Moon: Bears' draft pick could pose some problems

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Moon: Bears' draft pick could pose some problems

Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Posted: 10:48 a.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

All of the talk swirling around whether draftees should or would boycott the draft has not obscured the fact that there indeed will be one. And it will not be an easy time, with the Bears picking at No. 29.

I had a brutal time with Chicago with this mock draft, not that anyone cares, joked Todd McShay, college scouting director for ESPN Scouts Inc. on a conference call Wednesday. I dont have the perfect answer for them.

Hopefully, for the Bears sake, Jerry Angelo and Tim Ruskell do.

The need areas on both lines are well documented and they need a young Tommie Harris, a guy who can be that three-technique, McShay said. But can you get him at 29 overall? I dont think you can.

Insiders at Halas Hall are extremely high on Henry Melton, who has added muscle on up to 294 pounds and he right now is the heir apparent to the banner that Harris put down. Unfortunately the Bears arent able to be in close touch with Melton right now because of the labor situation but Melton could be enough of a factor to allow the Bears comfortably address offensive line first.

Linebacker is a possibility for the Bears in McShays mind. And Angelo is a firm believer in keeping a strength strong, a philosophy that points toward defense.
No No. 1 pick at all??

The Bears could choose to be without a pick in round one for the third straight year.

I think the Bears may be moving back and acquiring an extra pick on day two, McShay said. That may wind up being the best scenario for the Bears.

Nate Solder from Colorado could fall to the Bears because he does not have the rankings of Gabe Carimi, Mike Pouncey, Tyron Smith or Anthony Castonzo.

But waiting on the offensive line could work for Chicago.

Addressing the tendency of Indianapolis draft legend Bill Polian to draft offensive skill positions in his first rounds, McShay went against some analysts and said that there is sufficient depth in the offensive line class for a team to make a move there in the second round rather than the first.

McShay has moved Miamis Orlando Franklin into that range of the Bears in the late first round. While theres a lot of very good football players, probably one through 26, theres a drop-off after that, McShay said. Orlando Franklin could become one of the surprises of this class.

Gabbert vs. Newton

It wont involve the Bears but Missouris Blaine Gabbert has solidified some standing ahead of Cam Newton in the race to be the first quarterback taken. McShay has rated them that way for some time.

I dont view it as a leapfrog, McShay said. When he started studying tape on them closely, it didnt take longAndrew Luck was No. 1 if he was coming out, with Blaine Gabbert No. 2 and Cam Newton No. 3.

But neither should be expected to hit with the splash of some recent high No. 1 picks. I dont think theres a Matt Ryan or Sam Bradford in this class, McShay said. I think we have to take a step back from the last few years and go back to the old way of taking a year with a guy and letting him sit a year. Hes the only quarterback in this class I would draft in the top 10.

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 establishing smash-mouth core with Jordan Howard

Bears establishing smash-mouth core with Jordan Howard

Eric Kush was in some pain after the Bears win over the San Francisco 49ers. But it was a “good” pain, particularly since part of it was inflicted by a teammate.

The teammate was running back Jordan Howard, and the Bears left guard was learning along with his linemates that when Howard is coming, “he’s a-comin’,” Kush said.

“Oh man, sometimes you’re, ‘[groan-groan-groan], and he’ll hit you right in the back, you fall and try to take your guy down with you and stick him in the snow so you’re not the only one getting soaking wet and cold. But Jordan’s a lot fun and we try to kick some butt for him.”

The rookie running back has become more than simply a draft nugget from the fifth round of this year’s draft. Howard has established himself as an integral part of a winning formula of complimentary football, the concept long favored by John Fox, Lovie Smith and coaches who operate from the foundation of a premier running game, impact defense and solid special teams.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

The Bears’ three wins have come this season in the only games in which Howard has been given 20-plus carries: 23 vs. Detroit, 26 vs. Minnesota, 32 vs. San Francisco. Add to those the 3 pass receptions against the Lions and the 4 against the Vikings and the true centerpiece of the 2016 Bears offense is more than a little apparent.

For obvious reasons beyond simply the rushing numbers.

“Especially pass protection,” said offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. “I think he's taken a big jump that way. When you're young in this league, those are the things that can get grey for you. You run the football, he's obviously a talented player there, but in pass pro, he's made his biggest growth.”

As a corollary to Howard, San Francisco was only the second game this season in which the Bears called fewer than 30 pass plays (the only other time was at Green Bay, when the Bears only ran a total of 45 plays, 27 of them pass plays). In that respect, the snow was viewed as an ally by some in the locker room who have been unhappy at the run:pass balance, which was just 36-percent-run coming into the 49ers game.

“It was one of these games where, with the weather, we couldn’t pass the ball like we normally do —  30 times — so we had to keep it on the ground,” said one member of the offense.

Howard’s breakout game as an NFL ball carrier came against the Lions (23 carries, 111 rushing yards, 3 receptions). The Bears, looking for a breakout of their own in the form of a first two-game win streak in more than a year, are expected to keep it simple — and in Howard’s hands.

“I always expected a lot out of myself,” Howard said. “I didn’t really think that things would happen maybe this soon or this fast. I’m definitely grateful for it.”

Bears looking into Teryl Austin’s past for clues on how Lions will scheme vs. Matt Barkley

Bears looking into Teryl Austin’s past for clues on how Lions will scheme vs. Matt Barkley

The adage “play the man, not the board” seems somehow appropriate for what the Bears are doing to prepare for the Detroit Lions behind quarterback Matt Barkley.

“The man” is Detroit defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, and the Bears have been scouting him as well as his defenses, beyond just Bears games, beyond this season and last, taking in his 2014 Detroit season when Austin prepared defenses for Jay Cutler and Jimmy Clausen.

How did Austin scheme for rookie Carson Wentz when the Lions played (and beat) the Philadelphia Eagles? How did he structure is defense to stop a rookie Teddy Bridgewater when Detroit played Minnesota? (Not very well, apparently, since the Vikings won both games and scored 54 points combined in the two games).

While the John Fox Bears staff went against Austin’s Lions defense twice last year, Cutler was the Bears quarterback. When the Bears beat Austin and the Lions two months ago, it was with Brian Hoyer.

Now the Bears quarterback is Matt Barkley, who has fewer NFL games played (seven) than Cutler has NFL seasons (11), Hoyer (eight), too, for that matter.

“Different defensive coordinators attack young quarterbacks differently,” said offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. “Some guys blitz, some guys play a bunch of zone. This group on defense there, they have a really good defensive coordinator, they're really smart, they do a bunch of stuff. On the back end, they run all the coverages.

“As a game, we'll have to make adjustments as the game goes and see what their plan to come out is early.”

Coaches and players may talk about how they prepare for a scheme irrespective of which opposing quarterback, running back, linebacker or whatever they will be facing. But in fact, preparations start with who is orchestrating the opponent’s offense or defense – play the man, not the board.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

A risk can be out-thinking yourself trying to anticipate what a coordinator will do. The first point, Loggains said, is to start with your own strengths.

“We definitely look at that,” Loggains said. “As you go in the league long and longer, you face these guys, you see them in crossover games. We always know how a guy attacks a rookie quarterback or attacks a young quarterback, a veteran, or, in Matt's case, a guy who hasn't played as much.”

Evaluations of Barkley’s performance will broaden, particularly now that he is on tape for defensive coordinators to scheme for and scout. And while they are watching Barkley, the Bears are watching them.