Protecting your QB vs. getting to opponent's QB

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Protecting your QB vs. getting to opponent's QB

Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Posted: 10:29 a.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

A couple of Bears draft folk will have some things to say later this week but there is still no shortage of information flowing with the draft barely a week away.

Peter King at Sports Illustrated is among the growing chorus of voices that say Cam Newton will go No. 1 overall to Ron Rivera and the Carolina Panthers. After a bit of a run on offensive linemen, and with defensive tackles like Marvin Austin out of North Carolina off the board by No. 29, Peter runs a little against the grain with a return to the offensive line in the form of Mississippi States Derek Sherrod.

Makes sense, from the standpoint of protecting Jay Cutler, and the underlying question through all of this, for the Bears, is whether its more important to protect your quarterback or to get to the other guys. Both matter, obviously, but look at it this way:

On a mythical scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the Steel Curtain for a defensive line and maybe the Super Bowl XX Bears O-line, is the Bears 2011 offensive or defensive line closer to the elite level youd ideally want?

Reaching out

ESPNs Mel Kiper voiced a sentiment that GM Jerry Angelo has expressed, that you have to draft offensive linemen sometimes higher perhaps than their pure grade on your draft board.

Theres a reason to move guys up because you have to, Mel said, with an expectation that all of the commonly acknowledged top talents will be gone in the 20s, which isnt promising for the Bears sitting at No. 29.

I think youre going to get offensive linemen drafted higher because of the position.

Finding tackles is usually the assumed goal when the draft subject is offensive line but it could well be argued that the Bears have more needs inside than outside on the line. With JMarcus Webb and (the Bears hope) Chris Williams, the Bears may have enough at tackle.

But the years on right guard Roberto Garza and center Olin Kreutz (assuming he re-signs as a free agent) and the clear void at left guard make the interior a bigger need area, at least in the opinion of View from the Moon. And guards aren't as pricey (6-7 million a year) as tackles anymore.

Mels take on the 2011 class, which has seen far more attention played to tackle, is that there are 10 potential centers for the NFL in this draft, he said, and not all of them are centers now. Given the age of Kreutz (34) the Bears need to find one of them sooner rather than later.

Cutting corners

CBSSportsline.coms Clark Judge has the Bears skipping either line and going with Aaron Williams, a 6-foot cornerback out of Texas and a clear fit for the Bears. Mel in fact cited the Philadelphia Eagles (No. 23), the Bears and the Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 31) as three teams with DB needs that would be well served by grabbing Williams, who also has the potential to be a safety.

I think initially hell be a corner and hell be drafted as a corner, Mel said. If you can get him at No. 29... that would be a good spot for an Aaron Williams."

Catching on

The Bears had intended to add to their receiver group this offseason before the labor impasse shut off free agency. But the draft will have talent below the first round, which is off-limits for taking a wideout anyway for Jerry Angelo.

Mel likes Kentuckys Randall Cobb as a wild-card, and Cobb was IDd by Wes Bunting of National Football Post as a potentially very good pick with little downside. The other notables will be Miamis Leonard Hankerson, a favorite of Matt Bowen over at National Football Post as well, and Titus Young out of Boise State. Both Hankerson run sub 4.5 in the 40, although Young is a bit undersized at 174 pounds.

A few heads might shake on draft day but a late-round nugget may be Edmund Gates, another speed guy who is 25 but someone on Kiper radar. The chuckle here is that Gates is from Abilene Christian, which sent the Bears Johnny Knox and Danieal Manning.

Heres where the switch from Greg Gabriel as college scouting director to Tim Ruskell as director of all player personnel. Gabriel clearly liked the small-college Texas kids (more than just Texas ones, actually) and it remains to be seen how Ruskell leans on the projects from smaller programs.

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 defensive backs using off-field bonds to improve on-field ones

Bears defensive backs using off-field bonds to improve on-field ones

Every Thursday night, Bears defensive backs try to all get together at Tracy Porter’s house for dinner. But it’s not about the food.

