Miller: Big blow for Ravens

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Miller: Big blow for Ravens

News broke early this morning about Baltimore Ravens All-Purpose OLBDE Terrell Suggs partially tearing an Achilles tendon during a workout session. This is a huge blow for the Ravens as most likely, they will be without their 2011 Defensive Player of the Year for most of next season.

Suggs is the Ravens All-Time career leader with 82 12 sacks. Rushing the passer is Suggs specialty, but its his versatility that the Ravens will miss most. His versatility is one of the reasons Baltimore GM Ozzie Newsome drafted Alabama OLBDE Courtney Upshaw this past draft in the first place. The goal was to put Suggs and Upshaw opposite each other on pass rushing third down situations. At the very least, the Ravens would have had the opportunity to work matchups by moving Suggs all around as DE or OLB. Or better yet, how about Baltimores ability to deploy three defensive ends with Suggs, Upshaw, Paul Kruger, and DT Haloti Ngata on third-and-long situations.

T-Sizzle has lined up at OLB and DE for the Ravens for years. He's spent so much time playing both positions that when the Ravens placed the Franchise tag on him in 2008, - with the lower designation number as a linebacker - Suggs filed a grievance for not receiving the higher tag as defensive end where he logged more snaps. Suggs ultimately struck a deal with the Ravens, reported to camp and had the grievance withdrawn.

Timing is Everything

The Ravens recently drafted Upshaw (6'2 272 lbs) who is considered a tweener like Suggs (6'3 260 lbs). Is Upshaw an end or linebacker? Newsome traded out of the first round, specifically targeting Upshaw early in the second round with the 35th overall pick. Supposedly, Upshaw fell on draft boards due to poor workouts. Ummm, I would suggest watching tape of Upshaw playing in actual football games. He's a one man wrecking ball that I personally witnessed as Alabama destroyed Michigan State during the 2011 Capital One Bowl, 49-7. Scouts and coaches loved his no-nonsense relentless play during the week of practices leading up to this years Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. Obviously, Newsome loved Upshaw more than most.

Since joining the Ravens in 1996, Newsome has drafted 15 Pro Bowlers with the Ravens first overall pick, starting with OT Jonathan Ogden. Of Newsomes 17 first round draft choices, they have a combined 51 Pro Bowls.

When the Ravens had to draft late in the first round, Newsome has nailed those picks too. How about Todd Heap (31), Ray Lewis (26), and Ed Reed 24th overall for examples?

Newsome may have wanted to draft a compliment to Suggs by selecting Upshaw, but if the Ravens 2012 top pick makes the Pro Bowl as a rookie, it will prove without a shadow of doubt that Newsomes timing and drafting skills are second to none.

Early 2017 NFL Mock Draft: Who would Bears take?

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Early 2017 NFL Mock Draft: Who would Bears take?

It may be too early for projecting the 2017 NFL Draft, but it can't hurt to look ahead.

Rotoworld's Josh Norris released his mock draft on Thursday for next year's draft.

According to Norris, if the Bears finished in the order of their Super Bowl LI odds, Ryan Pace & Co. would hold the No. 12 pick.

Their selection? Florida State running back Dalvin Cook.

Norris gives his explanation of the pick:

"My personal favorite running back in the class. Cook’s market share of FSU’s rushing yards and percentage of 20-plus yard runs last year was ridiculous."

Also in the first round, Norris has five Big Ten players projected to land in the first 32 picks.

Click here to check out Josh Norris' full 2017 mock draft.

Bears need to find solidarity on revamped offensive line

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Bears need to find solidarity on revamped offensive line

Overshadowed in the aftershocks of the Bears’ release of veteran guard Matt Slauson (and safety Antrel Rolle) was another roster trim this offseason that went largely ignored because four days earlier, the Matt Forte non-return had gone down. That was the release of Jermon Bushrod, as much a fixture for two years at left tackle as Slauson was at left guard.

