Emery will not shrink from taking WR's No. 1

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Emery will not shrink from taking WR's No. 1

The Phil Emery Era begins officially on Monday afternoon at Halas Hall as the Bears install the one individual calculated to have the greatest single influence on the Bears on-field future.

For the moment, however, a significant look is to the past, as it was for President Ted Phillips and the organization over the past few weeks. The decision that Emery was the man for the Bears future was based on his past, what hes done or whats happened where hes been besides character traits and what he saw as the directions to be followed if he were the choice for general manager.

Keys to Emerys future (really, anyone's for that matter) lie in his past, whether as a tough, disciplined strength and conditioning coach at the Naval Academy or as a college scouting director in the NFL.

General managers bring definite philosophies to their courses of talent action, beyond the obvious quest for greatness in players.

Jim Finks focused on tackles and quarterback on offense, reasoning that the end game was to secure the triggerman and also elite protection for that individual. Consequently there was a premium on tackles like Ron Yary in Minnesota with a No. 1-overall pick, and Dennis LickTed Albrecht (1976-77) and Keith Van HorneJimbo Covert (1981, 1983) with first-rounders.

Finks built the Vikings defense on the foundation of Carl Eller and Alan Page, both No. 1s.

Jerry Angelo had a propensity toward linemen with first picks of drafts at Tampa Bay and Chicago, albeit with a far sparser success rate than Finks.

Wide receivers as draft targets

While Emery was a top figure in college scouting for Atlanta, the Falcons went principally after impact players on offense. They chose wide receivers with late No. 1s in consecutive drafts: Michael Jenkins No. 29 in 2004 (after cornerback DeAngelo Hall at No. 8) and Roddy White at No. 27 in 2005.

Defensive end Jamaal Anderson was a bust at No. 8 overall in 2007 but the Falcons scored in 2008 with quarterback Matt Ryan at No. 3 overall. The Falcons traded up to get USC tackle Sam Baker in 2009 and got a marginal starter.

Angelo disliked drafting wide receivers with high picks because of the too-freequent bust factor. David Terrell (2001, No. 8 overall) and Mark Bradley (2005, second round) supported his beliefs.

But Emery comes from the Kansas City Chiefs and GM Scott Pioli most recently, where a central figure on offense has been wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, the 23rd overall pick of the pre-Emery 2007 draft.

Bowe is an unrestricted free agent this offseason. The Bears have been willing to invest heavily in free agent receivers (Muhsin Muhammed, 2005) and Bowe is substantially above what Muhammed was at the time of his becoming a Bear.

And Kansas City used their first pick (26th overall) in the 2011 draft on Jonathan Baldwin, a wide receiver from Pittsburgh. Baldwin missed time early with a broken thumb suffered in training camp.

Notably perhaps are the types of wideouts his teams have drafted with Emerys involvement: Jenkins, 6-4; White, 6-0; Baldwin, 6-4. And Bowe is 6-2.
Resolving Forte
Emery also was with the Chiefs in December 2010 when they gave running back Jamaal Charles a multi-year deal that included 13 million guaranteed in various forms. That deal was one standard of measure for the not-accepted offer made to Matt Forte prior to the 2011 season.

The franchise tag remains the likely option in Fortes case. Only speculation here, but Emery also saw the fragility of a running back when Charles was lost for the season after one week. Chances would seem marginal at best that Emery would be inclined to pay Forte more than Angelo was offering and substantially more than the Chiefs paid Charles, a three-time Pro Bowler.

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.” 

Bears Talk Podcast: How will the offensive line fare in 2017?

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USA TODAY

Bears Talk Podcast: How will the offensive line fare in 2017?

In this edition of the BearsTalk Podcast, JJ Stankevitz and Chris Boden discuss what should be a strength - the offensive line, and one member who has a lot on the line this season.

Plus, the guys pick some numbers for the 2017 season and predict whether or not the team or individuals will fall short or exceed them.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: