Bears signing of Rueben Randle has some curious elements

Bears signing of Rueben Randle has some curious elements

The Bears' signing of former New York Giant and No. 2 draft pick Rueben Randle to a reserve/futures contract on Tuesday was a small tell that the Bears indeed will pull just about any lever to effect a roster upgrade. But Randle is a curious case — they had a chance to sign him anytime last season and didn't — and there's a teeny shred of "this sounds kinda familiar" to it.
 
Roy Williams. Brandon Marshall. Now Randle? All part of a group that looks every bit the part — and then teams find out why they were available in the first place.
 
Randle was the 63rd player taken in the 2012 draft, 18 picks after the Bears under GM Phil Emery traded up in in the second round to grab Alshon Jeffery and already had dealt away two No. 3's to acquire Marshall. "Enigmatic" would be a fair descriptor for all three receivers.

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Randle piled up 188 receptions, 2,644 yards and 20 touchdowns in his four seasons with the Giants, and started 33 of 64 games. But two NFL personnel men described Randle as a head case who runs lousy routes and was never where he was supposed to be, which did not sit well with quarterback Eli Manning. Consensus was that the Giants would've dumped Randle if he hadn't been someone's No. 2 draft pick.
 
Signing Randle at this point, after he was out of football all year following his failure to stick with Philadelphia past the 75 round of cuts, is intriguing. The Bears brought him to Halas Hall for a workout in late November but chose not to sign him despite a wideout-lite lineup that was without Jeffery (suspended) and Kevin White (injured), had Deonte Thompson starting, and proceeded to drop 10 passes the following game vs. Tennessee.
 
A reserve/futures contract assures the Bears a longer look at Randle this offseason, at a time when their receivers depth chart is in flux, with Jeffery coming out of his franchise tag, Eddie Royal unlikely to return after two injury-riddled seasons and Marquess Wilson a free agent but coming off a fractured foot.

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

In doing some post-season wrapping up of my Nerdy NFL Notebook as we begin turning the page to the 2017 season, part of it involves compiling where each team finished in big-picture team offensive and defensive categories: overall ranking (total yards), as well as team rushing and passing ranks on both sides of the ball.

So if the Bears wound up ranked 15th overall in total yards gained and allowed, they should've finished…oh, 8-8, right? It adds to the deception of some of the deeper issues that focus on a lack of playmakers, which tied into their inability to make plays when it matters most. In John Fox's 9-23 start, 18 of those games have been decided by six points or less. They've won just six of those games. 

Offensively, the Bears ranked higher in total offense than five playoff teams: Kansas City (20), Detroit (21), Miami (24), New York Giants (25) and Houston (29). They wound up 17th in rushing offense, better than four teams who advanced: Seattle (25), Green Bay (26), New York Giants (29) and Detroit (30). And their 14th-ranked passing offense ranked better than the Giants (17), Kansas City (19), Dallas (23), Miami (26), Houston (29).

On the other side of the ball, they'd be even better off before allowing 109 points over the final three losses. Their total defense ranked better than Detroit (18), Green Bay (22), Kansas City (24), Atlanta (25), Oakland (26) and Miami (29). After being gashed for 558 rushing yards the last three games, they fell to 27th in the NFL against the run (better than only 30th-ranked Miami). But the seventh-ranked pass defense, despite collecting a measly eight interceptions (among only 11 turnovers), was better than nine playoff teams: Miami (15), Pittsburgh (16), Kansas City (18), Detroit (19), the Giants (23), Oakland (24), Dallas (26), Atlanta (28) and Green Bay (31).

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What do all the hollow numbers indicate? A lack of complementary, opportunistic football, playmakers on both sides of the ball, a minus-20 turnover ratio, and a lack of quality and continuity at the quarterback position — to name a few. All of those playoff teams have more impact players (or kept more of their impact players healthy) than the Bears in 2016.

While some of the numbers aren't that bad to look at, and some even raise an eyebrow, there's still a deep climb from the most significant numbers: 3-13.

Bears' best rookies will have another learning curve

Bears' best rookies will have another learning curve

There's a sense of irony and, to a certain degree, concern about what changes the Bears' coaching staff has undergone.

Think of the best of Ryan Pace's 2016 rookie class: Leonard Floyd, Cody Whitehair, and Jordan Howard. They were brought along under the position group tutelage of outside linebackers coach Clint Hurtt, offensive line coach Dave Magazu and running backs coach Stan Drayton. The latter was the first to depart, shortly after the season ended, to return to the collegiate ranks on Texas' new staff.

He's been replaced with former 49ers and Bills offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins (also serving as that position coach in Detroit, Buffalo, Arizona and Kansas City). Howard certainly adapted to the NFL game well, more than anyone expected, as the NFL's second-leading rusher. One would think Drayton played a part in that.

Longtime John Fox assistant Magazu was also let go after the season despite the impressive move of second-round pick Whitehair to center the week of the season opener after Josh Sitton was signed following his release by Green Bay. Whitehair was sold as a "quick study" following his selection out of Kansas State, where he was a four-year starter at three different positions (but not center).

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Like Howard, he wound up making the All-Rookie team, but whether he remains in the middle of the line or not, he'll be getting his orders now from Jeremiah Washburn.

Rounding out the trio of All-Rookie selections was Floyd, who was brought along by Hurtt. He impressed Fox enough to be kept around from Marc Trestman's staff, and moved from defensive line to outside linebackers.

That's where he assisted Willie Young in morphing to a foreign role, yet still managing 14 sacks over the last two seasons. The Bears have yet to name a replacement for Hurtt, who's joined the Seahawks in taking over one of their strengths in recent years, the defensive line.

These three were already good, and the jewels of last year's draft. But if they're to grow and ascend into impact contributors if and when this team becomes a regular playoff contender, it'll come from new faces, new voices in their respective classrooms and position groups.