Bears

NFL Combine: Welcome to CamWorld

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NFL Combine: Welcome to CamWorld

Sunday, Feb. 27, 2011
Posted 12:15 PM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com
CamWorld

For just today, CSNChicago.com has graciously just decided to be your (very) unofficial CamWorld (we dont even need a last name here, right?).

Cams unofficial 40 times for Cam: 4.58 sec., 4.59 sec.; Tom Brady ran 5.23, according to ESPNs Adam Schefter via Twitter; good perspective note, Adam (maybe thats why Brady was a 6 (rounder) and Cam will be a 1?);

Cam put his left shoe on first, then his right. The inside color on his shoe was a delightfully garish green;

Cam was in Combine jersey No. 11, not his Auburn 2; and the Under Armour heartlight was blinking away. All the other QBs wore jerseys with sleeves; Cam wore sleeveless. Show-off!

National Football Posts Joe Fortenaugh has more on who bested Cam in the sprint event Sunday. Joe also gives you the Vegas over-under on CamTime.

What you dont like hearing: September

The cone of silence over NFLNFLPA negotiations is pretty much still in place and should be when talks resume this week in Washington. But two sources with good knowledge of the state of business volunteered one word independent of each other when asked when this thing might get resolved:

September.

A ruling against the owners in the matter of getting their 4 billion lockout insurance from TV could dramatically escalate that sides willingness to compromise. A contingency plan does exist for a 14-game schedule (the 1987 season was 15 games because of a work stoppage). But the informal consensus here is that neither side will be OK with missing regular-season games, and those start in:

September.

In any case, distasteful as all of this is for everyone (including you readers), check out Andrew Brandts excellent analysis of the situation for National Football Post.

Center of attention

With the outlook for free agency clouded by the ongoing labor non-solution, the Bears are not likely to have a chance to upgrade the offensive line before the draft. And because nothing is at all certain even after the draft, any needs that exist cant be put off on the assumption that they can be filled when a CBA settlement is reached.

So what do the Bears do on the offensive line?

The deeper into the offseason that the impasse goes, the more valuable Olin Kreutz arguably becomes. The Bears may believe that Edwin Williams will work out better at center than he did last season at guard. But this is the one position that all the others run off of, and Kreutz is the one player who could, even at age 34, come in without a training camp (hed probably like that; what vet wouldnt?) and run the O-line.

Right now the Bears have, in their minds, three serviceable tackles. One NFL personnel expert said that JMarcus Webb is the best of the three and he expect Webb to be the starting left tackle this season after his rookie orientation year at right. Chris Williams played left guard but neither Jerry Angelo nor Lovie Smith gave even a little hint that Williams will settle there, and his best position is perhaps at right tackle, where he performed reasonably well finishing out 09.

Frank Omiyale can play right or left, as well as guard, none of the spots with any specialness, and he is best suited to a swing role along with Kevin Shaffer.

Which brings us back to the draft.

The Bears suffered a setback when Josh Beekman busted out last preseason and left the team needing a succession plan for Kreutz. They need a guard (Roberto Garza just finished his 10th season). Finding a rookie starter there is a huge draft bonus but after the way Maurkice Pouncey worked out for the Pittsburgh Steelers last year, the best draft option for the Bears should be Pounceys twin brother Mike, also out of Florida.

Hes 6-5, 311 pounds, a guard in 09 and moved to center when his brother left for the NFL. Hes fine with either guard or center, wherever they put me, he said, then qualified. I want to play center though.

The Bears wont be able to truly target a player or two at No. 29; too much is dependent on what happens above them. But the genes are in order here (always draft the bloodlines; if theres a Matthews in the draft, grab him somewhere) and I would suggest that guard is a bigger need than tackle given the current roster.

Plus, if theres a center component to be had, the Bears could set themselves for the next decade the way they once did with Kreutz and Jay Hilgenberg once upon a Super Bowl XX time.

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.

How can the Bears make Khalil Mack even better in 2019?

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USA Today

How can the Bears make Khalil Mack even better in 2019?

In the midst of Khalil Mack’s All-Pro debut season with the Bears, then-outside linebackers coach Brandon Staley offered a thought of how his star pupil could be even better in 2019. With the benefit of a full offseason of OTAs and training camp, the Bears would be able to move Mack around more within their defense, which would present tougher challenges for opposing coaching staffs trying to gameplan for him. 

Staley left for the Denver Broncos along with Vic Fangio back in January. But a new coaching staff has the same thought: There’s more to what Mack can do than we saw in 2018. And 2018 was pretty impressive. 

“There will be opportunities for him to do a variety of things from a variety of different alignments,” senior defensive assistant/outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino said. “Freedom, he has a little bit. But variety he has plenty. There’s plenty of things that we’re going to try to use him for and to do with him that allow him to showcase the things he does well.”

The No. 1 thing Mack does well, to boil it down, is wreck a game. Every head coach and offensive coordinator around the league has to develop a plan for limiting those game-wrecking abilities. It meant quick throws, the kind that leave the quarterback’s hand before Mack can even set up a pass-rushing move, for some teams. For others, it meant offering extra pass protection support through committing a tight end, running back or both to slowing him down. Mack still found a way to total 12 1/2 sacks and 73 total pressures, all while an ankle injury effectively wiped out four games in the middle of the season. 

“You’ve got a phenomenal, phenomenal athlete, all that stuff” defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said. “He’s a great football player, but he’s a better teammate. And he’s a better person. He doesn’t say much, but actions speak louder than words. Again, he’s a great worker. He’s a smart guy. He picks things up. Not gonna say much, but out here on the football field he’s going to lead by example.” 

As the 2018 season progressed, the Bears felt more comfortable with having Mack play on the left and right during games, not one spot exclusively (in the season’s first four weeks, 166 of Mack’s snaps came on the left and 25 came on the right, per Pro Football Focus). By the playoffs, the Bears were able to strategically use Mack on either side of their defense to try to counter-act the scheming done by Eagles coach Doug Pederson (Mack played 26 snaps on the left and 26 on the right in that game, per Pro Football Focus). 

But both the previous and current coaching staffs envision Mack being able to do more than just line up on either side of the formation. And Monachino has experience in figuring out the best way to create that variety he talked about, too: He was Terrell Suggs’ position coach in 2011 when the Baltimore Ravens edge rusher won defensive player of the year honors (also: That was the lone year in which Pagano was the Ravens’ defensive coordinator). 

Suggs primarily rushed from various defensive line positions (end/outside linebacker, as designated by Pro Football Focus), but lined up off the ball on a little under 20 percent of his snaps in 2011. An NFL.com article described him as playing a “hybrid-linebacker” position, which sounds about right. 

Suggs finished 2011 with 14 sacks, seven forced fumbles and two interceptions. 

It’s only May, which means it’s far too early to predict how the Bears will use Mack. Coaches don’t even know the specifics yet. But it’s fair to expect a few different wrinkles for how Mack’s game-wrecking ability is deployed in the Bears’ defense with a full complement of offseason practices — and, too, the coaching minds of Monachino and Pagano. 

“With a player like this, you don’t even have to sit in the offense’s meeting rooms on the other side to know that they have to tend to him on every snap,” Monachino said, referencing Suggs. “They have to know where (former Pittsburgh Steelers safety) Troy Polamalu is on every snap. You gotta know where (Houston Texans edge rusher) JJ Watt is on every snap. This is a guy that you have to do that with. So with Khalil, being able to predict that they’re going to talk about, how do we tend to Khalil Mack on every snap, and then being able to move him into different spots and then to show him in different ways and to do different things with him, it’s going to be really valuable for the defense.”

The Bears are getting a different type of nickel cornerback in Buster Skrine

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USA Today

The Bears are getting a different type of nickel cornerback in Buster Skrine

When the Bears’ defense takes the field against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers on Opening Night, they’ll be returning 9 of the 11 starters that were part of a 2018 squad that was one of the best in Bears’ history. 

One of the few new faces that figure to be among the starting 11 is cornerback Buster Skrine. Gone is Bryce Callahan, who left for Vic Fangio’s Denver team after spending the first four years of his career in Chicago. Though Bears’ scouts have had their eye on Skrine for a few seasons now, it was his more palatable three-year, $16.5 million contract -- compared to Callahan’s three-year, $21 million contract -- that finally got him in house. 

“Me and Buster came out the exact same year, and I’ve watched him,” Prince Amukamara said after OTAs on Wednesday afternoon. “He actually played with my best friend and he would always talk about how fast Buster is -- especially when Buster played gunner. 

“I’ve always watched him, and I feel like he’s very similar to Bryce [Callahan] by being quick and being active. I’m definitely happy with the pick up.” 

Once considered a spot to place the third-best, less-athletic cornerback, no position has seen it's value increase so dramatically over the last decade. Offenses are changing dramatically; no team saw more three receiver sets in 2018 than the Bears’ defense. Per Sharp Stats, opposing offenses lined up in 11 personnel against Chicago 78% of the time. The next closest was the Chiefs at 71%, and the NFL average is 65%. 

“I think nickel is a different ball game,” Amukamara added. “I would say it can be one of the hardest positions on the field, just because you’re on an island, but the receiver has so much room to work with. Plus, it’s a lot of mental gymnastics, so you’ve got to know when you’re blitzing, know when you’re running, and so we put a lot on our nickel.” 

Despite not being considered part of a what teams have traditionally considered base defense, the pass-happy nature of this era in the NFL has all but mandated that nickel corners are on the field for most of the defensive snaps. It’s no coincidence that before breaking his foot against the Rams in Week 12, Callahan was on pace to set a career-high in snap percentage. 

“Nowadays, you see a lot more sub packages,” Bears defensive backs coach Deshea Townsend said. “You’re probably playing 70% in sub during a game now… Otherwise, it hasn’t really changed - he just plays more. That’s the thing - he is technically a starter. He’s probably going to run on the field first in a lot of games, and by rule that’s a starter.

“One thing about the nickel position is that you’ve got to do a little bit of both. You can’t just go out on 3rd down and cover and run the option routes. Now they’re going to hand off the ball and find out where you’re at and you’re going to have to make a tackle. That’s the difference in the position now - it’s a first and second down type of guy that has to be able to do it all.”

While Skrine isn’t considered as good a cover corner as Callahan, Skrine’s pass rush and run defense looks pretty similar. Per Pro Football Focus, Skrine’s run defense graded out significantly higher (80.7) than Callahan’s (57.8). 

“With Buster, it’s about his playing experience,” Townsend added. “He’s a guy who will mix it up in the run. He can blitz, and he’s reliable. He’s tough.”