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2017 NFL Draft Profile: Ohio State CB Marshon Lattimore

2017 NFL Draft Profile: Ohio State CB Marshon Lattimore

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.

Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State

6'0" | 193 lbs.

2016 stats:

41 tackles, 4 interceptions, 1 touchdown, 9 passes defended

Projection:

First round

Scouting Report:

"Average-sized, one-year starter with explosive athleticism and a loaded tool box. He has the feet, hips and agility to be a lockdown cornerback and the ball skills to make teams pay for looking in his direction. His lack of experience could show up early, but he has the confidence and competitive nature that should help him overcome those issues. He has the ability to become a Pro Bowl cornerback early in his career." - Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

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

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4 reasons to feel optimistic about the Bears as training camp marches on

4 reasons to feel optimistic about the Bears as training camp marches on

The Chicago Bears' first padded practice of training camp won't happen until August 16, at the earliest, because of the rules in place to combat a league-wide outbreak of COVID-19. As a result, Bears players have been limited to offseason-like sessions in t-shirts and shorts in an effort to prepare for a 2020 season that will begin with a very different set of expectations than last year.

The Bears' 2019 season started with Super Bowl aspirations. After a 12-4 campaign in 2018 that was led by a ferocious defense, those aspirations were warranted. But 2019 didn't turn out as expected; the Bears dropped to 8-8, regressed on offense and took a step back on defense too.

Still, there are plenty of reasons for optimism in Chicago for this season. Here are four of them.

Nick Foles will stabilize the quarterback position

Bears fans want Mitch Trubisky to win the team's quarterback competition, and it's easy to understand why. If he loses, he'll officially be a massive (teetering on historic) bust of a second overall pick, and even if Foles is competent behind center, Chicago will be set back many years in their quest for a Super Bowl because of Trubisky's failure.

But if COVID-19 has taught us anything, it's that tomorrow isn't promised to anyone. So, for this season, for 2020? Foles will at worst provide the Bears with a chance to make a deep playoff run if he wins the job or is forced into the lineup because of a struggling Trubisky. 

Foles isn't a world-beater, but he is a Super Bowl winner who's established himself as one of the more dependable playoff performers in recent seasons. Bears fans know this personally; Foles came into Chicago and beat the Bears in the 2018 wild card round.

Return of the (Khalil) Mack

Mack ended last season with 8.5 sacks, which by mortal standards would be a solid season. But Mack isn't a mortal edge rusher, so of course, his year was viewed as a disappointment. Still, Mack was the Bears' third-highest-graded defender, per Pro Football Focus, at 86.2. 

Buckle up, Bears fans. Mack is about to go off in 2020.

Ryan Pace made a calculated decision to move on from Leonard Floyd, the team's first-round pick in 2016, and added Robert Quinn in free agency to be the team's new 'Robin' to Mack's 'Batman.' He's a qualified sidekick after registering 11.5 sacks for the Cowboys in 2019.

There's also the healthy return of Akiem Hicks that should help ease the pressure off Mack, too. 

Are 15 sacks a realistic possibility for No. 52 in 2020? Absolutely.

"He's training like I have never seen anybody train before," linebackers coach Ted Monachino said in June. "Motivation is not an issue with Khalil -- never has been. But what I'll tell you is that he has approached this offseason with something to prove, and that's something that I think we all can be encouraged by. I think that that's something that's exciting, when a player of his caliber approaches his work the way he has approached it."

Allen Robinson is still here

The Bears still have time to extend Robinson's contract, something that many fans assumed would be a priority for Pace and the front office this offseason. COVID-19 impacted (and continues to impact) all business decisions, however, and A-Rob's new deal is no exception. 

Whether the Bears strike a new deal with him or not, we know one thing for sure: Robinson will again be Chicago's go-to-guy in the passing game and will challenge for 100 catches for a second-straight season. And remember this: if the Bears don't get a new deal done by the time the season rolls around, Robinson will have even more motivation to show out in 2020. That's a scary thought.

Robinson was the Bears' best player, week in and week out, in 2019. Now, with a more accurate quarterback throwing to him in 2020 (whoever wins the QB competition will be judged, in part, on accuracy, per QB coach John DeFilippo), there may not be a ceiling on A-Rob's production. Will he top his 1,400-yard, 14-touchdown season from 2015? 

Offensive line isn't as bad as you think

Ok, sure, the Bears' offensive line wasn't good in 2019. But the entire team regressed, and the O-line was just one part of it. 

Think back to the start of last season, though. Chicago's offensive line was considered one of the best units in the NFL. Pro Football Focus ranked the Bears' line as the ninth-best in the NFL entering 2019.

The addition of Germain Ifedi at right guard will be more significant than the one-year contract he signed in free agency. He's an upgrade over Kyle Long (at least, the end-of-career Long), and the continued growth of James Daniels (left guard) and Cody Whitehair (center) could give the Bears an extremely underrated interior trio.

