Bears

Jamal Adams argues why safeties deserve a top pick, could Bears think the same way too?

Jamal Adams argues why safeties deserve a top pick, could Bears think the same way too?

INDIANAPOLIS -- The 2017 NFL Draft class is loaded with defensive backs, which certainly is good news for a Bears team needing a boost to its secondary. 

What direction the Bears take in the draft will first be determined by free agency, which begins March 9 and features the likes of A.J. Bouye (cornerback from Houston), Stephone Gilmore (cornerback from Buffalo) and Tony Jefferson (safety from Arizona). But whatever direction the Bears do take on the open market to address their secondary, it'll can also be augmented through the draft in April. 

The thought here is that a dependable starting cornerback or safety could be found as late as the third or even fourth round. But could the Bears' plan go beyond that depth and include drafting a safety with the team's highest draft pick in over 40 years?

LSU safety Jamal Adams doesn't see why not. 

"The game is changing," Adams said Sunday at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. "You need safeties that can do everything in the back end, can cover, can make the calls, can tackle and just doing what the coaches are asking them to do." 

Finding a transformational talent is the goal when a team is picking in the top five, but generally speaking, those players usually come from one of three positions: Quarterback, tackle and edge rusher/defensive end. And that makes sense: Teams generally look for a quarterback, someone to protect a quarterback or someone to disrupt an opposing quarterback. Only seventeen of the last 50 top-five picks have come from positions other than QB/T/EDGE/DE (a number which includes menacing defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh, Marcell Dareus and Gerald McCoy). 

But one of the things Bears coach John Fox said he wants out of a quarterback (someone who "raises all boats") could apply to a safety, too. If someone with the pure talent and football skill of Adams or Ohio State's Malik Hooker (who isn't participating in on-field drills due to surgery in January to repair a torn labrum in his hip and a sports hernia) were able to raise the level of play of everyone around him at Halas Hall, that could make them worthy of such a high pick. 

So if the Bears leave Indianapolis blown away by Adams or Hooker, and that player is at the top of their big board and available at No. 3, why not go with him?

"I definitely feel like I should be the No. 1 pick," Adams said. "Top five, that's definitely in the range."

How the new kickoff rule may impact the Bears

How the new kickoff rule may impact the Bears

NFL owners voted for sweeping changes to the kickoff play Tuesday, a decision that presents a new challenge for Bears special teams coach Chris Tabor.

Player safety was the focus of the rule change. Collisions will be reduced and the play will look more like a punt than the traditional kickoff fans have become used to. Here's a breakdown of what's coming in 2018:

With less contact and physicality in the play, Tabor's game planning will be tested. Kickoffs won't require as many power players like the ones traditionally seen in the wedge block. Skill players like receivers, running backs and tight ends could be viewed as more valuable special teams pieces, as was suggested by NFL Network's Bucky Brooks.

Tarik Cohen could become even more lethal under the new rules. If kick returners end up with more space to navigate, Cohen will improve on the 583 return yards he managed as a rookie. He'll conjure memories of the recently retired Devin Hester.

The ability to contribute on special teams is critically important for players on the roster bubble. It'll be interesting to see if the Bears apply the approach suggested by Brooks. If they do, undrafted players like Matt Fleming and John Franklin III suddenly have more value and a better chance to make the team. 

For a complete breakdown of the new kickoff rule, click here.

Charles Leno dubbed Bears' best-kept secret

Charles Leno dubbed Bears' best-kept secret

Chicago Bears left tackle Charles Leno, Jr. deserves a lot of credit. After starting his career as a seventh-round pick and something of a longshot to ever earn a starting job, he's become an irreplaceable fixture at the most important position along the offensive line.

The four-year, $38 million contract extension he signed last offseason is evidence of that.

Despite his value to the Bears, Leno is still somewhat underrated across league circles. That may be about to change.

Leno was recently named Chicago's best-kept secret.

Leno has consistently improved as a pass protector since he was drafted in the seventh round in 2014 and is now one of the team's top 10 players. If he hit the open market, Leno might be a $60 million player with the way the offensive line market is exploding. Over the next four years, the Bears should save about $20 million on the market price for their starting-caliber left tackle.

Leno has enjoyed steady improvement since his rookie season. His grades from Pro Football Focus reflect that: 53.6 (2014), 56.3 (2015), 71.2 (2016) and 80.4 (2017). 

The Bears' offensive line is poised for a big season in 2018. Leno and Bobby Massie are back as starters at tackle. Rookie second-round pick James Daniels will pair with Kyle Long at guard and third-year pro, Cody Whitehair, will get back to focusing on being the team's starting center.

If Leno's trend of improved play continues, he's a great candidate to go from best-kept secret to league star in 2018.