Bears

Draft could close gap between Bears, Packers

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Draft could close gap between Bears, Packers

Monday, April 25, 2011
Posted: 8:56 a.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

The gap between the Bears and the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers can be reduced to seven points, basically the winning margin of the NFC Championshp game. But if the Bears are going to close the gap or even keep pace with the Packers, it will begin next Thursday night.

Or else.

The reason the Packers were (and are) better than the Bears right now boils down to the simple fact that Green Bays performance in the draft has been substantially better than the Bears.

Consider:

Of the Bears starting offenses and defenses in the NFC Championship game, barely half (12 of 22) were their draft choices. That doesnt include safety Chris Harris, who was their draft choice (2005) but they had to trade with Carolina to get him this time. It does include, however, Tommie Harris in his final game of a declining Chicago career.

On the other side, 14 of the Packers 22 starters were draft picks.

That wouldnt be terribly impressive except for the fact that Green Bay had nine draft choices on injured reserve, including starters like linebacker Nick Barnett, safety Morgan Burnett and tight end Jermichael Finley. No Bears draft choices were on the final IR list.

The bigger point

Bad as too many recent Bears drafts have been, the Bears have not embarrassed themselves in drafts this decade the way they too often did in the 1990s with a Stan Thomas, Marcus Spears, John Thierry, Pat Riley, John Allred and Cade McNown.

At this point at least their top picks in four of the last five drafts are still on the roster, and later-round picks like JMarcus Webb, Kellen Davis, Zackary Bowman, D.J. Moore, Henry Melton and Johnny Knox have at the very least held onto roster spots.

But the point is hardly the number of drafted players are still on anyones roster. That becomes a case of figures dont lie but liars figure.

The real point is blue players, the elite-level players, players you win because of, not just with. These are the players relied upon to lift your team in situations like playoffs, not the bottom third of the roster. Of that bottom third, nearly half of those will be inactive on game days anyway.

In the past five Super Bowls every team had blue players already in place. More important perhaps, they landed at least a Pro Bowl player in the drafts of at least one of the previous three years:

2006 Colts (Bob Sanders, Dallas Clark)

Bears (Tommie Harris, Nathan Vasher, Lance Briggs)

2007 Giants (Eli Manning)

Patriots (Logan Mankins, Wil Wilfork, Brandon Meriweather)

2008 Steelers (Heath Miller)

Cardinals (Antrel Rolle, Dominique Rogers-Cromartie)

2009 Saints (Jahri Evans, Roman Harper)

Colts (Antoine Bethea)

2010 Packers (Clay Matthews, B.J. Raji)

Steelers (Maurkice Pouncey)

Higher expectations

Contrary to some scenarios, the Bears need very much to score big with their first pick of the draft. Arguably, the strategy needs to be staying put for the best available player regardless of position.

It may be natural to assume that a pick in the mid- to late-20s cannot be expected to alter franchise history. But the Packers hit on Aaron Rodgers (25th, 2005) and Clay Matthews (26th, 2009). And they landed a starting offensive tackle as a rookie, an NFL hit by any measure, in Bryan Bulaga at No. 23 in the 2010 draft.

Trading down may be the convenient, even easier, approach. Adding picks is never a bad thing.

But that has produced next to nothing seriously noteworthy in the top rounds of any recent Bears draft. If little of franchise-turning impact is expected at No. 29, then what is anyone expecting out of picks even lower than that?

The Bears arguably have not found a franchise-mover in the first round since Tommie Harris at 14th in the 2004 and his stay at the elite level was over after 2007. Matt Forte (2008) is on the edge of stardom and Devin Hester (2006) is already there, but both were second-rounders and Hester achieved Pro Bowl status as a returner, not a position player.

Green Bay set itself at quarterback with a No. 1 pick (Rodgers). The Bears needed roughly twice that cost to settle that position (trade for Jay Cutler) after neither Rex Grossman nor Kyle Orton solved it.

The Packers secured more Pro Bowlers (Matthews, 2010 alternate B.J. Raji) in the 2009 draft than the Bears have in their combined first-round picks since Brian Urlacher in 2000.

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.

Bears hire Deshea Townsend as defensive backs coach

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USA Today

Bears hire Deshea Townsend as defensive backs coach

The Bears unveiled their first assistant coach hiring since bringing aboard Chuck Pagano as their defensive coordinator, with Matt Nagy announcing the addition of Deshea Townsend as defensive backs coach on Friday. 

Townsend, a former cornerback and 13-year NFL veteran, had previous coaching stops with the New York Giants (assistant defensive backs coach, 2018), Tennessee Titans (secondary coach, 2016-2017), Mississippi State (cornerbacks, 2013-2015) and Arizona Cardinals (assistant defensive backs, 2011-2012). 

Townsend finished his career with 21 interceptions, 15 1/2 sacks and 112 passes defended in 191 games spent primarily with the Pittsburgh Steelers (1998-2009) and Indianapolis Colts (2010). 

Rumors swirled for the last week about the Bears’ potential interest in hiring future Hall of Famer Ed Reed as a defensive backs coach under Pagano, who coached him in college at Miami and in the NFL with the Baltimore Ravens. Pagano and Reed are coaching together at the NFLPA Bowl this week.

