Bears

CSN Bears analyst Chris Boden's 2017 NFL Mock Draft

CSN Bears analyst Chris Boden's 2017 NFL Mock Draft

1. Cleveland Browns: QB Mitchell Trubisky (North Carolina)

Hue Jackson gets a taste of what working for Jimmy Haslam is like. The owner wants the kid from Ohio, but how long will he let him sit behind Brock Osweiler and Cody Kessler. They don't get the top-rated player in Myles Garrett, but can circle back and address the pass rush at 12.

2. San Francisco 49ers: DE Myles Garrett (Texas A&M)

Well look who dropped into their lap. Perhaps a bit redundant after drafting Oregon defensive linemen DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead in the first round the past two years, but they'll worry about running back, quarterback, you name it…later on.

3. CHICAGO BEARS: S Jamal Adams (LSU)

Tempted by Solomon Thomas, who's not a true 3-4 end, but Vic Fangio would move around, and feeling Jonathan Allen's topped out, potential-wise, they go with the proven, healthy guy who can lead the secondary for the next decade. Malik Hooker more of a playmaking center fielder, but the injury history helps this decision.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars: TE O.J. Howard (Alabama)

They've sunk a ton of money and draft picks on defense the last few years, and while Blake Bortles is on "notice" with Tom Coughlin, he gets a perennial Pro Bowler to throw to with the wideout tandem of Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. Leonard Fournette also tempting, but they'll stick with T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory for the time being.

5. Tennessee Titans: CB Marshon Lattimore (Ohio State)

They'll circle back for a much-needed wide receiver at 18, but roll the dice with the protypical, if hamstrung by injury, top corner on the market to help the 30th-ranked pass defense.

6. New York Jets: WR Mike Williams (Clemson)

Tempted by DeShaun Watson after drafting quarterbacks three of the past four years, Josh McCown needs someone to throw to after parting ways with Brandon Marshall. They go with Watson's deep target from the national champs over Corey Davis.

7. Los Angeles Chargers: S Malik Hooker (Ohio State)

Eric Weddle was great for a lot of years in San Diego, but they found out how difficult he was to replace last season. Defensive Rookie of the Year Joey Bosa has another young star to build that side of the ball around, provided he stays healthy.

8. Carolina Panthers: RB Leonard Fournette (LSU)

The Cam Newton Preservation Society (of which the former MVP still isn't a member) wins the War Room vote in Charlotte.

9. Cincinnati Bengals: DE Solomon Thomas (Stanford)

A surprising drop based on the way his stock skyrocketed since the Sun Bowl, but the 3-4 teams who passed will discover he's a perfect fit for this 4-3 that has a need on the edge and has suffered a defensive exodus recently.

10. Buffalo Bills: LB Reuben Foster (Alabama)

New coach Sean McDermott gets himself the best inside linebacker on the board as he puts his stamp on a defense he hopes to re-create from Carolina.

11. New Orleans Saints: DE Derek Barnett (Tennessee)

Cameron Jordan gets a partner on the opposite side to rush the quarterback on a defense that ranked 27th (last against the pass).

12. Cleveland Browns: DL Jonathan Allen (Alabama)

Allen's ideally a 4-3 tackle, but is versatile enough to provide impact as a "5-tech," alongside stout nose tackle Danny Shelton. If not, blame the Browns after long-term concerns about his shoulders and how much higher he can raise his level after an excellent college career. 

13. Arizona Cardinals: QB Patrick Mahomes (Texas Tech)

Choosing between Watson and Mahomes, Bruce Arians' confidence level over how he can shape Carson Palmer's heir guides him to the gun-slinger.

14. Philadelphia Eagles: RB Christian McCaffery (Stanford)

McCaffery a multi-dimensional weapon to pair with Carson Wentz and Alshon Jeffery (for at least this year).

15. Indianapolis Colts: Edge Charles Harris (Missouri)

The league's 30th-ranked defense needs a lot of help. Harris is a start.

16. Baltimore Ravens: WR Corey Davis (Western Michigan)

Steve Smith has retired. The barely-recruited kid from Wheaton-Warrenville South slides in.

17. Washington Redskins: LB Hasson Reddick (Temple)

His status grew with every practice heading into the Senior Bowl and has gone nowhere but up.

18. Tennessee Titans: WR John Ross (Washington)

The Combine record 4.22 40 pushed him into the first round, but carries a risk with a history of knee injuries before finally staying healthy in 2016. Say hi to Marcus Mariota.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Edge Taco Charlton (Michigan)

Say it. Taco Time in Tampa for a D that finished 22nd against both the run and pass.

