NFL Combine: Bears looking at another Eagle?


NFL Combine: Bears looking at another Eagle?

Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011
Posted 8:56 a.m. Updated 1:53 p.m.

By John Mullin

If the Bears somehow find Anthony Castonzo still on the draft board when their turn comes at No. 29 (and that is highly unlikely), the 6-7, 305-pound tackle could become the fourth offensive linemen from Boston College taken in the last 15 Bears drafts.

That would suit the Hawthorn Woods native just fine, having declared that he will be a Bears fan "til I die."

The Bears already have interviewed Castonzo and shown interest, although "all the teams are just playing it easy right now," Castonzo said. "No teams are really saying, 'You're our guy' They've showed interest but not more than anyone else right now."

A couple did-ja-know's on Castonzo:

His left foot is an inch-and-a-half bigger than his right one. Growing up he wore two different size shoes "but now I just wear 18's."

The Bears have drafted Marc Colombo (2002), Josh Beekman (2007) and Evan Pilgrim (1995) out of Boston College. Castonzo didn't overlap with Beekman "but I do know him and was training for the Combine when I came into B.C.

"I think the mantra at B.C. is 'when you go into the NFL, be a tough guy, just work and be that blue-collar kind of guy. I want to take the reins that they've laid out for me and just be that next guy;'"

Castonzo went to Fork Union Military after attending Lake Zurich High School because "I had zero scholarship offers coming out of high school. I was a 6-7, 220-pound drink of water and every school I talked to said, 'We don't think you're going to get big enough.' So I went to Fork Union Military Academy and got big enough."

But there's this Badger, see.. colleague Tom Curran reports that Wisconsin tackle Gabe Carimi is
pretty direct: Carimi is the best tackle in the draft, according to Carimi.

"That's his opinion," Castonzo volunteered.

From a cred perspective, Carimi has some history on his side. Cleveland's Joe Thomas already is playing at a Pro Bowl level and if the Bears could get from Carimi what they got from Dennis Lick (the eighth-overall pick of the '76 draft) before his injuries, when he helped Walter Payton at a time when the Bears had nothing else on their offense, they'd be pleased.

Q'ing up

New Denver Broncos coach John Fox apparently needs to get out more. Or at least watch a little more TV. Doesnt he know how hes coaching a legend (at least a marketing one) in Tim Tebow?

He must not, because on Thursday he showed he has a little Lovie Smith in him, not declaring that Rex is our quarterback as much as Kyle is our quarterback. The No. 1 quarterback job in Denver again appears to be ex-Bear Kyle Ortons to lose.

Tebow made a bit of a hyper-hyped splash as a 2010 rookie but right now, I think Kyle Orton's our starter, Fox said. We've got a very young guy, a high draft pick in Tim Tebow who got his feet wet last year toward the end of the season. He did an outstanding job. He's got some of the intangibles you're looking for.

And then, shoot, Brady Quinn I'm looking forward to seeing play. I've watched him play a little bit in Cleveland. He's a young guy that's got about 13 starts under his belt. So we'll see. But all three I think, I'm excited about.''

Orton has been talked about as possible trade material (and on member of the Bears hierarchy was adamant that Orton would be your ideal No. 2). But I think it'd be pretty hard to be both starter and on the market, Fox said. But as far as I'm concerned, he's under contract, and he's our starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos.''

Draft changes

A loose business plan for the NFL is to address needs first in free agency (see: Chicago Bears 2010 Peppers, Julius) or trade (see: Bears 2009 Cutler, Jay) with an eye toward making additional fills in the draft. That business model is gone this year, with free agency a huge unknown hostage of CBA negotiations and no trades permissible under the lockout scenario.

So teams have deep issues to confront.

You dont even know what the free-agent situations going to be this year, NFL Network draft maven Mike Mayock said on a pre-Combine conference call. Is there going to be free agency? Is there gonna be a four-year guy? A six-year guy? How are they going to deal with that whole thing?

And if you dont have those answers, I think what you have to do is go into your draft room and draft like you always do every year. You have to look at the big picture, and not just, Uh oh! If we dont have training camp, do we need a guy thats ready to play today? I think if you start trying to answer questions with draft picks on the short term, youre going to get beat on the long term. So I think the best thing you can do is take a step back and say, Were going to do what we always do. Were going to draft the best football players that fit our scheme, because we cant worry about things we cant control right now.

