Bears

Stephen Paea draft capsule

Stephen Paea draft capsule

Stephen Paea, Defensive Tackle
Height: 6-1 Weight: 303 College: Oregon State

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Overview
Wide as a Coke machine and just as difficult to move, Paea (pronounced pie-uh) has developed into one of the nation's best run-stuffers. His development is staggering in the sense that he signed with Oregon State having only played three years of organized football. A highly touted rugby player, Paea moved to the United States at age 16 and began playing football and learning the English language at that time. With only one season at Timpview High School, Paea signed with Snow Junior College, where he helped the Badgers finish the 2007 regular season undefeated and eventually ranked No. 3 in the country.With Oregon State in 2008, Paea earned honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors with 41 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and five sacks. Despite being the object of every opponent's blocking scheme, Paea was similarly effective in 2009, registering 43 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, three sacks and tying the school record with four forced fumbles. Pac-10 offensive linemen voted him the Morris Trophy as the conference's most dominant defensive lineman. Even more impressively, Paea repeated as the Morris Trophy winner in 2010, registering similar tackle numbers (45) and roughly doubling his efforts behind the line of scrimmage (10 TFLs, six sacks). He again posted four forced fumbles, giving him the school record of nine over his career. Paea is a bit of a one-trick pony. He isn't agile enough to put consistent pressure on the quarterback at the NFL level. His ability to tie up blocks in the middle will lead teams to look at him closely over the first 50 picks of the 2011 draft no matter what scheme they utilize.Analysis
Pass rush: Doesn't provide much in terms of a pass rush. Is able to split gaps due to his burst off the snap, but doesn't have quick feet or agility to chase down the quarterback. Relies on his bull rush to knock interior linemen into the pocket and flush the passer into the arms of teammates. Lacks the height and arm length required in consistently altering passing lanes. Run defense: Is quick enough to surprise his opponent with a burst through the gap, but will make his NFL millions due to the fact that he is a natural run plugger due to his short, squatty build and rare upper- and lower-body strength. Can be knocked off the ball when double-teamed, but flashes the ability to split them and is rarely pushed far before he's able to plant his legs in the ground and create a pile. Doesn't have the lateral agility and balance to beat runners to the sideline, but hustles in pursuit. Explosion: Fires off the snap low and hard, flashing a sudden burst that surprises opponents. Burst is short-lived and only extends to his ability to go straight upfield. With his strength and bowling ball-like frame, Paea can explode into the ballcarrier if he gets a running start. Strength: Ranks as one of the country's strongest players, reportedly boasting a 600-pound squat, 500-pound bench press and the ability to churn out 44 repetitions of 225 pounds. Is even stronger than his weight-room numbers indicate due to his natural leverage. Doesn't disengage from blockers as well as his strength would indicate due to the need to refine his hand technique and average lateral agility. Tackling: Stays squared and low to knock down the ballcarrier near the line of scrimmage. Flashes explosive hitting ability, with a proven ability to knock the ball free. Tied the OSU record with four forced fumbles in 2009. Good upper-body strength to drag down ballcarriers as they attempt to go past him. Doesn't have the speed or change of direction to offer much in pursuit. Intangibles: High-effort player was voted a team co-captain in 2009, in his second year in the program as a junior. Proved his toughness in 2008 by playing the final month of the regular season despite a painful bursa sac injury in his knee. Born in New Zealand, grew up in Tonga and dreamt of becoming a professional rugby player. Learned the English language after moving to the United States at age 16.Draft BreakdownSummary: Many people have started to slide Stephen Paea down draft boards due to an injury during Senior Bowl practice on the back of what people believe was a so-so senior season at Oregon State. I think this is a mistake. Paea faced constant double-teams in his senior season and still managed to win the Pac-10 defensive player of the year award and, perhaps even more impressively, the Morris trophy, an award given to the best defensive lineman in the Pac-10 as voted on by the conferences offensive lineman. Furthermore, Paea is relatively new to football having not played until his senior year in high school. His game is all about strength and disruption. Paea wont wow anyone with great technique. His best fit in the NFL is as a 3-technique along the defensive line and should be drafted in the late 1st or early 2nd round.

