Chicago Bears

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.

Jordan Howard's eye injury keeps him grounded as Bears fly to Arizona

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USA TODAY

Jordan Howard's eye injury keeps him grounded as Bears fly to Arizona

The Bears' best offensive player won't be suiting up in Saturday's preseason game. In fact, he won't even be on the sideline. 

Jordan Howard suffered an eye injury Friday, preventing him from flying with the team to Arizona. 

Although ESPN's Adam Schefter believes it's minor, that's not a good sign for an offense that relies heavily on the run game.

Joining Howard on the inactive list are more key offensive guys: 

- Kyle Long, OL

- Jeremy Langford, RB

- Joshua Bellamy, WR

- Markus Wheaton, WR

That means Mike Glennon, who is embroiled in a growing quarterback controversy, will have his work cut out for him. 

On the defensive side of the ball, the Bears will also be missing some notables: 

- Danny Trevathan, LB

- Mitch Unrein, DL

- Bryce Callahan, DB

- Alex Scearse, LB

- Jonathan Anderson, LB

- Kapron Lewis-Moore, DL

Hopefully Howard and the team can get healthy before the real deal begins because last year's injury-plagued season was certainly no fun. 

How Charles Leno Jr. isn't thinking about the big picture heading into a contract year

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USA Today Sports Images

How Charles Leno Jr. isn't thinking about the big picture heading into a contract year

One of John Fox’s favorite sayings is that the best ability is availability. No player exemplified that line more than left tackle Charles Leno Jr. in 2016. 

Leno played all 1,010 of the Bears’ offensive snaps last year. His effectiveness may not have matched his availability — Pro Football Focus, for what it’s worth, described Leno as being a “below average” starter. The Bears like Leno, though. But enough to give him another contract?

“He’s pretty reliable and dependable,” Fox said. “But we all have room for improvement so I think he’d tell you the same thing.”

For Leno, there’s no time like the present to make those strides. He’s due to hit free agency after this season, and, unless the Bears sign him to a contract extension, will enter a market that last spring saw five left tackles (Riley Reiff, Matt Kalil, Russell Okung, Andrew Whitworth and Kelvin Beachum) sign contracts each including eight-figure guaranteed money. But Leno, who will be 26 this spring, isn’t doing a lot of thinking about what his future could look like beyond this year. 

“It’s in the back of your mind, but at the end of the day I’m trying to go out there and just perfect my craft,” Leno said. “That’s really what I’m trying to do. I’ve been doing that the last two and a half years now. It’s the same routine every day. Just trying to go out there and perfect my craft, things will take care of itself. If I do what I need to do out there, everything will follow.”

For Leno, perfecting his craft means perfecting the basics of being a left tackle. What he rattled off: Placement of hands, base in pass set, staying square, not opening up too early. Being consistent in those areas is what Leno sees as that next step in his development. 

“I think Charles Leno does a really great job focusing attention to detail within his set,” left guard Kyle Long said. “Whether it’s a set angle, his hands or his strike, he always has a plan and he’s somebody that’s athletic enough to recover if he ever does get in a bad situation. It’s a really difficult position to play out there but I think Charles Leno is one of the most athletic guys that’s been around here.” 

Practice has provided an ideal opportunity for Leno to work on all those things, given the array of pass rushers he’s facing from his own defense. 

“I got a very fast guy (Leonard Floyd), I got a very tall, long guy (Willie Young), and I got a short, powerful guy (Lamarr Houston). I mean, what more do I need on a practice field? I got the best guys in the world to go against every day.”

But the point remains: Leno does have room for growth. A fully healthy Bears’ offensive line, with a more consistent Leno, can be one of the best units in the NFL on which the team’s level of production can be based. 

And if that’s the case, Leno can expect a significant payday next spring, either from the Bears or another team. 

“I never expected I would be in this situation, absolutely not,” Leno said. “I’m very blessed, I’m thankful for the opportunity that I’ve got into. But also, it’s a testament to the work I’ve been putting in for myself and I just don’t ever want that to stop. I don’t ever want the work ethic that I have to ever go down because I’ve got some money or because I’m in a contract year. I want to keep improving whether I have the money or not.”