Encouraginga little

The impasse in negotiations between NFL owners and players has not been bridged yet. But the two sides ended their stretch of talks with mediator George S. Cohen Thursday with the intention of resuming next Tues. Mar. 1. Cohens statement, the first real comments to come out of the sessions, made it clear that the sides are being civil but significant issues do remain.

Help from Dave Wannstedt

For Ron Rivera, this is the best of times and it is the worst of times.

The new head coach of the Carolina Panthers was a teammate of Dave Duerson, who shot himself to death last week in Miami.

This was the 25th anniversary of the Super Bowl XX team and with Richard Dent getting into the Hall of Fame, and then this, Rivera said Thursday. Were celebrating the life of another one. Its a very sad situation, for his teammates, his friends, family.

Dave Wannstedt was the one who cut Rivera in 1993, the end of Chicos playing career. Wannstedt also was the one who gave Rivera his coaching break, as a defensive quality coach in 1997-98. Wannstedt and good friend Jimmy Johnson saw the head coaching in Rivera back then and had some sage advice.

Johnson told Rivera, Dave told me youre going to be a head coach someday. Dont ever forget who you are and dont forget what you do best. Be around that side of the ball.

So I will be around the defensive side, Rivera said, then smiled. But every now and then pop in to keep the offensive guys honest.

Submit a NFL Combine question to John Mullin

Chico knocked at more than a half-dozen NFL head coaching doors in the past and was turned away every time. But if there was any bitterness at the snubs of the past, some in favor of since-failed coaches, it was not evident Thursday.

It may be overdue but the biggest thing to understand is the opportunity and fit are right, Rivera said. The opportunity came with us not being in the playoffs and the fit being that they were looking for a defensive coach.

Reid let Rivera write game plans and mentored Rivera. The biggest thing was responsibility, Rivera said. Andy assigns every coach specific duties within the team. Youre responsible for certain things.

And heres something for your reading list. Reid gave Rivera a number of book selections but the one Chico cited: The Winning Edge by Bill Walsh.

Thats somebody who should know.

The envelope, please...

The Carolina Panthers hold the No. 1-overall pick in this years draft. Ron Rivera was asked Thursday by ESPNs Chris Mortensen: So, who ya gonna draft?

Rivera was an NFL linebacker. But that doesnt mean he didnt pick up some deft moves and feints. Thats what were here to find out, he said, laughing.

Harbaugh look-alike?

Nice to connect with Jim Harbaugh, the new head coach of the San Francisco 49ers and the Bears quarterback when I came on the beat once upon a Mike Ditka time.

READ: Complete NFL Combine coverage from CSN's Insiders

It was the first chance I had to tell him that my wife Kathleen, who joined me for the Commissioners Party at the San Diego Super Bowl in 2002 and met Harbs, thought he looked like Dennis Quaid.

Ill take that, Jim said, laughing. Ive been called worse.

What would Harbaugh have done?

Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck arguably would have been the No. 1 overall pick of the 2011 draft or close to it. But he opted to return to Stanford for a final season.

Harbaugh, however, left for the 49ers and a deal worth 5 million per season. And he supports the decision of his former quarterback.

Andrew made the best decision for his family and himself, Harbaugh said. Wed talked about it and I knew thats what he was going to do, so I wasnt surprised. Its just a personal decision each of these young men make.

Harbaugh himself was a first-round pick in 1987. Would he have made the same decision in his day?

Hypotheticals are never real good, Harbaugh said, laughing. I was never as talented as Andrew is. But its going to work out great. Hed have been a top pick this year and he will be next year.

Combine more than just numbers

The NFL Scouting Combine begins in earnest Thursday with its inevitable blizzard of numbers, appraisals, information and more. A veteran NFL personnel expert gave a key prism with which to view some of the numerical results that will come out of various tests.

Dont pay too much attention with the fast times or power numbers. But immediately put a big red flag on the bad ones.

Is that fair? Absolutely.

First, the Combine and its 40-yard-dash times, cone drills, vertical jumps and bench presses are less revealing than many of the face-to-face interviews anyway. And those take place out of sight from the general media public; each team has its own.

