Bears

2017 NFL Draft Profile: Tennessee OLB Derek Barnett

2017 NFL Draft Profile: Tennessee OLB Derek Barnett

As part of our coverage leading up to the 2017 NFL Draft we will provide profiles of more than 100 prospects, including a scouting report and video interviews with each player.

Derek Barnett, OLB, Tennessee

6'3" | 259 lbs.

2016 stats:

56 tackles, 19 TFL, 13 sacks, INT, 5 PD, 2 FF

Projection:

First round

Scouting Report:

"Strong edge presence with NFL-caliber hand usage and play strength. Barnett is one of the most productive defensive linemen to come out of the SEC in quite some time despite lacking the length and twitch that teams usually look for off the edge. His awareness and play traits should keep him near the action and he has the talent to step into a starting base end spot right away. There could be coordinators who view him as an early down, outside backer in a 3-4 with the ability to put his hand in the ground on sub packages." — Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

Video analysis provided by Rotoworld and NBC Sports NFL Draft expert Josh Norris.

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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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Cody Whitehair cracks Pro Football Focus' top 25 interior offensive linemen

Cody Whitehair cracks Pro Football Focus' top 25 interior offensive linemen

The Chicago Bears offensive line, as a unit, wasn't great in 2019. The offense as a whole was pretty bad, and that's usually the result of an underwhelming O-line. The Bears were proof of that last year.

But that doesn't mean Chicago doesn't have promising talent upfront. Take starting center Cody Whitehair, for example. He cracked Pro Football Focus' list of the top 25 interior linemen in the NFL entering the 2020 season.

Split duties between left guard and center led to the lowest PFF grade of Whitehair’s career in 2019 (64.9), but he had shown himself to be more than capable of holding down the center position in three prior seasons. From 2016 to 2018, Whitehair’s 83.5 PFF grade when lined up at center ranked seventh among 42 players to play at least 1,000 snaps at the position. He’ll look to pick things up there in 2020.

Whitehair's PFF grade was a product of how the Bears used him. It's hard for any player to play at their highest level when their role on the team is unsettled. It's especially true for offensive linemen who are required to be in rhythm with their linemates on every single play. Flipping between guard and center makes it tough to build that cohesion, but it's something that is now in Whitehair's past.

Whitehair played 521 snaps at left guard and 576 snaps at center last season. It was nearly a 50/50 split.

The Bears have settled on James Daniels, the team's second-round pick in 2018, at left guard, and there's a training camp battle underway at right guard between Germain Ifedi and Rashaad Coward. Ifedi should get the nod, and the Bears will begin 2020 with a promising trio of interior offensive linemen who will be tasked with getting the running game back on track.

 

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