Bears

View from the Moon: Bears make statement in taking tight end while passing on defensive backs

View from the Moon: Bears make statement in taking tight end while passing on defensive backs

With their second pick in the 2017 draft, the Bears addressed offense and did it in a way that, when coupled with one of their main offseason moves, makes for some very interesting what-ifs for the upcoming season.

The choice at No. 45 was tight end Adam Shaheen, who at 6-foot-6 and 278 pounds becomes the second significant addition at the position following the signing of Dion Sims (6-foot-4, 270 pounds) to a three-year deal. In a sometimes over-specialized NFL, the Bears have brought in not one but two every-down tight ends.

“Yeah, that’s accurate,” general manager Ryan Pace said. “So it opens up a lot of possibilities for our offense.”

The acquisitions of Shaheen and Sims hold some intrigue, if only because of sheer bulk, because the inescapable conclusion with the commitments to big tight ends is that the Bears might be serious about running the football. They ran 28.4 percent of their 2016 plays in personnel packages of two or three tight ends or with a tight end and fullback.

Under coordinator Dowell Loggains the Bears ran the football just 39.3 percent of the time in 2016. Head coach John Fox and Loggains cite the Bears’ frequent need to play catch-up as the reason why, though in 12 of the 16 games the Bears were tied, led or were within seven points at halftime. In fairness to Fox and Loggains, the Bears in fact arguably did not have the physical firepower at tight end to sustain a smash-mouth base of operations.

That said, both Shaheen and Sims also have a fully formed receiver side to their games, which is where the bigger-picture interest lies. Shaheen had 122 receptions over his last two seasons at Ashland. Sims caught 36, 25 and 35 passes in his final three years with the Miami Dolphins. Both Shaheen and Sims were high school basketball standouts; Shaheen played a year of basketball at the University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown, while Sims was dual-recruited for football and basketball at Michigan State after finishing fourth in voting for Mr. Basketball in Michigan in 2009.

“I definitely think (the basketball stuff) helps,” Pace said. “Half the time, it’s like these tight ends are going up for a rebound and boxing out. And (Shaheen) definitely has it. When we talk about body control and catching radius, the ball is not always going to be on target. And Adam has the ability to do that. We confirmed that through the tape, and Frank (Smith, tight ends coach) was able to confirm it during the workout.”

Why not take a defensive back?

During the NFL owners meetings this spring, Pace said that the draft's depth of talented options was a factor in free-agency decisions as well as the draft. So his willingness to trade down in the second round of this draft was expected, given that it has been rated as one of the best-ever drafts for quality and depth at defensive back.

Of course, these were the same experts’ analyses that concluded that no quarterback would be drafted before the middle of the first round, when in reality three went in the first 12 picks after teams traded up, so ... oh, never mind.

The NFL collective seems to agree with the take on defensive backs: Of the 107 players selected through three completed rounds, 29 (27.1 percent) have been defensive backs (18 cornerbacks and 11 safeties). Meaning more than one-fourth of the 2017 draft picks have been defensive backs.

What wasn’t expected was Pace then making no move at either cornerback or safety even after the trade-down that recovered much of the draft capital expended to deal up to No. 2 for Mitch Trubisky. When the Bears’ pick at No. 45 came around, the Bears instead chose a smaller-college tight end.

First thoughts were that Pace agreed with thinking that said starter-grade corners in particular could be had as late as the fourth round — he reacquired a fourth-round pick in the trade with Arizona, giving him two (Nos. 117 and 119) — or that he had been outflanked by a sudden minor run on defensive backs. In the eight picks from No. 36 (the Bears’ original second-round slot) to No. 43, four defensive backs were snatched up, three of them safeties.

That clearly didn’t bother Pace, though the Bears ended Friday with a plan to take a revised look in the defensive back direction.

“Yeah, we’re going to have to kind of sort through it tonight and we’ll be here late tonight and early in the morning,” Pace said. “Kind of resetting our board and going through it again. We’re going to take best player available, and if it ends up being offensive players, that’s what it is.”

Bears' Akiem Hicks loves tweeting quotes from 2000's smash hit 'Gladiator'

Bears' Akiem Hicks loves tweeting quotes from 2000's smash hit 'Gladiator'

So Akiem Hicks tweeted this earlier on Tuesday:

You're right – that is a quote from 2000's Oscar-winning movie Gladiator, directed by Ridley Scott, scored by Hans Zimmer, and starring a young Russell Crowe. Who's Hicks talking about?! Is it Aaron Rodgers?! IS IT JORDAN LOVE?! It's also entirely possible that Hicks is just watching Gladiator, considering that Gladiator is, quite literally, never not on television. I will bet you five dollars that if you turn your T.V. on right now, Maximus Decimus Meridius is telling his generals to hold the line against the last warrior tribe standing in the way of the Roman Empire's conquest of Germania. 

Akiem Hicks clearly loves Gladiator as much as your friend's Dad, and from the looks of it, probably more. Case in point: the Bears star has been tweeting famous lines from the movie for like, quite a while now: 

There are so, so, so many terrible shticks on Twitter. I'd even argue that 99% of them are bad. But this – this is not a bad schtick. I am fired up just from reading Akiem Hicks' tweets about the movie Gladiator. Don't ever stop, Akiem. Because without these tweets, we mortals are just shadows and dust. Shadows and dust. 

David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen dubbed shakiest backfield in NFL

David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen dubbed shakiest backfield in NFL

David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen are by no means the most exciting backfield in the NFL. At least, not yet. They still have much to prove in 2020 after their first year teaming up for the Bears in 2019.

Montgomery finished his rookie season with 889 yards and six touchdowns while Cohen managed just 669 total yards and three scores. With no other accomplished NFL running back on the roster, it's Montgomery and Cohen or bust.

According to ESPN, there's a really good chance they'll be a bust. They dubbed the Bears' backfield as the shakiest in the NFL.

"This is one of the situations where "it's all relative" really comes into play," ESPN's Mike Clay wrote. "Could David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen put together a solid or exceptional season? Absolutely. However, it's not hard to identify more proven and effective backs on the other 31 rosters. Montgomery underwhelmed on 267 touches as a third-round rookie last season, whereas Cohen posted atrocious yardage numbers on a per-carry (3.3) and per-target (4.4) basis. Furthermore, Chicago's depth is also arguably weakest in the league."

It's hard to argue with that assessment. Chicago's running game is in something of a prove-it season which extends beyond just the ball-carriers. Matt Nagy has to prove he can script a good game plan, the offensive line has to consistently open holes, and the running backs have to take advantage of their opportunities to make plays on a more efficient basis.

Until then, it's fair to call the Bears' backfield shaky.

 

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