Bears

Moon: How much has changed, really?

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Moon: How much has changed, really?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Posted: 11:50 p.m.
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

The kickoff rules changes will have implications beyond just the kickers and returners. Matt Bowen gives some interesting perspectives on how these will affect coverage units and players like Brendan Ayanbadejo or Corey Graham or Tim Shaw, all Bears coverage standouts and all who consistently delivered high-impact plays on Bears special teams.

But a veteran special teamer I chatted with Wednesday isnt so sure that anything really has been altered.

The biggest reason for his thinking is that the touchbacks still will be brought out only to the 20 rather than the proposed 25. So unless kickers are unequivocally able to pound kickoffs beyond the end line, the reality is that Josh Cribbs, Devin Hester, Danieal Manning, Leon Washington and others among the returner elite will be bringing balls out of end zones.

Why? Because it will be worth the gamble. If the ball were coming out automatically to the 25, thats a better return than most in the NFL average. But to the 20? Might as well take a chance, and Hester, Manning and others will.

And because coverage units are being restricted to a five-yard running start to getting downfield; they may be five yards closer when the ball is kicked but they will not have control over whether someone is bringing it out.

But watch where balls are being kicked by the better marksmen. With good conditions, a kicker will be operating five yards closer to the opposing end zone, and a special-teams expert said that will make it easier to target balls that force a HesterManning to go 10 yards laterally before they make a catch and can start upfield.

All of which points to the rules changes result in something far less than an elimination of the return.

Caming

Interesting observation from NFL Network draft guru Mike Mayock regarding Cam Newton. Mayock guestd with Mike Florio on Pro Football Talk Live and said he expects the Auburn quarterback to go to a team picking in the top 10.

Meanwhile, Todd McShay with ESPN Scouts Inc. envisioned a scenario where the Bears wind up with a very, very good defensive lineman at a position they regard as a need area.

With Tommie Harris gone after several seasons of diminishing returns anyway, the answer may well lie in the person of an upsized Henry Melton, as noted here previously. That would be a good thing for the Bears, because the three-technique, the defensive tackle the Bears depend on for pass-rush pressure out of the middle, is not easy to find in the draft, and certainly not at No. 29 where the Bears are drafting.

Theres not many perfect fits for that three-technique for Chicago, McShay said, but you could see maybe a Corey Liuget out of Illinois. Ive got him going 14th to the Rams but after the Rams, theres not many teams looking for a true defensive tackle. I personally think hed be a better fit as a nose tackle in a 4-3but if hes there at 29 youd have to think long and hard about passing on a guy like Liuget.

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.

Under Center Podcast: Chris Simms fixes the Bears

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USA Today

Under Center Podcast: Chris Simms fixes the Bears

Laurence Holmes is joined by NBC Sports NFL analyst Chris Simms live from radio row in Miami as they try to fix the Bears. They also discuss what the Bears can learn from the San Francisco 49ers and their head coach Kyle Shanahan.

(1:57) - How to fix the Bears/Trubisky

(6:54) - What would he tell Mitchell Trubisky

(9:24) - What people don't understand about Khalil Mack

(11:44) - Kyle Shanahan is a football genius

Listen here or in the embedded player below.

Under Center Podcast

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Bears' odds to sign Teddy Bridgewater just got better

Bears' odds to sign Teddy Bridgewater just got better

When Bears GM Ryan Pace selected quarterback Mitch Trubisky with the second overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft, he referred to future Hall-of-Famer, Drew Brees, as the kind of passer he envisioned the former North Carolina product becoming. After three underwhelming seasons under center in Chicago, Trubisky's fallen way short of those expectations. It's unclear whether he can even become an average starter at this point.

The 2020 offseason is expected to bring competition for Trubisky and it's most likely to come via free agency. Pace will have an opportunity to tap into the Brees-led Saints quarterback room to find that competition, as all three passers (Brees, Taysom Hill and Teddy Bridgewater) are scheduled to hit the open market.

The reality, however, is that only one of the three will likely be available. According to Fox Sports' Jay Glazer, it'll be Bridgewater.

RELATED: Top 30 free agents of the 2020 NFL offseason

Brees will call his own shot; if he wants to return to New Orleans, he will. And while Bridgewater played well enough to warrant a starting opportunity in 2020, he'd also serve as the perfect starter-in-waiting for the Saints. But that player is Hill, who Glazer said New Orleans views as a legitimate franchise quarterback.

This is actually great news for the Bears. Of the three Saints quarterbacks, Bridgewater would make the most sense as a target for Chicago. He'll turn 27 next season and still has several years of high-level play remaining in his arm. In the 2019 regular season, Bridgewater started five games (he went 5-0), completed nearly 68% of his passes, and threw for 1,384 yards, nine touchdowns and just two interceptions. 

Is Bridgewater an elite player? No. Is he a franchise-changing quarterback? No; but that's not what the Bears are looking for. Instead, Pace needs to sign a veteran who is consistent and reliable enough to support an elite defense with enough points to win. Trubisky's failed mightily at that, and Bridgewater proved in relief of Brees in 2019 that he's not only capable of it, but he can thrive in that role.

Bridgewater's projected market value is a three-year, $60.1 million deal (or $20 million per season) per Spotrac. It may seem like a lot of money to pay to a quarterback whose signing wouldn't come along with a guaranteed starting job, but when combined with Trubisky's $9.3 million salary in 2020, as long as the Bears receive quality play from whoever their starting quarterback is, the cost will be in line with those teams that have respected starters on their payroll.

It's possible Bridgewater won't sign with a team that doesn't promise him the starting job. But is a promise even needed with Trubisky being the only roadblock in Bridgewater's way? It wouldn't take long for him to distance himself at the top of the depth chart, and maybe, once and for all, the Bears can enjoy some Saints-like quarterback play. 

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