Bears

High risk lurks in rush-LB draft class for Bears, others

randy-gregory-bears-4-26-15.png

High risk lurks in rush-LB draft class for Bears, others

The expectation at the outset of the 2015 offseason that new Bears general manager Ryan Pace and coach John Fox would eventually target one of a strong class of edge pass rushers early in this year’s draft, presumably with the No. 7 pick of the first round.

And the 2015 draft’s first round that will play out this Thursday is rated as “strong” in this particular position group.

With the work already done in free agency to stock the linebacker spot in the planned-on 3-4 scheme — adding Pernell McPhee, Mason Foster and Sam Acho — the urgency is dialed back, if only slightly. The growing expectation is that the Bears will grab one of the top wide receivers if the chance presents itself.

“We’re going to target anybody that makes us better in the draft,” Fox said. “I think Ryan has the approach, which I am on board with, which is taking the best available player.”

[MORE: Bears QB Draft Preview: Beyond Jay Cutler...?]

If that player is judged to be one of the edge rushers, it will be a target with some considerable risk.

Someone, or two, from among Vic Beasley, Alvin Dupree, Dante Fowler, Eric Kendricks, Randy Gregory, Shane Ray and a couple others can be expected to emerge as an impact NFL player.

But not every team is convinced.

“It's interesting, because I've had a bunch of teams asking me about what I call the ‘edge’ class,” NFL draft analyst Mike Mayock said in a recent conference call. “I think a month ago our perception was that there were going to be at least four guys going in the first eight picks. And now the perception is couple of those guys are probably sliding down a little bit.”

Indeed, while pass-rushing linebackers may appear less risky than quarterbacks, for instance, first-round picks in general have a roughly 50-percent success rate. Indeed, part of the Bears’ defensive difficulties of the past couple years trace in a small measure to one of those misses.

Examples: 2011 vs. 2012

The 2011 draft proved rich in the kind of rush-linebacker/end that the Bears and other 3-4 teams covet: Von Miller (to Fox and the Denver Broncos), Aldon Smith (to Vic Fangio and the San Francisco 49ers), J.J. Watt, Ryan Kerrigan, Adrian Clayborn, Cameron Jordan (to Pace and the New Orleans Saints).

All went within the first 24 picks of the draft and all but Clayborn already have been selected for at least one Pro Bowl.

[MORE: Bears CB Draft Preview: Competition coming for Tim Jennings]

But in 2012, another year with a supposed cluster of elite edge rushers, the results were distinctly less glittering. The run on them started at No. 15 with the Seattle Seahawks:

Bruce Irvin. Quinton Coples. Melvin Ingram. Shea McClellin. Chandler Jones. Whitney Mercilus. Dont’a Hightower. Nick Perry. All in the first round. Within the first six picks of the second round: Courtney Upshaw. Andre Branch.

Not one has been to a Pro Bowl.

Jones has been the class of the class, with seasons of 6-11.5-6 sacks. Irvin and Coples each has 16.5 sacks over their three seasons. Irvin and Jones have Super Bowl rings.

But McClellin, Perry, Branch and Upshaw have been major disappointments for teams that made them priority picks expressly to upgrade pass rushes. The Bears are not expected to pick up the fifth-year option on McClellin’s rookie contract, nor are the Packers with Perry’s.

Make no mistake…

The best linebackers in the 2012 draft class were inside linebackers: Luke Kuechly to Carolina, Bobby Wagner to Seattle, both Pro Bowl honorees.

But most edge linebackers chosen with No. 1 picks have a hierarchy of skill sets, and the 2015 group will be measured by it as well:

“Pass rush is the first thing that comes to mind,” Pace said. “Edge speed. The ability to hit the quarterback. And then also the ability to set the edge and get off a block. But pass rush is the number one priority.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up for the draft, Bears fans!]

The Denver Broncos chose a front-seven defensive player in with their first pick in the first three drafts while Fox was their head coach and a cornerback last year. As to whether he sees that pattern continuing in Chicago, Fox deadpanned at last month’s NFL owner’s meetings:

 “I think we’ll let you know in late April.” 

David Montgomery on list of players poised for 2nd-year breakout

David Montgomery on list of players poised for 2nd-year breakout

Bears running back David Montgomery began his rookie season with a lot of hype. Probably too much hype, to be honest.

It began with his strong training camp performance and continued through the preseason, especially after his dazzling opener against the Carolina Panthers when he totaled 46 yards and a touchdown on just six touches.

And while his regular season wasn't a complete disappointment, it did fall short of those summer expectations. He finished the year with 242 carries for 889 yards and six touchdowns (3.7 yards per carry). At times, he looked like a player who could put the Bears' offense on his back. At other times, he looked like a typical rookie running back who danced too much behind the line of scrimmage.

There was more good than bad, however, and it's because of those good moments that Montgomery is considered one of next season's second-year players poised to breakout.

Montgomery averaged a solid 4.3 yards per carry in the final five weeks of the regular season, which is a sign the 22-year-old finally became acclimated to the NFL game. 

Another promising sign? Only a handful of running backs broke more tackles than Montgomery, who lacks the home run speed to consistently pull away after contact but should become more of a volume rusher after head coach Matt Nagy spends an offseason creating more opportunities for one of his best offensive weapons. 

It's hard to imagine a player with Montgomery's talent won't explode, especially if he's better supported by an offense that was a mess and fourth-worst overall in 2019. 

Montgomery was at least partially victimized by a sub-par offensive line and a passing game that never quite found its rhythm. Opposing defenses dared the Bears to throw the ball; Montgomery was fighting an uphill battle each and every week.

The Bears will make every effort to upgrade the offensive line as well as add a legitimate pass-catching tight end who can loosen up the second-level of the defense. If that happens, Montgomery will have more room to run and is a safe bet to eclipse 1,200 rushing yards, assuming he gets the touches he deserves. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.

    Allen Robinson is making his feelings on the proposed CBA abundantly clear

    arob.jpg
    USA Today

    Allen Robinson is making his feelings on the proposed CBA abundantly clear

    Allen Robinson does not have time for this nonsense. 

    Robinson, who's actually quite the vociferous tweeter, Logged On a few weeks back and gang, he hasn't Logged Off since. Since the very beginning, he's remained perfectly clear about where he lies re: the proposed Collective Bargaining Agreement that may, or may not, be close to ratification. It started back on Feb. 20: 

    Weird, it's almost like players aren't responding to the idea that owners could cap game checks at an arbitrary (and low) number without any sort of publicly-made reasoning behind it! Love to be paid less than usual for more work. LOVE IT. 

    He then RT'd Richard Sherman, who was RT'ing JJ Watt: 

    Our large, athletic, labor-focused sons are all grown up! Allen wasn't done though. A few days later, he hit 'em with some 1st Team All-Pro sarcasm:

    Trying to split players on issues while alienating the NFL's working class against the stars definitely doesn't sound like something a group of team owners would try and do, right? Surely these billionaires understand how much money they already have and wouldn't jeopardize their work force's safety just for one more Sunday afternoon of beer sales? Oh they would? Unabashedly? Ah. Well while we're here, anything else on your mind, Allen? 

    Hell yes. Hell yes Allen. The most damning tweet of all may have come a few days ago, though: 

    Hot cakes Allen! Hot cakes! 

    Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.