Chicago Bears

New GM means new draft strategies

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New GM means new draft strategies

A leading cause of the Bears firing of general manager Jerry Angelo was failure to draft top-level talent. The decision on Angelos successor is still some time away but with whoever it is can be expected to bring with him some significant changes in draft philosophies.

This is potentially a huge factor as the Bears tilt toward building an offense around Jay Cutler rather than on Jay Cutler.

Angelo was a believer in a floor philosophy with top picks, meaning that great attention was given to establishing the worst a pick could possibly be. Maybe that stems from mistakes like Keith McCants or Eric Curry in Tampa Bay or something else, but the result logically meant few outright busts but also fewer home runs.

So there were going to be more safe, reasonable-quality picks (Marc Colombo, Chris Williams come to mind) where at the least you would have a serviceable player. The quirk here is that Angelo would have taken a Dan Bazuin in a second round; the floor there was in the basement.

But that also led to a reluctance to draft wide receivers high, for example, a true high-riskhigh-reward impact position. Angelo was right; the bust quotient is higher with wideouts than most other positions.

Receivers and offensive line changes?

The Bears first target in free agency is a wide receiver and Angelo was prepared for a major first-strike on or above the scale of his grab of Muhsin Muhammad in 2005. Assume that and cornerback will remain targets 1-2, with pass rusher and linebacker in the offseason equation.

Angelos highest draft slot for a wideout was second round and it was a bust Mark Bradley. Look for that to change with a general manager bringing a different philosophy.

Angelo drafted tackles but rarely after the first round (Colombo, Williams, Gabe Carimi). He took Terrence Metcalf in the third round of 2002 and Josh Beekman in the fourth of 2007, but both were disappointments and Angelo never took a lineman higher than the seventh round.

Lance Louis and JMarcus Webb are gems as seventh-rounders go. But pipelines are stocked with O-line hits other than first-round picks.

Green Bay example

The Packers landed tackle Chad Clifton in the second round. Guard Daryn Colledge was a 2. Guard T.J. Lang was a 4. So was guard Josh Sitton. Guard Jason Spitz was a 3. The Bears only made the Beekman and Metcalf picks in those rounds under Angelo.

Bradley was Angelos lone wide receiver pick higher than round 3. Green Bay secured Greg Jennings in the second round. And Jordy Nelson. James Jones was a 3.

Ruskell patterns

It does not work in Tim Ruskells favor that he and Angelo share both draft philosophies and history together. Ruskell was brought in by Angelo as director of player personnel and his draft patterns are near-overlays of Angelos.

He took centerguard Chris Spencer in Seattle. He was the 26th pick of the 2005 draft (Colombo and Carimi were 29s). In the next four drafts during Ruskells tenure the Seahawks took defensive players with their first picks.

Angelo and Ruskell took wide receivers in just two first rounds in all their years at Tampa Bay Reidel Anthony and Lamar Thomas. Both had decent floors and were serviceable players but neither were sustained high-impact

Ruskell will continue overseeing the Bears college scouting for the time being. And he has not been ruled out as a GM candidate. But if the Bears were not satisfied with the draft directions and results of Angelo, Ruskells resume suggests he will be a fallback candidate at best.

Can Markus Wheaton fix what ails the Bears’ offense?

Can Markus Wheaton fix what ails the Bears’ offense?

Markus Wheaton was a full participant in practice on Wednesday and wasn’t on the Bears’ injury report Thursday, signaling that the 5-foot-11, 189 pound speedster will make his Bears debut Sunday against his former team, the Pittsburgh Steelers. He’s not the solution for the Bears’ offense, but he could be part of it. 

For an offense that’s woefully lacked someone who can reliably stretch the field, Wheaton can at least provide the threat of going deep. Two years ago, while with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Wheaton averaged 17 yards per reception. Mike Glennon’s longest completion this year went for 22 yards. 

“It definitely adds another dimension,” Glennon said. “It’ll be great having Markus back.”

But Wheaton only played in three games last season (four catches, 51 yards) and, at his best, averaged 48 catches, 696 yards and four touchdowns a year from 2014-2015. Is it fair to expect Wheaton to be a big part of the Bears' offensive solution given he hasn't played much recently, and was limited to only a handful of reps in training camp and preseason practices due to a pair of freak ailments?

Maybe not, but with the Bears 0-2, he's the best hope they have at a skill position. 

Wheaton needed an emergency appendectomy the first weekend the Bears were in Bourbonnais — “I thought I had to poop,” Wheaton said, maybe providing too much information, before realizing the excruiating pain in which he was in was something worse. Shortly after returning to the practice fields at Olivet Nazarene University, Wheaton fractured his pinkie finger in gruesome fashion (he said the bone was sticking out) when he was awkwardly grabbed while trying to catch a pass. 

That Wheaton broke a finger wasn’t only significant for his ability to catch passes. Consider what his former quarterback — Ben Roethlisberger — had to say about what makes Wheaton an effective deep threat:

“He’s got a very good ability of using his hands,” Roethlisberger said. “When you’re trying to stretch the field, you’ve gotta have some little techniques to help you get open because DBs can run as much as receivers can. So you gotta be able to use your hands to swim, kinda, get some swiping, get the hands off, I thought that he really had some good technique when it came to the deep ball and getting away from DBs.”

Roethlisberger and Wheaton shared a good rapport in Pittsburgh, with the quarterback clearly communicating to the receiver what he expected timing-wise in his routes. It’s been a challenge to develop something similar with Glennon given the lack of practice time, but Wheaton said putting in extra work after practice has helped. 

If Wheaton and Glennon can get on the same page, perhaps that can lead to at least some deep ball attempts. The Bears have to find a way to prevent opposing defenses from stacking the box and focusing on stopping Jordan Howard, who only has 59 yards on 22 carries this year. 

“We're going to face overpopulated boxes, we know that,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “There's going to be seven, eight guys in the box every time and we have to execute better and it comes down to that.”

According to NFL’s Next Gen Stats, only three of Glennon’s 85 pass attempts have traveled 20 or more yards beyond the line of scrimmage. The only completion of those was Sunday’s garbage-time touchdown to Deonte Thompson, which was caught near the back of the end zone. 

The threat of Wheaton going deep won’t be enough, though. Glennon still has prove he can complete those deep balls — the last time he completed a pass of 25 or more yards was on Nov. 2, 2014 (though he’s only attempted 96 passes since that date). 

But Wheaton feels ready to go and is confident he can do his job — which, in turn, could, in a best-case scenario, help his other 10 teammates on offense do their jobs, too. 

“It’s been a long time coming,” Wheaton said. “I’m excited and hopefully this is the week.”

Kris Bryant is all aboard the Mitch Trubisky bandwagon

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AP

Kris Bryant is all aboard the Mitch Trubisky bandwagon

Count Kris Bryant among the Chicagoans who are calling for Mitch Trubisky to start at quarterback for the Bears.

OK, that may be a bit extreme as Bryant simply said he would supporting giving Trubisky a "shot", but still:

After a rough game for incumbent starting QB Mike Glennon last week, most of Chicago has been clamoring for the No. 2 overall pick to get some snaps under center.

Why wouldn't the crown prince of Chicago baseball get in on the noise?