Run Stopping: If you look strictly at statistics, Paea wont stun you in any category. However, put on the film of his games and you realize how disruptive of a force he can be. His ability is not necessarily of always making the tackle, but rather wreaking havoc in the play design by pushing his blocker out of position. His initial burst off the ball and strength at the point of attack are truly top notch. When he does get into a position to make a play he can be a devastating tackler. Paea notched nine career forced fumbles, a school record for Oregon State. He shows great hustle and effort in running to the ball. The problem with Paea comes in his short stature and arm length. He does not consistently show the ability to disengage once blocked and his relative lack of experience and technique cause problems when a play is designed to go to his opposite side.

Pass Rushing: If the bull rush is your thing then you will love to watch Paea rush the passer. But if you are expecting a vast array of pass rush moves then you will be disappointed. Paea is not a natural pass rusher, but instead uses his strength to push his way into position to make a sack. With more coaching and time perhaps he can add some more pass rush moves to his repertoire, but as of now he does not project to be a great pass rusher in the NFL.

Potential: Paea has the ability and work ethic to be a solid NFL 3-technique defensive lineman. His strength and ability to penetrate should make him a fairly sought-after commodity. Teams will be concerned with his relatively small size, and he weighed in at 295 lbs. at the Senior Bowl which is less than expected, and less than his listed weight. Teams will factor in his lack of experience knowing that he has much room to grow as a football player. It is debatable whether Paea has Pro Bowl type potential, but he should be a starter and contributor from day one.
National Football Post

An explosive, thickly built defensive tackle who displays an impressive first step off the snap and consistently is one of the first defensive linemen moving. Does a great job keeping his base down, back flat and creating leverage for himself into contact. Is able to generate an impressive jolt at the point of attack in both the run and pass game, keeping opposing linemen from getting onto his frame initially off the snap. Demonstrates the first step to cross the face of opposing defenders and shoot his way into the backfield, but also displays good suddenness and body control as a pass rusher inside, cleanly changing directions and using a compact club move which he added to his arsenal from a year ago to free himself from blocks inside. However, needs to do a better job extending his arms more consistently into contact off the snap and lacks much of an idea how to counter if his initial rush is stalled.

Possesses impressive anchor strength for his size. However, isn't a guy who will sit into his stance and control blocks in the run game. But his combination burst and lower body strength make him really tough to move off the football. Even vs. the double he has the ability to hold his ground inside. Exhibits good range when asked to close and make plays off his frame, but needs to do a better job using his length to shed blocks. Isn't real long-armed and will struggle to keep himself clean and stack and shed blocks inside. Seems to get high trying to fight his way off blocks and will lose his balance and body control when working his way toward the runs off his frame.

Impression: He's explosive, powerful and can consistently overpower blockers at the point of attack. However, because of his lack of length and ability to cleanly shed blocks in the run game, looks limited to more of a one-gap scheme in the NFL. But has the ability to start and play at a high level early in his NFL career.
Sideline Scouting

Positives: Athletic... Very agile... Good suddenness... Very good first step quickness, fires off the ball... Disruptive... Explosive... Good upper body strength, set a combine record with 49 reps of 225 pounds... Plays with good power... Violent hands... Can get off blocks reasonably well... Can push the pocket... Gets good penetration... Plays with good leverage... Can be unblockable one on one... Does a good job occupying double teams... Will knock offensive linemen back on initial punch... Shoots gaps... Good bull rush... Very solid versus the run... Makes plays against the run in the backfield... Good agility and change of direction agility... Good lateral mobility... Chases the ball... Good tackler... Hard hitter... Does a good job knocking the ball loose... Stays low... Tough... Good work ethic... Good motor... Co-captain... Former rugby player... Has not missed a game at Oregon State... Good upside... Selected All-Pac Ten second team for the 2009 season, selected All-Pac Ten first team for the 2010 season and named 2010 Defensive Player of the year... Good fit in one gap system... Has a lot of Sedrick Ellis similarities.

Negatives: Lacks ideal height... Shorter than ideal arms... Just an average pass rusher... Swim and rip moves are still developing, lacks counter moves... All three sacks in 2009 came in the same game... A bit scheme restricted as a 4-3 under tackle... Knee injury lingered during 2008 season at Snow Community College... Relatively inexperienced football player, had only played football for three years prior to Oregon State... Suffered a knee injury during Senior Bowl practices and was unable to do a full workout at the combine.

