The critiques and probings for the last couple of months have all been on players how they have performed, how they project to perform, how they measure and so on.The Bears have done all of those analyses but the one they did before the process ever started will matter more than that of any pass rusher, wide receiver or anyone else in this draftPhil Emery.This is the first time Emery is in charge of a draft and that was the chief area of operations for which he was hired. He kept the scouting staff and head coach and that staff in place after his hiring. A reasonable conclusion from that is that the Bears are not suddenly going to morph into some completely unrecognizable drafting organization.The area scouts here are as fine as youre going to find in the NFL, Emery said. They know how to go about their job.So Im excited to see how we do as a group and as a team in attacking the question of whose the best player thats going to help us now, at each level, each spot in the draft, at each one of our picks, that brings us closer to a championship.The overly simplistic assessment of Emery is that he comes from the fuzzy notion of a Patriot Way of building teams. Emery never worked for New England but he worked under twogeneral managers Thomas Dimitroff in Atlanta, Scott Pioli in Kansas City who did but have not achieved a fraction of the New England success on their own.Thats not enough automatic insight, that somebody worked for somebody who worked someplace else. The keys to a persons future so often lie in the past and Emerys does not fit conveniently into the Patriots way. (Besides, pretty much any Way probably works if you find Tom Brady in a sixth round sometime).Finding a Bears Way?Lovie Smith is quick to correct any reference to the Mike Martz offense or the Tampa-2 defense, speaking only in terms of the Chicago Bears offense. He and Emery also will be about the business of a Bears Way now.Emery was with the Bears longer than with any other organization (1998-2004), a consideration in his hiring as general manager. And its a suggestion that he has more schooling in the Bears Way under Mark Hatley and Jerry Angelo than any other.Emery gives due credit to that Patriots Way but also to the others hes been part of over the past 15 or so years.In terms of taking from my past, in terms of process, I learned a little from everybody along the way, Emery said. Its a long process but the important thing is that you can draw it to a conclusion in a positive way and get to the players that you are most orientated to, that you feel are going to do the most for your football team, impact playmakers, the producers.The Emery BearsNo high draft picks are made in a vacuum, although degrees of control can vary from Piolis control style in Kansas City to Angelos consensus approach. So blaming or crediting one individual for a pick hit or miss is rarely accurate.Emery began in the NFL under Hatley and was the Bears area scout for the Northeast in 1998-99. During that time the Bears drafted Curtis Enis No. 1 out of Penn State, someone who fooled everyone from Joe Paterno on down (or up, depending on your JoPa feelings). Deride the Enis pick if you like, but Bill Belichick (New England) and Tom Coughlin (Jacksonville) were working the Bears in an effort to trade up to get him.They also selected Jerry Azumah from New Hampshire in the 1999 fifth round, converted him to cornerback and ended up with a Pro Bowl kick returner. Somebody gets some credit there for seeing a college tailback (and Walter Payton Award winner) who could convert to the other side of the ball. From 2000-2004 Emery was the area scout for the Southeast. The Bears picked wideout Dez White from Georgia Tech and tight end Dustin Lyman from Wake Forest in third rounds (2000); in 2002 cornerback Roosevelt Williams from Tuskegee and guard Terrence Metcalf from Mississippi (more South than Southeast) were selected in the third round of the 2002 draft.Alex Brown was a fourth-round hit out of Florida that year.After the Bears traded down and took Floridas Rex Grossman in 2003, Charles Tillman came in the second round in 2003 out of Louisiana-Lafayette. Safety Todd Johnson and Ian Scott, both from Florida, were hits in that draft.As with Enis, the Grossman pick can be ridiculed (and has been). He was also the starter in a Bears Super Bowl appearance and is still going in the NFL (Washington), so fairs fair here.The pressure has been on Emery since he arrived and he has handled that deftly with 10 roster additions via free agency and trade. If the pressure vise is squeezing him now, it isnt apparent.Im having a blast actually, Emery said with very obvious relish. Im having a good time. Im having the time of my life. Its a great city, great fans. Im enjoying every second of it.
Before Bears wide receivers coach Mike Furrey met with the media on Wednesday, Allen Robinson was curious what his position coach would say about him in public.
