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NFL Combine: Bears, Pack shouldn't look past Lions

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NFL Combine: Bears, Pack shouldn't look past Lions

Friday, Feb. 25, 2011
10:51 a.m.
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com
Nicely done
Kudos to NBC colleague Peggy Kusinski for her excellent job following up on some of the torment in the Dave Duerson tragedy. Sometimes the splash of a news event can overshadow the sad realities of the people involved and Peggy does a her usual tremendous job talking with Alicia Duerson about some of the difficulties swirling around DD. Its good to always remember that we dont cover or read about sports; we cover and read about people.

Doin well

These events are excellent for catching up with old friends and it was very good to see Randy Brown, former Bears kicking coach who was a factor with Jeff Jaeger back in the day and was the calming influence on Todd Sauerbrun (such as it could be).

Randy, the kicking coach for the Baltimore Ravens the last four years, still has a nice trace of a tan from his trip to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl, courtesy of Billy Cundiff. The Ravens signed Cundiff, an undrafted free agent out of Drake whod been with eight different teams over the years, including four seasons with Dallas before flaming out there. With Randys help, Cundiff tied a record for touchbacks (40) and responded by taking Randy and his wife with him to the Pro Bowl.

But the funny part of running into Randy and having some time to visit: He gives me his business card (the non-football one). And turns out hes mayor (no, really, he is) of Evesham Township in New Joisy, when hes from. We hung out a while before he had to run off to finish some Combine interviews and also get some work done on his township budget, due Tuesday.
FootstepsThe Bears and Green Bay Packers may be looking hard at each other as the team to beat in 11 but they probably dont want to look too far past a one-time doormat in the NFC North.

The Detroit Lions increased their win total from zero in 2008 to two in 2009 to six in 2010. The jump last season came with No. 1s Ndamukong Suh at defensive tackle and Jahvid Best at running back and significant signings in free agency, which wont be available to the Lions this year.

So the question was put to coach Jim Schwartz as to whether he thought the Lions could close the gap between themselves and the Bears and Green Bay Packers, the former being the division winners and the latter being the Super Bowl champions.

Schwartz bristled, appropriately, then provided a bit of Rex Ryan Lite in declaring that he and the Lions arent in business to close gaps with anybody. Theyre about the business of winning the NFC North.

For anyone just tuning in, Schwartz was kind enough to provide some 10 play-by-replay:

Split with the Pack and lost by four both times against the Bears. Obviously the opener, the way that ended, and then Drew Stanton had a three-point lead with I guess it was a few minutes left when Cutler was able to lead them to that last touchdown.

We need to win more games and we really dont take a whole lot of pride in having six wins or even having the last four. There werent many teams in the NFL that won four in a row. That stuff sort of makes you feel good, but you cant expect that to carry over. It is what it is, it happened in the past and how we do next year wont be because of what happened in last years game against the

Packers or last years game against the Bears, it will be how we do in training camp and how we do in everything else as we move forward.

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.

Ryan Pace says Bears are optimistic Roquan Smith will soon be at training camp

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USA Today

Ryan Pace says Bears are optimistic Roquan Smith will soon be at training camp

Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy met with the media to kick off training camp on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais Thursday, and the first question peppered at Pace was the status of rookie first-round pick Roquan Smith's contract negotiations.

"We're optimistic he's here soon," Pace said of Smith. "It's a process"

Smith is one of several early first-round picks that remain unsigned, something that doesn't come as a surprise to Pace. The Bears don't have the same benefit of time with Smith as some of the other teams have with their first-rounders. Chicago is one of the first teams to open training camp, bringing more of a focus to Smith's absence.

Pace used the word details to describe what's preventing a deal with Smith at this point and said there's no date in mind for when the first-rounder "really needs to be" at camp. 

The Bears' first practice is scheduled for Friday, July 20. 

Three questions for Bears safeties: Does Adrian Amos have a future in Chicago?

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USA TODAY

Three questions for Bears safeties: Does Adrian Amos have a future in Chicago?

Pre-camp depth chart

1. Adrian Amos
2. Deon Bush
3. Deiondre Hall

1. Eddie Jackson
2. DeAndre Houston-Carson
3. Nick Orr

1. Will Adrian Amos get a second contract?

Pro Football Focus ranked Amos as the second-best safety in the NFL last year, behind only Minnesota’s Harrison Smith, which may not necessarily align with the Bears’ view of him (or, to be fair, that of the rest of the league). If the Bears really thought they had one of the two best safeties in the league on their defense, he’d already be signed to a contract extension, most likely. 

The Bears like Amos, of course. But do they view him as a good, not great player who could potentially be replaceable after the season? Or do they view the 25-year-old as a long-term piece of this defense? 

We’ll figure out the answers to those questions by how Ryan Pace approaches a possible second contract for Amos. While the free agent market for safeties was slow this year — Tre Boston, PFF’s No. 30 safety, only signed a one-year, $900,000 deal, for example — there are 28 safeties with contracts carrying an average annual value of at least $5 million. 

Amos only has one interception in 2,638 career snaps, and is a year removed from being shoved down the depth chart after the additions of Quintin Demps and Eddie Jackson. He still has room to improve, and has plenty to prove. 

If he and the Bears are on the same page regarding his value, we may see a deal get done before the season. If not, Amos will go into 2018 with plenty of motivation to earn a sizable payday in 2019. 

2. Can Eddie Jackson improve on a solid rookie year?

Jackson showed a playmaking streak as a rookie, picking off two passes, breaking up four others, forcing a fumble and scoring two touchdowns (which were the only two touchdowns of the Bears’ 17-3 win over the Carolina Panthers). The fourth-round pick earned high marks for his durability, too, playing 99.7 percent of the Bears’ defensive snaps a year after his college career was cut short by a broken leg. 

“(He) reminds me of a player that can do it all,” coach Matt Nagy said. “He can hit, he has great ball skills, he has good speed and is smart. As a rookie last year for him coming into his own and this year being a second year guy to play, we want him to get a little bit better from last year. I was impressed with him.”

Jackson very well could be another mid-round find by Pace, who previously unearthed Amos, Jordan Howard and Nick Kwiatkoski with fourth/fifth-round picks. There’s a little more pressure on Jackson to play well this year, given he arguably has the best ball skills of any player in the Bears’ secondary — and if this defense is going to improve off the eight interceptions they’ve managed in each of the last three years, Jackson may need to play a big role in it. 

3. Can anyone from the 2016 rookie class step up?

That this is the third question we have about the Bears’ safety unit actually speaks to a strength here. It’s seemingly been an annual rite of passage every spring to wonder how the Bears will address their safety unit; that the Bears neither signed nor drafted a safety this year speaks to the solidity of the Amos-Jackson pairing. 

Still, the Bears need depth, and chances are it’ll come from a group of players entering their third years in the NFL. Deon Bush, DeAndre Houston-Carson and Deiondre’ Hall will all need to be ready to step in and succeed in place of Amos or Jackson, with only undrafted free agent Nick Orr in place to provide some camp competition. 

So while there won’t be much of a competition for a starting gig, there will be some important work done on the second and third teams of this defense to see who will earn their way into being the first guy off the bench.