Bears

Moon: Bears need Packers' draft success

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Moon: Bears need Packers' draft success

Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011
Posted 3:32 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

As the 2011 draft stands right now, the Bears dont go on the clock until the No. 29 pick of the first round. What they could use, after playing the Green Bay Packers three times in the span of about four months, is for some of the Packers draft good fortune to have rubbed off.

The Bears were very lucky once when Brian Urlacher fell to them at No. 9 after the Arizona Cardinals took Thomas Jones at No. 7 and the Pittsburgh Steelers opted for Plaxico Burress at No. 8. Both teams had Urlacher in their final three at those spots and chose offense.

The Packers were down at No. 24 in the 2005 draft, long after the Bears chose Cedric Benson at No. 5, and had to wait and settle for what was left. What was left turned out to be Aaron Rodgers.

And yes, they were surprised, GM Ted Thompson admits.

We talk about that locally a lot, Thompson said during a media session in Dallas Thursday. We didnt spend a lot of time studying Aaron up until about a week or 10 days before the draft, because wed always assumed that he was going to go pretty high.

Then the rumors started flying that he might be dropping, not because people didnt like him as a player, but because people werent in the position to take a quarterback in the first round.

Could it happen for the Bears? Absolutely. Somewhere in every draft are nuggets deep into the first round and beyond. To wit:

T Bryan Bulaga, 23rd, 2010
LB Clay Matthews, 26th, 2009
WR Jordy Nelson, 36th, 2008
G Daryn Colledge, 47th, 2006
WR Greg Jennings, 52nd, 2006
LB Nick Barnett, 29th, 2003
T Chad Clifton, 44th, 2000.

Throw in Rodgers, another 20s find, along with LB A.J. Hawk (5th, 2006) and DT B.J. Raji (9th, 2009), and you have might have something.

Like a Super Bowl team.

New kid

The Bears filled their staff vacancy for defensive line coach almost as fast as they did the one for special-teams assistant, where Kevin ODea was in place about the same time as Chris Tabor was taking over special teams for the Cleveland Browns.

Mike Phair has been hired as D-line coach. Call it part of the Ruskell Connection, with Phair formerly with the Seattle Seahawks in several capacities during the time Tim Ruskell was president of the Seahawks. Phair previously was a scout with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, also working for Ruskell.

No surprise

A report in Thursdays Sun-Times confirming what Lovie Smith said after the loss to Green Bay, that quarterback Jay Cutler got a shot and received treatment at halftime for his injured knee, shouldnt elicit surprise. What is surprising is that anyone still would find something to blast Cutler for in that game other than his performance.

Cutler went back in the game and tried for one series to play. That somehow seems to be overlooked constantly. It shouldnt be.

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.

Three questions for Bears ILBs: What kind of an impact will Roquan Smith make?

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USA TODAY

Three questions for Bears ILBs: What kind of an impact will Roquan Smith make?

Pre-camp depth chart

1. Danny Trevathan
2. John Timu
3. Joel Iyiegbuniwe

1. Roquan Smith
2. Nick Kwiatkoski
3. Jonathan Anderson

1. How good can Roquan Smith be?

Making sweeping observations from shorts-and-helmets practices in OTAs is often a fool’s errand, but Smith looked the part while running around the practice fields of Halas Hall after being drafted in April. His quickness and instinctiveness stood out — as they did at Georgia — and his football intelligence and work ethic were praised by coaches and teammates. 

“He’s learning well,” Trevathan said. “He’s doing a good job of learning. He’s learning the little things that you need to learn in this defense. Now it’s all about putting on a show and going out there and rocking.”

And that’s what’s going to be fun to watch in Bourbonnais: How does Smith play with the pads on? Chances are, the answer to that question will be “well,” setting the eighth overall pick on a path to being a mainstay of this defense for years to come. 

That’s not to say Smith doesn’t have plenty on which to work during training camp. But he left Georgia as a sort of “safe bet” in the draft, and nothing he’s done to this point has changed the view of him that he’s likely going to be a good one. 

2. Can Danny Trevathan stay healthy?

In terms of size and athleticism, Trevathan and Smith profile similar to NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis, the inside linebacking tandem that was the spine of the San Francisco 49ers defense during Fangio’s time there. But for Trevathan and Smith to reach that lofty bar — or even to come close to it — Trevathan needs to be more available than he was his first two years with the Bears.

This isn’t questioning Trevathan’s toughness — far from it. That he returned for Week 1 of the 2017 season 10 months after rupturing his patellar tending (an injury that can be a career-ender) was impressive, and that he was immediately productive upon returning was even more extraordinary. But Trevathan missed three games in November due to a strained calf, and coupled with a one-game suspension and the seven games he missed in 2016, the 28-year-old has only played in 21 of 32 games since signing with the Bears. 

Trevathan is confident he can improve his production in 2018, given he wasn’t able to participate in last year’s offseason program practices. He’s entering his third year in Fangio’s defense and feels better prepared after going through OTAs and minicamps this year. It’s just now about him staying on the field to make sure that work pays off.

“I’m more comfortable with this defense, I’m more comfortable with the guys and the calls that we make,” Trevathan said. “I take pride in being correct and working my tail off and making the defense better. And the more that I can be out there — which I plan on being out there a lot — it’s going to help us tremendously.” 

3. How big a role will Nick Kwiatkoski have?

The Bears didn’t draft Smith because they felt like they absolutely needed to upgrade over Kwiatkoski, who’s acquitted himself well in 25 games since being picked in the fourth round of the 2016 draft. But Kwiatkoski has dealt with some injury issues, and for as solid a player as he may be, the Bears’ defense needed (and still needs) more great players. Drafting Smith gave the Bears a shot at adding a great player.

It also leaves Kwiatkoski in the same spot he was in a year ago, when the Bears entered the 2017 season with Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman as their unquestioned starting inside linebackers. Smith still has to earn that starting spot, but the safe bet is he will, relegating Kwiatkoski again to reserve duties.

And that’s a positive for the overall health of this defense, having a player good enough to start ready to play if needed. But it also raises this question: What do the Bears do with Kwiatkoski if he’s one of their four best linebackers, but isn’t one of their two best inside linebackers? 

So for the purposes of watching training camp practices, seeing if Kwiatkoski gets any reps at outside linebacker will be an interesting storyline to follow. 

Bears shutout in poll of NFL's best starters under 25

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USA Today

Bears shutout in poll of NFL's best starters under 25

Maybe this is what happens when a team is coming off a 5-11 season and has won only 14 games over three years. Maybe it's just another example of the Chicago Bears being overlooked and underrated. Regardless of the 'why,' a recent poll of NFL experts has provided more fuel for the Bears in 2018.

ESPN's Field Yates asked 43 insiders and former players for their list of the top under-25-year-old starters in the NFL and not a single Chicago Bear made the cut.

No Jordan Howard. No Mitchell Trubisky. No Allen Robinson.

Not a single Bear.

The most shocking omission is Howard, who finished second in the NFL in rushing in 2016 and sixth last year despite facing defenses that focused their entire game plan on stopping him every single week. At only 23 years old, he's clearly one of the top young running backs in the NFL and warranted a spot on this list. 

Instead, the Rams' Todd Gurley, Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott and Giants rookie Saquon Barkley got the nod.

Howard has more rushing yards than Gurley over the last two seasons and trails Elliott by only 179. Barkley has yet to take a snap in the NFL.

The Bears were recently named the most underrated team in the league heading into 2018 and this is just another piece of evidence justifying that claim. A winning season will change the national perception of players like Howard, who with another year of high-end production should find himself at or near the top of many of these lists next offseason.