Bears

Mullin: Offseason moves, the Plaxico issue

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Mullin: Offseason moves, the Plaxico issue

Thursday, Jan. 27, 2011
11:14 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Football season never really ends in Chicago, which means its always good to visit with Dan and Spiegs on The Danny Mac Show on The Score AM 670, as we did this morning. Not a lot yet as far as Super Bowl chat (Im a longtime Pittsburgh guy my Dad took me to Games 6 and 7 of the 60 World Series, as you know) but thats next week.

Listen to John Mullin's "The Danny Mac Show" appearance

What is still worth looking at is where the Bears go this offseason, because even though they spent massively last year with Julius Peppers, Brandon Manumaleuna and Chester Taylor, I dont see the Bears standing pat and say, Well play these.

The draft subject is percolating already, as I wrote Wednesday, and best guess is that the Bears stay on the lines with the No. 29 pick and possibly even their second as well, whether offense or defense. Spiegs is intent on doing something at wide receiver and I see the Bears upgrading there, just not with a high pick. The bust factor with high wideouts spooks Jerry Angelo, as it should for a lot of people.

Danny and Spiegs both felt, and I agree, that the Bears are in the spot of having enough legitimate need areas that they can take the best player available at one of several spots. To get a top offensive lineman at No. 29 may be a stretch but New England got guard Logan Mankins at No. 32 and the New York Jets got center Nick Mangold at No. 29, and Marc Colombo was not a bust, just unlucky with knee injuries at No. 29.

The Plaxico issue

The most intriguing solution at wide receiver is Plaxico Burress, who is scheduled to be released from prison this June after serving his sentence from the bizarre self-inflicted-gunshot incident. Burress will be 34 and at one time was considered a character question. He wont be in NFL condition when he comes out and possibly not even through this season.

READ: Jumping into the draft

But as I mentioned with the guys, what I saw of Burress on Inside the NFL Wednesday night was not the same Burress I spent time with during his Halas Hall visit prior to the 2000 draft. That guy had a bad vibe all over him and the Bears werent sorry that Bill Cowher and the Steelers took him at No. 8 and left Brian Urlacher for Chicago.

It was only TV but this individual sounded far, far more mature and reflective than he once was. Michael Vick opened the door for second chances and were a nation of second chances for the right people. Burress wont be what he was when he was catching the winning touchdown in a Super Bowl, but hes still 6-5 and has forgotten more about the position than a lot of the young Bears know at this point.

And with Devin Aromashodu not going to be on the roster next season, the Bears would have no wideout taller than 6 feet. Thats a need.

Coming or going?

But we talked about more than wideout and one question over the coming weeks will be which Bears are coming and which are going. Thoughts on some of these:
Anthony Adams: I dont see how the Bears can let him go. Their best, most consistent defensive tackle over the past two seasons.

Olin Kreutz: The succession plan broke down when Josh Beekman was a bust. A short-term deal is a win-win for Kreutz and the Bears, and agent Mark Bartlestein is a savvy Chicago guy who gets deals done.

Todd Collins: Trick question?

Corey Graham: Special teamers are a unique market unto themselves. This is 50-50 for me; hes a quality coverage guy and the Bears will make an offer. What could get him out of town is a promised legitimate chance to play cornerback, which he wont have in Chicago.

What we didnt talk about

The organization got little real production out of running back Chester Taylor beyond a couple of short touchdown runs and few downs off for Matt Forte. Expect the Bears to cut their losses and Taylors 1.3 million for 2011.

Forte could not have picked a better year to have a career year, both in terms of health and production. Ive written previously about the Bears expected to do a new deal with Forte rather than let him play out his fourth year and hit the market, whatever that proves to be.

Whether the Bears move on without Manumaleuna, a one-trick pony who was regularly fined for failing to make weight this season and did little to earn the money tied up in him, well see.

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.

Maurice Jones-Drew ranks Jordan Howard in NFL's top-10 RBs

Maurice Jones-Drew ranks Jordan Howard in NFL's top-10 RBs

Chicago Bears RB Jordan Howard is entering an interesting season. He has just as good a chance of leading the NFL in rushing as he appears to have at losing reps to Tarik Cohen, a player some analysts feel is a better fit for coach Matt Nagy's system.

It's unfortunate that Howard isn't receiving the kind of praise a player like him deserves. He set the Bears' rookie rushing record with 1,313 yards in 2016. In 2017, he became the first running back in franchise history to start a career with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.

Howard's production suggests he should be the feature back in Chicago's ground game. In fact, according to NFL Network's Maurice Jones-Drew, it's a no-brainer. He recently ranked Howard in the NFL's top-10 running backs.

7. Jordan Howard (Bears)

Even with the plethora of offensive weapons thanks to some offseason additions, the Bears' offense still must run through Howard. After rushing for at least 1,100 yards in each of his first two seasons, Howard will be a key piece for first-year head coach Matt Nagy and will have to carry Chicago late in the season if the squad is going to make a playoff push.

Howard will be given every chance to prove he can thrive in Nagy's system early in the season. If he can prove reliable as a receiver, he could match Kareem Hunt's league-leading 1,327 yards last season. He'll have to be effective as a pass-catcher to keep Cohen from threatening for more touches.

Howard deserves this kind of respect for what he's done through two seasons as a pro. He may not be in the NFL's elite class just yet, but if he surpasses 1,200-plus rushing yards and threatens for 10 or more touchdowns again, it'll be an undeniable fact that Howard is a true franchise back.

 

Bears' Nick Kwiatkoski was a top-5 inside linebacker in 2017

Bears' Nick Kwiatkoski was a top-5 inside linebacker in 2017

The Chicago Bears selected inside linebacker Roquan Smith in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft with the expectation that he'll become an immediate starter and impact player on defense. But, was there a need at inside linebacker?

According to Pro Football Focus, Nick Kwiatkoski, who Chicago selected in the fourth round of 2016's draft, was a standout performer last season. He ranked third in the NFL among inside linebackers in run-stop percentage and was fourth-best in pass-rush productivity.

Kwiatkoski also wasn’t tagged for a missed tackle against the run all season. He still has to share time on the field with Danny Trevathan and newly-drafted Roquan Smith, but should be able to capitalize on a great sophomore year after being drafted in the fourth round from West Virginia in 2016. Overall, Kwiatoski was graded as the NFL’s 12th best inside linebacker, higher than both Spaight and Hitchens.

His 21.0 pass-rush productivity ranked fourth and came on the heels of his rookie season in which he ranked 10th in the same category in 2016.

Kwiatkoski didn't receive much fanfare last season but the analytics speak for themselves. He started six games (appeared in 11) and registered career highs in tackles (34) and sacks (two). He's an ascending player but his growth is likely to be stunted by Smith's presence. 

Chicago could view Kwiatkoski as the heir to Danny Trevathan's starting job. The Bears can move on from Trevathan with little consequence at season's end. His dead cap number drops to just $1.25 million in 2019. Kwiatkoski will be in the final year of his contract that season (2019), and if he hasn't earned a starting job by then, he's a near lock to sign elsewhere when his rookie contract expires. 

Kwiatkoski has proven he can produce when given a chance to play, something 31 other teams have certainly taken notice of.