“I just told him, I don’t know you,” Furrey quipped. “Who’s Allen Robinson?”
Furrey, of course, knows who Robinson is. But the point behind that joke is that Furrey, the Bears’ court wide receivers coach in four years, is still getting to know all of his receivers — let alone the one who hasn’t participated in a practice yet. For all the positivity that's easy to find around Halas Hall these days, the Bears' biggest offseason acquisition hasn't taken a rep yet.
The good news for the Bears, of course, is that Robinson’s past play speaks for itself. He combined for 153 catches, 2,883 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2015 and 2016, and has been adamant he’ll return to that high level of play when he’s cleared to practice. The Bears were confident enough in Robinson’s medicals to guarantee him a little over $25 million in March, per Spotrac, about a month before they let Cameron Meredith sign with the New Orleans Saints largely over medical concerns (Meredith’s torn ACL was viewed as more serious than Robinson’s, in short).
So the getting-to-know-you phase for Furrey and Robinson is largely taking place off the field in the meeting rooms of Halas Hall.
“What a great young man,” Furrey said. “He’s come in here, obviously, rehabbing and doing all those things. But he’s alert, he comes to meetings, he’s ready to go. Really, really smart, you can tell that from the beginning and he’s a professional.”
What Furrey, in particular, likes about Robinson is that he’s an “alpha,” but is far more than all talk and no action.
“And a lot of times that alpha talks a lot and they don’t really put it out there,” Furrey said. “He kind of has that alpha quietness to him. He understands what’s going on, you can look at him and you just kind of get that feel of he has a great understanding of how to approach this game at this level. Obviously he’s been highly successful for a couple years with some big numbers, but he doesn’t act like that. He’s still hungry, he wants to learn, and I think he’s got a chip on his shoulder, which is a good trait to have too. So we’re excited about that.”
The expectation all along has been for Robinson to be cleared to fully participate in training camp practices. So while coach Matt Nagy said last week Robinson is “ahead of the game,” that may not mean he takes part in the final round of OTAs next week or veteran minicamp the first week of June.
But while Robinson can’t prove himself to his new coaches on the field yet, he’s doing the right things off the field to make a positive first impression.
“He knows you gotta come in early, he knows you gotta be the last one to leave, he knows you gotta study,” Furrey said. “It doesn’t matter five years in, six years in, you gotta take notes. It doesn’t matter if you hear it 10 times, you just gotta keep taking notes. He’s been really good at that, and I’ve been really impressed with that. I’ve been able to get on the field with him a little bit, just kind of throwing some balls to him, and I didn’t know he was that big. But obviously we’re excited for it to happen out there.”
Mitch Trubisky has been set up for a huge season in 2018 with all the firepower the Chicago Bears added on offense. Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and Trey Burton will give the second-year quarterback a variety of explosive targets to generate points in bunches.
None of the headline-grabbing moves will matter, however, if the offensive line doesn't do its job.
According to Numberfire.com, the Bears' starting five could be the offense's Achilles heel. They were ranked 21st in the NFL and described as poor in pass protection.
Last year, the Bears ranked 26th in Sack NEP per drop back and 23rd in sack rate. These issues were especially apparent after Trubisky took over. In the games that [Kyle] Long played, their sack rate was 8.2%. It was actually 7.2% in the games that he missed. They struggled even when Long was healthy.
The Bears added Iowa's James Daniels in the second round of April's draft and he's expected to start at guard alongside Long. Cody Whitehair will resume his role as the starting center, with Charles Leno, Jr. and Bobby Massie at offensive tackle.
If Long comes back healthy and Daniels lives up to his draft cost, they should be a good run-blocking team from the jump. But Long has played just 18 games the past two years and is entering his age-30 season, so that's far from a lock. On top of that, the pass blocking was suspect last year and remains a mystery entering 2018.
The biggest addition to the offensive line is Harry Hiestand, the accomplished position coach who returns to Chicago after once serving in the same role under Lovie Smith from 2005-2009. He most recently coached at Notre Dame and helped develop multiple first-round picks. He's going to have a huge impact.
The good news for the Bears is they weren't the lowest-ranked offensive line in the NFC North. The Vikings came in at No. 25. The Packers checked-in at No. 13, while the Lions were 16th.