Bears

Jonathan Allen not shouldering health concerns at NFL Combine

Jonathan Allen not shouldering health concerns at NFL Combine

INDIANAPOLIS — An NFL Network report this week threw at least a temporary wrench in the thought that Jonathan Allen would be a top-five pick, with word getting out that the Alabama defensive lineman has arthritis in his shoulders. 

While the report from Ian Rapoport described the arthritis as "moderate" in his left shoulder and "mild" in his right shoulder, Allen on Saturday said he doesn't have any medical restrictions and doesn't believe those issues will impact his pro career. 

"The shoulder feels good," Allen said. "Every doctor said if there's a problem, it's after football, way after football. I have no concerns with it at all."

Added Allen: "It's probably the best I've felt in the last four years. I feel good, refreshed, re-charged, ready to go."

If what Allen said publicly fits with what teams discover during extensive medical evaluations of him this week in Indianapolis, it'll quickly buff away any dings to the 6-foot-3, 286 pounder's draft stock. 

Pro Football Focus rates Allen as the second-best player in the 2017 draft, only behind Texas A&M's Myles Garrett, and is in play for the Bears at No. 3. Allen notched 16 tackles for a loss and 10 1/2 sacks in his senior year at Alabama. 

"I feel like I'm mentally prepared for whatever happens," Allen said. "At Alabama it's definitely not the easiest thing to do for four years. I feel like coach (Nick) Saban has prepared me really well for this opportunity and I plan take advantage of it."

Chicago Bears 53-man roster projection

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USA Today

Chicago Bears 53-man roster projection

Chicago Bears training camp practices officially get underway Friday, kicking off a time of year when players fight for starting jobs and roster spots. 

The Bears are entering an exciting time. New coach Matt Nagy has brought hope and optimism with him to Chicago while quarterback Mitch Trubisky has embraced his leadership role like a seasoned veteran.

But all the positive press is now in the past; it's time to get back to the action on the field. GM Ryan Pace will have some tough decisions to make later next month and every rep of every practice will factor into who makes the cut for the final 53-man roster.

Here's my first swing at who should make the squad. I'll be updating this projection before Week 3's preseason game against the Chiefs and again before the Week 4 finale against the Bills (note: Hall of Fame game is excluded from preseason weekly schedule).

START CHICAGO BEARS 53-MAN ROSTER PROJECTION

Bears could develop 'twin towers' personnel package at WR with Robinson, White

Bears could develop 'twin towers' personnel package at WR with Robinson, White

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – Coaches are loath to give away competitive information, which can cover just about anything from play design to flavor of Gatorade dispensed by the training staff. But Matt Nagy offered an intriguing what-if personnel grouping that his offense could confront defenses with in 2018. It’s one that has been overlooked so far, for a variety of reasons.

The what-if personnel pairing is Allen Robinson and Kevin White as the outside receivers, a tandem that would put two 6-foot-3 wide receivers at the disposal of quarterback Mitch Trubisky. The Bears have not had a tandem of effective big receivers since Alshon Jeffery (6-3) and Brandon Marshall (6-4) averaged a combined 159 catches per year from 2012-14.

White’s injury history has relegated him to found-money status in many evaluations, and he has typically been running at Robinson’s spot while the latter was rehabbing this offseason from season-ending knee injury.

But Nagy on Wednesday cited Robinson’s ability to play multiple positions and clearly raised the prospect of his two of his biggest receivers being on the field at the same time.

“The one thing you’ll see here in this offense is that we have guys all over the place in different spots,” said Nagy, who credited GM Ryan Pace with stocking the roster with options at wide receiver. “Ryan did a great job of looking at these certain free agents that we went after, some of these draft picks that we went after and getting guys that are football smart, they have a high football IQ and they’re able to play multiple positions.

“When you can do that, that helps you out as an offensive playcaller to be able to move guys around. Is it going to happen to every single receiver that comes into this offense? No. But we do a pretty job I feel like at balancing of where they’re at position wise, what they can and can’t handle, and then we try to fit them into the process.”

The organization and locker room can be excused for a collective breath-holding on White, who has gone through his third straight positive offseason but whose last two seasons ended abruptly with injuries in the fourth and first games of the 2016 and 2017 seasons.

White was leading the Bears in with 19 receptions through less than four full games in 2016, then was lost with a fractured fibula suffered against Detroit. The injury was all the crueler coming in a game in which White already had been targeted nine times in 41 snaps and had caught six of those Brian Hoyer passes.

White’s roster status has been open to some question with the signings of Robinson and Taylor Gabriel together with the drafting of Anthony Miller. All represent bigger deep threats in terms of average yards per catch than White (9.2 ypc.) at this point: Robinson, 14.1.; Gabriel, 15.1; and Miller, 13.8 (college stats).

But Trubisky’s budding chemistry with White was evident throughout the offseason. And the second-year quarterback has studied what Robinson has been and seen some of what he can be.

“We know he has great hands, he’ll go up and get it,” Trubisky said. “Explosive route-runner. The more reps we get, it’s all about repetitions for us, continue to build that chemistry. Just going against our great defense in practice is going to allow us to compete and get better.”

Folding in the expectations for an expanded presence at tight end (Trey Burton), “targets” will be spread around the offense. How often the Bears go with a Robinson-White “twin towers” look clearly depends in large measure on White’s improvement as well as his availability.

Opportunities will be there. The Kansas City Chiefs ran 51 percent of their 2018 snaps, with Nagy as offensive coordinator, in “11” personnel (one back, one tight end, three receivers, according to Pro Football Focus. Whether White earns his way into that core nickel-wideout package opposite Robinson is part of what training camp and preseason will determine.

“[White] has had a good offseason and just like our team, he needs to carry that momentum into camp,” Pace said. “He’s playing with a lot of confidence right now, he’s very focused. The real expectation, just be the best he can be. Focus on himself, which is what he’s been doing.”