Bears

Mullin: A change in draft philosophy?

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Mullin: A change in draft philosophy?

Thursday, April 21, 2011
Posted: 10:01 p.m.
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Offensive line is one of the four positions being targeted by the Bears in the 2011 draft, and their current offensive line is anything but settled.

But a clear sense of direction is apparent. It has been taking shape over the past couple of seasons. And it will be the driving factor behind the name the Bears choose, presumably in the first or second round, next weekend.

We want to go bigger for that because weve got bigger people in our division that were playing against, Pro Bowl type players, said general manager Jerry Angelo. In fact theres three, referring without naming them to defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh in Detroit, Kevin Williams in Minnesota and B.J. Raji, a Pro Bowl alternate for Green Bay.

So that is something were mindful of. So were not really looking at that guardcenter type of player. Its not that we would pass up a player that we felt was a really good player. Were not going to miss the forest for the trees. Were still going to evaluate the quality of the player. But if everything is even, bigger is the way we would go.

What that means is that there will be no Josh Beekman drafted this years by the Bears. Nor an Olin Kreutz for that matter, were he in the draft pool.

Angelo said as many as seven tackles could come off the board in the first round. But if one comes to Chicago, it may not necessarily be a tackle.

The last couple of years with, obviously a lot of talking with our coaches, weve kind of shifted in that we want bigger people, Angelo said. So were looking for tackles that can play guards rather than guards who can play center.

So theres a little bit of a shift in our thinking that way philosophically. I know coach Mike Tice, coach Mike Martz want bigger people. Staffs weve had before, they werent as committed to that thinking. But theres a little bit more of a shift. So when we look at offensive linemen, wed like to think that the tackleguards can be interchangeable.

That has implications for a number of draft possibles.

Consensus opinions have Tyron Smith, Anthony Castonzo and Gabe Carimi gone before the Bears pick at No. 29. Mike Pouncey was that centerguard player at Florida, is listed in the 305-310-pound range and is not considered a tackle in most evaluations.

Angelo was complimentary of Mississippi States Derek Sherrod, a character player at 6-5, 321, and who has played guard and tackle. Colorado tackle Nate Solder is not expected to be available at No. 29 but is rated a tackle talent who projects as a starter for the Bears and would send Chris Williams and Frank Omiyale inside competing for a guard job.
Thinking wide

One offseason objective for the Bears was to add to a receiver corps that the organization considers solid and has proved to be such but could use someone taller than 6 feet now that Devin Aromashodu is out. That addition could still be made in the form of Braylon Edwards or Roy Williams once a free-agency signing period arrives but it is not a priority in the draft.

Yeah, were looking at the position. Wed like to get the big receiver like everybody, Angelo said. So much has been made about the No. 1 receiver. But its hard to find a No. 1 receiver.

Weve looked at the position hard this year. I dont anticipate that we, collectively as a group, see anybody thats going to fit that definition. But we do like the drafts receiver group given how they complement what we have. We looked at it in depth. Its not a great group, but there are some players there that we like that we feel can come in and help us...

I just dont want to overrate the position. We certainly like our receiver corps. We certainly want to build on it. But thats not the end-all.

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 what 'Run DMC' does catching passes in training camp will be a big clue for how good the Bears' offense will be

Why what 'Run DMC' does catching passes in training camp will be a big clue for how good the Bears' offense will be


How much better Mitch Trubisky will be is the defining question for the 2019 Bears. But we won’t begin to know the answer to that question until September — it’s not something that’ll be easily discernible during training camp practices in Bourbonnais or a handful of snaps in preseason games. Those can sometimes produce false positives and false negatives.

The Bears believe in Trubiskiy, of course, and you’ll likely hear Matt Nagy and players laud their quarterback’s growth over the coming weeks. But belief is one thing; tangible production is another. And we won’t truly get to see that growth until the night of Sept. 5 at Soldier Field. 

But there are a few things to look for in Bourbonnais that could clue us in that a big-time leap is coming for No. 10. We’ll begin this mini-series leading up to the start of training camp next week with this: Better success from running backs catching passes on first down. 

