Chicago Bears

Round 1 key for Bears, but hits must keep coming

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Round 1 key for Bears, but hits must keep coming

Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Posted: 3:10 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

The Bears first draft choice of the Jerry Angelo Era was offensive tackle Marc Colombo, whose Chicago career was ended prematurely by severe knee injuries. Colombo survived both the knee issues and his Bears release to go on to a successful run as a starting tackle for the Dallas Cowboys for the better part of the last five seasons.

Colombo was the 29th pick overall of the 2002 draft, coincidentally the same starting point for the Bears 2011 draft. While impact expectations are moderated somewhat with a 29th pick vs., say, a ninth pick, the expectations of the Bears draft should be anything but modest.

The point is not specifically the level of player that has come to the franchise with a pick of that number. The real point is the holistic nature of the draft, the reason why the focus should be on far more than just the 29th pick.

The Bears have made some subtle but significant tweaks in their evaluation process, something that is necessarily evolving with the state of the game anyway but more notable this year because of Angelo bringing in Tim Ruskell as director of player personnel, which obviously includes college scouting.

One note here:

A quick Ruskell Primer, courtesy of Danny ONeil with the Seattle Times, who looked back at the 15 first-round picks by teams with Ruskell heavily involved in the drafts. Going back through Tampa Bay, Atlanta and Seattle, of those 15 No. 1s:

9 were defensive players, including, 6 defensive linemen; and of the 15, 6 were from Florida colleges.

Without getting into more number-massaging, Angelo has made seven Bears No. 1 picks; two (Rex Grossman, Greg Olsen) were from Florida colleges. For what its worth, CG Mike Pouncey and OT Marcus Gilbert are from Florida; DE Allen Bailey at OT Orlando Franklin are from Miami; DT Terrell McClain is from South Florida; all have gotten individual attention from the Bears during this pre-draft stretch.

Ruskell notable: While he was Seattle president, the Seahawks had three No. 1s, none higher than 26th overall. The Seahawks landed starters with two of the the three (CB Kelly Jennings, C Chris Spencer).

But the real point...

is less the 29th pick or AngeloRuskell tendencies; also for what its worth, Angelo traded down in first rounds of the 2003 and 2006 drafts in addition to trading away his No. 1s for 2009 and 2010 on Jay Cutler, and traded down in second rounds in 2007 and 2009, so a surprise on Day One or Two of this draft will be if the Bears dont make a deal of some sort.

The real point, however, lies beyond that 29th pick. As critical as the need for upgrading the offensive line is, the interior of the 1980s line (guards Mark Bortz and Tom Thayer and center Jay Hilgenberg) were fourth-rounders or lower. The Bears best offensive lineman of the past decade, center Olin Kreutz, was a third-rounder (1998).

Over the past 20 seasons, the best Bears linebacker not named Brian has been Lance Briggs, a No. 3 (2003).

Winning the first round is a Bears imperative. But for the 2011 draft to be a Bears win, the hits need to keep on coming.

To that end, Ruskells Seahawks in his three drafts landed a Pro Bowl linebacker (Lofa Tatupu), quality tight end (John Carlson) and a starting defensive tackle (Darryl Tapp) in second rounds. They also obtained a starting defensive tackle (Brandon Mebane) and Pro Bowl linebacker (Leroy Hill) in third rounds. Ruskell also was the Atlanta Falcons assistant general manager when the Falcons used a third-round pick on quarterback Matt Schaub, who didnt work in Atlanta but has more than worked in Houston.

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.

Kendall Wright draws a line between Marcus Mariota and Mitch Trubisky: They 'can do it all'

Kendall Wright draws a line between Marcus Mariota and Mitch Trubisky: They 'can do it all'

Kendall Wright saw two years ago what the transition for a quarterback, picked second overall and coming from a college spread offense, can look like. Marcus Mariota made that move smoothly and now looks poised to join the ranks of the best quarterbacks in the NFL this year with the Tennessee Titans. 

Can Mitch Trubisky make a similarly successful transition? Wright, so far, has liked what he’s seen.

“His overall progression from OTAs to training camp to now, his overall everything he’s done in every area has gotten better,” Wright said. “The work he puts in, it helps him.” 

