Notes: New nickname for Tillman; Bears playoff bound?

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Notes: New nickname for Tillman; Bears playoff bound?

Mega-Nut?

The Bears defense shut down All-World wide receiver Calvin Johnson by assigning cornerback Charles Tillman to cover him from the time he laced up his shoes. Johnson caught just three of the 11 passes thrown to him, due to a combination of pass rush, help from solid play at safety and a nickel defense tandem of D.J. Moore and Kelvin Hayden.

And Tillman.

I dont know how he does it, linebacker Brian Urlacher said, shaking his head. I mean, Calvin Johnson is a big-, big-time receiver. Peanut is a big-time corner. I dont know how he does it but Im glad he does, glad he plays for us.

So, if Johnson is known league-wide as Megatron, does that make Tillman, with his Peanut nickname, MegaNut?

Tillman was selected to his first Pro Bowl last season. On the heels of his consecutive-game interception returns for touchdowns, Tillman virtually locked up his second on the national stage of Monday Night Football.

Against Johnson, one of the wideout standards in the NFL. Tillman also forced two fumbles.

The performance is consist with all the ones since his well-remembered ripping of the ball away from Randy Moss, when Tillman was an upstart rookie and offensive coordinator Mike Tice was the Minnesota Vikings head coach.

Bears coaches used 5-9 Moore as their base nickel back but went to Hayden, taller at 6-feet and 15 pounds heavier, for some man-to-man matchups when Johnson was moved inside to the slot.

But the heavy lifting was Tillman, the prototype big cornerback sought by every team for matchups like Johnson.

I think credit has to go to Tillman, said Detroit coach Jim Schwartz. He matched Calvin pretty much the whole game and they did a good job and combined that with pass rush. It threw our timing off.

MegaNut can do that.

Playoffs? PLAYOFFS?

As I mentioned Monday on Chicago Tribune Live, if the NFC playoffs started today, three NFC North teams would be in the draw.

Besides the Bears, the Minnesota Vikings (5-2) are tied for the third-best record in the conference, and the Green Bay Packers (4-3) would hold an edge in a three-way tiebreaker with Arizona and Seattle by virtue of a better conference record.

More to the point, although nothing really matters historically as far as a current season, but this marks the eighth time since the 1970 merger of AFL and NFL that the Bears have started a season 5-1 or better. They reached the playoffs in all of the previous seven (1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1990, 2001, 2006).

In two of those they reached the Super Bowl.

Robert Nkemdiche Arizona Cardinals NFL Draft Profile

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Robert Nkemdiche Arizona Cardinals NFL Draft Profile

As part of our coverage leading up to the 2016 NFL Draft we will provide profiles of more than 150 prospects, including a scouting report and video interviews with each player.

Robert Nkemdiche (DL), Mississippi

6’3” | 294 lbs.

2015 stats:

26 tackles, 7 TFL, 3 sacks, PD

Selection:

1st Round, 29th overall to Arizona Cardinals

Scouting Report:

"Where He Wins: Production was definitely minimal, but Nkemdiche offers plenty of disruption potential. After playing outside early in his career, Nkemdiche looks at his best inside. His natural athleticism is an advantage there, winning around heavy footed offensive linemen off the snap or through weaker opponents. He lacks backfield vision and awareness." - Josh Norris, Rotoworld.com

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

Check out NBC Sports' complete 2016 NFL Draft coverage here.

Stay up to date with RotoWorld's official 2016 NFL Draft tracker.

Analyzing the Bears’ thought process on selected Leonard Floyd

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Analyzing the Bears’ thought process on selected Leonard Floyd

When coach John Fox refashioned the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos on a foundation of defense, he did it with high draft picks on edge rushers Julius Peppers and Von Miller.

When defensive coordinator Vic Fangio turned the San Francisco 49ers into an elite 3-4, he started with edge rusher Aldon Smith in 2011.

All three became sack terrors on defenses that went to Super Bowls. That is the general plan for Leonard Floyd and the Bears, who didn’t give Fox a pass rusher last year at No. 7 but traded up from No. 11 to No. 9 to get what they clearly see as the linchpin of a defense in true need of impact at tipping points of games.

“[Fox] has been pounding the table to add these kind of guys for awhile,” said GM Ryan Pace, smiling, “and we talk during the season: ‘Hey, Ryan, we gotta get off the field on third down, we gotta get off the field on third down.’

“We needed guys to help us in that area and this is the type of player that can help that, add a major pass rush threat to our defense.”

If there is a twist in the Floyd selection, it is that his sack production at Georgia suffered because he was so versatile that coaches used him in so many different positions that he was only a part-time true pass rusher.

The Bears, however, looked at that and saw options, all based on what they saw on tape as an impact player regardless of where he played, and one possessed of elite speed.

Floyd said during this year’s Combine that Georgia was a base 3-4 defense that was forced into nickel more often than not – exactly what the Bears experienced in 2015.

“It’s hard to find outside linebackers that can rush the passer but also have the versatility to drop into coverage,” Pace said. “And he can do that. What’s rare is when a guy is that tall and long and running down the field and he’s changing direction like that – you don’t see that very often so it’s very attractive.”

Pace cautioned against comparing Floyd to Smith, who developed into one of the NFL’s most feared pass rusher before mishandling off-field situations.

But Smith, unlike Willie Young for the Bears last season, was an every down player, albeit at 260+ pounds. Floyd is listed in the 240s and the Bears are wary of adding bulk on an assumption that he needs to be bigger to hold the point against the run. They envision him as an every down player as-is.

“You have to watch a lot of tape but you see him come off the edge,” Pace said. “You see him beat people with outside speed and bend the corner. He’s got a great inside spin move that’s really difficult to defend. Then you see him play the run.

“You see all those things. The guy rarely comes off the field. A lot of these college guys, they’re getting subbed in and out in critical moments of the game. That’s kind of a concern right? This guy never comes off the field. You see him play a lot of different positions. He has great stamina.”

Questions hung over Floyd’s production as a pass rusher but Floyd saw himself as part of a bigger picture. “I’ll say on some of the plays, some plays I could have made,” Floyd said at the Combine, “and some plays I set it up for my teammates to make.”

That would be pretty much the idea the Bears have for him.

Kenny Clark Green Bay Packers NFL Draft Profile

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Kenny Clark Green Bay Packers NFL Draft Profile

As part of our coverage leading up to the 2016 NFL Draft we will provide profiles of more than 150 prospects, including a scouting report and video interviews with each player.

Kenny Clark (DL), UCLA

6’3” | 314 lbs.

2015 stats:

73 tackles, 10.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 5 PD

Selection:

1st Round, 27th overall to Green Bay Packers

Scouting Report:

"Where He Wins: Clark was one of the more dominant players in the country to open the season. He combines power with balance and is very good at creating separation at the line of scrimmage to make a play on ball carriers for minimal gains. He displays enough slipperiness and plays within his strengths to impact as an upfield disruptor on passing downs as well." - Josh Norris, Rotoworld.com

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