Bears

Layers of learning process begin for Bears' rookie Adam Shaheen

Layers of learning process begin for Bears' rookie Adam Shaheen

Bears second round rookie Adam Shaheen is big, has had big expectations placed on him with that draft status, and has learned the hard way how to be a big boy, facing up to mistakes.

The 6-foot-6, 277-pound tight end from Division II Ashland admits in the two weeks since becoming the 45th overall pick, he's had to pretty much keep his head from spinning off his neck. It came full circle when walking into Halas Hall Thursday to report to rookie minicamp.

"I'm nervous, obviously. It's to be expected," Shaheen said Saturday, not referring to the four- or five-person press conferences in college he became used to, rather the magnitude of the building, the franchise, the league. "I'm just real excited to be here and make the best of my opportunity."

The former basketball player has hung up those shoes after getting the itch to return to football taking in a Wisconsin-Ohio State football game in Columbus a few years back. But he's still a loyal NBA watcher, as he and roommate Mitch Trubisky did at their hotel to wind down from the first day of minicamp.

Sorry, guys. He's a Cavs fan.

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With the little time he's spent with Trubisky, he sees some of the same signs his bosses apparently saw:  "The demeanor in which he carries himself.  As well as back home he's in the books really trying to learn and develop himself as a starter."

And, oh, that nearby hotel they're staying in? There's a Chipotle right across the street about one light down. That restaurant was Shaheen's "go-to" place in packing on 90  pounds post-hoops, to get where he is today, with some discipline and workouts.

And he has a "go-to" meal there:

"I get a burrito with extra, extra white rice. And then double the chicken, which you've got to tell them because with one scoop of chicken they try to mix it in and you won't get as much. Then just a little corn."

Yes, he's gone there the first two nights in town. And it's a burrito. Not a burrito bowl. But as for the "extra, extra white rice..."

People who'd learned about Shaheen's Twitter history became aware of one, say, less-than-complimentary post several years ago about President Barack Obama. So when the Chipotle recipe was relayed as he spoke Saturday, snark responses followed.

"I know exactly what you're talking about," Shaheen said when broached on the subject. "I was a dumb teenager. If I had the maturity I do now, I would have discovered there could be some potential problems. I would have understood.

"One of my buddies went, 'Hey, man, this is blowing up. (I'm) gonna have to delete that.' Then I went through all of them. I was, like, 'Wow'...just completely...I was a high schooler."

Just another part of the professional playbook the 22-year-old is beginning to absorb.

The Bears are getting a different type of nickel cornerback in Buster Skrine

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USA Today

The Bears are getting a different type of nickel cornerback in Buster Skrine

When the Bears’ defense takes the field against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers on Opening Night, they’ll be returning 9 of the 11 starters that were part of a 2018 squad that was one of the best in Bears’ history. 

One of the few new faces that figure to be among the starting 11 is cornerback Buster Skrine. Gone is Bryce Callahan, who left for Vic Fangio’s Denver team after spending the first four years of his career in Chicago. Though Bears’ scouts have had their eye on Skrine for a few seasons now, it was his more palatable three-year, $16.5 million contract -- compared to Callahan’s three-year, $21 million contract -- that finally got him in house. 

“Me and Buster came out the exact same year, and I’ve watched him,” Prince Amukamara said after OTAs on Wednesday afternoon. “He actually played with my best friend and he would always talk about how fast Buster is -- especially when Buster played gunner. 

“I’ve always watched him, and I feel like he’s very similar to Bryce [Callahan] by being quick and being active. I’m definitely happy with the pick up.” 

Once considered a spot to place the third-best, less-athletic cornerback, no position has seen it's value increase so dramatically over the last decade. Offenses are changing dramatically; no team saw more three receiver sets in 2018 than the Bears’ defense. Per Sharp Stats, opposing offenses lined up in 11 personnel against Chicago 78% of the time. The next closest was the Chiefs at 71%, and the NFL average is 65%. 

“I think nickel is a different ball game,” Amukamara added. “I would say it can be one of the hardest positions on the field, just because you’re on an island, but the receiver has so much room to work with. Plus, it’s a lot of mental gymnastics, so you’ve got to know when you’re blitzing, know when you’re running, and so we put a lot on our nickel.” 

Despite not being considered part of a what teams have traditionally considered base defense, the pass-happy nature of this era in the NFL has all but mandated that nickel corners are on the field for most of the defensive snaps. It’s no coincidence that before breaking his foot against the Rams in Week 12, Callahan was on pace to set a career-high in snap percentage. 

“Nowadays, you see a lot more sub packages,” Bears defensive backs coach Deshea Townsend said. “You’re probably playing 70% in sub during a game now… Otherwise, it hasn’t really changed - he just plays more. That’s the thing - he is technically a starter. He’s probably going to run on the field first in a lot of games, and by rule that’s a starter.

“One thing about the nickel position is that you’ve got to do a little bit of both. You can’t just go out on 3rd down and cover and run the option routes. Now they’re going to hand off the ball and find out where you’re at and you’re going to have to make a tackle. That’s the difference in the position now - it’s a first and second down type of guy that has to be able to do it all.”

While Skrine isn’t considered as good a cover corner as Callahan, Skrine’s pass rush and run defense looks pretty similar. Per Pro Football Focus, Skrine’s run defense graded out significantly higher (80.7) than Callahan’s (57.8). 

“With Buster, it’s about his playing experience,” Townsend added. “He’s a guy who will mix it up in the run. He can blitz, and he’s reliable. He’s tough.”

Brian Urlacher misses Top 10 of all-time Bears list

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AP

Brian Urlacher misses Top 10 of all-time Bears list

Brian Urlacher played his way into the pantheon of Bears linebackers and the Hall of Fame over his 13-year career in Chicago, leaving no question he belongs among the all-time greats.

Where he stacks up with the best of the best in team history is still up for debate.

Hall of Fame writers Dan Pompei and Don Pierson ranked the top 100 players in franchise history for the team’s official site, and Urlacher fell outside of the top 10.

Urlacher came in one spot ahead of fellow legendary linebacker Mike Singletary, but the greats of pre-merger era earned many of the top spots on the list.

Dick Butkus came in second to only Walter Payton, while old school legends Bill George and Bulldog Turner ranked seventh and eighth, respectively.

It’s difficult to compare linebackers that played 50 years apart, especially when stacking them up with players at other positions.

Urlacher is still near the top of the list of the best Bears ever. They just have so many all-time greats, the likes of Dan Hampton, Richard Dent and Jimbo Covert just don’t have a spot in the top 10.

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