How Bears are adjusting to loss of Eddie Goldman: 'We're missing a key part'

How Bears are adjusting to loss of Eddie Goldman: 'We're missing a key part'

Asked Thursday to give an example of how linebacker Roquan Smith can take his game to the next level, Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano pointed to the first two plays of the 2019 season, including a tackle for loss on the first snap.

“They run a play to our right, their left. He sees an opening. He shoots through and gets a tackle for loss,” Pagano said.

It was a great play. It showed Smith’s speed and recognition. It set the tone against the Green Bay Packers in a game the defense played very well.

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But often overlooked on plays like that is the “opening” Pagano referenced. Smith had an unblocked gap to run through because of his defensive linemen. And as Smith ran through the open hole, nose tackle Eddie Goldman was directly to the linebacker’s left, locked head-to-head with Packers center Corey Linsley. With the Packers’ entire offensive line moving to their left at the snap, the center would typically try to get inside leverage on the nose tackle and get to the linebacker at the second level. Linsley had no chance to touch Smith on this play, mainly because of Goldman’s quickness.

RELATED: Danny Trevathan considered opting out, explains why he didn't

“He has very good foot speed, which puts him in position to win blocks,” Bears defensive line coach Jay Rodgers said. “He's got very good upper body strength and he stays in really good balance (too). Those are things that Eddie's been really good at. And because of all those traits, he's always in a dominant position. So when he takes on blocks, he's able to get off blocks.”

Or he’s able to stay on them, allowing his linebackers to run free. It just depends on what his job is on any given play. Those tend to be the moments that go unnoticed while his teammates make the tackle.

And that’s why the loss of Eddie Goldman, who opted out of the 2020 NFL season because of COVID-19 concerns, is such a significant loss.

“Man. Eddie’s a huge part. Huge, huge, role to this defense,” inside linebacker Danny Trevathan said Friday. “To have him not here, we’re definitely missing a key part. But I think the guys that they brought in are going to have to step up. They’re going to have to step up and it’s our job to push them each day to get to that level of play. Because it’s going to be a key factor.”

The trickle down effect of losing Goldman reaches the entire defense. Akiem Hicks will get even more attention than he usually does. It will be easier for opponents to focus on blocking the edges, where Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn await. And if Trevathan and Smith see more blockers in their face at the second level, it could lead to big runs up the middle that this Bears defense doesn’t typically allow.

The good news is, every player mentioned in that last paragraph is pretty good at football. The unit as a whole can rally to fill Goldman’s void.

“Our guys are more than willing to step up and pull the rope harder,” Bears outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino said. “When you have a good player like Eddie, it’s hard to not see him out there, but it’s become part of our reality, just like all the rest of it.”

Football coaches are used to adapting and that has never been more important than in 2020. Fortunately for the Bears, Rodgers is one of the best defensive line coaches in the game and the team hasn’t even taken a single practice rep with pads on yet. At least the team knows the reality now, instead of losing a player like Goldman mid-season.

While no one can completely replicate what Goldman brings to the table, the Bears do have experienced players across their defensive line, starting with Hicks, who can line up anywhere and eat up multiple gaps if necessary. At this point, Bears fans know what he can do.

But what about the other options? Here’s a look a few key players:

Bilal Nichols – 6-3, 313

Nichols doesn’t trail too far behind Goldman in size and has been trained at the nose. After a very promising rookie season, Nichols took a small step back in 2019 while also dealing with injuries. Has the former fifth round pick reached his realistic ceiling or can he develop into a consistent starting caliber player? Nichols is still only 23 and we're about to find out.

“He’s done a tremendous job. Young, gifted, hungry,” Trevathan said Friday.

Roy Robertson-Harris – 6-5, 292

Already converted from outside linebacker, it’s asking a lot for Robertson-Harris to play the nose, but this will likely be a rotational plan and he does have versatility.

“He obviously has played a lot of three-technique or what we're calling inside-one technique in our sub defenses,” Rodgers said. “He has never played a nose position in base defense, but that's OK. You're playing in the A-gap once you get into your sub world.”

Translation: Robertson-Harris has experience playing the gap between the center and the guard, but he’s not your traditional two-gap defensive lineman who’s out there to eat up space. I wouldn’t expect Robertson-Harris’ role to change too much, but he’s still only 27 and could be an ascending player, so if he continues to improve, it will certainly help the line overall.

John Jenkins – 6-3, 327

Jenkins, 31, is suddenly a very important player for the Bears because he has the most experience at nose tackle and previously played in this defense in 2017.

