Bears

Double-booking on draft picks not a workable long-term solution for Bears

Double-booking on draft picks not a workable long-term solution for Bears

A mildly troubling pattern within Bears drafting took some shape as the 2017 selection derby moved through its final day. Not necessarily a serious issue with the organizational mechanism, but...

The problem is re-drafting, a sort of NFL overbooking or double-booking, a dangerous situation that has hurt the Bears at times past when they needed to repeat picks at a certain position because of misses on free agents or draft choices.

It is one thing if the doubling up is at a linchpin position, and some obviously are more that than others. But some of these aren't recurring picks at pass rusher, offensive tackle, quarterback or wide receiver, where a re-draft can be excused because you can never have too many of them.

Drafting Trubisky after signing Glennon – makes sense. Drafting Leonard Floyd with Pernell McPhee and Willie Young in place – check.
 
But consider:

The Bears made a commitment at tight end with a three-year deal to get Dion Sims out of Miami. They then double-committed, using used a second-round pick on Adam Shaheen out of Ashland. If the Bears do not have seriously massive plans for the position, which is certainly possible, then the draft move is a little head-scratching, “best available” notwithstanding.

Elsewhere, Pace use three picks last year on defensive backs; none project to be threatening the starting lineup anytime soon.

After trading up in the fourth round this draft, the Bears used the 112th overall pick on Alabama safety Eddie Jackson. Safety was a consensus need area, which is itself a little notable because since arriving in 2015, the Bears and Ryan Pace have drafted Adrian Amos (fifth round), Deon Bush (fourth), DeAndre Houston-Carson (sixth) and are looking to move Deiondre' Hall (fourth) from cornerback to safety. This on top of making Quintin Demps a priority signing this offseason. Now, Jackson.

Contrast that with results when the Bears used No. 2 picks on Tony Parrish (1998) and Mike Brown (2000) to get it right. When Parrish wasn't re-signed in 2002, and Brown's career dissolved into injury after 2004, the safety position spiraled downward, to the detriment of other positions as well.

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Then with the 119th pick the Bears tapped diminutive (5-foot-6, 179 pounds) running back Tarik Cohen out of North Carolina A&T, which has had one player drafted in the past 20 years (center Junius Coston to Green Bay, 2005). That doesn't preclude anything, and Cohen could be the Bears version of Darren Sproles, but Garrett Wolfe was going to be the Bears' very own Warrick Dunn 10 years ago.

Cohen makes this the third straight Ryan Pace draft with a mid-round pick going for a running back, following Jordan Howard (fifth round) and Jeremy Langford (fourth) into a roster that had Ka'Deem Carey (fourth) from Phil Emery's final draft.

No position is unimportant in the NFL, but the positions at which these re-draftings are happening isn't ideal. Mid rounds ideally yield pass rushers such as Alex Brown (fourth) and Mark Anderson (sixth) or impact  defensive linemen  like Henry Melton (fourth).

Former GM Jerry Angelo conceded that he and his staff had real trouble hitting on offensive linemen (Marc Colombo, Terrence Metcalf, Josh Beekman, Chris Williams, Gabe Carimi, all fourth round or higher), which was largely why the majority of the '05, '06 and '10 O-lines came from free agency.

Pace cannot afford needing too many repeats in the drive to reverse the fortunes of a franchise that has had to retake the same ground too many times in the past.

Eddy Piñeiro is quietly finding his form again, a sign he's cut out for this

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USA Today

Eddy Piñeiro is quietly finding his form again, a sign he's cut out for this

As a large group of TV cameras gathered around Charles Leno Jr.’s space in the Bears’ locker room, Eddy Piñeiro quickly finished getting dressed in the shadows to Leno’s left. The kicker has stayed out of the spotlight since losing the trust of his head coach on a nationally-televised game three weeks ago, but he’s played as well as anyone during the Bears’ three-game return to relevance. 

“Yeah, I would definitely say I’m more confident,” he said after the Bears’ 31-24 win on Thursday night. “There’s just good rhythm – good snap, good hold.” 

He hasn’t had to attempt a kick over 40 yards (!!) over the three games, but Piñeiro’s accuracy issues, at least for now, seem at bay. He hit all five of his kicks against the Cowboys – four extra points and one 36-yard field goal. The kicker hasn’t missed a field goal (5-5) since LA, and has gone 9-10 on extra points. More importantly, they haven’t lost since either. 

“It feels great,” Piñeiro said. “Everyone in the locker room is super excited and happy. Everybody’s in a good mood. When you win, everybody’s in a good mood.” 

