Moon: Bears will land DT, Austin in the spotlight

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Moon: Bears will land DT, Austin in the spotlight

Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Posted: 10:17 a.m.
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Draft noodling on final approach.

JMarcus Webbs thoughts after being honored as the 41st Brian Piccolo Award winner were the stuff of character, which is ultimately a big part of why teammates vote for the particular honorees. A respect for what came before him, a sense of what it means to be an inspiration to others those came through eloquently from the rookie tackle who wasnt drafted until the seventh round, yet emerged as a starter on the offensive line, one of the more difficult jobs to secure as a rookie.

JMarcus also was candid, in a quality sort of way, telling me about his hope that hell get a good shot at playing left tackle. He wasnt exactly lobbying, just being refreshingly honest about a position preference, something players sometimes are reluctant to do out of deference to the fact that its always the coaches decision ultimately.

But left tackle was the position he played primarily at West Texas A&M and I feel really comfortable there, he said, so well see.

The reality is that the Bears will draft an offensive lineman, more than likely with the skill set and physical traits of a tackle. If the Bears end up with, say, Nate Solder of Colorado, whos a left-tackle body (6-8-12 and a former hoopster), or Derek Sherrod from Mississippi State (6-5 and a college career LT), Webbs future likely lies on the right side.

If the draft breaks such that the Bears add Baylor strongman Danny Watkins, a right-tackle type who can play guard, Webbs plane to the left side will be boarding.

Consider it a draft stunner if the Bears do not land a defensive tackle with one of their first two picks. Some measure of spotlight continues to fall on Marvin Austin, who had some success at North Carolina but was suspended for all of the 2010 season.

It is still difficult to get a grip on the idea that the Bears, a touchdown from reaching a Super Bowl, would invest a No. 1 or even a No. 2 pick on a player with any questions, particularly given the Tank Johnson episode and how mercurial Tommie Harris became in the closing years here.

But Austin is nothing if not intriguing, and he doesnt shrink from issues. The fact that he said at the Combine that he didnt regret anything was a bit of a jaw-dropper. But Austin will weigh in pretty articulately on matters like whether the NCAA, which suspended him for taking things like free trips, should in fact be giving players a stipend of some sort.

Thats an extremely hard question to answer, because you do get a scholarship, you do get certain privileges that some other non athletes get, Austin says. But at the same time its extremely hard, for me, being a 300-pound guy, to eat lunch and its only 10. That doesnt go very far with inflation and its still the same since like 1997.

So I think theres ways it can be improved and I think that some of the things that the NCAA is doing are good. Just like I said, going through the situation and seeing how some of these situations happened, the NCAA, they have a decent handle on it but there can be room for reform.

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.

Eddie Jackson healthy, ready to bring center fielder range to Bears' secondary

Eddie Jackson healthy, ready to bring center fielder range to Bears' secondary

Eddie Jackson’s senior year at Alabama was cut short by a broken leg, but the Bears’ fourth-round pick doesn’t expect that injury to affect him in 2017. 

Jackson suffered his injury Oct. 22 returning a punt against Tennessee and missed the rest of Alabama’s season. 

“I’m just ready to get there and work with the training staff at the Bears,” Jackson said. “I know I’m gonna be ready for training camp 100 percent, no limitations.”

When healthy, Jackson was an electric playmaker — nine interceptions, 12 pass breakups and five total touchdowns — who worked initially as a cornerback and later as a safety at Alabama. Two of those scores came in 2016 as a punt returner, a position where he could make an immediate impact for the Bears.

“(The Bears) told me they liked me as a returner,” Jackson, who averaged 23 yards per punt return, said. “That’s one of the things they want to try me at, or see how well I do. All I’ve got to say is I’m just ready to come in and compete and work. You know, take advantage of every opportunity that’s given to me right now.”

