Mullin's 2011 draft capsules: Linebacker

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Mullin's 2011 draft capsules: Linebacker

Monday, April 25, 2011
Posted: 12:14 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

First in a series

Very few teams have the distinction of Pro Bowl linebackers playing side by side in their defense. The Bears have that in Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher. What they have at the other linebacker spot, however, is less distinguished or settled going into this years draft.

The Bears

Briggs, Urlacher and Hunter Hillenmeyer gave the Bears a bedrock linebacker corps through much of the decade. But injuries gradually slowed Hillenmeyer until concussions in the 2010 preseason all but ended his career.

Nick Roach and Pisa Tinoisamoa combined over the last two seasons to give the Bears solid replacements for Hillenmeyer. But both of them had knee issues and have not settled the position the way Hillenmeyer did.

Brian Iwuh at 6-0, 239 pounds played well in limited opportunities and is an ideal roster fit with his special-teams prowess. Rod Wilson has worked passably as a backup but didnt secure a spot with his opportunities and will be 30.

A complicating element in the overall is that the Bears have major money tied up in Briggs and Urlacher and both are 30-plus. The nature of the cap is that the organization cannot afford to lavish another huge contract on the position group, particularly at the one spot that is frequently a two-down player.

Need: The roster is too thin at linebacker. Roach is a longshot to be back and Tinoisamoa missed four games with injury down the late-season stretch. The position will be addressed but not before the middle rounds of the draft unless a gem falls to the Bears in the second or third.

The 2011 draft

Von Miller from Texas A&M is one of the single highest-graded player in the entire draft and will not last past the first five picks, more likely the first three. The situation after that takes on an interesting dimension, because the proliferation of 3-4 defenses has more teams looking for one type of linebacker, primarily a pass rusherhybrid defensive end. The Bears are set in their 4-3 scheme and looking in an entirely different direction.

The 3-4 teams are helping us with our linebackers, said GM Jerry Angelo. Probably the guys we like are not onhalf the boards in the league, and that will help us. Like in the old days, 3-4 teams could get their pass rushers in the fifth, sixth round, and sometimes in free agency, because nobody was playing that scheme. In part, it's helped us defensively, I think there are more linebackers for us, that we can get later, if we choose to go in that direction, and even in free agency.

From my vantage point, that's probably the most fertile position on the board for us, in the mid to later rounds and free agency. We'll be able to find players to come in here with the traits that we're looking for.

The Best Bets:

(Again leaving out the very obvious elite, in Von Miller since he will have no relevance in the Bears draft.)

1. Martez Wilson, Illinois His Combine raised his stock appreciably and if he somehow lasts until the Bears turn in the second round, this could be a surprise pick as the best-available and possible successor to Urlacher.

2. Bruce Carter, North Carolina Another potentially excellent fit in a 4-3 but an ACL problem cost him the Combine and he comes with health risks. Like Urlacher, a converted safety.

3. Quan Sturdivant, North Carolina Has played both outside and inside and may be a better fit at MLB. Overshadowed by some teammates but from a very solid program.

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 first-month foes already adapting

Bears first-month foes already adapting

As the Bears check into Bourbonnais, they'll certainly face their own health, roster, and depth chart challenges between now and the Sept. 11 opener in Houston. In fact, they've already been confronted with a thinning of veteran depth on the offensive line, with the retirements of Manny Ramirez and Nate Chandler. Keeping what they still have in good health will be key over the next six weeks. The last thing they want to face is the pre-Week 1 juggling they were forced into a year ago, when the main camp drama concerned Kevin White's health.

Since late last week, three of the Bears' first four opponents have been either forced to, or have chosen to, adapt on the fly before they were even settled into their dorms.

The big one, of course, involves that first foe, the Texans. As much as we probably shouldn't put anything past J.J. Watt that's physical in nature, it's hard to believe he'll be ready for the Bears after back surgery last week. And even if he somehow is, they'll likely catch a break in that he won't be in three-time Defensive Player of the Year shape.

[SHOP: Gear up for the 2016 season, Bears fans!]

On a lesser scale, when the Bears travel back to Texas two weeks later to take on the Cowboys, Rod Marinelli won't have last year's second-round pick Randy Gregory at his disposal after the former Nebraska standout entered a substance abuse rehab facility today and will be slapped with a 10-game suspension. Granted, Gregory didn't do much last year as a rookie and was going to miss that game anyway due to a previous violation. But his latest incident puts him on that same waiting list fellow linebacker Rolando McClain is on, and promising third-year defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence will be three-quarters of the way through a season-opening suspension of his own. Poor Rod.

Finally, the first division rival the Bears will see in week four, Detroit, added some skill, toughness, talent, and, yes, "experience" to its offense by reaching terms with free agent Anquan Boldin Tuesday. No, he and Marvin Jones don't make up for Calvin Johnson's retirement, but Boldin is 12th all-time in receptions (1,009) and 17th in career receiving yardage (13,195). He makes the Lions better and more dangerous than they were when the week began.

Join Chris Wednesday at 2 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet when we bring you live coverage of the opening training camp press conference in Bourbonnais of General Manager Ryan Pace and Head Coach John Fox.  You'll also hear from quarterback Jay Cutler as the team checks into Olivet Nazarene University ahead of Thursday morning's opening practice.