He hasn’t been physically tested much over the last month, but just ask Aldrick Rosas or Brett Maher how easy kicking at Soldier Field is, even in nice conditions. The Bears have always loved Piñeiro’s response to adversity and it’s starting to look like he’s rewarded them again. 

“Just gaining experience, honestly,” he said. “I think the biggest thing for me has just been gaining experience. Playing the game, I obviously don’t have the most experience, but I think trying to gain that experience has been the biggest thing for me.” 

Piñeiro mentioned that he’s still getting used to the adjustments that come with kicking in colder temperatures – which may help explain some of his more recent lackluster kickoffs. It’s easy to see how a nationally-televised game in unusually pleasant conditions could have been a trap for a young player who’s maybe pressing a bit, but after getting the full Bears Kicker Experience stuffed into half a season, Piñeiro knows better. 

“In my opinion, you’ve got to play well in every single game,” he said. “[it’s] not like just because you’re on national TV, you’ve got to play better. It felt good to get out there and hit a couple kicks.” 

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Run Mitch Run! Trubisky dominates Cowboys with his legs in Week 14

Run Mitch Run! Trubisky dominates Cowboys with his legs in Week 14

Mitch Trubisky looked like a quarterback who was selected second overall in the NFL draft with his performance against the Dallas Cowboys in Thursday night's 31-24 win. In fact, he's looked every bit the part over the last four weeks, but Week 14 showcased the complete skill set that made Trubisky the first quarterback drafted in 2017.

Against a Cowboys defense that was ranked as a top-10 unit coming into the game, Trubisky threw for 244 yards, ran for 63 yards and totaled four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing). He threw the ball with conviction and completed passes that an average quarterback never could have. His eight-yard touchdown pass to Allen Robinson with 10 seconds remaining in the first half was special. Despite blanket coverage by Dallas linebacker Jaylon Smith, Trubisky put the ball where only Robinson could catch it. It was a heater, too. 

Trubisky had more than one throw like that Thursday night. His first touchdown to Robinson came earlier in the second quarter with 12:18 remaining in the half. This time it was Cowboys defensive back Byron Jones in coverage, and he didn't stand a chance despite being in position to make the play. There was no way to defend against the accuracy of Trubisky's five-yard strike.

But what really made Trubisky's game a signature performance was his running. He regained the form that made him such an exciting player in 2018 and a guy who had a sleeper MVP candidacy in the preseason.

Last season, Trubisky ran the ball 68 times for 421 yards and three touchdowns in 14 games. His legs kept opposing defenses honest and opened easier throws for his arm. Prior to Thursday night's win, Trubisky had only run the ball 26 times for 80 yards in 2019. He upped his carry total by nearly 40% (10 rushes against the Cowboys) and nearly doubled his yardage in just one game. It helped the offense stay on schedule and produced one of the night's most memorable moments when Trubisky broke the pocket and juked his way to a 23-yard touchdown run with 13:28 left in the fourth quarter. He earned his highest rushing grade on the season from Pro Football Focus, too.

"Just pulled it," Trubisky said of the touchdown run after the game. "Really an awesome block by Leno. We knew they were a squeeze-scrape team. The backer is going to scrape over top. He does a good job of locking him out. I just cut up in there, made a guy miss, got in the end zone.

"The best part of that for me was how excited my teammates got afterwards. Really cool moment. It was good."

Trubisky's running does more than just make his job easier. It also hides some flaws in the offensive line, which has struggled in pass protection this season. After Week 14's game, pass-rushers will have to think twice about pinning their ears back and going all-out for a sack. Trubisky reminded the league he's a dangerous quarterback who will make defenses pay if they take too many chances against him.

Trubisky's growth over the last month of the season has been pretty remarkable. It took him longer than expected to get to this place he's at now, i.e. a quarterback who can put Chicago on his shoulders and win a football game, but he appears to have arrived. At least, if his last three games are any indication, he's become the kind of productive playmaker the Bears have so desperately need. He's completed 70% of his passes for 860 yards (seven touchdowns, four interceptions) and a passer rating of 99.1 over that stretch.

Spread over 16 games, this three-week run would equate to 4,586 yards and 37 touchdowns. His 99.1 passer rating would rank among the top-10 starters in the league, too. 

Trubisky tucked and ran with more frequency Thursday night and it paid off. It made the Bears' offense look almost unstoppable at times. It's been a while since that could be said about this squad, but it's better late than never.

"We've gotten better over the last couple weeks, I'm talking about as a team, that's what's most important to me," Trubisky said. "That is what allows you to get better as an individual, is if you focus on the team first, focus on the guys around you."

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