Nathan Peterman

Final thoughts: Yes, the Bears need to take Nathan Peterman seriously

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USA Today

Final thoughts: Yes, the Bears need to take Nathan Peterman seriously

A good number of questions posed to Bears players this week were some version of this: Nathan Peterman is an awful quarterback, so how do you take him seriously?

Peterman has had a historically terrible beginning to his NFL career, throwing nine interceptions on 81 passing attempts covering seven games. His career interception rate of 11.1 percent is the third worst since the merger among players with 75 or more passing attempts (raise your hand if you’ve heard of the guys ahead of him: Alan Pastrana, who played for Denver in 1970; and Wayne Clark, who bounced between San Diego, Cincinnati and Kansas City from 1970-1975).

“We just got to defend their offense regardless of who is playing quarterback for them,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “I know that they like him there. He did earn the starting job coming out of camp. They pulled him for the rookie at some point and I do know that they have a lot of confidence in him, and we got to be able to defend their offense and he’s a capable player.”

While Peterman is at times a joke and at times an example of how ludicrous it is that Colin Kaepernick doesn’t have a job, the fact of the matter is the Bears do need to take the former fifth-round pick seriously. The 6-foot-2, 225 pound 24-year-old was seen by some as a mid-round sleeper back in 2017, the same year the Bears drafted Mitch Trubisky second overall. 

NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein drew a comparison to Kirk Cousins in Peterman’s draft profile, and summed him up thusly:

“Peterman's experience in a pro-style passing attack gives him a head start headed into the league. His physical attributes are just average, but his accuracy, composure and anticipation are what sets him apart from some of the more physically gifted quarterbacks in this year's draft. Peterman's tape is sure to catch the eye of at least a few teams in need of a quarterback and he should come off the board by day two with a chance to become a solid starting quarterback in the future.”

That was written less than two years ago, but it already feels dated — and not just because Peterman’s been an unmitigated disaster every time he’s taken the field in a Bills uniform. The part about him running a pro-style offense, and that being a benefit, doesn’t apply as much in 2018 as it may have even as recently as last year. 

Look no further to the success the Kansas City Chiefs have had with Patrick Mahomes — “He is going to drive his head coach crazy for the first couple of years and there is no getting around that,” an NFL executive told NFL.com prior to the 2017 draft — or what the Bears have done running an offense with plenty of non-pro-style influence. 

The NFL has changed to open the door for more innovative offenses, and with it, it’s left behind guys like Peterman who’s best asset seemed to be that he ran a pro-style offense in college. 

Trubisky vs. Peterman II

Here’s an amusing side-by-side statline: 

Seeing those numbers, you’d think North Carolina won easily, right? Not at all — Trubisky needed to find Bug Howard for a two-yard touchdown with two seconds left for the Tarheels to earn a 37-36 win over Peterman’s Pitt. 

Peterman totaled 47 touchdowns and 15 interceptions in 26 starts at Pitt, though he only topped 300 yards in a game once. But that game was an upset of No. 1 and future national champion Clemson, in which Peterman threw for 308 yards with five touchdowns. Perhaps that game was the biggest contributor, at least on film, to upping his draft stock in 2017. 

Small sample size

All this being said, 81 passing attempts is not enough to definitively say the Bears’ defense will feast against Peterman. His tape, yes, is sub-optimal, but it’s not like Brock Osweiler did a lot of impressive things before he dink-and-dunked the Dolphins to 31 points against the Bears three weeks ago. 

Chances are, the Bears’ defense will do well against Peterman and the Bills on Sunday. But only if they truly do take their opposition seriously.

Bears NFL Draft Preview: Franchise-QB search expected to continue sooner rather than later

Bears NFL Draft Preview: Franchise-QB search expected to continue sooner rather than later

CSNChicago.com Bears Insider John "Moon" Mullin goes position-by-position as the Bears approach the 2017 Draft, taking a look at what the Bears have, what they might need and what draft day could have in store. Sixth in a series.

