Bears select West Virginia LB Thomas in Round 6

Bears select West Virginia LB Thomas in Round 6

Saturday, April 30, 2011
Posted: 3:47 p.m. Updated: 6:00 PM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

J.T. Thomas draft capsule

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The Bears 2011 draft came to a quiet close with their selection of West Virginia linebacker J.T. Thomas in the sixth round, the 195th pick overall.

Thomas, 6-1, 241 pounds, started 13 games in each of his last three Mountaineers seasons after working as reserve in 10 games his freshman year. He will need to be a solid contributor on special teams although, GM Jerry Angelo and the Bears liked that Thomas comes with options.

He fits us perfectly, can play all three positions, Angelo said. He played multi-roles there at West Virginia. We spent a lot of time on him, saw him at an All-Star game. He got hurt during that practice week, but we feel very, very good about his fit and picking up a linebacker was a goal today and he was the right one.

That would be an important step up.

The Bears behind Jerry Angelo have fared very poorly drafting linebackers other than picking Lance Briggs in the third round of the 2003 draft. One linebacker was selected in every draft from 2002 to 2009, a list comprised of Bryan Knight (2002, 5th round), Joe Odom (2003, 6th), Leon Joe (2004, 4th), Rod Wilson (2005, 7th), Jamar Williams (2006, 4th), Michael Okwo (2007, 3rd), Joey LaRoque (2008, 5th) and Marcus Freeman (2009, 5th).

Wilson made the team initially, was cut but returned and finished last season with the Bears. Williams gave the Bears several respectable seasons as a backup before being traded. But the Bears have gotten virtually nothing of consequence from multiple attempts to find a linebacker in the mid- to late rounds of their drafts.

But Thomas may be a better fit than some of his unsuccessful predecessors.

"Its the same defense that I played in at West Virginia, the same mentality, very aggressive, Thomas said. Ill also be playing alongside one of my best high school friends, Joshua Moore cornerback, drafted fifth round last year as well. It will definitely be fun and Im very excited.

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 looking into Teryl Austin’s past for clues on how Lions will scheme vs. Matt Barkley

Bears looking into Teryl Austin’s past for clues on how Lions will scheme vs. Matt Barkley

The adage “play the man, not the board” seems somehow appropriate for what the Bears are doing to prepare for the Detroit Lions behind quarterback Matt Barkley.

“The man” is Detroit defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, and the Bears have been scouting him as well as his defenses, beyond just Bears games, beyond this season and last, taking in his 2014 Detroit season when Austin prepared defenses for Jay Cutler and Jimmy Clausen.

How did Austin scheme for rookie Carson Wentz when the Lions played (and beat) the Philadelphia Eagles? How did he structure is defense to stop a rookie Teddy Bridgewater when Detroit played Minnesota? (Not very well, apparently, since the Vikings won both games and scored 54 points combined in the two games).

While the John Fox Bears staff went against Austin’s Lions defense twice last year, Cutler was the Bears quarterback. When the Bears beat Austin and the Lions two months ago, it was with Brian Hoyer.

Now the Bears quarterback is Matt Barkley, who has fewer NFL games played (seven) than Cutler has NFL seasons (11), Hoyer (eight), too, for that matter.

“Different defensive coordinators attack young quarterbacks differently,” said offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. “Some guys blitz, some guys play a bunch of zone. This group on defense there, they have a really good defensive coordinator, they're really smart, they do a bunch of stuff. On the back end, they run all the coverages.

“As a game, we'll have to make adjustments as the game goes and see what their plan to come out is early.”

Coaches and players may talk about how they prepare for a scheme irrespective of which opposing quarterback, running back, linebacker or whatever they will be facing. But in fact, preparations start with who is orchestrating the opponent’s offense or defense – play the man, not the board.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

A risk can be out-thinking yourself trying to anticipate what a coordinator will do. The first point, Loggains said, is to start with your own strengths.

“We definitely look at that,” Loggains said. “As you go in the league long and longer, you face these guys, you see them in crossover games. We always know how a guy attacks a rookie quarterback or attacks a young quarterback, a veteran, or, in Matt's case, a guy who hasn't played as much.”

Evaluations of Barkley’s performance will broaden, particularly now that he is on tape for defensive coordinators to scheme for and scout. And while they are watching Barkley, the Bears are watching them.

Bears Talk Podcast: Is there friction between John Fox and Vic Fangio?

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Bears Talk Podcast: Is there friction between John Fox and Vic Fangio?

In the latest Bears Talk Podcast, Jim Miller joins Pat Boyle to discuss the friction between John Fox and Vic Fangio. And are there changes in store for the Bears coordinators?

Plus, Brian Urlacher and Mark Schanowski break down the play of rookie Leonard Floyd and find out which one of Urlacher’s former teammates Floyd reminds him of.

And don't miss a preview of Sunday’s NFC North clash with the Lions, who will be out for revenge.

Check out the latest edition of the Bears Talk Podcast here: