Bears

Mullin's 2011 draft capsules: Cornerback

Mullin's 2011 draft capsules: Cornerback

Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Posted: 2:24 a.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Seventh in a series

The defense had three players with four or more interceptions last season, the first time for that in a quarter-century and the only secondary with that distinction in 2010. The interception total jumped from 10 in 2009 to 16, and the Bears interception percentage ranked eighth in the NFL.

But passing yards per game allowed was 20th and there are issues looming in a key area of the Lovie Smith defensive scheme.
The Bears

The investment of a third-round pick last draft in Major Wright should take care of one safety spot for some years, and Chris Harris veteran presence was a positive at age 29. But Danieal Manning is intent on testing free agency after his best season and Craig Steltz was disappointing after having his best offseason, so starter-grade depth is missing at safety.

The bigger concern is cornerback, where Charles Tillman turns 30 after a high-impact career that saw him play 16 games for the first time since his rookie year. Zackary Bowman was given Tillmans LCB job but promptly lost it to Tim Jennings early in the year. Joshua Moore is a wild-card, a fifth-rounder last season who barely played but is considered to have real upside.

D.J. Moore justified Lovie Smiths belief in him and secured the nickel-back spot. But the falloff of Nathan Vasher over recent seasons set the defensive plan back substantially and the quest is on for a starting corner in an NFC North with Calvin Johnson in Detroit and a cluster of receiving talent in Green Bay.

Need: The Bears addressed cornerback with picks in a third round (Roosevelt Williams, 2002), second round (Tillman, 2003) and fourth round (Vasher, 2004). Since then only Moore (fourth round, 2009) came sooner than the fifth round. That is likely to change this year and could be a surprise first-round pick depending on the fall of the selections.

The 2011 draft

Two cornerbacks are expected to go inside the first 15 picks and then there are few sure things for various reasons. Chances of landing an immediate starter lower than the first 40 picks are doubtful but different systems require different player-types and at least one or two will be prime fits for the Bears.

Even Patrick Peterson out of LSU, the consensus top defensive back in the draft, comes with fit questions. Hes most comfortable in press-man, said NFL.com draft analyst Mike Mayock. If you try to play him in off-man hes going to struggle a little bit.

Pro Football Weeklys Nolan Nawrocki projects Prince Amukamara from Nebraska going No. 11 to the Houston Texans and new coordinator Wade Phillips. Nawrocki also shows Colorados Jimmy Smith coming off the board No. 13 to the Detroit Lions, who, like the Bears, have some matchup problems to overcome in the NFC North.
The Best Bets:

(CSNChicago.com is taking Peterson and Prince Amukamara from Nebraska off the board far ahead of the Bears turn at No. 29.)
1. Aaron Williams, Texas Some mock drafts have the Bears taking Williams after the OLDL value is gone ahead of them. Williams has started at three DB spots and brings Tillman-like size (5-11, 204) to the CB spot.

2. Jimmy Smith, Colorado Some concerns about consistency but that applies to many, many collegians. Had some off-field issues but at 6-2, he is the physical prototype of the big corner.

3. Brandon Harris, Miami Size is a question after Harris measured sub-5-10 but has run 4.4 at 191 pounds and can play both cornerback and safety.

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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