It’s not a perfect comparison, of course, given the offense Mariota so effectively operated at Oregon had a didn't resemble the look and feel of the one Trubisky ran at North Carolina. Mariota started far more games than Trubisky, too. They’re two different quarterbacks with different skillsets. And Mariota was given the opportunity to be a Week 1 starter from the moment he was drafted, while Trubisky — for now — remains behind Mike Glennon. 

“Marcus was in a different position where he came in and he was the quarterback,” Wright said. “I think it’s different. Once Mitch starts playing, whenever he starts playing, he’ll start progressing a lot more because he’ll actually be out there in game-like situations.”

But consider why the Titans were so confident Mariota could start immediately and make a successful transition to the NFL from that flashy Oregon offense:

“I don’t think the system he had in Oregon, I don’t think that held him back when he came into the league,” Wright said. “I think he was good at making his progressions, decisive. He’s like one of those players, it doesn’t matter what system he’s in, you put him out there and he’s a guy that’s a difference-maker.”

After espousing Trubisky’s accuracy back in April, Bears general manager Ryan Pace quickly pointed out this trait: “His ability to process and see the whole field jumps out right away. 

“… All these top quarterbacks, it’s just their ability to quickly process defenses, process coverage, find open targets, not panic under pressure, deliver accurate throws when there’s a noisy pocket – things are collapsing – those guys all have those traits. And Mitch has those traits, Drew (Brees) has those traits and those are things we value.”

The point being: No matter the system, both Mariota and Trubisky have good football intelligence, and are more than what Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians once bemoaned about college spread quarterbacks. 

“They hold up a card on the sideline and he kicks his foot and throws the ball,” Arians said in 2015. “That ain’t playing quarterback.”

Trubisky, of course, still has to improve with his pre-snaps reads, calling out protections, identifying coverages, learning the playbook, etc. But he seems to have the football intelligence to make those strides and marry them with his impressive physical skillset. 

And as was the case with Mariota, Wright doesn’t see a reason why Trubisky can’t succeed in the NFL. 

“(Trubisky) can do it all too,” Wright said. “He’s still learning, he’s still getting better, he’s never complacent. He has the ability to get better and he’s willing to get better. He’s a young guy that listens. He’s just a baller. You put him out there and he makes plays.” 

With return to Tennessee looming, football is fun again for Kendall Wright

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USA Today Sports Images

With return to Tennessee looming, football is fun again for Kendall Wright

Sunday will mark Kendall Wright’s first trip back to Nashville since he not-so-amicably split with the Tennessee Titans after the 2016 season. 

Wright has said he doesn’t want to talk about his time in Tennessee, where injuries and clashes with coaches led to a steady decline in targets and production after a standout 2013 season (139 targets, 94 receptions, 1,079 yards). But it’s easy to compare how he feels practicing with the Bears to how he felt toward the end of his days with the Titans. 

“A fresh start is good,” Wright said. “Football is fun again. 

“If you don’t have fun playing the game, what the use of you playing? And I didn’t really have too much fun the past few years. But when you’re out here playing and doing what you love to do, it’s fun. So you just gotta keep the game fun.”

Wright was a little more forceful earlier this year. 

“What motivates me the most is I probably was the best receiver on the Titans roster last year and I was playing, like, 10 plays a game,” Wright said during OTAs in June. 

But while this weekend’s game against the Titans could seem to be an opportunity for revenge, Wright is more approaching it for what it is — another preseason game to continue to improve with the rest of the first team offense. 

Wright caught a touchdown from  Glennon Saturday night in Arizona (he also was the target on Glennon’s interception, though that looked to be more on the quarterback than the receiver). And he seems to be clearly ahead of Victor Cruz to be the team’s No. 1 slot receiver — Cruz wasn’t targeted against Arizona, while Wright received three targets. 

If the Glennon-led first-team offense is going to have success in the regular season, it needs improvements from every unit — quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end and offensive line — based on what we’ve seen during the preseason. Perhaps a motivated, fun-having Wright, playing for the same offensive coordinator under which he had his best season, can be a part of that. 

“The game of football is supposed to be fun,” Wright said. “Don’t take the fun out of it. You just gotta go out there and have fun and make plays. When you’re making plays, it’s even more fun.”