Lions likely to address 'D'

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Lions likely to address 'D'

The Detroit Lions finally achieved some of the success seemingly predicted annually for them over the past couple of years. But the NFC North isnt standing still and the Lions wont stand still addressing needs.

Detroit should look at middle linebacker, cornerback and wide receiver, in that order, according to a breakdown by ProFootballFocus.com. Not sure wideout would be at in the top three of most lists, given Nate Burleson and Titus Young supporting Calvin Johnson, but the number of drops by Burleson and Young were part of the thinking.

Teams dont typically go hard after middle linebackers in either the draft or free agency. The reason MLB is on the list is the uncertainty over Stephen Tulloch, a highly rated every down linebacker who is a free agent. But the Lions dont sound like they intend to let Tulloch walk without a contest.

Stephens a guy that fit our system very well, said defense-based Detroit coach Jim Schwartz. Hes young, hes tremendously durable, hes tremendously productive and I think he can be a big part of what were doing in Detroit. I think that our linebackers were much improved last year. We still have a lot of work to do on defense but guys like Justin Durant and Stephen Tulloch made a big difference on our defense.

Cornerback is always a concern in a division that has Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers and his corps. Chris Houston and Eric Wright didnt hurt the Lions terribly but neither is rated a top corner and PFF mentions Tim Jennings as a reasonably priced option, although that assumes the Bears wouldnt have him back at the right price, and theyve got more money to spend than do the Lions.

Unstated were any concerns over the age of left tackle Jeff Backus, turning 35, a fixture since he arrived in 2001, or center Dominic Raiola, who was selected a round after Backus. Offensive lineman can play well into their 30s but protecting Matthew Stafford is a franchise priority.

Brandon Marshall responds to tweet asking if he misses Jay Cutler

Brandon Marshall responds to tweet asking if he misses Jay Cutler

The bromance of Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall began in Denver when they were drafted together in 2006, and then shifted to Chicago in 2012 via a trade to complete the reunion.

The two instantly hit it off and developed a close relationship on and off the field, a large reason why the Bears acquired Marshall to help spark some old magic.

But things took a turn when Marshall was traded to the New York Jets last offseason.

Asked on Twitter if he misses his former quarterback, Marshall responded with a genuine answer:

Bears sign Chicago native Tony Moeaki, defensive lineman Marquis Jackson

Bears sign Chicago native Tony Moeaki, defensive lineman Marquis Jackson

Tony Moeaki is coming home.

The Bears announced on Thursday that they have signed the former Wheaton Warrenville South standout.

Moeaki attended Bears minicamp on a tryout and impressed the coaching staff enough to secure a deal.

The 29-year-old Moeaki appeared in 11 games for the Atlanta Falcons last season and recorded three catches for 58 yards and a touchdown. Moeaki was originally selected by the Kansas City Chiefs in the third-round (93rd overall) of the 2010 NFL Draft out of Iowa. He has 91 receptions for 1,201 yards and six touchdowns in 48 career games.

Moeaki is expected to provide tight end depth and compete for a backup spot behind starter Zach Miller.

The Bears also announced the signing of defensive lineman Marquis Jackson, the twin brother of former Denver Broncos Super Bowl champion and current Jacksonville Jaguars defensive lineman Malik Jackson. Marquis Jackson entered the NFL in 2013 with the Minnesota Vikings as an undrafted free agent out of Portland State, but has not appeared in a regular-season NFL game. 

In corresponding roster moves, the Bears waived defensive lineman Kenton Adeyemi and linebacker Don Cherry.

Minicamp wrap: Three answers to 'So, how do the Bears look?'

Minicamp wrap: Three answers to 'So, how do the Bears look?'

The Bears concluded their three-day mandatory minicamp on Thursday, ending on a short-term feel-good — coach John Fox canceling the last offseason practice before training camp starts on July 27.

“They’ve earned it,” Fox said with a tone that suggested a degree of satisfaction in what he’d seen at this point of his 15th NFL head coaching season. “I don’t just do that because I feel like it. They worked real hard. We had great participation and they worked extremely hard. They earned it.”