Jackson moreso fits a Bears need as a rangy free safety, though he wasn’t a sure tackler with 16 missed tackles in 122 attempts from 2014-2016, according to Pro Football Focus. In addition to those nine interceptions (six of which came in his junior year), Jackson broke up 12 passes in four years, and in 2016, he limited opposing quarterbacks to a 38.3 passer rating when they threw his way. 

And Jackson turned three of his interceptions into touchdowns. For some context: Malik Hooker, the Colts’ 15th overall pick who was regarded as the best “center fielder” safety prospect this year, had three touchdowns on seven college interceptions. 

“When I get the ball, I feel like I turn into a receiver,” Jackson said. “It’s my mindset. I don’t think about going out of bounds, or think about going down, I think about touchdowns.”

The Bears only intercepted eight passes as a team last year, a void the team began to address with the signing of Quintin Demps (six interceptions in 2016) in March. Jackson will push Adrian Amos, who doesn’t have an interception in over 1,800 career plays. 

“I just feel like wherever I’m needed I can do it all,” Jackson said. “I’ll have good coaching they can teach me what I need to be taught and they talked to me about playing safety and special teams. I’m just looking forward to come out there and earn a spot and hopefully take us to a Super Bowl. It’s possible.”

Is Bears' fourth-round pick Tarik Cohen a smaller Tyreek Hill or a Darren Sproles comp?

Is Bears' fourth-round pick Tarik Cohen a smaller Tyreek Hill or a Darren Sproles comp?

"The Human Joystick" nickname came from game action YouTube videos. But Tarik Cohen really got on the map for those who weren't aware of his on-field exploits through his acrobatic Instagram videos, including catching footballs simultaneously with each hand as he completes a backflip.

"It started because I had seen someone else do it. And we were bored after summer conditioning and decided to go out and try it," Cohen told reporters at Halas Hall Saturday afternoon. "The first two times (with one football, one hand) I failed, but the third time I got it pretty naturally. Then I was competing with someone else at a different school and he had done it too. So then I had to one up myself because everyone was asking what was next. So then I did it with two. Social media got ahold of that and things went crazy." 

As for the nickname?

"I really prefer ... Someone on ESPN had called me "Chicken Salad" and I really liked that," Cohen said. "I don't think it's bad. "Human Joystick," I like it too."

Chicken Salad?

"I don't know, I've never heard anybody called that, I wanted to be the one of one," Cohen said.

[MORE: Bears select Alabama safety Eddie Jackson in the fourth round]

Cohen became Ryan Pace's second fourth-round pick on Saturday (No. 119) with a vision of becoming the running game's change of pace to last year's Pro Bowl fifth-round surprise Jordan Howard. In four years at North Carolina A&T, the 5-foot-6, 179 lb. waterbug piled up a MEAC-record 5,619 rushing yards and 61 touchdowns. Cohen notched 18 of those scores as a senior, including four of 83 yards or more. He had the fastest 10-yard split as part of his 4.42, 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine.

"I was really disappointed with my 40 time because I wanted to run a sub 4.40 and I stumbled on the first one and it seems the second is always slower than the first," Cohen said.

Last season, Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill became the all-purpose headache for Chiefs opponents, especially in space, with six receiving touchdowns, three rushing and three more on returns. Cohen is four inches shorter than Hill and doesn't return kicks, but size wise is a comp for Darren Sproles, who was also a fourth-round pick by the Chargers in 2005, but all three of his Pro Bowl appearances have come in the last three seasons.  The physical stature in Sproles has seemed to be a bigger issue for opponents than the player himself, missing only eight games in his career.

"I think it'll play a key role and benefit me," Cohen told us. "The linemen are going to be bigger and it'll be really hard for defenders to see behind my linemen.

"I didn't want to necessarily be bigger (growing up), but I wanted to beat the bigger kids."

Did he?

"Oh yeah, definitely. I've got that chip on my shoulder and when I went against the bigger kids I felt I had something to prove so I always go harder."

Now he'll face the biggest of them all with the Bears.