Bears pre-draft situation

Jay Cutler lasted through two years under the John Fox coaching staff while his 2014 contract still contained some guaranteed money. The new regime under GM Ryan Pace was given the option by Chairman George McCaskey of cutting ties earlier regardless of financial commitment but Adam Gase and Dowell Loggains as coordinators made a go of it before Cutler's injuries (shoulder and thumb last season) and mediocre play regardless of supporting cast made the organization's decision for it.

Resolving a now-decades-old problem position has been goal No. 1 of Pace, with all indications that the process will be ongoing, vs. the Cutler's-fine approach of the past eight years. Step one was signing Tampa Bay Buccaneers backup Mike Glennon to a three-year deal but with $16 million of the $18.5 million guaranteed coming in 2017. The situation establishes Glennon as the starter, with a chance to put a hold on the job beyond this season with a breakout year.

"It's a leap of faith to some degree," Fox acknowledged during the NFL owners meetings. "But I think you do that in a lot of different positions and evaluations of personnel and people. The big thing with him is that he has been in NFL football games. He has been in a lot of systems and around different players and personalities and, I think, handled it well."

The decision was made to move on from Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley as backups, signing Mark Sanchez, 30, to a one-year pact worth $1 million guaranteed plus a per-game bonus that allows the deal to top out at $2 million. Connor Shaw showed promise before going down for the year with a broken leg suffered in preseason.

Pre-draft depth chart
 
Starter: Mike Glennon
Reserves: Mark Sanchez, Connor Shaw

Bears draft priority: High

The Glennon and Sanchez signings were modest financial and time commitments by NFL standards. Their depth chart has no "elite" in place and does not need another mid-range quarterback; they had that for eight years in Cutler and know what limitations a limited quarterback brings to a franchise.

Using Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints experience as the template, Pace has been clear that he is seeking a quarterback with the intangibles to do more than post statistics, going further to lift the collective team mojo, something too often painfully lacking during the Cutler tenure.

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All of which makes the quarterback draft options a level more interesting than the basic talent/traits assessments and evaluations that have circulated. The Bears have done extensive research on the quarterback prospects, and few envision scenarios where the Bears do not strike for one within the first several rounds.

The overarching No. 1 question: Will the Bears disregard draft slot (No. 3) and land a quarterback perhaps not graded that highly but with the intangibles the organization craves?

Question No. 2: Could quarterbacks go a surprising 1-2 with the Cleveland Browns tapping Mitchell Trubisky and San Francisco 49ers snatching Deshaun Watson?

As far as this year's class, "I'm not banging the table for any of them," said NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock, who tapped Clemson's Deshaun Watson as the No. 1 prospect in the 2017 draft class.

Keep an eye on:

DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame — The Bears sent a task force to South Bend for Kizer's Pro Day, in addition to a Combine interview and private meeting. Athletic but INT rate (2.7 percent), accuracy (60.7 completion percentage) and W-L record (14-11) nothing special.
 
Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech — Has been likened to both Cutler and Brett Favre for big-play predispositions, mobility and arm abilities. May have widest hit-miss potential, with major upside but also weaknesses in decision-making that concern some. "I just think his fundamentals break down too many times," Mayock said.
 
Nathan Peterman, Pittsburgh — Bears coaches worked with him at Senior Bowl. Not as highly touted as others in the class but among most pro-ready and rates as possible nugget in mid-rounds — if left on the board that long.
 
Mitchell Trubisky, North Carolina — Bears were scouting him intently early last college season and invested a Combine interview and private workout in additional time with what some rate as the best-available at his position in a class short on "elite" talents. But opinions vary widely, with Trubisky being mentioned for Cleveland at No. 1 or for No. 12, for example.
 
Deshaun Watson, Clemson — Unquestioned intangibles leader with curious "negatives:" accuracy (67.4 career completion percentage) and turnovers (2.7 INT percentage). Two full years as starter, two appearances in national championship game.

