GM candidates have solid draft history

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GM candidates have solid draft history

The interview process for Bears general manager candidates is ongoing this week, with Marc Ross from the New York Giants making it to Halas Hall Wednesday, after San Diegos Jimmy Raye and New Englands Jason Licht earlier. Tim Ruskell has his formal interview Thursday and Phil Emery from Kansas City will complete the first cycle.

Bears President Ted Phillips is the point man by his own account. And it is always difficult to get a complete fix on how good each individual has been to this point in their careers, because they have typically not been the top guy in their current organizations, as they will be in Chicago.

But it is interesting to pick a spot and compare apples and apples, more or less. So CSNChicago.com took the last five No. 1 picks for each candidates organization (with the exception of Ruskell) as a point of comparison (recognizing that Licht was not with the Patriots for all five). This was a problem area for the Jerry Angelo regime so how have others done:

Jimmy Raye: The Chargers have had decidedly mixed results with their top picks. They selected Craig Davis in 2007 and he was a bust, a wide receiver, a position of high need for the Bears. Antoine Cason (08) is a starting cornerback and Ryan Matthews (10) starts at running back. Corey Liuget (11) from Illinois was a starter at defensive end because Luis Castillo (05) was injured. Defensive end Larry English (09) has had injury problems.

Analysis: A solid record, with GM A.J. Smith the prime architect. But the Chargers have consistently secured talent that has stuck around. The focus in round one has been on defense in San Diego since Philip Rivers selection (04).

Phil Emery: The Chiefs over the past five years have twice selected wide receivers in the first round. Dwayne Bowe (07) was a major hit and is on the Bears radar this offseason in free agency. Jonathan Baldwin (11) had a serviceable first year primarily coming off the bench. Safety Eric Berry (10), defense end Tyson Jackson (09) and defensive tackle Glen Dorsey (08) have been starters, as has left tackle Brandon Albert (08).

Analysis: Again a solid record at core positions.

Jason Licht: The Patriots drafted very well in first rounds since Brandon Meriweather (07) and even he was a Pro Bowl safety, if not ultimately a fit with Bill Belichick. Jerod Mayo (08) was defensive rookie of the year and a Pro Bowl linebacker, and New England got quality at cornerback with Patrick Chung (09) and Devin McCourty (10). Nate Solder (11) is listed as a starter at tackle and was a pick for the future.
Analysis: Licht has been with the Patriots twice, returning in 2009 after stops in Philadelphia and Arizona. New England does personnel the right way.

Marc Ross: The Giants, like the Patriots, are still playing in January because of hits in the draft. Cornerback Prince Amukamara (11) isnt starting but thats mostly because Kenny Phillips (08) and Aaron Ross (07) are. Jason Pierre-Paul was a home run at defensive end (10), and wide receiver Hakeem Nicks (09) is a major reason why New York is in the NFC Championship game.

Analysis: The Giants have had fits and starts but they have not had a losing season since 2004 and have been to the playoffs five of the last seven years, and missed in 2010 in a tiebreaker with the Packers after going 10-6.

Good or better? Why offseason moves are making 2017 Bears better

Good or better? Why offseason moves are making 2017 Bears better

Improvement typically comes in incremental steps, not leaps. And the Bears of 2017, based on what they have done at a handful of positions, the latest being Thursday’s signing of wide receiver Victor Cruz, fit that template.

The clear organizational commitment is to build through the draft, even if injuries have undermined some otherwise apparent upgrades to starting lineups on both sides of the football. But if there is a “theme” to what GM Ryan Pace is doing to muscle up a sluggish roster, it is that the Bears are willing to take flyers on veteran players – with additions like four veteran wide receivers with injury and issue histories – that arguably point to a win-now mindset while draft picks develop and contribute.

Jaye Howard and John Jenkins. Make the defensive line “better?” Than Jonathan Bullard and Will Sutton, probably. But “good?” Mmmmm…..

The game-one tight ends last year were Zach Miller-Logan Paulsen-Gregg Scruggs. Now they’re Miller-Dion Sims-Adam Shaheen (based on a second-round draft choice). “Good?” Maybe, maybe not. “Better?” Obviously, based on Sims alone.

Mike Glennon-Mark Sanchez-Mitch Trubisky. Bears “better” at quarterback? Than Jay Cutler-Brian Hoyer-Matt Barkley, probably. “Good?” Mmmmmm…..

The decisions to sign Glennon and Sanchez to the quarterback depth chart have sparked their shares of understandable cynical skepticism. But Kirk Cousins and Jimmy Garoppolo were not available in trade, so the Pace decision was to gamble on upside with Glennon over the known quantity of Brian Hoyer (the preference of some coaches) and certainly Jay Cutler, for whom “potential” and “upside” no longer applied.

Add in the aggressive draft of Trubisky and the result was three possibilities of hits on a quarterback (Sanchez and Connor Shaw being combined here as a pair entry in the hit-possibility scenarios). All three were deemed an improvement over Cutler and/or Barkley.

The results may not vault the Bears all the way up to “good” at the pivotal position for any franchise. But “better” is sometimes all you can realistically manage.

Taking a wider-screen look at wide receiver in this context… .

Coach John Fox has cited the need for the Bears to establish the ability to get yardage in bigger chunks. Accordingly, all four of the veteran wideout signings this offseason – Cruz, Rueben Randle, Markus Wheaton, Kendall Wright –  have posted yards-per-catch seasons of 14 or longer.

All four won’t be on the opening-day roster, but all four offer the promise of major impact. Cruz, Randle and Wright have had seasons of 70 or more receptions, and Wheaton topped out at 53 in 2015 with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Randy Moss, Terrell Owens and Jerry Rice weren’t available, so “good” was hard to achieve in an offseason in which Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal were expected departures long before their exits. But are Cruz, Randle, Wheaton and Wright, with Kevin White and Cameron Meredith, a “better” starting point than Jeffery, Royal, White, Bellamy, etc. of a year ago?

Obviously. But players with even moderately established NFL “names” (like Cruz, Randle, etal.) are typically available for a reason; teams do not routinely give up on talent. And none of the four come without significant shadows on their NFL resumes, whether for injury or other questions.

Cruz missed most of 2014 and all of the 2015 season, and hasn’t played a full season since his Pro Bowl year of 2012.

Randle was described as a head case by scouts and was so bad that he was let go in the Eagles’ cutdown to 75 last year, followed by disparaging comments from those in and around the organization.

Wheaton flashed promise in his 2014-15 opportunities as a part-time starter but played just three games before a shoulder injury landed him on IR last season.

The Tennessee Titans thought enough of Wright, their 2012 first-round draft choice, to pick up his fifth-year option going into las season. But by week 14 he was benched for tardiness and was a healthy DNP in game 16, announcing after the game that he already knew he was not in the Titans’ plans for 2017.

The prospect of the Bears going from 3-13 to “good” borders on fantasy. But if being among the NFL’s busiest this offseason hasn’t propelled the Bears to that level, the results point to “better.” At this point, that’s something,.

How big of an impact will Victor Cruz have on the Bears?

How big of an impact will Victor Cruz have on the Bears?

The Bears inked Victor Cruz to a one-year deal on Thursday, adding another receiver to an already crowded corps.

But it never hurts to add a veteran one to a young group, especially with a new starting quarterback.

Cruz is 30 years old and isn't the same Pro Bowl-caliber player he was before missing the entire 2015 season with a calf injury, but he surely has a lot left in the tank and can serve as a great mentor for the Bears receivers.

Just how big of an impact will he have on his new team? See what the SportsTalk Live panel had to say in the video above.