Mullin's 2011 draft capsules: Cornerback

Mullin's 2011 draft capsules: Cornerback

Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Posted: 2:24 a.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Seventh in a series

The defense had three players with four or more interceptions last season, the first time for that in a quarter-century and the only secondary with that distinction in 2010. The interception total jumped from 10 in 2009 to 16, and the Bears interception percentage ranked eighth in the NFL.

But passing yards per game allowed was 20th and there are issues looming in a key area of the Lovie Smith defensive scheme.
The Bears

The investment of a third-round pick last draft in Major Wright should take care of one safety spot for some years, and Chris Harris veteran presence was a positive at age 29. But Danieal Manning is intent on testing free agency after his best season and Craig Steltz was disappointing after having his best offseason, so starter-grade depth is missing at safety.

The bigger concern is cornerback, where Charles Tillman turns 30 after a high-impact career that saw him play 16 games for the first time since his rookie year. Zackary Bowman was given Tillmans LCB job but promptly lost it to Tim Jennings early in the year. Joshua Moore is a wild-card, a fifth-rounder last season who barely played but is considered to have real upside.

D.J. Moore justified Lovie Smiths belief in him and secured the nickel-back spot. But the falloff of Nathan Vasher over recent seasons set the defensive plan back substantially and the quest is on for a starting corner in an NFC North with Calvin Johnson in Detroit and a cluster of receiving talent in Green Bay.

Need: The Bears addressed cornerback with picks in a third round (Roosevelt Williams, 2002), second round (Tillman, 2003) and fourth round (Vasher, 2004). Since then only Moore (fourth round, 2009) came sooner than the fifth round. That is likely to change this year and could be a surprise first-round pick depending on the fall of the selections.

The 2011 draft

Two cornerbacks are expected to go inside the first 15 picks and then there are few sure things for various reasons. Chances of landing an immediate starter lower than the first 40 picks are doubtful but different systems require different player-types and at least one or two will be prime fits for the Bears.

Even Patrick Peterson out of LSU, the consensus top defensive back in the draft, comes with fit questions. Hes most comfortable in press-man, said NFL.com draft analyst Mike Mayock. If you try to play him in off-man hes going to struggle a little bit.

Pro Football Weeklys Nolan Nawrocki projects Prince Amukamara from Nebraska going No. 11 to the Houston Texans and new coordinator Wade Phillips. Nawrocki also shows Colorados Jimmy Smith coming off the board No. 13 to the Detroit Lions, who, like the Bears, have some matchup problems to overcome in the NFC North.
The Best Bets:

(CSNChicago.com is taking Peterson and Prince Amukamara from Nebraska off the board far ahead of the Bears turn at No. 29.)
1. Aaron Williams, Texas Some mock drafts have the Bears taking Williams after the OLDL value is gone ahead of them. Williams has started at three DB spots and brings Tillman-like size (5-11, 204) to the CB spot.

2. Jimmy Smith, Colorado Some concerns about consistency but that applies to many, many collegians. Had some off-field issues but at 6-2, he is the physical prototype of the big corner.

3. Brandon Harris, Miami Size is a question after Harris measured sub-5-10 but has run 4.4 at 191 pounds and can play both cornerback and safety.

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 guard Josh Sitton named as injury replacement in Pro Bowl

Bears guard Josh Sitton named as injury replacement in Pro Bowl

The Bears have another Pro Bowler.

After initially getting shut out on the Pro Bowl roster, the Bears have since had two players named as injury replacements with guard Josh Sitton now joining running back Jordan Howard.

Sitton was named as an injury replacement Monday afternoon for Packers guard T.J. Lang, who left Sunday's NFC Championship game early.

This will be Sitton's third straight Pro Bowl and fourth career honor.

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The 30-year-old offensive lineman signed with the Bears before 2016 after the Packers released him.

Sitton played in 13 of the Bears' 16 games including 12 starts, helping to anchor the Bears' line when healthy.

Howard replaced Cardinals running back David Johnson on the NFC Pro Bowl roster earlier this month.

Bad blood fueled Bears-Vikings playoff bout profiled in 'Bears Classics: Eclipsing Moon'

Bad blood fueled Bears-Vikings playoff bout profiled in 'Bears Classics: Eclipsing Moon'

From the high ground of hindsight, what unfolded in the Metrodome that day in 1995 was actually quite a big deal. But not for reasons that you could have really understood at the time watching the Bears stun the Minnesota Vikings 35-18 in the wild card round of the 1994 playoffs.

It was not so much the game alone. It was the overall context of the time for the Bears, before and after.

Though the 1995 season would get off to a 6-2 start for the Bears before their near-historic collapse, the Minnesota game would prove to be the high-water mark for the coaching tenure of Dave Wannstedt. This was the postseason, and the Bears looked to be going where then-president Mike McCaskey envisioned when he made the play to beat the New York Giants in securing Wannstedt, who was unquestionably the hot coaching prospect coming out of the Dallas Super Bowl pantheon after the 1992 season.

To fully grasp the situation, you need to understand the undercurrent of venom that had developed between the Bears and Vikings. Bears-Packers might have been the glitzy rivalry, but what had grown between the Bears and Vikings was true hostility, with little of the respect that the Bears and Packers had managed. The Vikings carried grudges for Pro Bowl slights going back almost to the Bears' Super Bowl win. One Bears defensive lineman remarked that his most hated opponent was Minnesota right tackle Tim Irwin, adding, "He's a guy that, if I ran over him with a car, I'd back up over him to make sure I got him." Dwayne Rudd's backpedaling taunt after an interception came a couple years later, but you get the idea.

What's easily forgotten looking back through the mists of time was the epic decision made by Wannstedt to make a quarterback change, from a quarterback he wanted in free agency to one he knew well from their time together at the University of Miami. That was every bit the turning point of the season and the real reason the playoff trip and win ever happened.

The Bears had been annihilated in their first game against the Vikings in the 1994 season — 42-14 — and something was really, really wrong, which become glaringly more evident just a few weeks later, even though the Bears were reaching a 4-2 mark under quarterback Erik Kramer, the centerpiece of an aggressive offseason foray into free agency. But the Bears then lost — badly — to the Lions and Packers, with Kramer throwing three interceptions against Detroit and two against Green Bay, the latter in only 10 pass attempts.

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I talked privately to Kramer after the Green Bay game, specifically about why it was that he was playing his absolute worst against Detroit, Green Bay and Minnesota, all teams with which he was intimately familiar. My thought: You know those defenses and where their people are going to be.

Kramer shook his head: "The 'other guys' I know. It's my own guys. I don't know where they're supposed to be."

It wasn't a comment on his receivers whatsoever. It was Kramer admitting bluntly that he was not getting the West Coast scheme of coordinator Ron Turner and its timing element.

Wannstedt knew it wasn't working and made the change to Steve Walsh, who'd been the Hurricanes' quarterback under Jimmy Johnson when Wannstedt was the defensive coordinator.

That was the tipping point, and Walsh and Wannstedt are among the principals of "Bears Classics: Eclipsing Moon," airing on Monday at 8 p.m. on CSN.

Anyone with any time spent in or around the NFL knows that beating a team three times in a season is incredibly difficult. The Bears had been blown out in the first Minnesota game but had pushed the Vikings to overtime in the second and would have won had Kevin Butler not missed a 40-yard field goal try.

The playoff meeting was No. 3, and after the Vikings put up a field goal in the first quarter, the Bears scored with a Lewis Tillman touchdown in the second and just pulled steadily away from the winner of the only NFL division that produced four teams with winning records.

From there it would be another decade-plus — 2006 season — before the Bears would win a playoff game.