The 2012 NFL draft is fast approaching.Its hard not to peek at all the mock drafts, but I about lost it when I recently saw one mock projecting mammoth DT Dontari Poe from Memphis to the Bears. Poeweighs350 pounds.You only have to go back two training camps to know, the Bears held out former DT Marcus Harrison because heweighed over 310 pounds. When you factor in Lovies Tampa 2 defense -- it's all about quick, penetrating, undersized defensive tackles --you can quickly weed out Poe.Poe is a two gapping nose tackle for a 3-4 defense which is about as far from a penetrating 4-3 DT as you can get. Just look up Poes stats. Registering only one sack last year in a subpar conference isnt a glowing endorsement for Ooh, ooh, ooh, pick me!" Im not going to mock the mocker, but they suggested the Bears needed a run stuffer. The fact is the Bears were aTop 5defense last year versus the run yielding just over 96 yards per game. The Bears could utilize depth at DT, but it will be in the form of a lean, mean, fighting machine that fits what they do schematically. Lets try to hone in on a handful of guys who fit the Bears in Round 1.SecondaryMark Barron:SS Alabama, 6-foot-1 213 lbs.This is a wishprayer. Teams preceding the Bears starting with Dallas at 14 all need safety help. If Barron falls, the Bears should grab him and never look back. Barron would finally close the revolving door at safety.Stephon Gilmore: CB South Carolina, 6-foot-1 190 lbs.I wrote about Gilmore in a previous column for pick No. 19. Recent reports continue to have him moving up as high asNo. 7to the Jaguars. That is a little too high, but Gilmore, like Barron, may not be there. The Bears may have to think about Alabamas CB Dre Kirkpatrick --6-foot-2, 186 lbs --whos marijuana charge was recently dropped.Defensive LineQuinton Coples: DE North Carolina, 6-foot-6, 284 lbsEverybody says his attitude has him dropping. Ill believe it when I see it, but defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is the perfect guy for any attitude adjustment.Whitney Mercilus: DE Illinois 6-foot-4, 261 lbsIs Mercilus a one year wonder? The fact is, Mercilus moved up and down the Illinois defensive front for matchup reasons. Lovie and Marinelli have dabbled in this the last three years with Izzy and the last two with Peppers. Mercilus is versatile.Wide receiverStephen Hill: Wr Georgia Tech, 6-foot-4, 215 lbsOther than Justin Blackmon in Round 1, I think Hill will be a very special NFL wide receiver. It is rare for a guy Hills size to run 4.36. Dont believe the hype about Georgia Techs offense not preparing wide receivers. Detroits Calvin Johnson and Denvers Demaryius Thomas are difference makers who block coming out of Tech.Watch what Thomas does this year with Peyton Manning. Jay Cutler would love to work wonders breaking in Hill.Offensive lineJonathan Martin: T Stanford, 6-foot-5, 312 lbsand Mike Adams: T Ohio State, 6-foot-7, 323 lbsOnly the Bears know where GabeCarimis health is at this point.Only offensive coordinator Mike Tice can truly tell you if he is comfortable with J'Marcus Webb at left tackle. Webb gave up sacks, but a handful was strictly on Mike Martzs play-calling. I personally like Adams over Martin, but a recent positive drug test by Adams has him dropping to late first round. Why? It's interesting that this news comes out prior to the draft.Some team leaked it, hoping Adams will fall. I dont think he will.Adams is too good.All are impactful players other than Whitney Mercilus who is young and may take some time, but the Bears would utilize Mercilus much like Mark Anderson his rookie season which resulted in double digit sacks.
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,.
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.