles or Derek Carr.

Chicago won't be able to get into a bidding war for the bigger names like Tom Brady or even Teddy Bridgewater because of their limited cap space. Mariota won't command nearly as much to sign, and he's likely to get nothing more than a one-year commitment from a team hoping he can be like the guy who replaced him, Ryan Tannehill.

Of all the quarterbacks who've been pegged as a possible option for the Bears, Mariota feels like the most logical and, more importantly, cheaper targets who realistically could be lining up as the Chicago's starter by Week 4 of the 2020 season.

Bears should pay close attention to TE Cole Kmet at NFL Combine

Bears should pay close attention to TE Cole Kmet at NFL Combine

The 2020 NFL Combine kicks off on February 23, and the Bears will be one of 32 teams in attendance poking and prodding the 337 prospects who will try to run, jump and lift their way to a higher NFL draft grade.

General manager Ryan Pace will do his due diligence on all the players participating, but the Bears are without a first-round pick (again) and as a result, Pace's focus will be tailored to the cluster of prospects who are most likely to slide into Day 2. Chicago has two second-rounders and can upgrade the roster with two potential starters.

One player who should be at or near the top of the Bears' wish list is Notre Dame tight end Cole Kmet. According to former NFL general manager Charley Casserly, Kmet would be a perfect fit for Chicago in the second round and the prospect they should pay the closest attention to at the combine.

The Bears' biggest need on offense is tight end. There are several guys who would fit well in Matt Nagy's scheme, including Purdue's Brycen Hopkins, but why not aim for the best TE in his class in Kmet?

Kmet certainly checks most of the boxes for an NFL starting tight end. He ended 2019 with 43 receptions for 515 yards and six touchdowns, numbers that aren't a true reflection of his upside as a receiver in the pros. He'll be a classic case of a player who has a more productive NFL career than he had in college.  He's a good athlete who has upside as an inline blocker, too, even though he needs to get stronger to be a truly reliable player in the run game.

Even with some of the deficiencies in Kmet's game, he'd be a massive upgrade over the tight ends currently on the Bears roster like Trey Burton, Adam Shaheen and Jesper Horsted. He's a virtual lock to come off the board in the second round, so if Pace wants him in Chicago next season, he won't be able to wait long to draft him. In fact, it could require using the Bears' first pick -- No. 43 overall -- to lock him up.