Mullin: Panthers should look at Bears' QB history

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Mullin: Panthers should look at Bears' QB history

Monday, April 11, 2011
Posted: 9:41 a.m.
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Platteville buddy Peter King of Sports Illustrated recounts an interesting chat with Carolina Panthers GM Marty Hurney in his Monday Morning Quarterback, appropriately titled because the talk around Cam Newton is picking up. The Panthers have the No. 1 overall pick and itll be primarily Hurneys call on which player, or players, first-time head coach Ron Rivera is given.

Missouris Blaine Gabbert has been the consensus pick if Carolina goes quarterback but the Panthers have gotten tapes of Newton playing at Blinn Junior College, which raises eyebrows as well as draft stock. A variable in Carolina is the presence of Jimmy Clausen, a Hurney second-round pick last year, and the fact that the Panthers are still looking at a quarterback might not bode well for Clausen long-term.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper is one who thinks Carolina would be making a major mistake giving up on Clausen, who struggled horrendously against the Bears (12.0 passer rating, pulled) last season. Can Clausen still be successful?

No question about it, Kiper declared. Jimmy Clausen written out as a reject? I dont see it.

Mel has questions, as do most evaluators, about Newton but a lot of them are the kind raised about every highly rated quarterback. And you wonder if those Blinn tapes are going to create an even loftier image of Newton that hell have to maintain.

Things came easy for Cam Newton, Mel said. I hope he doesnt think its going to come easy in the NFL. When he hits that adversitywhen he starts being called a bust, how does he deal with that? Thats something to concern yourself with... Anytime your transitioning from one level to the next, its tough.

The Dallas Cowboys once went after Steve Walsh with a No. 1 pick in a supplemental draft after already taking Troy Aikman No. 1 overall in the regular draft. The San Francisco 49ers traded a couple draft picks for Steve Young even with Joe Montana in place and still at an MVP level. Howd those work out?

You can never be too rich, too thin, or have too many potential franchise quarterbacks in your pipeline. Just ask the Bears what happens if you dont.

Get it right the first time

Whether the Bears address their offensive line on the first or second day of the draft, or both, the football absolute at work is the need to get the pick right. Very, very right.

This is beyond the obvious need to acquire talent now. It involves not having to go after the same position again and again if theres a miss near the top of the draft. Because the cost of a failed pick ripples into subsequent drafts, as the Bears have found too often.

A reason the Bears are still in need of a dominant offensive lineman is in part because Chris Williams hasnt been, which is the expectation of a 14th-overall pick. A reason the Bears needed to bring in guards Ruben Brown and Roberto Garza via free agency was the lack of impact from third-rounders Mike Gandy and Terrence Metcalf in 2001-2002.

Replacing players because of age or free-agency departures is part of the deal. But needing to address the same position year after year is a hidden disaster. When Jim Coverts career was cut short because of a back injury, the Bears went through Stan Thomas (1991, No. 1), Troy Auzenne (1992, No. 2) and Marcus Spears (1994, No. 2) trying to find a tackle and ultimately had to buy Andy Heck to stop the draft hemorrhaging.

The Bears need a hit up front, particularly with elite-level guards costing upwards of 6 million a season.

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.