Chicago Bears

Mullin: 2011 draft could break nicely for Bears

Mullin: 2011 draft could break nicely for Bears

Thursday, Feb. 17, 2011
2:36 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Spending some time on a call Thursday with NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock added to the growing sense I have that the 2011 draft could indeed break very nicely in the Bears favor.

As I discussed previously, one thing you want when youre down around No. 29 as the Bears are, is for the draft to have real quality depth at some positions not on your must-list. Mayock confirms that defensive end is one of these.

The other thing is for there to be a clump of quality players in the grade range where youre drafting. That helps avoid needing to reach, which very typically happens at offensive line in particular because the supply is far short of the demand. As Jerry Angelo says, O-linemen can go anywhere from one round to three rounds higher than their grade because of the position.

The Bears looking for offensive and defensive line quality. Mayock describes 011 as one of those years where around the 20s there is a clump of similar quality players that extends into the second round.

Ive got a deeper first round than Ive had the last several years and it starts because of the defensive line class, Mayock said. He cited Temples Muhammed Wilkerson (6-5, 305, 16 sacks over the past two seasons) as the kind of talent possibly going to be there in the 25-40 range.

Why thats important is that Angelo has traditionally worked to keep a strength strong, and defense is that strength. So if hes looking for upgrades over Tommie Harris, Marcus Harrison and Matt Toeaina, and defensive line is his first love, this is a name to monitor.

Depending on what youre looking for, if youre looking for a corner at the end of the first round, you might have a problem, Mayock said. If youre looking for a defensive end, defensive tackle or maybe an offensive tackle, youre in luck.

Its whether your need meets up with the strength of this years draft.

Last year the Bears first pick was in the third round. They needed a safety. Normally it is nearly impossible to realistically target a position in round three. But the draft had eight safeties graded at that level or above and the Bears landed one of them: Major Wright.

In 2008 the Bears were sitting at No. 14. They needed an offensive tackle, a coveted position. The tackle talent pool depth was sufficient for eight to be taken in the first 26 positions and all are current NFL starters. Seven are starting at tackle and one is a guard.

Chris Williams. But hey, hes a starter. And he could be a tackle again in 2011.

There wont be eight first-round-quality tackles in the first 28 picks, if the Bears are intent on addressing offense first again.

Carolina on his mind

Former Bear and new Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera has taken over one of the NFLs youngest teams that lurched to a 2-14 record last season. That earned the Rivera the No. 1 overall pick of the draft and the surprise will be if, in spite of quarterback problems, Rivera doesnt stay on familiar ground defense with that No. 1 pick.

Were looking to fill holes on defense first, Chico to Mike Florio on ProFootballTalk.coms Live show Thursday. That tack served Carolina very well once upon an NFL time when they held the No. 2 pick overall and invested it in Julius Peppers.

Rivera emphasized the success that Carolina has had running the ball and said the organization is still looking at players on which to place its franchise tag. That prompted Florio to speculate that the early favorite for the tag would be running back DeAngelo Williams.

The player who clearly will not be tagged is wide receiver Steve Smith. At one time a definite franchise-grade receiver (he virtually did in Riveras 2005 Bears defense singlehandedly in the divisional playoff round), Smith has fallen from grace. As far as Smiths future in Carolina, where in-depth evaluations are in process, a lot of it depends on what happens in the next month, Rivera said.

Which sounds decidedly like Smith will at the very least be trade material, particularly when Rivera talks about going through the process and deciding whats best for the team and for Smith.

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.

Kendall Wright draws a line between Marcus Mariota and Mitch Trubisky: They 'can do it all'

Kendall Wright draws a line between Marcus Mariota and Mitch Trubisky: They 'can do it all'

Kendall Wright saw two years ago what the transition for a quarterback, picked second overall and coming from a college spread offense, can look like. Marcus Mariota made that move smoothly and now looks poised to join the ranks of the best quarterbacks in the NFL this year with the Tennessee Titans. 

Can Mitch Trubisky make a similarly successful transition? Wright, so far, has liked what he’s seen.

“His overall progression from OTAs to training camp to now, his overall everything he’s done in every area has gotten better,” Wright said. “The work he puts in, it helps him.” 

