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Mullin's 2011 draft capsules: Linebacker

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Mullin's 2011 draft capsules: Linebacker

Monday, April 25, 2011
Posted: 12:14 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

First in a series

Very few teams have the distinction of Pro Bowl linebackers playing side by side in their defense. The Bears have that in Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher. What they have at the other linebacker spot, however, is less distinguished or settled going into this years draft.

The Bears

Briggs, Urlacher and Hunter Hillenmeyer gave the Bears a bedrock linebacker corps through much of the decade. But injuries gradually slowed Hillenmeyer until concussions in the 2010 preseason all but ended his career.

Nick Roach and Pisa Tinoisamoa combined over the last two seasons to give the Bears solid replacements for Hillenmeyer. But both of them had knee issues and have not settled the position the way Hillenmeyer did.

Brian Iwuh at 6-0, 239 pounds played well in limited opportunities and is an ideal roster fit with his special-teams prowess. Rod Wilson has worked passably as a backup but didnt secure a spot with his opportunities and will be 30.

A complicating element in the overall is that the Bears have major money tied up in Briggs and Urlacher and both are 30-plus. The nature of the cap is that the organization cannot afford to lavish another huge contract on the position group, particularly at the one spot that is frequently a two-down player.

Need: The roster is too thin at linebacker. Roach is a longshot to be back and Tinoisamoa missed four games with injury down the late-season stretch. The position will be addressed but not before the middle rounds of the draft unless a gem falls to the Bears in the second or third.

The 2011 draft

Von Miller from Texas A&M is one of the single highest-graded player in the entire draft and will not last past the first five picks, more likely the first three. The situation after that takes on an interesting dimension, because the proliferation of 3-4 defenses has more teams looking for one type of linebacker, primarily a pass rusherhybrid defensive end. The Bears are set in their 4-3 scheme and looking in an entirely different direction.

The 3-4 teams are helping us with our linebackers, said GM Jerry Angelo. Probably the guys we like are not onhalf the boards in the league, and that will help us. Like in the old days, 3-4 teams could get their pass rushers in the fifth, sixth round, and sometimes in free agency, because nobody was playing that scheme. In part, it's helped us defensively, I think there are more linebackers for us, that we can get later, if we choose to go in that direction, and even in free agency.

From my vantage point, that's probably the most fertile position on the board for us, in the mid to later rounds and free agency. We'll be able to find players to come in here with the traits that we're looking for.

The Best Bets:

(Again leaving out the very obvious elite, in Von Miller since he will have no relevance in the Bears draft.)

1. Martez Wilson, Illinois His Combine raised his stock appreciably and if he somehow lasts until the Bears turn in the second round, this could be a surprise pick as the best-available and possible successor to Urlacher.

2. Bruce Carter, North Carolina Another potentially excellent fit in a 4-3 but an ACL problem cost him the Combine and he comes with health risks. Like Urlacher, a converted safety.

3. Quan Sturdivant, North Carolina Has played both outside and inside and may be a better fit at MLB. Overshadowed by some teammates but from a very solid program.

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.

Pro Football Focus: Bears should sign Jameis Winston

Pro Football Focus: Bears should sign Jameis Winston

Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston had one of the most polarizing seasons in recent NFL history when he threw for 5,109 yards, 33 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in 2019. He was the first quarterback to throw for more than 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in the same season.

His hard-to-figure-out year makes his pending free agency even more confusing. Does Tampa Bay have enough confidence in the former No. 1 overall pick to lock him up on a long-term deal? Are they better off using the franchise tag and buying another year of evaluation? Or should they just turn the page and move on?

Those decisions are far from being made at this point, but if Winston is allowed to test the open market, Pro Football Focus believes the Bears should go all-in on signing the big-armed yet mistake-prone passer.

Trubisky has struggled to generate any positive plays and is in Winston’s realm as far as negatively graded play rate. Winston’s decision making absolutely needs some work, but at his best, he is “ballin.'” Chicago isn’t in the position to grab a high quarterback prospect in the draft. They could get themselves Jalen Hurts in the second round, but that’s the best they’ll do. A one-year trial is the best option for the Bears, so buckle up and get ready for the ride Chicago — what’s the worst that could happen?

Winston's strength -- pushing the ball down the field -- would be a welcome site in Chicago, especially after Trubisky's brutal 6.1 yards per attempt last season. Winston, in theory, would take advantage of what wide receiver Allen Robinson does well, too, with an aggressive mentality that's led to high-end production for pass-catcher Mike Evans.

But are the Bears really going to invest more than $25 million on a one-year deal for a player as turnover-prone as Winston? Chicago doesn't have much salary-cap space as it is, and cheaper options like Bengals veteran Andy Dalton (albeit via trade) seem more realistic.

If Chicago is truly going to apply the Titans' model from 2019 to their offseason plan this year, Winston wouldn't make sense. But as we've learned with the way this front office has handled the quarterback situation over the last few years, not much seems to make sense anyway. 

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Bears gather intel on Temple center Matt Hennessy at 2020 Senior Bowl

Bears gather intel on Temple center Matt Hennessy at 2020 Senior Bowl

The Bears have an obvious need along the interior of the offensive line after the retirement of guard Kyle Long and the average-at-best play of his replacement, Rashaad Coward, in 2019.

The 2020 Senior Bowl kicked off its second day of practices Wednesday with the North team (coached by the Lions) beginning the afternoon with an aggressive session. It offered a great opportunity for Bears scouts to get a long look at some of this year's top senior offensive line prospects. 

RELATED: Top 30 free agents of 2020 NFL offseason

One player who stood out in one-on-one drills was Temple center/guard Matt Hennessy. He was arguably the best offensive lineman on the field and consistently stonewalled opposing defensive lineman regardless of their rush move (power, speed or a combination of both). Chicago took notice.

Hennessy was the target of several teams who used their post-practice on-field time to gather more intel; the Bears were one of them.

Hennessy has had some injury issues during his tenure as an Owl, but he's been a quality starter (center) for Temple over the last three seasons. Here's what The Draft Network's scouting report of Hennessy lists as his positive traits:

Possesses good size and length at the position. Football intelligence jumps off the tape each game. One of the most consistent pass blockers in the country. Excellent coordination with his hands, eyes, and feet. Consistently plays with good balance. Projects well to a zone-blocking scheme. Effective at walling off second-level defenders and reaching three techniques.

The Bears had issues at center last season when former second-round pick James Daniels went through some midseason struggles. It eventually led to a position switch with Cody Whitehair, who stabilized the interior (at least a little). 

But Hennessy, who started the week as a likely Day-3 pick, would be an ideal selection for a Chicago team that needs to just add talent to the position group. 

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