Bears select California S Conte in Round 3

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Bears select California S Conte in Round 3

Friday, April 29, 2011
Posted: 9:09 p.m. Updated: 9:48 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Conte draft capsule
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For the second straight draft the Bears drafted a safety with their third-round pick when they tabbed Californias Chris Conte with the 93rd pick of the 2011 draft.

Last year it was Major Wright with the 75th pick, who projects as a starter this season if he can avoid the injury bug that kept biting him almost from the start of training camp.

Conte, 6-2, 197 pounds, doesnt fit the starter mold at this point, although he projects as strong competition for Chris Harris, who struggled at times at free safety despite starting all 16 games at the position.

Its not going to surprise me if he comes in and earns some play time, GM Jerry Angelo said.

What Contes selection does strongly point to is the end of Danieal Mannings
Bears career, given that they have Conte, Harris and Wright in place at this
point.

Conte was a reserve cornerback for his first three seasons at Cal but did emerge as an All-Pac 10 first-teamer in his first season at safety. He totaled two interceptions in four seasons, one as a sophomore at cornerback and the other last season at safety.

But Contes combination of cornerbacksafety experience appealed to the Bears.

Hes a pure free safety, GM Jerry Angelo said. Its a no-brainer and he still has a lot of football ahead of him

We see him as a free safety but he has the size to come down low at strong safety. We really liked him for the value of the position.
A plan that worked

How truly good or bad the draft ultimately was for them will take months if not years to play out. But the Bears came into the 2011 draft with the hope of addressing four positions and they had players they wanted at two of those by the close of draft business on Thursday.

They took care of those two with an offensive tackle in Wisconsins Gabe Carimi for Round 1, and a defensive tackle in Oregon States Stephen Paea in Round 2.

In something of a draft rarity, both times the Bears made moves to trade up. They fortuitously failed to execute a deal with the Baltimore Ravens that would have cost them their fourth-round pick but still left them with Carimi, one of their targeted players.

Then they did move up in Round 2, an indication of both the priority they placed on adding on the defensive line and also how highly they regarded Paea, who at 53rd was the highest-selected defensive lineman by the Bears since they chose Tank Johnson with the 47th pick of the 2004 draft.

The concern was that Paea would be grabbed if the Bears waited until their slotted spot at No. 62, particularly after the Giants selected Marvin Austin at No. 53.
Starters and free agency

Angelo stated at the outset that the goal of the draft was to obtain four starters. Carimi and Paea are virtual locks to become starters, although Paea will need to beat out a developing Henry Melton at the three-technique spot alongside nose tackle Anthony Adams.

What Paea does is dial down at least slightly the need for a defensive lineman in free agency. The Bears rate Green Bays Cullen Jenkins highly but with the labor uncertainty, Jenkins status may remain unsettled along with several hundred other potential free-agent veterans.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

Bears Talk Podcast: Breaking down camp competition at wide receiver

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Bears Talk Podcast: Breaking down camp competition at wide receiver

On this week’s Bears Talk Podcast, we hear from Markus Wheaton as Chris Boden and JJ Stankevitz discuss the training camp competition at slot receiver.

Boden and Stankevitz also weigh in on PFF ranking the Bears’ starting lineup 18th in the NFL, answer listener questions and add another layer of Aaron Rodgers envy.

Listen to the latest Bears Talk Podcast right here:

Can Leonard Floyd break out in 2017? The Bears like the early signs

Can Leonard Floyd break out in 2017? The Bears like the early signs

The Bears believe Leonard Floyd will make the leap from being a promising rookie to a breakout second-year player, the kind who can be a centerpiece of a defense as soon as this fall.  

The Bears in 2016 totaled 37 sacks —12th in the NFL — despite dealing with a rash of injuries and not having a standout player in terms of getting to the quarterback. Willie Young led the team with 7 1/2 sacks, which tied him for 31st in the league last year, while Floyd and Akiem Hicks each had seven. 

Sixteen players recorded double-digit sacks last year. That’s not the end-all benchmark for Floyd in 2017, but for a former top-10 pick with elite skills and, as his coaches and teammate said, the right mentality, it’s not out of the question. 

“With most players, you go from your freshman year to sophomore or rookie to second year, … it slows down, they understand it, they're not thinking, they're reacting,” coach John Fox said. “And so I'd expect that and I've seen that already even in the off-season.”

Floyd, earlier this month, talked about how much more comfortable he feels after a full year of practicing and playing at the NFL level. 

“Everything was just fast when I got here last year,” Floyd said. “This year’s it’s way slower and I feel like I’m doing pretty good this year.”

There are two issues with Floyd that won’t go away until he proves they’re not problems in the regular season, though: His weight and his concussions. 

The weight issue is one Floyd has heard for a while, joking with reporters during veteran minicamp that he was surprised it wasn’t the first thing he was asked during his session with the media. He said he “definitely gained some weight” without revealing how much he’s put on, only saying he feels like he’s in much better shape now than he was as a rookie.

“It’s like night and day compared to last year,” Floyd said. 

The concessions are a far more serious — and scary — issue given it took Floyd two months to fully recover from the second concussion he suffered in 2016. 

The Bears believe Floyd’s concussion issues are correctable, though, given they were the product of poor tackling form made worse by collisions with Hicks. The crown of Floyd’s helmet was too low, so he and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio worked with tackling dummies and sled machines in an effort to fix that issue. 

The hope is that Floyd can stay healthy and marry his skills with a better knowledge of the game to put together a breakout year in 2017. His teammates sounded confident during the offseason program that everything was falling into place for the former ninth overall pick. 

“He’s a great competitor,” Hicks said. “Great energy, fast, athletic, he’s everything you want in an outside linebacker, right? Nonstop motor — I can give you all the cliche terms, but I just feel like as far as the defensive line or an outside linebacker, another year under his belt is only going to make him better.”

Added linebacker Jerrell Freeman: “That guy is going to be good for a while.”