Probably because Bushrod had been replaced by Charles Leno Jr. last season as the starter, Bushrod’s exit had been expected since mid-year as he struggled with injuries. Bushrod had voiced his own farewell address late in the season.

But Bushrod, as with Slauson, was a core member of a group that arguably needs to be closer-knit than any other position group. Bushrod and Slauson were mentors to Kyle Long and to even Leno as he was replacing Bushrod, if anyone needs a character testimonial.

While coaches and GM Ryan Pace are on record stating that the best five offensive linemen will start, which points to positions for each being determined through this offseason, that also demands cohesion, which the group had with Bushrod and Slauson.

Bears history is replete with solid centers who anchored and fused lines together: Jay Hilgenberg, Jerry Fontenot, Olin Kreutz, Roberto Garza, even Bulldog Turner and Mike Pyle, looking further back. One key was that each was the best lineman in the group, or close to the best. That makes leading easier, when you’re secure and very good.

Hroniss Grasu is neither at this point of his career. Manny Ramirez is a new guy and on a one-year deal at age 33. Meaning: Who is the linchpin of an offensive line on whom the healths of Jay Cutler, Jeremy Langford and others rest? Kyle Long is the Bears’ best offensive lineman and a force in more ways that just talent-wise.

The challenge for the Bears projects to be less finding talent to replace Slauson in particular, but finding the individual and collective character to make the whole thing work. This is about more than just the 2016 season.

After Bears release Antrel Rolle, Matt Slauson, question looms: Who else?

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After Bears release Antrel Rolle, Matt Slauson, question looms: Who else?

Just as the draft selections of guard Cody Whitehair heralded the Chicago end for Matt Slauson, and safeties Deon Bush and DeAndre Houston-Carson brought in alternatives to Antrel Rolle – both vets let go sooner rather than later – an obvious question hanging fire right now in the wake of other draft picks and signings is, “Who else?”

One expectation this offseason is that the Bears would make a difficult decision on rush-linebacker Lamarr Houston, who’s due $6 million this year and next and $8 million for 2018. That situation won’t stand as-is.

The final year of Willie Young’s contract calls for $2.5 million this season. That’s only slightly less than the $2.9 million Slauson was due for 2016 and that was rendered expendable by the Whitehair draft selection and the signings of Ted Larsen and Manny Ramirez.

In the Houston-Young cases, the Bears used a No. 1 pick on Leonard Floyd, a Young-type edge rusher. They used a No. 3 pick on Jonathan Bullard, a 290-pound defensive end with size-rush blend that Young doesn’t have. The Bears re-signed Sam Acho, who doesn’t give the Bears what Houston does as an edge rusher, but Houston doesn’t do anything on special teams, the roster entrée for non-starters.

Then there is the matter of Eddie Royal, with an injury speckled 2015 injury resume’ that defines “vulnerable” for player at age 30 and carrying a $4.5 million salary for 2016. What little the Bears did draft-wise on offense included diminutive wideout Danny Braverman in the seventh round.

Teams don’t make roster decisions based on seventh-round picks before the first minicamp. But Braverman, who led all FBS schools in receptions last year, is 5-10, around 180 pounds.

Forget the knee-jerk comparisons to Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman and Wes Welker just because they’re little white guys (and why is it that people grab those instant so-called comparables based on skin color? For another time.)

But NFL slot receivers in the Braverman mold include Seattle’s undrafted Doug Baldwin (5-10, 189, also a Florida native like Braverman); Randall Cobb (5-10) up in Green Bay, a No. 3 slot guy his first three NFL seasons; Jamison Crowder, a true smurf at 5-8 who caught 59 passes for Washington as a rookie.

Braverman does not make Royal roster-surplus the way Whitehair did Slauson, or Bush did Rolle, or Floyd makes Houston or Young (whom the Bears reportedly tried to trade during the draft). And Royal was banged up in part because he was thrust into a starter role by the injuries to Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White.

But numbers on depth charts and salary cap balance sheets force decisions. And the surprise of the offseason would be if the Bears were done making theirs.