NFL Draft: Bears have had close look at one quarterback option outside the usual suspects

NFL Draft: Bears have had close look at one quarterback option outside the usual suspects

The Bears' emphasis at the top of their 2017 draft is expected to be on defense. General manager Ryan Pace has his time in personnel with the New Orleans Saints as a template of how to build a winning organization. That obviously started with a franchise quarterback in Drew Brees but also included six straight years (2008 to 2013) spending the top draft pick on defense.

But one thing Pace has done at the quarterback position this offseason has been to give his organization multiple chances for successful hits at certain positions — cornerback, for one, and including the most important one: quarterback, with Mike Glennon, Mark Sanchez, explorations of deals. Pace has not picked a quarterback through either of his first two drafts, but some of that had to do with then-offensive coordinator Adam Gase adamantly lobbying that the Bears had enough in place with Jay Cutler at that time. After Gase left, Pace moved for Brian Hoyer as a proven No. 2 (with a better record at that time as a starter than Cutler).

It would be unlike Pace not to continue creating more opportunities with major upside at the central position of the franchise, and the Bears are expected to strike for a quarterback later this month.

But who? And when?

During the NFL owners meetings last month, Bears senior football management sounded very much like an organization not feeling pressure to draft a quarterback, at least not at the top of the draft beginning in a couple weeks. One obvious reason was that Pace and the John Fox coaching staff like the upside of Glennon and the depth-chart experience that came in with Sanchez.

"(Glennon) has been steady, he's been consistent, he just hasn't had a lot of opportunity," Fox said. "But everybody that I've known that's been around him both in college football and pro football people that I respect and know pretty well feel really good about him moving forward."

"Feel really good" is not always conclusive evidence of anything, and Pace clearly could go with the nuclear option of grabbing Clemson's Deshaun Watson at No. 3 or elsewhere in Round 1. Or DeShone Kizer or Mitchell Trubisky or Patrick Mahomes or a player to be named later, for that matter.

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Which is where this becomes particularly interesting. Because the Bears arguably have an ever-so-slight lead on one significant prospect as the NFL comes spinning out of the final turn.

One of the clearly stated benefits of Fox and staff coaching the North squad at the Senior Bowl was the up-close work with prospects, beyond just game tape, Combine interviews or other incidental contact. Scouts may be able to watch players through practice weeks during the college season, but coaches only have them for interviews at the Combine and monitoring the accompanying drills.

Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains and quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone had Senior Bowl week, including position-group meetings, to form an informed opinion on Pitt quarterback Nathan Peterman, generally regarded as a likely mid-round pick, as Kirk Cousins, Dak Prescott and Russell Wilson were.

One thought: If Pace seemed comfortable with his quarterback situation, the reason might be in part because his coaches and personnel staff saw what they wanted to in Peterman to amply satisfy the franchise's need for a true developmental quarterback on the roster, something Pace has not selected in his first two Bears drafts.

Peterman has had workouts lined up with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills, Houston Texans and New England Patriots (and obviously, if the Patriots like you, you really must be special).

After the Senior Bowl experience, the Bears met with Peterman again at the Combine. He's not generally regarded as a first-round selection, and the Bears have reportedly focused elsewhere in private session (safeties Jamal Adams, Malik Hooker, Josh Jones; cornerback Marshon Lattimore; defensive linemen Myles Garrett, Jonathan Allen; tight ends Evan Engram, O.J. Howard, to name some).

Pace could go a third draft without selecting a quarterback; from the time the Saints acquired Brees in 2006 through Pace's move to Chicago after 2014, a run of nine years, New Orleans drafted exactly one quarterback, Sean Canfield in the 2010 seventh round.

But he's been about adding options and competition, and his coaching staff already has seen, up close, one popular, quietly rising prospect.

"Working with that staff, the Bears, was unbelievable experience," Peterman said during the Combine.

What remains now is seeing whether the Bears felt the same about working with him.