“I think any time you bring a player back, you had a really good experience with him before,” Rodgers said. “He has size. He has length. He has power. He's got really good foot speed. He loves to play the game of football. And he's very coachable.”

Jenkins has been a rotational player for most of his career, but actually played a similar amount of snaps as Goldman last year and Rodgers has a knack for maximizing veteran talent.

Abdullah Anderson – 6-3, 297

A former undrafted free agent out of Bucknell, Anderson is now in his third year with the Bears and saw 106 snaps on defense last season. He’s still a developmental player, but Goldman’s absence provides a big opportunity for the young defensive tackle.

“He's got really good size, he's got really good quickness and he's got really good hands,” Rodgers said. “He's very sneaky with his hands. You saw some glimpses of him in the Indianapolis preseason game when he got to play a lot of snaps in a row.”

But those glimpses didn’t always translate to the regular season. It will be interesting to see how much the limited offseason impacts Anderson as he’ll have a limited window on the field in training camp to prove himself.

Brent Urban – 6-7, 300 

Urban has never played nose tackle, but is now getting trained there, according to Rodgers. The 29-year-old veteran was claimed off waivers from Tennessee in the middle of last season and acclimated himself well to Pagano’s defense. At 6-7, Urban probably won’t translate well to the nose tackle position, but he does provide dependable veteran depth elsewhere on the line, which will be important.

“At the end of the day, what you'd like to have is the best two, three, four guys out there on the field that you could possibly put out there with the ability to substitute when you need to and not have any drop-off,” Rodgers said. “So we're going to continue to train everybody at every position, and we just have some options right now, especially at this part of camp.”

Typically, the Bears would already be a week into padded practices in training camp. Instead, they have to wait until Aug. 17 to put the pads on. At that point, they’ll essentially have three weeks of competition before jumping into game-week to prepare for the Detroit Lions.

And while the defensive lineman use that abbreviated time to compete, Trevathan and Smith will get used to life without Eddie Goldman in front them.

“Me and Ro just need to adjust our game a little bit to get a feel for those guys,” Trevathan said. “So it’s just to get that little vibe. I’ve played a little bit with them.”

He's about to play a lot with them.

 

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Bears rookie watch: 5 early thoughts about 2020 draft class, and Ledarius Mack

Bears rookie watch: 5 early thoughts about 2020 draft class, and Ledarius Mack

Bears coaches, over the last few weeks, got a better sense of what kind of players and people they have in 2020’s crop of rookies. While practices don’t begin until the week of Aug. 17, rookies have been able to participate in on-field walkthroughs at Halas Hall, allowing the Bears to get their first look at these guys since April’s draft.

With that in mind, here are five things we learned this week from talking to those Bears coaches about everyone from Cole Kmet to Ledarius Mack:

Jaylon Johnson is in a stiffer competition than we might’ve thought.

Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said Johnson has been “a little bit limited” because of his shoulder (Johnson underwent a procedure on his shoulder in March). I wouldn’t be too concerned about Johnson’s shoulder right now, although it’s something to monitor when practices are expected to begin in about 10 days.

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But even if he’s full go in a week and a half, Johnson is not a lock to win the competition to start at corner opposite Kyle Fuller. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising at all if he isn’t on the field Sept. 13 in Detroit, with Kevin Toliver II or Artie Burns getting the nod over him.

This is where 2020’s pandemic-altered offseason hurts Johnson. He didn’t have rookie minicamp and OTAs to get his feet under him with his assignments, and he won’t have the benefit of a few preseason games to adjust to the physicality and speed of the NFL. And guys with experience in the league might be first in line come September. 

Johnson, no doubt, will be a starter for the Bears soon enough – probably early in the 2020 season – but I continue to get the sense he might not be one immediately. Although that sense could always change once practice actually starts up at Halas Hall this month.

“The good thing is it’s not like he has to come in and he has to be the No. 2 or No. 3 guy right now,” Pagano said. “Now, once we get going and we start practicing if he beats those guys out and he wins that third spot, second spot, whatever that is, then great. … We missed the whole offseason. They’ve got a lot of catching up to do and make up, but again, we’ve got a lot of time with him so we can be patient at that position.”

The early returns on Cole Kmet are encouraging.

