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Mullin's 2011 draft capsules: Wide Receiver

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Mullin's 2011 draft capsules: Wide Receiver

Wednesday, April 27, 2011Posted: 2:00 AM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Fourth in a series

The Bears have not had significant consistent success addressing receiver positions early in drafts, and GM Jerry Angelo is on record as disliking the bust factor that plagues too many high picks at receiver.

The Bears

A bigger, veteran wide receiver was going to be a priority in free agency, and that still may be once a resolution is reached in the owners-players impasse. Braylon Edwards, Roy Williams and several others may yet wind up in a Bears uniform, although dropping someone into the Mike Martz offense too close to the season may prove problematic.

The best Bears receiver pick did come via a No. 1, in the person of Greg Olsen, a wideout in a tight-end body and who already ranks 17th in franchise receptions (194) and 13th in receiving TDs (20). Earl Bennett in the 2008 third round is playing to a solid level and Johnny Knox from the 2009 fifth round was a steal. Devin Hester remains serviceable but his trajectory can no longer be seen as winding up at the level of elite receiver.

Need: The Bears had five players with 40 or more catches last season but none with more than the 51 of Knox and Matt Forte. It is a group that works but needs another level up.

The 2011 draft

Just like running back, there is a premium talent (in this case, two) and then. No tight ends are projected for round one and the wide receivers project to be solid but generally unspectacular.

There may be a long wait from after the first two receivers are selected and when a thirds name is called, more likely on day two. If you want a receiver, you can get one, said ESPNs Todd McShay.

Few expect an elite receiver with immediate impact unless someone is willing to get into the top 10, which is the draft range in which the top two talents should go. Both A.J. Green and Julio Jones were freshman starters in the SEC and both are projected to be freshman starters in the NFL as well.

The Bears had a private workout with Austin Pettis of Boise State, projected as a mid-round pick but at 6-2, 205 pounds with a quality program, Pettis caught 229 passes in a four-year career.

The Best Bets:

1. A.J. Green, Georgia If you were to design a wideout, this is him. Green is 6-3, 211 pounds, runs 4.49 in the 40, and consistently caught 50 passes while averaging 15.8 yards per catch.

2. Julio Jones, Alabama The only debate is whether Jones or Green goes first, but both will be gone before the middle of the first round. Jones is slightly bigger than Green but the margin between the two is very slight.

3. Randall Cobb, Kentucky Wes Bunting of National Football Post considers Cobb a safe pick, which is prized at a position of draft risk. A slightly faster version of Earl Bennett who is a full-service receiver with the ability to pass and run for a Wildcat team.

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.

The Packers beat a bad Bears team in Week 1. In Week 15, they'll get a totally new one.

The Packers beat a bad Bears team in Week 1. In Week 15, they'll get a totally new one.

All week, reporters at Halas Hall tried to get Matt Nagy and the Bears to compare who they were during Week 1’s game against Green Bay to where they are now. And all week at Halas Hall, Matt Nagy and the Bears wouldn't bite. 

“We're both different. They're a little bit different, we're different,” Matt Nagy said. “They did a great job both as players and their coaches, so like I said yesterday, it feels like a while ago and that's why you play. You have a 16-game season and in division you get two chances. We'll just do everything we can to put it behind us and try to be better.” 

Different might be an understatement. Gone are Kyle Long and Bobby Massie. The Starting-Center-James-Daniel experiment is over, and Mike Davis is playing in the NFC South now. Adam Shaheen and Trey Burton – though the latter didn’t play in Week 1 – are on IR, too. Normally, losing two starting tight ends, a ‘starting’ running back, and the entire right side of the offensive line means you’re spending the last month of the season scouting for 2020. Instead, the Bears head to Lambeau Field on Sunday with a path to the playoffs still in front of them. 

“I just feel like we’re kind of in a rhythm now. We’re a different team,” Mitch Trubisky said. “There were some things that we had to go through in the first game and the beginning of the season that just didn’t go our way, and there’s things we definitely learned from as an offense. 