Also, results in shorts and T-shirts do not translate directly to NFL on-field success. Common knowledge there.

More to the point, however, is that agents and others have invested thousands of dollars to train specifically for the Combine. So those fast times and reps benching 225 pounds should be outstanding.

But, as this NFL vet explained, when a guy cant nail it under pressure after all that preparation, not only should the guy demand his money back from the speed coaches and the rest. Red flags also should go up because it means that all that extra attention, coaching, etc. produced nothing.

So Ill be more intrigued by the prospect who runs a 40 time well below his norm than by one who was billed as having 4.4 speed and runs a 4.28. Besides, if he runs a lot of 40-yard dashes in an NFL uniform, hell be the next Devin Hester.

Well be checking in throughout every day with updates both from head coaches as well as players. Check back as the sessions go along.

Hope floating?

What is believed to be an unprecedented meeting of its kind will bring together a GM, head coach and one other representative from each NFL team for a briefing on various offseason issues involved in the looming lockout, as reported by ESPNs Adam Schefter. What can and cant be done, whats allowed and not allowed with respect to players those kinds of topics will be detailed, with good reason, since this is a potential first for the league.

Figure it also to give some measure of information on the state of the mediated talks between the owners and players that have been going on daily for going on a week. The information embargo has held for the most part and I agree with ProFootballTalk.coms Mike Florio that even without public utterances or substantive revelations, the fact that neither side is leaving voluntary sessions, which they are indeed free to do, has to be considered a positive at this point.

John "Moon" Mullin is'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 Grades: Offense ignites to end 1st half, puts up season-high points vs. Niners

Bears Grades: Offense ignites to end 1st half, puts up season-high points vs. Niners

With less than 2 minutes to play in the first half the Bears had gained a total of 45 yards, and had zero pass completions (2 attempts) and zero points . By the end of the half they had 115 yards, Matt Barkley had completed 4 of his last 6 passes and the Bears adjourned for halftime with a 7-6 lead.

For the second straight week Barkley engineered a comeback, this time for a win, and running a two-minute offense that, curiously perhaps for an inexperienced quarterback, seems to suit Barkley even more than the offense run a normal speed. More than one player said that 70-yard drive to finish the first half was a tipping point, on all sides of the football.

The turning point “was that two-minute right before the half,” said right tackle Bobby Massie. “Everybody just executed, did what we needed to do and drove right down the field. Then we come out after the half and drove right down again. It was good.”

More than just good for the offense. “I think that really spurred both sides of the ball to be motivated to finish the game strong,” said Barkley, who got the Bears into the end zone twice in last Sunday’s Tennessee game, and nearly a third, within the final 10 minutes, running 35 plays over the span of those minutes.”

This time the result was the highest point total (26) this season and scores on four out of five possessions beginning with that hurry-up score to end the half.

Quarterback: A-

Once again Barkley was beset by dropped passes, although nowhere near the avalanche of them that defeated him against the Tennessee Titans. Barkley shook off the conditions and poor start to complete 4 of 6 passes on the final drive of the half, for 64 yards – the entire passing production for the half.

Barkley followed a shaky first half with a solid second, completing 7 of 10 passes for 128 yards and zero interceptions, a significant key with the 49ers unable to do much of anything against the Bears defense. Barkley effectively convinced coaches that he could operate in the adverse conditions with passing and not simply handing off to Jordan Howard.

“I thought [the way] he handled the two-minute drive before the half, we had to open it up some and throw the ball,” said coach John Fox. “I thought he executed outstanding.”

Barkley finished with 11-of-18 passing for 192 yards, no touchdowns but no interceptions and a passer rating of 97.5.

Running back: A+

In a game that demanded effective rushing, Jordan Howard delivered a statement game, his fifth in the last eight with 100 rushing yards and 115 total yards of offense.

Howard rushed for 3 touchdowns, giving him five on the year, and carried 32 times, an average of 3.7 that belies the overall, which involved the chemistry of the run game, now averaging 4.4 yards on the season . “He’s fun, man,” said guard Eric Kush. “We block our butts off to try to give him something. Even if it’s not the prettiest block, we try to finish our blocks and give him a chance.”

Howard displayed power inside as well as burst on the Bears’ outside-zone runs that exploited the San Francisco edges. He carried 10 times in the first half, then 22 in the second.

“I’m definitely ready to be that workhorse,” said Howard, who now has 883 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns despite not starting until game four. “Even though they might know the run is coming, they still have to stop it.”

Receivers: B+

Josh Bellamy, replaced in the starting lineup by Deonte Thompson after his drop-laced game against Tennessee, had perhaps one the streakiest game of the Bears year. Bellamy again suffered with drops that included lost TD catches, but Bellamy rebounded to match his career-best 4 catches against Tennessee but with 93 yards and a long of 31 and others of 24, 22 and 16 yards. Bellamy also was handed the ball on an end-around for 12 yards.

All of this despite two egregious drops, one of a potential TD ball with Bellamy two steps behind his defender. “He came up to me and said, ‘Keep feeding me,’” Barkley said. “I’m not going to stop giving those guys the ball… .I’m going to keep coming back to them for the rest of the year.”

Cam Meredith remained in the starting lineup and caught 3 of the 4 passes thrown to him, with Thompson and tight end Daniel Brown catching 2 each.

Offensive line: A

With the adverse weather conditions expected, coaches made a specific challenge to the offensive line to take over this game against a struggling San Francisco front. Guard Josh Sitton was active but still limited with an ankle injury, so coaches stayed with Eric Kush at left guard and were rewarded with some consistent blocking in the run game. Kush executed combination blocks and worked to the second level. Kush and Charles Leno repeatedly dominated the San Francisco left side as the Bears pounded with the run and never let up in the snowy conditions.

“With the conditions, you had to run the ball,” Leno said. “The O-line just tried to come together, not worry about the record and win one week at a time.”

The result was another 100-yard rushing day for Jordan Howard, with 3 touchdowns, and 142 rushing yards, high for the season. “Today the offensive line got great push like they always do,” Howard said.

Barkley was sacked once, in the fourth quarter, on a breakdown in one-on-one blocking by tight end Daniel Brown.

Cody Whitehair going down in the fourth quarter with a leg injury was a blow, but Whitehair was able to return later in the period. The Bears had Sitton dressed and part of field-goal unit, and Sitton came in at right guard and Ted Larsen moved over to center.

Coaching: A

The obvious overall effort and preparation of a 2-9 team for a game of virtually no import to the season was noteworthy, as the Bears again played with intensity and efficiency throughout, including recovering from first-half gaffes on special teams that put the Bears down 6-0.

The defense schemed for 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick by staying almost exclusively in a 3-4 front, utilizing three down-linemen and two outside linebackers to pressure Kaepernick and with the speed to thwart his runs. The result was the worst game of Kaepernick’s career, with 20 rushing yards and 4 passing, vs. 25 yards lost to sacks.

The offense held to a run-based mindset and plan, even when the 49ers turned two special-teams mistakes into field goals for the first two scores. The 49ers also relied primarily on man-to-man coverage, committing an extra defender to run defense, but the Bears were willing and able to challenge downfield knowing that the San Francisco pass rush was hampered by the field conditions.

“Props to Dowell[Loggains, offensive coordinator] and the whold coaching staff for getting us ready and making adjustments like that during the game,” Barkley said.

Special teams was again mistake-prone with mental breakdowns compounded by physical mistakes.

Morning Update: Bears beat 49ers; Blackhawks' offense struggles in loss to Jets


Morning Update: Bears beat 49ers; Blackhawks' offense struggles in loss to Jets

Here are some of the top stories from Sunday in Chicago sports:

Five Things to Watch: Bulls back in action against Trail Blazers

Tune in tonight for Chicago Bulls Charities Night

Blackhawks score late but can't get past Jets

Bears offense finds groove in win over 49ers

Winter meetings preview: Why teams will find trying to copy a ‘Cubs Way’ rebuild is easier said than done

White Sox revamp would mean fewer 'stopgaps' and 'half-measures'

Significance of Bears win over 49ers lies beyond records and score

Five Things from Blackhawks-Jets: Offense still anemic

Bears' Matt Barkley 'showing the world' he can be a starting QB in the NFL

Lars Johansson excited for Blackhawks call-up