Bears

Moon: Is Newton's character leadership material?

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Moon: Is Newton's character leadership material?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Posted: 1:40 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

And furthermore, on this Cam Newton thing

The backlash in some quarters against Nolan Nawrockis scathing appraisal of the Auburn quarterback is interesting, on a number of levels. By way of quick background, the Pro Football Weekly draft analyst bluntly questioned the quality of Newtons character as a leader as much as any football issue.

Attacking Nolan, as some Newton supporters have, misses the point.

To steal from Michael Douglas soliloquy in The American President (one of the great romantic comedies ever, period View from the Moon provides this brief movie review free of charge), being President is entirely about character.

So to a large extent is being quarterback. So whether Nolans take was spot-on or not, and hes not the only one whos voice these concerns, Newtons character is critical, all the more so because of the investment his prospective team is making in him.

Accuracy and all the rest are essential, but character is everything. Consider the different courses followed by the teams selecting quarterbacks in the 1999 draft, which saw five quarterbacks selected in the first 12 picks, the last being Cade McNown by the Bears at No. 12.

Im going to throw out McNown, Tim Couch (No. 1 overall) and Akili Smith (No.3). None of them possessed the minimum skill package to even belong, and McNown added to the problems by not offsetting those shortcomings with leadership.

The two that bear most interestingly on the Newton appraisal are Donovan McNabb (No. 2) and Daunte Culpepper (No. 11). Similar in so many ways: Culpepper has a career passer rating of 87.8 to McNabbs 85.7; Culpepper was accurate, with a career completion percentage of 63.0 to McNabbs 59.

But McNabb was a consummate leader and reached a Super Bowl and five NFC Championship games with far, far less talent than Culpepper had when he was throwing to Cris Carter and Randy Moss and handing off to Robert Smith. McNabb navigated difficult waters in Philadelphia; Culpepper couldnt navigate clear of the Love Boat incident.

A team can be a perennial championship challenger with a quarterback possessing leadership character. A team without that never will. And thats why the Newton character questions matter, particularly for a potential top-10 quarterback selection.By the way, Mike Florio at ProFootballTalk.com gives an intriguing preview of an HBO look tonight at Auburns issues with paying players. It doesnt sound like it will do Newton character-backers any favors.

Tackling a problem

Long-time buddy Tom Kowalski covering the Detroit Lions over at mlive.com lays out the case for the Lions taking a tackle at No. 13 in the draft, and Tom also looks at why the bundle of solid tackle prospects may work against a team like Detroit that might want to trade down.

The question here is whether that situation helps or hurts the Bears, back at No. 29 and looking hard at offensive linemen. But in the Bears favor arguably is that they are as interested in adding a starter at guard or possibly even center. So while you can never be too rich, too thin or have too many tackles, the draft once it hits No. 13 and Detroit, where the run on offensive linemen may be expected to begin will get very interesting in a hurry.

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.

Why tight end is a significant need for the Bears in the NFL Draft

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USA Today

Why tight end is a significant need for the Bears in the NFL Draft

Most of the focus surrounding the Bears leading up to this week’s NFL Draft has, understandably, been on running backs. The Bears have to find more consistent production out of that unit, which is why general manager Ryan Pace is likely to draft a running back in addition to signing Mike Davis and trading Jordan Howard. 

But those necessary running game improvements don’t need to solely come from Tarik Cohen, Davis and a draft pick. There are other ways to help out the Bears’ running backs. And drafting a tight end may be a start. 

From a purely depth-based point of view, the Bears need to add more tight ends to their roster: Heading into this week’s NFL Draft, only Trey Burton, Adam Shaheen and Ben Braunecker man that position. Drilling down further: Burton is a “U” tight end, Shaheen is a “Y” and Braunecker can play both positions. 

So adding at least one more body to that room seems like an important task for Ryan Pace. But this is an issue that goes just beyond the number of players on the depth chart: The Bears, as an offense, would do well to be more effective when operating out of 12 personnel (one running back, two tight ends, two wide receivers). 

The issue for the Bears in that personnel grouping began in mid-August when Adam Shaheen hurt his foot in a preseason game against the Denver Broncos, which kept him sidelined until November. Dion Sims took his place and didn’t play well, both as a pass-catcher and run-blocker. When Shaheen came back, he wasn’t 100 percent — and, in his first game back, suffered a concussion against the Minnesota Vikings. 

