Bears

Moon: Emery's time is now

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Moon: Emery's time is now

The Bears and the rest of the NFL without exception have swung onto final approach for the draft that is now 2-12 weeks off.

It is the time and reason for which Phil Emery was hired as Bears general manager. This is his time. And for the Bears in their quest to catch the Green Bay Packers and get back ahead of the Detroit Lions, it has to be.

Setting draft positions aside for the moment, the Packers (Aaron Rodgers) and Lions (Matthew Stafford) landed their franchise quarterbacks in drafts. They landed their top receivers (Greg JenningsJordy Nelson; Calvin Johnson) in drafts. They secured their top defensive players (Clay Matthews, Ndamukong Suh) in drafts.

The Bears didn't have top-four picks but the misses later is why Emery is back in Lake Forest.

Continuity through free agency a first, major positive

Emerys accomplishments in the open market have been considerable. Trading for wide receiver Brandon Marshall; adding backup quarterback Jason Campbell and retaining Josh McCown; adding Michael Bush at running back; signing cornerbacks Kelvin Hayden and Jonathan Wilhite; and with the assorted Blake Costanzo, Devin Thomas and Eric Weems for special teams and ideally more.

Add to that the re-signings of Kellen Davis, Israel Idonije, Tim Jennings and Craig Steltz and the result has been an offseason of several steps forward without any backwards, other than defensive tackle Amobi Okoye leaving for one year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

(Consider that one almost by choice. The Bears made an offer in their range for a player they wanted and who wanted to stay but were simply outbid by a team offering more of a starting opportunity.)

A subtly noteworthy backdrop here has been that Emery has followed a course in sync with much of what Jerry Angelo had laid out.

Angelo had targeted San Diegos Vincent Jackson as the first big strike in free agency. Marshalls character issues made him off-limits for Angelo with Sam Hurd and Tank Johnson on the resume, deserved or not.

Campbell was the goal at quarterback along with McCown, Angelos addition. And Hayden had met with the Bears previously but not signed.

The real point, however, is that Emery clearly is in phase with coaches and their needs a major positive. He did not pull into Halas Hall with an agenda and telling coaches what they needed.

And We used our college scouts expertise to work with us on unrestricted free agents, Emery said.

But now...

Emery is generally credited with a significant improvement from the Kansas City Chiefs draft of 2009 before he arrived and those of 2010 and 2011.

He already has put himself and the Bears in apparent better position than the Chiefs were. General manager Scott Pioli arrived in January 2009 but was slow to trust and ran that draft with a skeleton staff. Sources said he was rumored to have simply thrown scouts reports away and gone his own way and Emery was there for 2010.

Emery, as he has done in free agency, has avoided slipping backwards with staff or personnel losses. He worked with many of the scouts when he was with the Bears from 1998-2004; he will not be emulating Piolis first draft year in that area.

Emery, with his own credentials in college scouting, kept the Chicago college-evaluation staff in place. He also undertook a comprehensive program of synchronizing language, standards, expectations and virtually every other aspect of talent appraisal. He had the college scouts evaluate pro tape.

The objective was to ensure that the grading system and descriptions were matched in minds and the Bears system So that I could have a common understanding of where that grade was with the player, Emery said.

We put our coaches through the same process. We met with both groups and formulated the groups of players we had targeted. After the combine, we came back and met for 10 days and went through 400 college prospects.

Now the urgency is taking the steps forward that didnt happen with the Jarron Gilberts, Dan Bazuins, Juaquin Iglesiases and more.

Even though the contracts are small, it has always been the harder side of the personnel job.

Watching players as pros is an easier process because the level of the playing field, Emery said. Whereas in college you have a wide variety of talent prospects are playing against.

Rob Gronkowski 'highly unlikely' to play Sunday against the Bears

Rob Gronkowski 'highly unlikely' to play Sunday against the Bears

Sunday's game against Tom Brady and the Patriots will be a tough test for the Bears, but it looks like they're going to receive a big break.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski didn't travel with the Patriots to Chicago and is "highly unlikely" to play Sunday.