Positive beliefs are frequently easy to find this far in advance of games that matter. But within the work of the OTA’s and minicamp were “tells,” signs that the Bears clearly believe they are nothing like the squad that wobbled through four losses in its final five games to finish 6-10.

But how exactly DO the Bears look as their pre-camp work wraps up? Three answers to that question emerged over the past several weeks:

1. They really AREN’T the same team from a year ago, or even six months ago.

Fox is among those who maintain that big jumps occur from year one to year two for players, particularly young ones. But more than individual players make year-one-to-year-two leaps.

Fox’s Carolina Panthers improved from seven to 11 wins from his first to second seasons with them, reaching the Super Bowl in year two (2003). His Denver Broncos teams went from eight wins in Fox’s year-one (2011) to 13 in year two.

“It’s hard to predict what’s going to happen,” Fox said. “But I’m pleased with where we are this year. If I had to compare to something, it would be this time last year and I feel much better about where we are now than I did at this time a year ago.”

Easy to say, but consider: This time a year ago, six current starters on defense (Mitch Unrein, Lamarr Houston, Willie Young, Tracy Porter, Harold Jones-Quartey) were not practicing. Jones-Quartey and Unrein were not even Bears.

This time a year ago, Jared Allen was trying to be a linebacker. Brock Vereen was a starting safety. Eddie Goldman was out of shape and barely practicing. Kevin White was busy stress-fracturing his left leg. Jordan Mills was the starting right tackle.

Yes, Fox should feel “much better.”

2.  Bears D is visibly “night and day from last year”

The 2015 Bears defense went into Week 17 last season with exactly one defensive lineman (Will Sutton) who’d been with the team going into training camp. The unit finished 29th allowing third-down conversions and 30th in interception rate, among other less-than-stellar indicators.

Through this minicamp, the practice field frequently echoed with whoops from a defense that had picked off a pass or knocked a football loose. Quarterback Jay Cutler was rarely intercepted through camp last year, a sign of what was to come under coordinator Adam Gase through the regular season. This year he has not had his way with the defense.

“Just going against them from my perspective, it seems like night and day from last year,” Cutler said. “Just going against these guys, it’s a much different group, much different group. They’re faster, they’re quicker and they’ve got a confidence about them. I think Vic [Fangio, defensive coordinator] really doing a good job of mixing it up and showing us different looks.

“They’re going to help us out, get some short fields, get some turnovers, put some pressure on us to do our job on offense.”

3. Meshing vets adamant: “We can accomplish a lot here.”

Simply bringing a bunch of even talented veterans assures absolutely nothing (insert Daniel Snyder joke here). The Bears experienced that when in 2014 they brought in Allen, Houston and Young, then saw the defense remain at epic lows as the Bears went from 8-8 to 5-11.

This offseason the Bears brought in two starting inside linebackers (Jerrell Freeman, Danny Trevathan) behind a massive defensive end (Akiem Hicks). On offense, Kyle Long returned to guard from tackle as the Bears signed workout-mate Bobby Massie, among other changes.

And the result of bringing together multiple players from winning programs has contributed to a palpable attitude adjustment to one that was conspicuously absent last year.

“I feel like, that you know a lot of people doubt [teammates] or some guys were hurt last year or this and that,” said Trevathan, a Super Bowl winner with Denver last season and who had his ring on display for teammates on Wednesday. “But you know, they're playing like they're hungry, with a chip on their shoulder. They're playing like they're hungry and that's what I'm used to and that's where you need to start.”

“Hungry” in June doesn’t necessarily mean wins in Fall. But a lack of hunger or shoulder-chip typically does point to looming problems, so the strong attitude the other way does count for something.

“There’s a lot of great talent here,” said Massie, a playoff veteran from the Arizona Cardinals under coach Bruce Arians. “And this team can accomplish a lot of good things. From the past team I’ve been with I see a lot of the things that we had with those past teams here. So we can accomplish a lot here.”