The first words tight end coach Clancy Barone used to describe Kmet were “quick study.” And everything that showed up when the Bears scouted him coming out of Notre Dame has shown up in meetings and walkthroughs.

“He certainly looks the part,” Barone said. “He’s as big as advertised, he’s in tremendous condition, very lean, he’s a big, thick bodied guy and extremely athletic.”

More than any other rookie, the Bears need Kmet to contribute immediately given his upside and potential impact in allowing Matt Nagy use more 12 personnel – a largely untapped resource in his playbook. So it’s certainly good news that Kmet is quickly picking things up and stayed in great shape over the summer.

MORE: Fragility of 2020 season constantly on Bears' players minds

Rookie tight ends, though, rarely make major impacts. It’s not easy to transition from college to the speed and physicality of the NFL at that position. It'll be even more difficult without OTAs and minicamps, let alone preseason games. 

So the Bears will do what they can at Halas Hall to get Kmet prepared for Sept. 13, but how the No. 43 pick handles an NFL game will be an unknown until his first snap at Ford Field that day. 

“Usually there’s a mode of tempo and such that happens in practice and then it ramps up in preseason and then it doubles when you get to regular season and even more in postseason,” Barone said. “That’s going to be the thing as a staff and a team that we replicate in practice. So those young players who are going to be called upon early in their career so they can get an idea of what opening day is going to be like.”

The Bears are playing the long game with Trevis Gipson.

Outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino said Barkevious Mingo, Isaiah Irving and James Vaughters will compete to be the Bears’ No. 3 OLB – the first guy off the sidelines when Khalil Mack or Robert Quinn needs a breather. It was notable that he didn’t mention Gipson, a fifth-round pick, among that group.

Again, there’s a theme here: The lack of spring workouts and practices is negatively impacting the ability of almost every rookie across the league to get on the field early in the 2020 season. The Bears like Gipson’s pass-rushing upside, and that hasn’t changed. But he’s transitioning not only from college to the pros, but from being a 4-3 end to a 3-4 edge rusher. 

The good news on Gipson is Monachino has no concerns about his work ethic and ability to learn. Gipson is constantly asking questions and looking for extra time to spend with coaches, Monachino said, which will help him catch up faster.

“For a player that played in a system like he did, it’s real common for a guy to see the game through a straw,” Monachino said. “But he’s trying to see it through a barn door right now. It’s a process but he’s not shying away from it at all. He’s a super kid and I think he’s fitting in well in the room and I think he’s got a bright future.”

Here’s a quote you’ll love to see.

DeShea Townsend, talking about fifth-round cornerback Kindle Vildor: “As far as the type of guy he is, he is a Bear guy.”

While these walkthroughs have been better than nothing, most of the last few weeks has been a getting-to-know-you period for Bears coaches with these rookies. The springtime Zoom calls were nice, sure, but it’s a lot more impactful to get to know someone in person – even if you’re socially distancing and wearing masks.

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And for Townsend, getting to know Vildor revealed something that’ll help the Georgia Southern product fit right in on the 2020 Bears.

“He is a true competitor — the way that he asks questions in meetings, the things that he wants to know, it just shows that he’s a competitor,” Townsend said. “So I’m excited to see him get a chance to get out there and play.”

Don’t count out Ledarius Mack.

I didn’t include Mack in my latest 53-man roster projection, though I do have him landing on the Bears’ practice squad. It’s going to be a tough for an undrafted rookie to beat out multiple players with NFL experience this year.

But if anyone can do it, it’s Mack, isn’t it? We'll end the first Rookie Watch installment with a glowing review from his position coach:

“Ledarius is not a very big player, but he walks around here like he’s 10 feet tall, which is exactly what you’d expect,” Monachino said. “He’s got plenty of juice. He’s explosive. He’s got really heavy hands. He’s done a lot of things that are really impressive, and he’s an easy learner, and so that part has been great.

“From a personality standpoint, he’s got a lot of the best traits Khalil has. He’s a little snarky every now and then, so he’s got some funny things to say. He also is very attentive in what his job is. It’s been a joy to have him. To see those two together, they have tried not to be Khalil and Khalil’s little brother or Ledarius and Ledarius’s big brother as much as they have been teammates, which has been kind of cool to watch. It’s not like a dad and a son. It’s two guys that are both fighting for the same things, and it’s awesome. It’s been fun to have.

“Talented young player. Right place, right time, got a chance.”   

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