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Kickoff changes would reflect reversal of trend

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Kickoff changes would reflect reversal of trend

Friday, March 18, 2011
Posted: 10:07 a.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

If youd like a vague feel-good about the prospects for a 2011 NFL season, heres one ( a little one): The NFL is proceeding with rules changes just like they always do this time of year when there is a season looming.

This is the normal time that rules would be passed, Mike Pereira said Friday on The Dan Patrick Show on Comcast SportsNet. NFL owners have got to look as business-as-usual going forward.

Pereira, formerly the NFLs vice president of officiating and now one of the top rules analysts in the game in his post with FOXSports, does think the rules affecting kickoffs and kickoff returns in particular will pass. But they do reflect a near-reversal of a previous trend for the league.

Kickoffs, once moved back to the 30-yard line to increase the number of returns, now would be moved to the 35 to cut down on them. Touchbacks would be brought out to the 25-yard line instead of the 20, providing a five-yard incentive to take a knee.

And coverage teams will be limited to a five-yard running start, which might be the biggest change in terms of physics. Force is equal to mass times speed-squared, so if you trim some speed at the front end, you reduce the potential impact at the other end. Throw in a total ban on wedge-blocking of any kind and you have at least theoretically dialed down the chance for injuries on coverage teams, which in fact do suffer more of them than the receiving team.

Its got to be clearly for safety, Mike said. This is a complete shift for the competition committee. Now they are clearly going to take the returnout of the game.

Dan asked Mike if in fact you can make kickoffs safe. You cant make it safe, Mike explained. You can slow it down.

The 25-yard-line provision seemed to Mike to be the one to watch. The average return of a kickoff is 22.5 yards, he said, so If you catch a ball in the end zone, guess what Youre going to take a knee and get the ball at the 25.

Mike cited players like Devin Hester, for whom the Bears gave a No. 2 draft choice (2006). And a valid question is how much teams will value returners now.

Mike suggested a very simple reason why he sees the measures passing when they come to a vote at the upcoming meetings in New Orleans. Owners traditionally do not vote against safety proposals, he said.

The Charles Johnson Rule, where a catch must be clearly completed to be a catch, will not be revised, although itd be nice to get the rules consistent with how everyone visualizes the game, Mike concluded.

Ooops

A pretty good day for the Moon Bracket, except for one huge setback. Youd think that a school that gave the Bears about 10 percent of their roster would be a little kinder to a Chicago guy but Vanderbilt took the pipe against Richmond, and I had the Commoduds all the way through to the Elite Eight. Ooooops.

But Butler took care of Old Dominion, which was nice, and Gonzaga handled St. Johns, which was very nice. So Ive got 15 of my final 16 still doing business but I do need Texas A&M to dispatch Notre Dame a round from now.

See the things you pay close attention to when theres no NFL to speak (or write) of some days?

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

Is Marcus Mariota the most logical QB target for the Bears?

Is Marcus Mariota the most logical QB target for the Bears?

Chicago Bears fans are sick and tired of the quarterback conversation surrounding this team as we enter the most important two month stretch of the offseason. My Twitter timeline (and vicious replies) are evidence of that. 

Duly noted.

That said, it's an unavoidable truth that GM Ryan Pace has no choice but to do something at quarterback in free agency or the NFL Draft. The most diehard Mitch Trubisky fan has to admit that. The former second overall pick hasn't developed into a franchise player through three seasons under center, and while the optimist would argue there's still time for him to become that guy, the realist is who must prevail when it comes to roster construction.

Marcus Mariota may be the perfect compromise. He doesn't have a resume that will immediately threaten Trubisky in 2020, but his sneaky upside combined with his youth and overall skill set is an ideal combination that could make him a long-term answer if Trubisky fails in the short-term.

According to Sports Illustrated, Chicago -- and coach Matt Nagy -- would be an ideal destination for Mariota, even if there's an inherent conflict of interest because both Mariota and Trubisky are represented by the same agent.

There are coaches out there—cough, Chicago, cough—who could slide him in easily under the guise that Mariota is a high-quality backup and develop him into a weapon under center who could take over when the starter falters.

Mariota, like Trubisky, hasn't lived up to the hype that he entered the NFL with back in 2015 when he was the second overall pick of the Titans. He's logged 61 starts and a career record of 29-32. He's completed just under 63% of his 1,110 career pass attempts and has 76 touchdown passes to 44 interceptions.

His stat sheet isn't impressive. His on-field play, at times, hasn't been, either. But he'd be an ideal reclamation project that the Bears can sell as the perfect backup even if the hope is for him to emerge as a starter.

There’s an advantage for QB-needy teams here who don’t want to deal with the public courting of Tom Brady, who don’t want to sacrifice mobility by signing Philip Rivers, who don’t want to roll the dice on every snap by signing Jameis Winston, and who don’t have the trade capital or cap space to go after someone like Nick Foles or Derek Carr.

Chicago won't be able to get into a bidding war for the bigger names like Tom Brady or even Teddy Bridgewater because of their limited cap space. Mariota won't command nearly as much to sign, and he's likely to get nothing more than a one-year commitment from a team hoping he can be like the guy who replaced him, Ryan Tannehill.

Of all the quarterbacks who've been pegged as a possible option for the Bears, Mariota feels like the most logical and, more importantly, cheaper targets who realistically could be lining up as the Chicago's starter by Week 4 of the 2020 season.

Bears should pay close attention to TE Cole Kmet at NFL Combine

Bears should pay close attention to TE Cole Kmet at NFL Combine

The 2020 NFL Combine kicks off on February 23, and the Bears will be one of 32 teams in attendance poking and prodding the 337 prospects who will try to run, jump and lift their way to a higher NFL draft grade.

General manager Ryan Pace will do his due diligence on all the players participating, but the Bears are without a first-round pick (again) and as a result, Pace's focus will be tailored to the cluster of prospects who are most likely to slide into Day 2. Chicago has two second-rounders and can upgrade the roster with two potential starters.

One player who should be at or near the top of the Bears' wish list is Notre Dame tight end Cole Kmet. According to former NFL general manager Charley Casserly, Kmet would be a perfect fit for Chicago in the second round and the prospect they should pay the closest attention to at the combine.

The Bears' biggest need on offense is tight end. There are several guys who would fit well in Matt Nagy's scheme, including Purdue's Brycen Hopkins, but why not aim for the best TE in his class in Kmet?

Kmet certainly checks most of the boxes for an NFL starting tight end. He ended 2019 with 43 receptions for 515 yards and six touchdowns, numbers that aren't a true reflection of his upside as a receiver in the pros. He'll be a classic case of a player who has a more productive NFL career than he had in college.  He's a good athlete who has upside as an inline blocker, too, even though he needs to get stronger to be a truly reliable player in the run game.

Even with some of the deficiencies in Kmet's game, he'd be a massive upgrade over the tight ends currently on the Bears roster like Trey Burton, Adam Shaheen and Jesper Horsted. He's a virtual lock to come off the board in the second round, so if Pace wants him in Chicago next season, he won't be able to wait long to draft him. In fact, it could require using the Bears' first pick -- No. 43 overall -- to lock him up.