20. Denver Broncos: T Ryan Ramczyk (Wisconsin)

There's ALWAYS concern and questions about the Broncos offensive line. Here's one answer.

21. Detroit Lions: LB Jarrad Davis (Florida)

DeAndre Levy's gone, and while they added Paul Worrilow and good use another edge rusher opposite Ziggy Ansah, Davis fits, and fills a need.

22. Miami Dolphins: CB Quincy Wilson (Florida)

Lots of defensive needs for Adam Gase to address. He starts here, and the team saves a bit on transportation costs.

23. New York Giants: TE David Njoku (Miami)

OBJ. Brandon Marshall. And now the fast-rising second-best tight end in the draft.

24. Oakland Raiders: LB Tim Williams (Alabama)

Silver-and-Black lost some defensive personnel this off-season. Williams can cause some distraction from Khalil Mack.

25. Houston Texans: QB Deshaun Watson (Clemson)

Well wasn't this conveeeeenient for Bill O'Brien.

26. Seattle Seahawks: OT Garrett Bolles (Utah)

Sexy? No. But the Seahawks seem to join the Broncos is sweating out O-Line issues every year. Protect Russ.

27. Kansas City Chiefs: DT Malik McDowell (Michigan State)

Dontari Poe and Jaye Howard were off-season salary cap victims.

28. Dallas Cowboys: S Jabril Peppers (Michigan)

Does this say Cowboys, or what?

29. Green Bay Packers: RB Dalvin Cook (Florida State)

Ty Montgomery was pretty good. Cook will be even better.

30. Pittsburgh Steelers: LB Takkarist McKinley (UCLA)

They can go inside with Raekwon McMillan, but decide to go for some James Harrison insurance after parting ways with Lawrence Timmons and Jarvis Jones.

31. Atlanta Falcons: DE Demarcus Walker (Florida State)

The guy just made plays for an elite program and fills a need on Dan Quinn's emerging D.

32. New Orleans Saints: WR Curtis Samuel (Ohio State)

They'll get back to addressing the defense but for now, a Brandin Cooks replacement in the spot the Patriots gave them for Cooks.

 

How can the Bears make Khalil Mack even better in 2019?

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USA Today

How can the Bears make Khalil Mack even better in 2019?

In the midst of Khalil Mack’s All-Pro debut season with the Bears, then-outside linebackers coach Brandon Staley offered a thought of how his star pupil could be even better in 2019. With the benefit of a full offseason of OTAs and training camp, the Bears would be able to move Mack around more within their defense, which would present tougher challenges for opposing coaching staffs trying to gameplan for him. 

Staley left for the Denver Broncos along with Vic Fangio back in January. But a new coaching staff has the same thought: There’s more to what Mack can do than we saw in 2018. And 2018 was pretty impressive. 

“There will be opportunities for him to do a variety of things from a variety of different alignments,” senior defensive assistant/outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino said. “Freedom, he has a little bit. But variety he has plenty. There’s plenty of things that we’re going to try to use him for and to do with him that allow him to showcase the things he does well.”

The No. 1 thing Mack does well, to boil it down, is wreck a game. Every head coach and offensive coordinator around the league has to develop a plan for limiting those game-wrecking abilities. It meant quick throws, the kind that leave the quarterback’s hand before Mack can even set up a pass-rushing move, for some teams. For others, it meant offering extra pass protection support through committing a tight end, running back or both to slowing him down. Mack still found a way to total 12 1/2 sacks and 73 total pressures, all while an ankle injury effectively wiped out four games in the middle of the season. 

“You’ve got a phenomenal, phenomenal athlete, all that stuff” defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said. “He’s a great football player, but he’s a better teammate. And he’s a better person. He doesn’t say much, but actions speak louder than words. Again, he’s a great worker. He’s a smart guy. He picks things up. Not gonna say much, but out here on the football field he’s going to lead by example.” 

As the 2018 season progressed, the Bears felt more comfortable with having Mack play on the left and right during games, not one spot exclusively (in the season’s first four weeks, 166 of Mack’s snaps came on the left and 25 came on the right, per Pro Football Focus). By the playoffs, the Bears were able to strategically use Mack on either side of their defense to try to counter-act the scheming done by Eagles coach Doug Pederson (Mack played 26 snaps on the left and 26 on the right in that game, per Pro Football Focus). 