Avoiding Gronkowski, who is one of Brady's favorite targets, would be a huge break for the Bears' defense. In six games this season, the tight end has 26 receptions for 405 yards and a touchdown; in 14 games last season, Gronkowski had 69 catches for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns.

Gronkowski has not officially been ruled out yet, though time is running out for the Patriots to make a decision.

Meanwhile, Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday despite dealing with an ankle injury. Between having Mack on the field and Gronkowski off of it, good news keeps coming for the Bears' defense.

Final thoughts: Cody Parkey quickly moves on from missed game-winning kick

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USA Today Sports Images

Final thoughts: Cody Parkey quickly moves on from missed game-winning kick

There’s, probably, only one position in sports that can match the you-had-one-job scrutiny of a placekicker attempting a critical field goal late in a football game. As in: If you make the kick, it was expected; if you miss it, well, you didn’t do the one thing you were brought on to do. 

The comparison here is a closer in baseball. The expectation is whoever is called upon with a one-to-three-run lead in the ninth inning will convert the save and win his team the game. 

But when a closer blows a save and is in the spotlight during baseball’s regular season, there’s always a game the next day or, at worst, in two days. The immediacy and pace of a Major League Baseball team’s schedule lends itself to closers having to “flush” a bad outing and move on to the next one, since it might be tomorrow. 

For Bears kicker Cody Parkey, though, he’s had to wait a week until he gets his next “meaningful” chance at making a field goal after missing a game-winning 53-yard attempt last weekend against the Miami Dolphins. But moving on from a critical missed kick has never, and is not, a problem for the fifth-year veteran. 

“(It takes) five minutes,” Parkey said. “You kick the ball, and if it doesn’t go in you’re not going to sit there and cry on the field, you’re going to continue to move on with your life. I don’t think there’s really much to it other than knowing you’re going to have to kick another one sometime throughout the season, next game, in the next week, you never know. You stay ready so you’ll be ready for the next week.”

Not allowing those missed kicks to fester is an important trait for a placekicker to possess. What helps Parkey quickly work through his misses is focusing on having a good week of kicking in practice, and also an even-keel mindset that’s been instilled in him since a young age. 

“I think I’ve always been pretty mellow,” Parkey said. “At a young age, my coaches told me never let the highs get to high, never let the lows get too low. And I’ve kind of taken that to heart. If I miss a game winner, make a game winner, I’m going to have the same demeanor. I’m just going to be super chill and knowing it’s a game, it’s supposed to be fun, we’re supposed to go out there and try our best. I put in a lot of work and I try my best on the field.”

That’s something, too, that special teams coach Chris Tabor sees in Parkey. 

“He's always been like that,” Tabor said. “He hit a good ball, his line was just off. In his career going in he was 7-of-8 over 50 yards. I'll be honest with you, I thought he was going to make it. And next time we have that situation, I know he will make it.” 

Age is just a number

Sunday will mark the 6th time in Tom Brady’s career that the 41-year-old has faced a head coach younger than him, but the first time it’ll be a coach other than Miami’s Adam Gase (who’s 40). Brady is 3-2 against Gase’s Dophins. 

Matt Nagy, meanwhile, is also 40. Brady just missed playing Kyle Shanahan (38) and Sean McVay (32), facing the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams in 2016, a year before both those youthful coaches were hired. 

Meanwhile, the youngest player on the Bears — 21-year-old Roquan Smith — was three years old when Brady made his unassuming NFL debut on Nov. 23, 2000. 

They said it

A couple of amusing one-liners out of Halas Hall this week…

Nagy, when it was brought to his attention that Mitch Trubisky (105.6) has a better passer rating than Brady (98.2), chuckled: “You want to say that one more time?” 

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, when asked if he’d ever heard of “Baby Gronk” Adam Shaheen: “(long pause)… Sometimes.”