"None of us can cook," said cornerback Bryce Callahan, laughing.

At the risk of channeling some inner Marc Trestman, it’s about the get-together itself, which always involves popping on some game film and doing extra study beyond the time at Halas Hall. And it’s also building something off the field that they believe they can take onto it.

One of the keys to excellence in any working group is the individuals connecting in ways that make the whole greater than just the sum of the parts. That’s the point ultimately, taking some personal connections onto the field and making the entire defensive backfield collectively better.

Relationships among players have never been recorded as intercepting or even deflecting an NFL pass.

"For me it starts off the field, getting to know one another, how that person is," said cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc, familiar with a similar internal chemistry from his time with the New England Patriots.

"You get that feeling for every individual, and you take that on the field. It creates a close bond, and we’ve got that bond. We try to look through each other’s eyes, communicate what you were thinking and he was thinking on this play or that, and that’s the biggest thing."

Offensive lines are generally thought of as the group most benefited by camaraderie and closeness. They typically have an O-line dinner most weeks, with checks for the meal not uncommonly reaching into four-figures.

"Those boys can EAT," LeBlanc marveled. "We stick to wings or ribs."

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

But the secondary consists of four individuals rotating coverages the way a line moves with different protections or assignments. Double-teams in the defensive backfield require the same cohesion and familiarity as ones on the other side of the football.

The Bears have started the same base four defensive backs in all three games — Porter and Jacoby Glenn at the corners, Adrian Amos and Harold Jones-Quartey at the safeties — but the Bears are working in multiple rookies, and Callahan (hamstring) has been inactive along with Kyle Fuller, projected to be the starter at right corner but now on IR. Rookie safety Deon Bush was inactive the first two weeks, then played at Dallas. Rookie corner Deiondre’ Hall was pressed into action on defense for 18 plays at Houston and 28 against Philadelphia.

With the in-game mixes-and-matches necessitated by injuries, the familiarity among secondary members is looked at as nothing short of vital. Comments, right or wrong, from a friend can be taken better/more constructively than ones from a relative stranger.

"Just more of being ready to pick each other up, be ready," Amos said. "It just shows you how quick you can go from scout team to on the field, so everybody has to be talking together.

"The closer we are on and off the field, the better we are together."

LeBlanc agrees.

"We talk to each other like friends, in a unit, trying to dissect a play right after it happens, rewind and see how we can to it better.

"You can’t be out here trying to communicate and you don’t even really know the guy next to you."

Bears facing Lions with Jay Cutler likely out, Alshon Jeffery dealing with hamstring issue

Bears facing Lions with Jay Cutler likely out, Alshon Jeffery dealing with hamstring issue

The official injury designation is “doubtful” but Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is unofficially expected to be out of Sunday’s game with the Detroit Lions after not practicing on Thursday or Friday due to his injured right thumb.

“It is a pretty critical area on the quarterback, especially when it's your right thumb and you're a right handed quarterback,” Bears head coach John Fox said. “So you know we're going to get him healthy and that's our main objective and we'll see if he's any further along [Saturday].”

The designation — “questionable” — was brighter for wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, except for the mild surprise that he was limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday with a knee issue and then was limited on Friday because of a hamstring.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Jeffery missed six games last season, two separate instances, because of hamstring problems.

Besides Cutler, running backs Ka’Deem Carey (hamstring) and Jeremy Langford (ankle), nose tackle Eddie Goldman (ankle) and linebacker Danny Trevathan (thumb) also did not practice and are listed as doubtful. Carey, Cutler, Goldman and Trevathan all were inactive in Dallas, and Langford suffered his ankle sprain against the Cowboys.

Limited but listed as questionable: guard Josh Sitton (shoulder), outside linebacker Willie Young (knee); and defensive backs Sherrick McManis (hamstring), Tracy Porter (knee) and Harold Jones-Quartey (concussion, cleared).