It’s not a perfect comparison, of course, given the offense Mariota so effectively operated at Oregon had a didn't resemble the look and feel of the one Trubisky ran at North Carolina. Mariota started far more games than Trubisky, too. They’re two different quarterbacks with different skillsets. And Mariota was given the opportunity to be a Week 1 starter from the moment he was drafted, while Trubisky — for now — remains behind Mike Glennon. 

“Marcus was in a different position where he came in and he was the quarterback,” Wright said. “I think it’s different. Once Mitch starts playing, whenever he starts playing, he’ll start progressing a lot more because he’ll actually be out there in game-like situations.”

But consider why the Titans were so confident Mariota could start immediately and make a successful transition to the NFL from that flashy Oregon offense:

“I don’t think the system he had in Oregon, I don’t think that held him back when he came into the league,” Wright said. “I think he was good at making his progressions, decisive. He’s like one of those players, it doesn’t matter what system he’s in, you put him out there and he’s a guy that’s a difference-maker.”

After espousing Trubisky’s accuracy back in April, Bears general manager Ryan Pace quickly pointed out this trait: “His ability to process and see the whole field jumps out right away. 

“… All these top quarterbacks, it’s just their ability to quickly process defenses, process coverage, find open targets, not panic under pressure, deliver accurate throws when there’s a noisy pocket – things are collapsing – those guys all have those traits. And Mitch has those traits, Drew (Brees) has those traits and those are things we value.”

The point being: No matter the system, both Mariota and Trubisky have good football intelligence, and are more than what Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians once bemoaned about college spread quarterbacks. 

“They hold up a card on the sideline and he kicks his foot and throws the ball,” Arians said in 2015. “That ain’t playing quarterback.”

Trubisky, of course, still has to improve with his pre-snaps reads, calling out protections, identifying coverages, learning the playbook, etc. But he seems to have the football intelligence to make those strides and marry them with his impressive physical skillset. 

And as was the case with Mariota, Wright doesn’t see a reason why Trubisky can’t succeed in the NFL. 

“(Trubisky) can do it all too,” Wright said. “He’s still learning, he’s still getting better, he’s never complacent. He has the ability to get better and he’s willing to get better. He’s a young guy that listens. He’s just a baller. You put him out there and he makes plays.” 

With return to Tennessee looming, football is fun again for Kendall Wright

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USA Today Sports Images

With return to Tennessee looming, football is fun again for Kendall Wright

Sunday will mark Kendall Wright’s first trip back to Nashville since he not-so-amicably split with the Tennessee Titans after the 2016 season. 

Wright has said he doesn’t want to talk about his time in Tennessee, where injuries and clashes with coaches led to a steady decline in targets and production after a standout 2013 season (139 targets, 94 receptions, 1,079 yards). But it’s easy to compare how he feels practicing with the Bears to how he felt toward the end of his days with the Titans. 

“A fresh start is good,” Wright said. “Football is fun again. 

“If you don’t have fun playing the game, what the use of you playing? And I didn’t really have too much fun the past few years. But when you’re out here playing and doing what you love to do, it’s fun. So you just gotta keep the game fun.”

Wright was a little more forceful earlier this year. 

“What motivates me the most is I probably was the best receiver on the Titans roster last year and I was playing, like, 10 plays a game,” Wright said during OTAs in June. 

But while this weekend’s game against the Titans could seem to be an opportunity for revenge, Wright is more approaching it for what it is — another preseason game to continue to improve with the rest of the first team offense. 

Wright caught a touchdown from  Glennon Saturday night in Arizona (he also was the target on Glennon’s interception, though that looked to be more on the quarterback than the receiver). And he seems to be clearly ahead of Victor Cruz to be the team’s No. 1 slot receiver — Cruz wasn’t targeted against Arizona, while Wright received three targets. 

If the Glennon-led first-team offense is going to have success in the regular season, it needs improvements from every unit — quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end and offensive line — based on what we’ve seen during the preseason. Perhaps a motivated, fun-having Wright, playing for the same offensive coordinator under which he had his best season, can be a part of that. 

“The game of football is supposed to be fun,” Wright said. “Don’t take the fun out of it. You just gotta go out there and have fun and make plays. When you’re making plays, it’s even more fun.”