So here’s how the Bears fared in 12 personnel compared to the league average, via SharpFootballStats.com:

  Play% Pass% Run% Pass. RTG TD/INT YPA YPC
Bears 17% 49% 51% 85.0 5/3 5.9 3.4
NFL Avg. 17% 49% 51% 101.9 145/53 8.1 4.3

A few things to unpack here: First, the Bears don't necessarily need to use more 12 personnel, they just have to be better when using it. Averaging 3.4 yards per carry with two tight ends ranked fourth worst in the NFL, behind the Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins. More disappointing, though, is the Bears’ average of 5.9 yards per pass, lower than only the Jacksonville Jaguars (5.3). 

It's worth noting, too, that the league average passer rating is about 10 points higher when running 12 personnel compared to 11 personnel (which the Bears used on nearly two-thirds of their plays in 2018). 

A large part of the Bears' issues, again, were due to the “Y” tight end personnel after Shaheen’s injury. The Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles — relevant here for the Andy Reid connections to Matt Nagy — had much better personnel at tight end (Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz) and ran 12 personnel 28 and 36 percent of the time, respectively. No team used it on a higher percentage of their offensive plays than the Eagles. 

The best-case scenario is the Bears didn’t have the personnel to operate successfully with 12 personnel in 2018, and it doesn’t take much of a deep dive into the film to see why (Sims, who was released this spring, remains unsigned). Nagy and his offensive brain trust likely can scheme some better ways to utilize 12 personnel as well. 

The issue, then, is how the Bears go about improving their tight end personnel. 

The first step would be for Shaheen to not only stay healthy, but to consistently build on the potential the Bears saw in him two years ago. Shaheen has missed 13 games in two seasons and has only been targeted 20 times in the 19 games he’s played. That makes him much more of a projection in 2019 not just from a passing game perspective, but from a blocking one as well. 

“It will be important for him to stay healthy for 16 games, number one, as they talk about your best ability is your availability,” Nagy said. “We've got to have that, that's important. He got better at holding the line of scrimmage. I thought, as a Y tight end, holding the end of the line of scrimmage and the point, he can do that, he's a big guy. Then route running, he's not going to give you the wiggle-wiggle that some of the U tight ends do. But he's a bigger type person. They should be able to play faster this year because they know where they're going.”

Still, given that projecting Shaheen isn’t an exact science, the Bears should target a tight end at some point in this year’s draft, specifically someone who can play that “Y” position. While the Bears are confident in Braunecker’s ability to play both tight end positions — important given how poorly the offense responded to losing Trey Burton prior to losing to the Eagles in the playoffs — drafting someone who can play the “Y” would seem like a smart move. 

The Bears aren’t going to land one of the clear-cut two best tight ends in this year’s draft — Iowa’s duo of T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant — but there are a handful of tight ends who could interest the Bears in the middle rounds of the draft. San Jose State’s Josh Oliver (No. 95 on Pro Football Focus’ top 250) profiles as someone with the flexibility to play both tight end positions; Stanford’s Kaden Smith comes from the new “Tight End U” and could be had later in the draft. Those are just two names; perhaps it’s better to wait until after the Bears pick a tight end (if they do at all) to project how they could fit within the offense. 

Rookie tight ends rarely make significant impacts, especially those who fall to the middle rounds of the draft. But even if the Bears can improve blocking-wise from 12 personnel, that would have a positive impact on their ability to run the ball. 

And running the ball better means more opportunities for play action, which means more opportunities for open throws, which means more opportunities for Mitch Trubisky to lead scoring drives, which means more points. Everything works together — which is how drafting a tight end could help the Bears push toward the overall goal of scoring more points. 

It sounds like Jay Cutler is bored in retirement

It sounds like Jay Cutler is bored in retirement

After a week off the air, “Very Cavallari” was back with a new episode, which meant more Jay Cutler in retirement.

This week we were treated to Cutler being as sarcastic as ever and sulking about having nothing to do. Cutler’s first scene involved him and his wife, Kristin Cavallari, talking about their relationship and spending time with each other. Cavallari is going to do another pop-up shop for her fashion store, which means more travel. Jay, your thoughts?

“Oh, great,” Cutler said with his trademark sarcasm.

Later in the conversation we get a bleak look into Jay Cutler post-football.

“I just hang out and clean up,” Cutler said.

Sounds like he may want to hit up the announcing gig he had lined up before coming out of retirement and heading to the Dolphins for the 2017 season.

Next, we got Cutler shopping for birthday presents for their 3-year-old daughter. If nothing else, this was amusing to see Cutler shopping for gifts for little girls.

Watch the video above to see all of the best of Cutty, which also features him designing jewelry for some reason.