But both the previous and current coaching staffs envision Mack being able to do more than just line up on either side of the formation. And Monachino has experience in figuring out the best way to create that variety he talked about, too: He was Terrell Suggs’ position coach in 2011 when the Baltimore Ravens edge rusher won defensive player of the year honors (also: That was the lone year in which Pagano was the Ravens’ defensive coordinator). 

Suggs primarily rushed from various defensive line positions (end/outside linebacker, as designated by Pro Football Focus), but lined up off the ball on a little under 20 percent of his snaps in 2011. An NFL.com article described him as playing a “hybrid-linebacker” position, which sounds about right. 

Suggs finished 2011 with 14 sacks, seven forced fumbles and two interceptions. 

It’s only May, which means it’s far too early to predict how the Bears will use Mack. Coaches don’t even know the specifics yet. But it’s fair to expect a few different wrinkles for how Mack’s game-wrecking ability is deployed in the Bears’ defense with a full complement of offseason practices — and, too, the coaching minds of Monachino and Pagano. 

“With a player like this, you don’t even have to sit in the offense’s meeting rooms on the other side to know that they have to tend to him on every snap,” Monachino said, referencing Suggs. “They have to know where (former Pittsburgh Steelers safety) Troy Polamalu is on every snap. You gotta know where (Houston Texans edge rusher) JJ Watt is on every snap. This is a guy that you have to do that with. So with Khalil, being able to predict that they’re going to talk about, how do we tend to Khalil Mack on every snap, and then being able to move him into different spots and then to show him in different ways and to do different things with him, it’s going to be really valuable for the defense.”

The Bears are getting a different type of nickel cornerback in Buster Skrine

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USA Today

The Bears are getting a different type of nickel cornerback in Buster Skrine

When the Bears’ defense takes the field against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers on Opening Night, they’ll be returning 9 of the 11 starters that were part of a 2018 squad that was one of the best in Bears’ history. 

One of the few new faces that figure to be among the starting 11 is cornerback Buster Skrine. Gone is Bryce Callahan, who left for Vic Fangio’s Denver team after spending the first four years of his career in Chicago. Though Bears’ scouts have had their eye on Skrine for a few seasons now, it was his more palatable three-year, $16.5 million contract -- compared to Callahan’s three-year, $21 million contract -- that finally got him in house. 

“Me and Buster came out the exact same year, and I’ve watched him,” Prince Amukamara said after OTAs on Wednesday afternoon. “He actually played with my best friend and he would always talk about how fast Buster is -- especially when Buster played gunner. 

“I’ve always watched him, and I feel like he’s very similar to Bryce [Callahan] by being quick and being active. I’m definitely happy with the pick up.” 

Once considered a spot to place the third-best, less-athletic cornerback, no position has seen it's value increase so dramatically over the last decade. Offenses are changing dramatically; no team saw more three receiver sets in 2018 than the Bears’ defense. Per Sharp Stats, opposing offenses lined up in 11 personnel against Chicago 78% of the time. The next closest was the Chiefs at 71%, and the NFL average is 65%. 

“I think nickel is a different ball game,” Amukamara added. “I would say it can be one of the hardest positions on the field, just because you’re on an island, but the receiver has so much room to work with. Plus, it’s a lot of mental gymnastics, so you’ve got to know when you’re blitzing, know when you’re running, and so we put a lot on our nickel.” 

Despite not being considered part of a what teams have traditionally considered base defense, the pass-happy nature of this era in the NFL has all but mandated that nickel corners are on the field for most of the defensive snaps. It’s no coincidence that before breaking his foot against the Rams in Week 12, Callahan was on pace to set a career-high in snap percentage. 

“Nowadays, you see a lot more sub packages,” Bears defensive backs coach Deshea Townsend said. “You’re probably playing 70% in sub during a game now… Otherwise, it hasn’t really changed - he just plays more. That’s the thing - he is technically a starter. He’s probably going to run on the field first in a lot of games, and by rule that’s a starter.

“One thing about the nickel position is that you’ve got to do a little bit of both. You can’t just go out on 3rd down and cover and run the option routes. Now they’re going to hand off the ball and find out where you’re at and you’re going to have to make a tackle. That’s the difference in the position now - it’s a first and second down type of guy that has to be able to do it all.”

While Skrine isn’t considered as good a cover corner as Callahan, Skrine’s pass rush and run defense looks pretty similar. Per Pro Football Focus, Skrine’s run defense graded out significantly higher (80.7) than Callahan’s (57.8). 

“With Buster, it’s about his playing experience,” Townsend added. “He’s a guy who will mix it up in the run. He can blitz, and he’s reliable. He’s tough.”