“I just feel like we have a new-found identity of what we want to do and everybody is really locked into what they have to do within their job description on the offense.” 

Perhaps the biggest difference between Week 1 and Week 15 has been the play of Trubisky, who looked like he was headed for a clipboard in 2020 before regaining his form over the last month or so. His comfortability in the offense is night and day compared to some of the struggles he went through during the first half of the season. If you ask him – which, duh, we did – he’ll tell you he’s felt the most growth off the field. 

“I just would say mental toughness, the ability to block out things on the outside,” he said. “Adversity, obviously, early in the season with people talking on the outside and then having to play through injuries and stuff, and just coming together closer as a team. My teammates having my back, that really gives me the most confidence.” 

The 14-week turnaround isn’t all about confidence, as Nagy 202 has morphed into something not expected but effective nonetheless. The running game has stabilized and they’ve found successful plays out of 4 WR sets – even if one of those receivers is Montgomery/Tarik Cohen. In Week 1? Montgomery had six rushes and the Bears ran two plays out of 10 personnel. Nagy said that he thought something clicked on Trubisky’s touchdown pass to Ben Braunecker against the Lions. 

“There's something there,” he said. “We felt it a little bit in the Chargers game, we just weren't effective in the red zone. But because we won the [Lions] game it magnifies it a little bit more … And then we just kind of started putting things together and I think over time we've just felt like it's just started to click. I don't know if it's specifically one play or not but that's probably my best guess.” 

It couldn’t have come at a better time, as the team prepares for what Nagy calls a “cat-and-mouse” game against Packers’ defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, who perhaps knows Trubisky better than any other opposing coordinator in the game. 

“Coach Pettine has done a great job throughout his career of being almost tendency-free,” he said. “And they’re even better now with how they deploy those guys, and it’s kind of a perfect, perfect storm of scheme and talent, and the guys on the back end help them out too.” 

The Bears are playing with a looseness that might come from essentially being mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, but oddly, it continues to work for them. And when you have to go play Aaron Rodgers in Lambeau with your season on the line, you don’t question what works. 

“I love it. You want to go against the best all the time,” said Akiem Hicks, who was taken off IR and will start on Sunday. “If you’re a true competitor, you want the best competition.”

Clippers coach and Chicago native Doc Rivers weighs in on Bears-Packers

Clippers coach and Chicago native Doc Rivers weighs in on Bears-Packers

With Doc Rivers, Patrick Beverly and the Los Angeles Clippers in town to face the Bulls, you knew the question was coming. Both Rivers and Beverly are from Chicago and not shy about their affection for the city. 

"Do you and Pat talk about coming to Chicago?" a reporter asked, during Rivers' pregame media scrum, Saturday night.

"We talk about Chicago, probably every single day," Rivers said with a hint of a smile. "We talk about the Bears the most."

That led to Rivers rapid-fire addressing a number of ruminations on the current state of the Bears, including his respect for head coach Matt Nagy.

"I’m a big Bears fan. A big Nagy fan. I think he’s a terrific coach," Rivers said. "I just do, every once in a while you get a feeling about someone, and I have that about him."

High praise coming from Rivers, the 13th-winningest coach in NBA history and an NBA Finals champion in 2008 with the Boston Celtics.

Now, he coaches the third-winningest team in the league in the Clippers, but he still finds time to keep up with current Chicago affairs.

"[Beverly and I] talk about everything with Chicago. We talk about the dominance of Proviso East [Rivers' high school alma mater] over Marshall [Beverly's alma mater], and every other team. He doesn’t like that conversation very much," Rivers said.

He added that he even contemplated driving down for the Bears' Week 14 matchup with the Cowboys on Thursday Night Football (the Clippers were in town for a game with Milwaukee that Friday).

And as for tomorrow's crucial division game against the Packers, Rivers made his position abundantly clear.

"Well, you know what I think," Rivers said, when asked for a prediction for the contest. "Are you kidding me?"

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