Bears

View From the Moon: Draft trackin...

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View From the Moon: Draft trackin...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011Posted: 12:05 AM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Draft trackin

The actual draft will start to play out in a little more than a week but there is still anything but a consensus on what the Bears will do with their pick at No. 29, if in fact they exercise it rather than trading down (again).

Nolan Nawrocki at Pro Football Weekly predicts that teams will take a very need-based approach to the draft, which would be a bit of a departure for some organizations firmly in step with a best-player-available methodology based on belief in their draft board.

The Bears went for Florida safety Major Wright in last years draft in one of those nice meshes of best-available and need-position situations. They needed a safety and Wrights grade was a fit at their point of the third round. Chris Williams was projected to be the same at tackle in 2008; the Bears needed one and Williams was deemed worth the No. 14 slot.

Nolan projects the Bears taking defensive tackle Marvin Austin at No. 29. Austin was dropped from the North Carolina team last year for dealings with an agent and he has some maturity questions. I still have a difficult time seeing Jerry Angelo taking anything close to a character risk in the first round after his experiences with Tank Johnson and ultimately with Tommie Harris.

But Austin does fit a true need with the exit of Harris, and Angelo believes in keeping a strength strong, particularly when its the defensive line, a franchise focus with Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli.

Russ Lande over at SportingNews.com also believes the Bears will go for strength up front in the person of Oregon State strongman Stephen Paea. Russ, like Nolan, has the top five offensive linemen (tackles Tyron Smith, Anthony Castonzo, Gabe Carimi, Derek Sherrod and Nate Solder, and guardcenter Mike Pouncey) gone by No. 26 (Baltimore), and if that scenario holds, defense may indeed trump offense, although Baylor guard Danny Watkins is hugely intriguing.

Clark Judge yields (tongue-in-cheek) to CamMania and joins the chorus seeing Auburn quarterback Cam Newton leading off the CBSSportsline.com draft by becoming a Carolina Panther. Clark takes a different tack for the Bears, however. With Watkins gone as well as the others mentioned above, Clark likes Texas cornerback Aaron Williams coming to Chicago in the race to match up against Aaron Rodgers and that passing crowd in Green Bay.

Texas gave the Bears Nathan Vasher, and Williams is a 6-foot cornerback in the tradition of Charles Tillman. Because of the value of the position and the need to get a Tillman replacement in the pipeline, this pick solidifies a spot that has bedeviled the defense since Vashers precipitous decline from his one-time Pro Bowl level.

Gaming

The NFL will announce the specific 2011 game dates and times on Tuesday. A couple of mysteries should be solved.

The opponents already are determined: Home games against Detroit, Green Bay, Minnesota, Atlanta, Carolina, Kansas City, San Diego and Seattle. Road games at Detroit, Green Bay, Minnesota, Denver, New Orleans, Oakland, St. Louis and Tampa Bay.

The last of the road games right now is scheduled to be played in Londons Wembley Stadium on Oct. 23. But that is contingent upon NFL owners and players resolving their labor issues no later than Aug. 1. If that doesnt happen, the game will revert to Tampa and Raymond James Stadium. And the Bears appearance in the Hall of Fame game will be canceled as well.

Green Bay will open at home and the Bears rate as the early favorite to be the Packers opponent as defending Super Bowl champion. Given that this was the matchup from the NFC Championship game, it conjures up distant memories of the Bears and New York Giants opening the 1987 season on a Monday night the winners of Super Bowl XX vs. the winners of XXI. won by the Bears in what would be a season losing several games to labor troubles.

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.

Final thoughts: Cody Parkey quickly moves on from missed game-winning kick

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USA Today Sports Images

Final thoughts: Cody Parkey quickly moves on from missed game-winning kick

There’s, probably, only one position in sports that can match the you-had-one-job scrutiny of a placekicker attempting a critical field goal late in a football game. As in: If you make the kick, it was expected; if you miss it, well, you didn’t do the one thing you were brought on to do. 

The comparison here is a closer in baseball. The expectation is whoever is called upon with a one-to-three-run lead in the ninth inning will convert the save and win his team the game. 

But when a closer blows a save and is in the spotlight during baseball’s regular season, there’s always a game the next day or, at worst, in two days. The immediacy and pace of a Major League Baseball team’s schedule lends itself to closers having to “flush” a bad outing and move on to the next one, since it might be tomorrow. 

For Bears kicker Cody Parkey, though, he’s had to wait a week until he gets his next “meaningful” chance at making a field goal after missing a game-winning 53-yard attempt last weekend against the Miami Dolphins. But moving on from a critical missed kick has never, and is not, a problem for the fifth-year veteran. 

“(It takes) five minutes,” Parkey said. “You kick the ball, and if it doesn’t go in you’re not going to sit there and cry on the field, you’re going to continue to move on with your life. I don’t think there’s really much to it other than knowing you’re going to have to kick another one sometime throughout the season, next game, in the next week, you never know. You stay ready so you’ll be ready for the next week.”

Not allowing those missed kicks to fester is an important trait for a placekicker to possess. What helps Parkey quickly work through his misses is focusing on having a good week of kicking in practice, and also an even-keel mindset that’s been instilled in him since a young age. 