The Bears appear to have retained defensive line coach Jay Rodgers, while the team announced Ronell Williams was hired on Friday as a defensive quality control coach, a position previously held by Sean Desai.

What should the Bears do with impending free agent Adrian Amos?

What should the Bears do with impending free agent Adrian Amos?

The Bears entered 2018 with two key members of their 2015 draft class playing the final year of their rookie contracts: Defensive lineman Eddie Goldman and safety Adrian Amos.
 
Goldman received a four-year, $42.04 million contract extension with $25 million guaranteed prior to Week 1, cementing him as the anchor for the Bears’ 3-4 base defense for years to come. Amos, meanwhile, was left to play out the final year of his rookie contract and will become an unrestricted free agent in two months.
 
“Really, it’s nothing in my hands anymore,” Amos said at Halas Hall a day after the Bears’ season ended. “I put my tape out there. I played with my teammates. I was really focused more on trying to win a Super Bowl this year. Just, man, it’s a hard day. I know I keep saying that. But it’s a hard day, a hard situation right now.”
 
For Amos, the frustrating feelings of coming up short in the playoffs with that 16-15 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles will fade. The idea of “unfinished business” won’t take precedent over, well, business. Both he and the Bears will have a decision to make in the coming months.
 
The first question is how the Bears value the 25-year-old safety. Amos set career highs in interceptions (two), pass break-ups (seven) and tackles (73) in 2018, all while playing the highest percentage of snaps (97.7 percent) of anyone on Vic Fangio’s defense. He’s proven to be a largely durable player in his four years in Chicago, playing over 1,000 snaps twice (2015, 2018) and dipping below 80 percent of his team’s defensive snaps once (2017, when he missed three games but also didn’t start until Week 4).
 
Amos and Eddie Jackson played off each other well, with Jackson fitting as a rangy ball-hawk and Amos a physical in-the-box type who’s adept against the run. He’s been graded well by Pro Football Focus, for what it’s worth, receiving an 82.7 grade in 2018 and 90.9 grade in 2017.
 
But if the Bears’ internal graded mimicked those of PFF, Amos probably would’ve been signed to an extension. Or, possibly, Ryan Pace is cognizant of the market for free agent safeties and isn’t prepared to commit a significant amount of money to Amos.
 
The largest contract given to a free agent safety in 2018 was a three-year, $16.35 million deal signed by Kurt Coleman with the Carolina Panthers. Tyrann Mathieu, the versatile former All-Pro, had to settle for a one-year, $7 million deal with the Houston Texans (of which $6.5 million was guaranteed, the highest guaranteed money figure for a free agent safety last year). Tre Boston, who had five interceptions in 2017, had to wait until just before training camp to sign a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Arizona Cardinals with only $800,000 guaranteed.
 
Granted, just one year prior, seven free agent safeties received contracts of three or more years with total values over $12 million (including Quintin Demps, who Amos replaced in the starting lineup after a season-ending injury in Week 3). Maybe 2018 was just a bad year for safeties — the Giants’ Landon Collins and the Rams’ LaMarcus Joyner will command hefty contracts, while Seattle’s Earl Thomas will be in high demand. There’s not only more star power in this safety free agent class, but more depth, too — with Amos included in that.
 
“It's an old cliché but you're never staying the same; you're either getting better or you're getting worse,” Pace said. “We need to make sure we're getting better.”
 
Amos’ durability and solid play are certainly positive traits, ones the Bears could deem worthy of a new contract. But would bringing back Amos mean the Bears would be getting better, especially if it comes at the expense of a need elsewhere? Or do the Bears believe Amos could have another gear to his game in Chuck Pagano’s scheme?
 
The Bears’ safety duo in 2018 was acquired in the fourth (Jackson) and fifth (Amos) rounds of the 2017 and 2015 NFL Drafts, respectively. Perhaps the Bears, with around $25 million in cap space (after the expected release of tight end Dion Sims) will figure they can address the safety spot next to Jackson in a few different ways: a competition between a cheap free agent (perhaps like Tennessee’s Kenny Vaccaro, who was a first-round pick of the Saints in 2013 when Pace was there and made $1.5 million in 2018), a mid/late-round draft pick, or an internal option (like Deon Bush).
 
Pace, too, may be more willing to use that limited cap space on attempting to retain slot corner Bryce Callahan and/or right tackle Bobby Massie, while using the remaining funds to address across-the-board depth. Alternatively, Amos has earned the opportunity to cash in – if the opportunity is there – after four years of reliable, solid play on a relatively cheap rookie contract.
 
So there are plenty of questions to be answered over the next few weeks and months regarding Amos and a potentially vacant spot at safety. Whatever happens, though, Amos will approach his impending free agency with a clear head about what appears to be a cloudy future.
 
“I always come out here and give it my all,” Amos said. “This year, we were a better team. We had a lot of success on defense this year. But I feel like I’ve been pretty consistent over my years here. You have bad games here and there; you have great games here and there.
 
“Overall, I just hope my tape speaks for itself. When coaches watch my film, (people) upstairs, they see what I bring to the table as far as communication, athleticism, everything they would want to see. I hope they’ve seen it, but I can’t worry about what they did see, but it’s already happened.”