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 announce training camp schedule

Bears announce training camp schedule

The Bears released their official training camp schedule Thursday morning. After reporting to Olivet Nazarene on Wednesday, July 26, the first of ten practices open to the public will take place the following day. The Bears will be based out of Bourbonnais for the 16th straight season. Training camp will go through Sunday, Aug. 13 before the Bears break camp and finish the preseason in Lake Forest. 

All practices are tentatively scheduled to start at various times during the 11 a.m. hour with the exception of Saturday, Aug. 13, which starts at 12:05 p.m. Those times are subject to change based on weather, and a varying set of schedules that John Fox and his coaching staff have set up, as they adjust to player and training staff preferences in hopes of reducing injuries. 

Also, new this season, fans wanting to attend practices must order free tickets in advance through the Bears website. Fans will not be allowed in without a ticket, and the first 1,000 fans each day will be given various souvenirs. The practice campus will be open to the public with tickets from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Here is the full training camp schedule:

After historically low turnover total in 2016, what can Bears do to get more takeaways?

After historically low turnover total in 2016, what can Bears do to get more takeaways?

Quintin Demps set a career high in interceptions last year by not doing anything different. And that’s the message he’s sending a defense that generated only 11 takeaways in 2016, tied for the lowest single-season total in NFL history. 

Demps went from picking off four passes in both 2013 with the Kansas City Chiefs and 2014 with the New York Giants to notching just one interception with the Houston Texans in 2015. In 2016, though, Demps intercepted six passes, broke up nine more and totaled 38 tackles. 

“Turnovers are like, it’s not something that you go get, it’s something you let come to you by doing your job first and then helping out,” Demps said. “And then you’d be surprised how they come to you by doing your job and being aware of when you can help somebody out. A lot of times when you get help is when you get picks and turnovers.”

The danger for a defense coming off a historically bad takeaway is sort of a whiplash effect, where there’s an over-emphasis on creating turnovers and not enough attention paid to, as Demps said, “doing your job.” There’s a fine line between being opportunistic and undisciplined.

“I tell my safeties all the time, we gotta tackle first,” Demps said. “Tackle first, don’t miss any tackles and then the picks are going to come. I promise you that.”

The Bears felt positively after signs of being more opportunistic as a defense during shorts-and-helmets practices in May and June, though if that was because of any real improvements or because the defense is usually ahead of the offense is hard to tell at this stage of the year. 

The offseason program was valuable for the Bears’ secondary in growing trust within a group that had — no pun intended — plenty of turnover after the 2016 season. The hope is that the offseason additions of Demps, Prince Amukamara, Marcus Cooper and Eddie Jackson will solidify the secondary and lead to something better than last year’s historically-low turnover total. 

“We’re still trying to build something, but the actual, real building happens in training camp because I think then you start to see the group start to get formed and yo know who’s going to go with the one’s, who’s going to go with the two’s, stuff like that,” Amukamara said. “So I think that starts to get formed. But I think with a lot of guys now, I think what that creates is competition and guys trying their hardest to make the team.”