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 numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

In doing some post-season wrapping up of my Nerdy NFL Notebook as we begin turning the page to the 2017 season, part of it involves compiling where each team finished in big-picture team offensive and defensive categories: overall ranking (total yards), as well as team rushing and passing ranks on both sides of the ball.

So if the Bears wound up ranked 15th overall in total yards gained and allowed, they should've finished…oh, 8-8, right? It adds to the deception of some of the deeper issues that focus on a lack of playmakers, which tied into their inability to make plays when it matters most. In John Fox's 9-23 start, 18 of those games have been decided by six points or less. They've won just six of those games. 

Offensively, the Bears ranked higher in total offense than five playoff teams: Kansas City (20), Detroit (21), Miami (24), New York Giants (25) and Houston (29). They wound up 17th in rushing offense, better than four teams who advanced: Seattle (25), Green Bay (26), New York Giants (29) and Detroit (30). And their 14th-ranked passing offense ranked better than the Giants (17), Kansas City (19), Dallas (23), Miami (26), Houston (29).

On the other side of the ball, they'd be even better off before allowing 109 points over the final three losses. Their total defense ranked better than Detroit (18), Green Bay (22), Kansas City (24), Atlanta (25), Oakland (26) and Miami (29). After being gashed for 558 rushing yards the last three games, they fell to 27th in the NFL against the run (better than only 30th-ranked Miami). But the seventh-ranked pass defense, despite collecting a measly eight interceptions (among only 11 turnovers), was better than nine playoff teams: Miami (15), Pittsburgh (16), Kansas City (18), Detroit (19), the Giants (23), Oakland (24), Dallas (26), Atlanta (28) and Green Bay (31).

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

What do all the hollow numbers indicate? A lack of complementary, opportunistic football, playmakers on both sides of the ball, a minus-20 turnover ratio, and a lack of quality and continuity at the quarterback position — to name a few. All of those playoff teams have more impact players (or kept more of their impact players healthy) than the Bears in 2016.

While some of the numbers aren't that bad to look at, and some even raise an eyebrow, there's still a deep climb from the most significant numbers: 3-13.

Bears' best rookies will have another learning curve

Bears' best rookies will have another learning curve

There's a sense of irony and, to a certain degree, concern about what changes the Bears' coaching staff has undergone.

Think of the best of Ryan Pace's 2016 rookie class: Leonard Floyd, Cody Whitehair, and Jordan Howard. They were brought along under the position group tutelage of outside linebackers coach Clint Hurtt, offensive line coach Dave Magazu and running backs coach Stan Drayton. The latter was the first to depart, shortly after the season ended, to return to the collegiate ranks on Texas' new staff.

He's been replaced with former 49ers and Bills offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins (also serving as that position coach in Detroit, Buffalo, Arizona and Kansas City). Howard certainly adapted to the NFL game well, more than anyone expected, as the NFL's second-leading rusher. One would think Drayton played a part in that.

Longtime John Fox assistant Magazu was also let go after the season despite the impressive move of second-round pick Whitehair to center the week of the season opener after Josh Sitton was signed following his release by Green Bay. Whitehair was sold as a "quick study" following his selection out of Kansas State, where he was a four-year starter at three different positions (but not center).

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Like Howard, he wound up making the All-Rookie team, but whether he remains in the middle of the line or not, he'll be getting his orders now from Jeremiah Washburn.

Rounding out the trio of All-Rookie selections was Floyd, who was brought along by Hurtt. He impressed Fox enough to be kept around from Marc Trestman's staff, and moved from defensive line to outside linebackers.

That's where he assisted Willie Young in morphing to a foreign role, yet still managing 14 sacks over the last two seasons. The Bears have yet to name a replacement for Hurtt, who's joined the Seahawks in taking over one of their strengths in recent years, the defensive line.

These three were already good, and the jewels of last year's draft. But if they're to grow and ascend into impact contributors if and when this team becomes a regular playoff contender, it'll come from new faces, new voices in their respective classrooms and position groups.