Bobby Massie and Charles Leno are a quality duo at offensive tackle, too.

The most important change this offseason was the hiring of Juan Castillo as the offensive line coach. He'll get this group playing up to their ceiling again, which will have a trickle-down effect on the rest of the offense in 2020.

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3 things 2020 Bears will need to repeat 2018’s success

3 things 2020 Bears will need to repeat 2018’s success

The first two years of the Matt Nagy era can be boiled down to this: First, a tremendously fun year in which the Bears blew past expectations; and second, a tremendously un-fun year in which the Bears fell short of expectations.

So what will 2020 be closer to: The unbridled joy of 2018 (until the last kick of the wild card round), or the numbing disappointment of 2019 (despite still winning eight games)?

To answer that question, we should start by laying out some expectations for 2020. Broadly: The Bears should compete for a spot in an expanded seven-team playoff field. More narrowly: The Bears’ offense should be, at worst, league-average – about where it was in 2018. And the defense, led by a mauling pass rush, should be one of the best in the NFL even without Eddie Goldman.

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But how do the Bears get 2020 to feel more like 2018 than 2019? Here are three key factors:

The tight end question

Trey Burton did not miss a game in 2018’s regular season, and the Bears’ offense was better because of it. While Burton’s numbers weren’t eye-popping (54 catches, 569 yards, 6 TDs) his steadiness at the “U” tight end spot allowed the Bears’ offense to create mismatches, especially with Tarik Cohen.

Burton never was healthy last year, playing poorly in eight games before landing on injured reserve. The Bears didn’t have quality depth behind Burton, and the “Y” spot was a disaster. The lack of any good tight end play wasn’t the only reason why the Bears’ offense cratered in 2019, but it might’ve been the biggest reason.

The starting point to the Bears’ offense in 2020 is, certainly, figuring out who’s playing quarterback. But the Bears need Jimmy Graham, Cole Kmet and Demetrius Harris to be the fixes their tight end room sorely needs. Just average play from those guys will help the Bears’ offense be closer to what it was in 2018 (which, again, was merely good enough), if not better.

MORE: Where Cole Kmet stands as Bears get to know their rookies

And if the tight end room is a disaster again? It might not matter who starts at quarterback.

Good luck and/or good depth

The 2018 Bears were incredibly lucky in dodging significant injuries early on. Adam Shaheen began the year on IR but returned in November; Kyle Long went on IR after Week 8 and came back Week 17. Depth pieces like Sam Acho and Dion Sims were lost, sure, but the Bears did well to make their absences footnotes to the season.

Even when slot corner Bryce Callahan was injured in Week 14, veteran special teamer Sherrick McManis did incredibly well in his place. Eddie Jackson’s season-ending injury in Week 15 was the most costly, as the Bears missed him in that wild card game against Foles and the Eagles.

But overall, the Bears were both lucky in terms of staying healthy and good in terms of replacing those injured guys in 2018.

The Bears saw some depth shine in 2019 – specifically defensive lineman Nick Williams and inside linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski – but even still, the defense struggled to dominate without Hicks on the field. And the aforementioned tight end position was a disaster without a healthy Burton. Long never was right, and the offensive line without him (or veteran backup Ted Larsen) never was either. Taylor Gabriel’s off-and-on availability due to multiple concussions hampered the offense, too.

2020 inevitably will be a year of attrition not only for the Bears, but for the entire NFL. In addition to avoiding football injuries before and during the season, teams will have to avoid COVID-19 outbreaks in their facilities. Training and personal responsibility can go a long way in avoiding injuries and illness, but it’ll take a lot of luck, too, for teams to stay mostly healthy.

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

The teams with the best depth will have the best chance of making the playoffs. Will the Bears be among that group? Maybe. But a shortage of draft picks in recent years might be costly. We’ll see.

Betting on pressure

The Bears had one of the best defenses of the last decade in 2018 because of, first and foremost, outstanding coverage from its secondary. The ability of Fuller/Jackson/Callahan/Adrian Amos/Prince Amukamara to disguise their coverages confused most opposing offenses, who by the way also had to deal with Hicks pushing the pocket and Mack marauding off the edge. Hicks and Goldman opened up gaps for Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith to snuff out any attempt at establishing the run. It was a perfect formula.

The 2019 Bears’ defense took a step back not only because Vic Fangio (and defensive backs coach Ed Donatell) left for Denver, but because of player attrition, too. Last year’s defense was good, but not great.

The formula for the 2020 Bears’ defense won’t be the same as it was in 2018, though. The signing of Robert Quinn, coupled with jettisoning Leonard Floyd, hints at a defense predicated on a dominant pass rush. Holes in the secondary were addressed on the cheap, be it with Jaylon Johnson or Tashaun Gipson.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. A trio of Mack/Hicks/Quinn seems impossible to contain. If the Bears’ defense re-emerges as one of the best in the NFL, it’ll be because those three guys lead the way in putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks.  

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