Bears

J.T. Thomas draft capsule

J.T. Thomas draft capsule

J.T. Thomas, Linebacker
Height: 6-2 Weight: 225 College: West Suburban
What they say about Thomas

CBSSports.com

Overview

Thomas' career nearly ended the way it began -- accompanied by injury. Two games into his true freshman season, a lingering ankle sprain earned him a medical redshirt. Then, during summer camp before his senior year, he succumbed to a minor neck ailment. But Thomas came back quickly to earn first-team All-Big East accolades this fall, making 73 tackles, seven for loss, 2.5 sacks, four pass break-ups and two forced fumbles.

In between his first and final seasons, Thomas played in all but three games, bringing home multiple team honors for his hard work and high effort during practice and on Saturdays. He started all 13 games for the Mountaineers as a junior, racking up 76 tackles and seven passes defended. Those marks helped him earn coaches' vote on their all-conference first team.

The productive linebacker has his work cut out for him to become an NFL starter. He's an intense player with natural athleticism but his lack of size and marginal instincts make a him a mid-to-late round prospect likely forced to settle for a special teams role, at least early in his career.
Analysis

Positives: A high-motor, full-effort linebacker who will throw himself into contact with reckless abandon. Flies around the field and uses above-average athleticism to recover from mistakes and track down ball carriers from the backside. Takes smart angles to the football and wraps up on contact, making sure tackles to prevent additional yards after the catch. Is relentless fighting off blocks and never gives up on a play. Has some natural fluidity and smoothness in his hips and possesses above-average straight-line speed. Shows the ability to sidestep blockers and can get upfield in a hurry when asked to rush the passer.

Negatives: Has loads of experience, but has not honed his instincts through extended playing time. Often misdiagnoses plays and flies up to defend the run on play-action passes. Will get caught peeking into the backfield or incorrectly anticipating routes. Loses control and has a habit of running himself out of the play while looking for the highlight hit. Is undersized and does not possess the frame to add weight without sacrificing speed. Can be washed at the point of attack by stronger blockers and often allows offensive linemen into his frame. Gets lost in zone coverage consistently and guesses all too often instead of making reads and watching runpass keys. Has a slight injury history and violent style of play will only lead to more ailments at his current build.
Pro Football Weekly

Notes: Prepped in Florida before redshirting in 2006 was bothered by an ankle sprain, though did earn Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year recognition. Arrested in August 07 for transferring and receiving stolen property (laptop), although charges were dropped upon completion of a diversion program. A reserve in the fall, tallied 19 tackles, three for loss and zero sacks in 10 games. Started all 39 games at weak-side linebacker his final three seasons totaled 65-10-3 with three pass breakups, two forced fumbles and a blocked kick in 08; tallied 76-7- with five pass breakups and two interceptions in 09; had 73-7-2 with four pass breakups and two forced fumbles in 10. Dealt with neck pain during 10 spring practice and fall camp. Team captain.

Positives: Good speed, athletic ability and hip flexibility. Nice agility to slip and avoid blocks. Chases hard and ranges to the sideline. Good coverage instincts blankets a lot of ground. Tough, blue-collar worker who will play hurt. Vocal on-field leader. Durable, three-year starter with special-teams experience. Good work ethic.

Negatives: Has very short arms and marginal take-on strength. Lacks bulk strength and struggles to provide resistance against the run engulfed by larger blockers. Not explosive. Average change of direction and closing burst. Recorded only a 30-inch vertical jump, the lowest of any outside linebacker at the Combine. Character needs to be evaluated.

Summary: Average-sized, athletic, run-and-hit weak-side linebacker who would be best protected and free to roam in a fast-flowing 40 front. Will have to prove his worth on special teams.

NFL projection: Priority free agent.

Akiem Hicks reveals what makes him so good against the run

Akiem Hicks reveals what makes him so good against the run

Akiem Hicks finally earned the recognition he deserved in 2018 with his first trip to the Pro Bowl, and playing on the NFL’s No. 1 defense provided the national attention he should have received in his first two years with the Bears.

He’s a solid interior pass rusher, but where he dominates is in run defense, leading the NFL in run stops last season according to Pro Football Focus.

When Hicks beats an offensive lineman at the line of scrimmage to make a big tackle in the backfield, it’s a work of art, and he revealed the secret to those flashy plays on NFL Game Pass.

He broke down the film of a play against the Green Bay Packers where he beats center Corey Linsley because he knew right guard Jordan McCray was going to pull to the left.

“I read it before the snap happens. I know that McCray is going to pull just based off his stance,” Hicks said. “I know his stance for every play that he’s going to do. I’m going to be at least 75 percent right.”

Hicks looks at how much weight an offensive lineman is putting on his hand, how far apart his legs are and how much bend is in his hips.

“If you do your due-diligence as a defensive lineman and prepare like a professional during the week, you’re going to know,” Hicks said.

Any little deviation from a normal stance is an indicator to Hicks of what the play is going to be, and that pre-snap knowledge keeps him a step ahead of the blocker in front of him.

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Vegas sets Mitchell Trubisky’s pass TD total at 26.5

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USA TODAY

Vegas sets Mitchell Trubisky’s pass TD total at 26.5

If Mitchell Trubisky has the kind of break out year in his second season under Matt Nagy that Bears fans are hoping for, he should have no problem cashing an OVER 26.5 passing TDs ticket for bettors who want to back him.

Per Bet Chicago, Caesars is rolling out division props and they set Trubisky’s touchdown pass total for 2019 at 26.5 and his pass yard total at 3,744.5.

While both those marks would be career highs for Trubisky, this number will surely be seen as a slight by the hometown fans and continue to add to the polarizing nature of the quarterback formerly known as the Pretty Boy Assassin.

In Chicago, and if you’re team Mitch, this number is ridiculously low and you’re probably already pounding the over.

Outside of Chicago, and with some analytical support, there’s a lot of doubt about Trubisky’s future as a viable option as an NFL starter, so I’d guess the Pro Football Focus crowd is probably gonna take the under.

We rolled out some props of our own on the Under Center podcast last week including:

Will Mitch Trubisky pass for 10 or more touchdowns than Craig Kimbrel has saves? (Including playoffs for both)

26.5 regular season passing touchdowns probably gives Kimbrel the edge, but it’s right in range. 

And that Trubisky – Kimbrel prop prompted this bold response from our own Bears insider JJ Stankevitz:

I don’t think I’m in the 40 club with my guy JJ, but the OVER certainly feels like the move here. At least it better be if the Bears are gonna make any sort of NFC North title defense.