Bears

NFL Draft is here: Time to over-think and re-guess Bears' plans at No. 11

NFL Draft is here: Time to over-think and re-guess Bears' plans at No. 11

The mock draft and its analyses are in the barn and now commence the re-thinking and over-thinking everything from whom the Bears will select at No. 11 to where (insert player name here) will fall to in the first round…

GM Ryan Pace mentioned Louisville defensive tackle Leonard Rankins in a complimentary way. GM Ryan Pace made clear his wish to keep competitive information in confidence. Therefore, GM Ryan Pace will NOT be drafting Louisville defensive tackle Leonard Rankins…

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Pace and the Bears have had a basketful of defensive players in for Halas Hall visits. One of them was NOT Alabama defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson, who did go through a private workout for the Bears down at ‘Bama. The Bears are cloaking their intentions to the point of not even acknowledging what areas of the draft are especially strong – and CSNChicago.com’s Moon Mock Draft changed its final pick from Robinson to edge rusher Shaq Lawson, and we ALWAYS regret changing our minds. Therefore, clearly the Bears WILL be drafting A’Shawn Robinson…

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Ryan Pace mentioned that the Bears were in “sub” defensive packages 60 percent of the time last season, meaning NOT in their preferred 3-4 scheme. That was happening very early last season when players noted the Green Bay Packers going to nickel personnel on offense, forcing the Bears to react with nickel defensive personnel, and then smash-mouth running anyway. Arizona and Seattle repeated the ploy in Weeks 2 and 3 for 48 points and 26 points.

When he was fully back from his torn Achilles, Willie Young was highly effective as the fourth defensive lineman in the Bears’ 4-2-5 nickel package. But Young turns 31 in September, and what ’15 showed the Bears was that their D-ends in 4-man fronts have to be strong at the point as well as quarterback terrorizers. Therefore, clearly the Bears WILL be drafting Clemson D-end Shaq Lawson.

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Would the Bears risk a very high pick on UCLA linebacker Myles Jack and his hugely suspect knee? One thought is that they wouldn’t consider an injured player based on their experience with Kevin White and his rookie season lost to a stress fracture.

But here’s the rub: White wasn’t injured when the Bears drafted him; they didn’t get burned by going risky with an injury. Critics said White had been injured at the Combine and the Bears just missed it medically, but White ran a 4.35-sec.-40 at the Combine; he wasn’t broken then. The stress fracture, which the Bears absolutely handled correctly, like it or not, came from the kid just trying to work too hard, which you have to love about his long-term upside.

That said, the Bears did have a private workout with Jack. If he does slip out of the Top 10, a distinct possibility, what do the Bears know, and how much do they trust their med staff?

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Longtime buddy Adam Schefter over at ESPN put it out there that he was having trouble seeing a spot for Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch going even in the first round. I share the feeling. This may be the year of greatest quarterback over-drafting since ’99 (Tim Couch, 1; Akili Smith, 3, Cade McNown, 12) and Lynch epitomizes that.

Lynch obvioiusly could go Top 10 to the QB-restless 49ers, Giants or surprise team that has him with an “elite” grade. But when I’d finished the first run-through of the final Mock, I did not have Lynch in the first round, based on shared info with sources around the league. The decision was to see Lynch going to Denver with the final pick of round one, given the Broncos’ QB situation (Mark Sanchez? Really?) and the way Brock Osweiler, a No. 2, effectively saved their ’15 season by keeping a Super Bowl team rolling after Peyton Manning went down.

Broncos beat guy Mike Klis, one of the best and who’s now a 9News in Denver, has Lynch as the No. 1 player listed among a group of nine players the Broncos could be getting at No. 31. If not the Broncos, expect the 49ers or Giants to deal up from early Round 2 into that last day-one slot. But Adam and Mike said it all…

Pro Football Focus: Bears could be surprise playoff team in 2018

Pro Football Focus: Bears could be surprise playoff team in 2018

There's a lot of optimism about the Chicago Bears in 2018 largely because of the incredible offseason had by GM Ryan Pace. It started in free agency with several big-name additions on offense and continued in the NFL Draft with the selection of Roquan Smith, arguably the top all-around defender in the class.

Pace now finds himself in unfamiliar territory. He's entering a season with actual expectations. While those expectations vary, one thing is consistent: Improvement is expected.

According to Pro Football Focus, Chicago should end up challenging for a playoff spot.

No less than five additions on offense this offseason could make key impacts for the Bears, including wide receiver Allen Robinson who was one of the NFL’s best in 2015 before a down year in 2016 and essentially missing all of 2017 through injury. He’s joined at the position by Taylor Gabriel, who had three touchdowns on throws 20 yards or further downfield in 2016 and rookie Anthony Miller, who was tied for fourth among wide receivers in this draft class with 19 missed tackles forced on receptions. Add in tight end Trey Burton, who had three touchdowns from just 16 targets when lined up in the slot and rookie offensive lineman James Daniels from Iowa and it’s easy to see why this offense led by Mitchell Trubisky has the potential to trend upwards big time in 2018.

The Bears were one of five teams PFF listed as a surprise Wild Card candidate. The road to the post-season will be challenging, however. Not only do all of the new pieces have to gel, but they have to do it while playing in one of the toughest divisions in football.

The NFC North could have three teams -- not including the Bears --  playing in January. The Vikings may be the most talented club in the NFC and the Packers will always be a contender with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. The Lions have some vulnerability, but they've had more success than Chicago in recent seasons.

Still, Pace deserves credit for winning the offseason.

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.