“I think I’ve always been pretty mellow,” Parkey said. “At a young age, my coaches told me never let the highs get to high, never let the lows get too low. And I’ve kind of taken that to heart. If I miss a game winner, make a game winner, I’m going to have the same demeanor. I’m just going to be super chill and knowing it’s a game, it’s supposed to be fun, we’re supposed to go out there and try our best. I put in a lot of work and I try my best on the field.”

That’s something, too, that special teams coach Chris Tabor sees in Parkey. 

“He's always been like that,” Tabor said. “He hit a good ball, his line was just off. In his career going in he was 7-of-8 over 50 yards. I'll be honest with you, I thought he was going to make it. And next time we have that situation, I know he will make it.” 

Age is just a number

Sunday will mark the 6th time in Tom Brady’s career that the 41-year-old has faced a head coach younger than him, but the first time it’ll be a coach other than Miami’s Adam Gase (who’s 40). Brady is 3-2 against Gase’s Dophins. 

Matt Nagy, meanwhile, is also 40. Brady just missed playing Kyle Shanahan (38) and Sean McVay (32), facing the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams in 2016, a year before both those youthful coaches were hired. 

Meanwhile, the youngest player on the Bears — 21-year-old Roquan Smith — was three years old when Brady made his unassuming NFL debut on Nov. 23, 2000. 

They said it

A couple of amusing one-liners out of Halas Hall this week…

Nagy, when it was brought to his attention that Mitch Trubisky (105.6) has a better passer rating than Brady (98.2), chuckled: “You want to say that one more time?” 

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, when asked if he’d ever heard of “Baby Gronk” Adam Shaheen: “(long pause)… Sometimes.”

Three keys and prediction: Bears vs. Patriots

Three keys and prediction: Bears vs. Patriots

1. Good games from Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan. Here’s a sampling of Pro Football Focus grades for primary middle/inside/will linebackers against New England this year: 

Reggie Ragland (KC): 60.1
Anthony Hitchens (KC): 30.2
Zaire Franklin (IND): 48.6
Najee Goode (IND): 47.1
Kiko Alonso (MIA): 63.9
Raekwon McMillan (MIA): 62.5
Christian Jones (DET): 59.7
Jarrad Davis (DET): 29.8
Telvin Smith Sr. (JAX): 64.1
Myles Jack (JAX): 61.0
Bernardrick McKinney (HOU): 68.7
Zach Cunningham (HOU): 43.2

Think what you will of Pro Football Focus’ grades, but the average here is 53.2. Interestingly, though, the average grade for these 12 players over the course of the 2018 season is 51.5. So maybe the issue is the Patriots have faced a bunch of mediocre-to-bad linebackers, allowing them to take advantage of those soft spots with Sony Michel running the ball and James White catching it. Smith’s PFF grade is 62.3; Trevathan’s is 64.3, so by this measure, they’re better than any of the interior linebackers the Patriots have faced but still are the weak spot in the Bears’ defense (only Jonathan Bullard has a lower PFF grade among players with 100 or more snaps). 

How Smith and Trevathan play will be key in determining how quickly Brady is able to get the ball out (with passes to White), and how many times they get into third-and-less-than-five situations (with Michel running it). Both those factors will be critical for the Bears’ pass rush, which brings us to our next point.

2. Pressure Tom Brady without blitzing. Brady is a master of beating blitzes, completing 23 of 31 passes for 314 yards with three touchdowns, no interceptions and only one sack when blitzed, per PFF (that’s good for a 138.4 passer rating). When he’s under pressure, though, he has his lowest passer rating — which is still 87.2 — but the point here is that the Bears can’t afford to have to send blitzes to try to get pressure on Brady. The Bears were one of the best teams in the league at pressuring opposing quarterbacks without blitzing before the trip to Miami, and how healthy Khalil Mack really is will be a critical determining factor in those efforts. But when the Bears do earn their pass-rushing opportunities, as Akiem Hicks put it, they need to at least affect Brady and not let him comfortably sit back to pick apart their defense. 

3. Convert red zone opportunities into touchdowns. This was a point Taylor Gabriel made this week about the state of the NFL in 2018: You can no longer afford to settle for three points or, worse, come away from a red zone possession with no points. Scoring is up league-wide, and the Patriots have scored 38, 38 and 43 points in their last three games. One of the biggest reasons the Bears lost that shootout in Miami was two turnovers from inside the five-yard line (Jordan Howard’s fumble, Mitch Trubisky’s interception). Stopping New England’s offense will be difficult, and the expectation should be for Sunday to be a high-scoring afternoon. If that’s the case, the Bears will have to get in the end zone every opportunity they get. The good news: New England’s defense is allowing a touchdown on 68 percent of their opponents’ possessions inside the red zone. 

Prediction: Patriots 31, Bears 27. The Bears’ defense sounded properly motivated after getting gouged by Brock Osweiler in Miami last weekend, but that only goes so far when one of the best quarterbacks of all time rolls into town. This winds up being a back-and-forth affair, but the guy with 54 game-winning drives in his regular season and playoff career makes it 55 late in the fourth quarter at Soldier Field. A close loss to the Patriots wouldn’t dampen the positive vibes around the Bears, so long as they respond with wins against the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills in the next two weeks.