John Fox, Bears coaches balancing workload with injury risk as training camp convenes

John Fox, Bears coaches balancing workload with injury risk as training camp convenes

Bears players and coaches have been preparing for 2016 intermittently for the past several months. That said, the 2016 “season” effectively begins on Thursday with the Bears holding their first practice of training camp, one that will be open to the public even though players will work the first two days without pads.

From now until early next year, the Bears will have no more than one day off at a time, save the off-week leading up to no game on Nov. 6, and other than perhaps a bonus day off here and there, such as after the Thursday, Oct. 20 night game at Green Bay, after which coach John Fox may grant his team a couple added days off, depending on the performance in Green Bay.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Pads come on for the first time since last Jan. 3 against the Detroit Lions as of Saturday’s practice. Thus begins the ongoing balancing act for coaches to maximize the amount of productive time within the parameters allowed under the collective bargaining agreement, all in the context of heat and conditions of contact.

“You’ve got to get your team ready for battle and you’ve got to make sure you’ve got guys ready to go to battle with,” Fox said. “So it’s a fine line, getting ready for football.”

The Bears already have had offseason injuries to guard Ted Larsen and wide receiver Marquess Wilson, in addition to a strained hamstring for rookie running back Jordan Howard and veterans like Pernell McPhee (knee) coming off surgery.

“It’s a combative game and injuries are part of it,” Fox said. “You’ve got to have some good fortune, and some good practice habits. That way you’re getting better and more physical, yet not to the point where you’re losing guys. Obviously with the reduction of our offseason and the things we used to do as coaches, I don’t think doing less of that is the right idea.”

[RELATED: Going to Bears Training Camp ’16 in Bourbonnais? Remember these four tips]

Training camp this year includes one of the shortest off-site stretches ever, with 10 sessions at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais and one at Soldier Field on Sat. Aug. 6.

Day, Date, Practice Time (CT)

Wednesday, July 27: Report day

Thursday, July 28: 9:35 a.m. practice (no pads)

Friday, July 29: 11:15 a.m. practice (no pads)

Saturday, July 30: 9:35 a.m. practice

Sunday, July 31: 11:15 a.m. practice

AUGUST

Day, Date, Practice Time (CT)

Monday, Aug. 1: 9:35 a.m. practice

Tuesday, Aug. 2: Off day

Wednesday, Aug. 3: 11:15 a.m. practice

Thursday, Aug. 4: 9:35 a.m. practice

Friday, Aug. 5: 11:15 a.m. practice

Saturday, Aug. 6: 12:30 p.m. Meijer Chicago Bears Family Fest (Soldier Field)

Sunday, Aug.7: Off day

Monday, Aug. 8: 11:15 a.m. practice

Tuesday, Aug. 9: 9:35 a.m. practice/final open practice

Wednesday, Aug. 10: Off day

Preseason Schedule:

Thursday, Aug. 11: Bears vs. Denver Broncos, 7 p.m.

Thursday,  Aug. 18: Bears at New England Patriots, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Aug. 27: Bears vs. Kansas City Chiefs, 12 p.m.

Thursday, Sept. 1: Bears at Cleveland Browns, 7 p.m.

Going to Bears Training Camp ’16 in Bourbonnais? Remember these four tips

Going to Bears Training Camp ’16 in Bourbonnais? Remember these four tips

After covering some 25 Bears training camps spanning both Bourbonnais and Platteville, this CSNChicago.com reporter has gleaned some tips for getting the most out of the fan experience:

Appreciate the effort:

A lot of the young men you’ll be watching are living playing to realize a dream they’ve had since they were as young as some of the youngest fans. They are competing for jobs every day, every snap, and even going against teammates, the effort expended is worthy of the utmost respect. A guarantee: You WILL see something spectacular, whether from a star or some young hopeful who will leave it all and then some on that practice field. Enjoy the moment.

Be polite:

If you want autographs from players, your chances improve with a little courtesy. “Hey, Cutler…” and waving a pen and program at the Bears quarterback does not play nearly as well as “Jay, Jay…” or, if you’re a young fan and really want to stand out, “Mr. Cutler, Mr. Cutler…” Players don’t always get to hear a lot of “polite.” It doesn’t guarantee a signing, but understand that there’s no way players can sign every request and still have fully functioning limbs. And if a player doesn’t stop to sign, it’s not a snub. Most players sign every other day, so this just might be their off day for signing.

Plus, if it’s post-practice, remember that these players have just gone through at least two hours of beyond-max-effort work, wearing equipment that is anything but air-conditioned and weighs as much as a small child, and getting off their feet is a necessary survival skill.

[SHOP: Buy a Jay Cutler jersey here]

Go early:

The folks at Olivet Nazarene University do a truly amazing job of crowd and traffic control, but depending on the size of the crush, particularly on peak days, you may miss some field time getting into the parking lots if you’re getting there close to the start of practice. For another thing, players are typically on the field well ahead of the scheduled start times for practice, so you’ll be seeing players working and getting loosened up if you’re there early.

Understand the cadence and order:

Practices are not continuous scrimmaging and hitting. For one thing, that’s physically not possible, or smart. The Bears have individual sessions, then depending on the day, may come together for a “live” run scrimmage without receivers, followed by a less intense session, maybe some special teams, before or after very live pass-protection and receiver-DB head-to-heads, a break, then finishing with 11-on-11 “team” sessions.