It’s a narrowly specific angle, but one that carries plenty of weight. Consider this excerpt from Warren Sharp’s 2019 Football Preview:

“First down has long been perceived as a running down. In 2017, the league-wide average run-pass split on first down was 47-53. It was 50-50 last season, but that was still well below the 59-41 league-wide split on all downs. Yet passing to running backs on first down is significantly more effective.

“In 2018, there were 6,248 running back rushing attempts on first down. They averaged 4.5 yards per carry, minus-0.01 Expected Points Added per attempt, and a positive play rate of 41.3%. When teams threw to running backs on first down, they averaged 6.02 yards per target, 7.8 yards per receptions. 0.08 EPA per attempt — slightly more efficient than the average of all passes regardless of down at 0.05 EPA — and a positive play rate of 52.3%.”

The larger point here (especially if your eyes glazed over some of those numbers — which, we promise, make sense) is this: Scheming more throws to running backs on first down is an area in which almost every team in the NFL can improve. It's worth noting the Kansas City Chiefs' most effective play on first-and-long in 2018, per Sharp, was a pass to Kareem Hunt. 

And the good news is the Bears re-worked their running back room in a way that could optimize their success throwing the ball to David Montgomery, Mike Davis and Tarik Cohen on first down. 

The 2018 Bears simply didn’t have the personnel to do that regularly or successfully.

Jordan Howard was only targeted nine times on first-and-10, catching five passes for 42 yards. All nine of those targets were short throws, either to the left (two), middle (one) or right (six), and Trubisky had a passer rating of 83 on those attempts. Meanwhile, Howard carried the ball 128 times on first-and-10, averaging 3.7 yards per carry and only generating nine first downs (the NFL average for rushing attempts on first-and-10 in 2018 was 4.7 yards per carry). 

Cohen was, roughly, the inverse of Howard’s numbers: He caught 30 of 37 targets for 241 yards (6.5 yards per target) and generated seven first downs through the air, but averaged just 3.2 yards on his 46 rushing attempts with four first downs. Neither player was particularly balanced in these scenarios: Howard was mildly ineffective running the ball and not a threat catching it; Cohen was largely ineffective running the ball but was a threat catching it. 

And for the crowd who still believes Nagy wasn’t willing to establish the run: The combined rushing attempts on first-and-10 of Howard, Cohen, Benny Cunningham and Taquan Mizzell totaled 182; the combined pass attempts by Trubisky and Chase Daniel in that down-and-distance was 176, per Pro Football Reference’s play index. 

The Bears, in 2018, averaged 5.5 yards per play on first-and-10, tied for 24th in the NFL. Yet only three teams — the New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts — averaged fewer yards-to-go on third down than the Bears’ mark of 6.9. That’s a sign of Nagy’s playcalling prowess and the talent on this offense, and it’s not a stretch to argue an improvement of first-and-10 success will have a significant impact on the overall success of the Bears’ offense. 

So back to the initial point about passes to running backs in these situations: The Bears believe both Montgomery and Davis have some untapped potential as pass-catching running backs. Montgomery caught 71 passes in college at Iowa State, while Davis was targeted the most by the Seattle Seahawks in 2018 on first down (17 of 42 targets). Cohen, of course, is already an accomplished pass-catcher. 

The “Run DMC” backfield needs to have more success carrying the ball on first-and-10 than last year’s group did, of course. But if you’re in Bourbonnais or watching a preseason game, keep an eye out for how effective the Bears are at passing to their running backs — especially if those passes travel beyond the line of scrimmage (another inefficiency noted by Warren Sharp's 2019 Football Preview). 

If you start seeing Montgomery making defenders miss after catching a pass, or Davis looking fluid with the ball in his hands, or Cohen breaking off some explosive gains — those will be significant reasons to believe in Trubisky and the Bears' offense in 2019. 

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Under Center Podcast: State of the Bears: Defense

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USA TODAY

Under Center Podcast: State of the Bears: Defense

JJ Stankevitz, Cam Ellis and Paul Aspan are back with their training camp preview of the Bears' defense, looking at if it's fair to expect this group to take a step back without Vic Fangio (2:00) or if it's possible to repeat as the league's No. 1 defense (10:00). Plus, the guys look at which players the Bears need to improve to remain one of the NFL's best defenses (15:15), debate if Leonard Floyd can be better (20:00) and look at the future of the defense as a salary cap crunch looms after 2019 (25:00). 

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below: