Bears

NFL Draft Day 2 options for Bears

NFL Draft Day 2 options for Bears

The only thing more stunning than Ryan Pace’s trade up to get Mitchell Trubisky in Thursday’s first round would be if he selected DeShone Kizer with what’s now his lone pick on Day 2 of the NFL Draft.

The Notre Dame quarterback is still on the board after Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes, and Deshaun Watson were the lone signal-callers chosen Thursday (in the opening 12 picks). But it left Pace’s team still looking to address needs at several defensive positions.

Among the potential help on the defensive line are Michigan State’s Malik McDowell, DeMarcus Walker of Florida State and Jordan Willis of Kansas State, the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year who played with Cody Whitehair and on the opposing South team at the Senior Bowl in January as John Fox’s staff handled the North.

There’s still good quality at safety as the second round will begin with four selections ahead of Pace: Washington heavy hitter Budda Baker, Senior Bowl and Scouting Combine sensation Obi Melifonwu of Connecticut, as well as Utah’s Marcus Williams.

[RELATED - Bears trade to draft Trubisky a statement of Ryan Pace's nature]

If Pace is inclined to further add to his cornerback room, many projected or graded Washington’s Kevin King and Florida’s Quincy Wilson to be gone by now. Colorado’s Chidobe Awuzie has caught the eyes of several observers who watch a lot more Buffaloes football than I do.

At wide receiver, two players who performed well in Mobile for Fox’s squad were East Carolina’s Zay Jones and Eastern Washington’s Cooper Kupp, who can add to the return game after averaging 107 catches over four years in that FBS program. Two impressive Big Ten wideouts who bring different things to the table — Penn State’s Chris Godwin and Ohio State’s Curtis Samuel are available, as is USC’s JuJu Smith-Schuster.

The top three graded tight ends disappeared Thursday night. Now it’s to be determined whether South Alabama’s Gerald Everett, Bucky Hodges of Virginia Tech or Michigan’s Jake Butt are worthy of 36th overall.

Oh, and of the two offensive tackles chosen in the first round, one of them wasn’t Alabama’s Cam Robinson, nor Temple riser Dion Dawkins.

How the new kickoff rule may impact the Bears

How the new kickoff rule may impact the Bears

NFL owners voted for sweeping changes to the kickoff play Tuesday, a decision that presents a new challenge for Bears special teams coach Chris Tabor.

Player safety was the focus of the rule change. Collisions will be reduced and the play will look more like a punt than the traditional kickoff fans have become used to. Here's a breakdown of what's coming in 2018:

With less contact and physicality in the play, Tabor's game planning will be tested. Kickoffs won't require as many power players like the ones traditionally seen in the wedge block. Skill players like receivers, running backs and tight ends could be viewed as more valuable special teams pieces, as was suggested by NFL Network's Bucky Brooks.

Tarik Cohen could become even more lethal under the new rules. If kick returners end up with more space to navigate, Cohen will improve on the 583 return yards he managed as a rookie. He'll conjure memories of the recently retired Devin Hester.

The ability to contribute on special teams is critically important for players on the roster bubble. It'll be interesting to see if the Bears apply the approach suggested by Brooks. If they do, undrafted players like Matt Fleming and John Franklin III suddenly have more value and a better chance to make the team. 

For a complete breakdown of the new kickoff rule, click here.

Charles Leno dubbed Bears' best-kept secret

Charles Leno dubbed Bears' best-kept secret

Chicago Bears left tackle Charles Leno, Jr. deserves a lot of credit. After starting his career as a seventh-round pick and something of a longshot to ever earn a starting job, he's become an irreplaceable fixture at the most important position along the offensive line.

The four-year, $38 million contract extension he signed last offseason is evidence of that.

Despite his value to the Bears, Leno is still somewhat underrated across league circles. That may be about to change.

Leno was recently named Chicago's best-kept secret.

Leno has consistently improved as a pass protector since he was drafted in the seventh round in 2014 and is now one of the team's top 10 players. If he hit the open market, Leno might be a $60 million player with the way the offensive line market is exploding. Over the next four years, the Bears should save about $20 million on the market price for their starting-caliber left tackle.

Leno has enjoyed steady improvement since his rookie season. His grades from Pro Football Focus reflect that: 53.6 (2014), 56.3 (2015), 71.2 (2016) and 80.4 (2017). 

The Bears' offensive line is poised for a big season in 2018. Leno and Bobby Massie are back as starters at tackle. Rookie second-round pick James Daniels will pair with Kyle Long at guard and third-year pro, Cody Whitehair, will get back to focusing on being the team's starting center.

If Leno's trend of improved play continues, he's a great candidate to go from best-kept secret to league star in 2018.