View From the Moon: Draft trackin...

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View From the Moon: Draft trackin...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011Posted: 12:05 AM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Draft trackin

The actual draft will start to play out in a little more than a week but there is still anything but a consensus on what the Bears will do with their pick at No. 29, if in fact they exercise it rather than trading down (again).

Nolan Nawrocki at Pro Football Weekly predicts that teams will take a very need-based approach to the draft, which would be a bit of a departure for some organizations firmly in step with a best-player-available methodology based on belief in their draft board.

The Bears went for Florida safety Major Wright in last years draft in one of those nice meshes of best-available and need-position situations. They needed a safety and Wrights grade was a fit at their point of the third round. Chris Williams was projected to be the same at tackle in 2008; the Bears needed one and Williams was deemed worth the No. 14 slot.

Nolan projects the Bears taking defensive tackle Marvin Austin at No. 29. Austin was dropped from the North Carolina team last year for dealings with an agent and he has some maturity questions. I still have a difficult time seeing Jerry Angelo taking anything close to a character risk in the first round after his experiences with Tank Johnson and ultimately with Tommie Harris.

But Austin does fit a true need with the exit of Harris, and Angelo believes in keeping a strength strong, particularly when its the defensive line, a franchise focus with Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli.

Russ Lande over at SportingNews.com also believes the Bears will go for strength up front in the person of Oregon State strongman Stephen Paea. Russ, like Nolan, has the top five offensive linemen (tackles Tyron Smith, Anthony Castonzo, Gabe Carimi, Derek Sherrod and Nate Solder, and guardcenter Mike Pouncey) gone by No. 26 (Baltimore), and if that scenario holds, defense may indeed trump offense, although Baylor guard Danny Watkins is hugely intriguing.

Clark Judge yields (tongue-in-cheek) to CamMania and joins the chorus seeing Auburn quarterback Cam Newton leading off the CBSSportsline.com draft by becoming a Carolina Panther. Clark takes a different tack for the Bears, however. With Watkins gone as well as the others mentioned above, Clark likes Texas cornerback Aaron Williams coming to Chicago in the race to match up against Aaron Rodgers and that passing crowd in Green Bay.

Texas gave the Bears Nathan Vasher, and Williams is a 6-foot cornerback in the tradition of Charles Tillman. Because of the value of the position and the need to get a Tillman replacement in the pipeline, this pick solidifies a spot that has bedeviled the defense since Vashers precipitous decline from his one-time Pro Bowl level.

Gaming

The NFL will announce the specific 2011 game dates and times on Tuesday. A couple of mysteries should be solved.

The opponents already are determined: Home games against Detroit, Green Bay, Minnesota, Atlanta, Carolina, Kansas City, San Diego and Seattle. Road games at Detroit, Green Bay, Minnesota, Denver, New Orleans, Oakland, St. Louis and Tampa Bay.

The last of the road games right now is scheduled to be played in Londons Wembley Stadium on Oct. 23. But that is contingent upon NFL owners and players resolving their labor issues no later than Aug. 1. If that doesnt happen, the game will revert to Tampa and Raymond James Stadium. And the Bears appearance in the Hall of Fame game will be canceled as well.

Green Bay will open at home and the Bears rate as the early favorite to be the Packers opponent as defending Super Bowl champion. Given that this was the matchup from the NFC Championship game, it conjures up distant memories of the Bears and New York Giants opening the 1987 season on a Monday night the winners of Super Bowl XX vs. the winners of XXI. won by the Bears in what would be a season losing several games to labor troubles.

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 announce training camp schedule

Bears announce training camp schedule

The Bears released their official training camp schedule Thursday morning. After reporting to Olivet Nazarene on Wednesday, July 26, the first of ten practices open to the public will take place the following day. The Bears will be based out of Bourbonnais for the 16th straight season. Training camp will go through Sunday, Aug. 13 before the Bears break camp and finish the preseason in Lake Forest. 

All practices are tentatively scheduled to start at various times during the 11 a.m. hour with the exception of Saturday, Aug. 13, which starts at 12:05 p.m. Those times are subject to change based on weather, and a varying set of schedules that John Fox and his coaching staff have set up, as they adjust to player and training staff preferences in hopes of reducing injuries. 

Also, new this season, fans wanting to attend practices must order free tickets in advance through the Bears website. Fans will not be allowed in without a ticket, and the first 1,000 fans each day will be given various souvenirs. The practice campus will be open to the public with tickets from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Here is the full training camp schedule:

After historically low turnover total in 2016, what can Bears do to get more takeaways?

After historically low turnover total in 2016, what can Bears do to get more takeaways?

Quintin Demps set a career high in interceptions last year by not doing anything different. And that’s the message he’s sending a defense that generated only 11 takeaways in 2016, tied for the lowest single-season total in NFL history. 

Demps went from picking off four passes in both 2013 with the Kansas City Chiefs and 2014 with the New York Giants to notching just one interception with the Houston Texans in 2015. In 2016, though, Demps intercepted six passes, broke up nine more and totaled 38 tackles. 

“Turnovers are like, it’s not something that you go get, it’s something you let come to you by doing your job first and then helping out,” Demps said. “And then you’d be surprised how they come to you by doing your job and being aware of when you can help somebody out. A lot of times when you get help is when you get picks and turnovers.”

The danger for a defense coming off a historically bad takeaway is sort of a whiplash effect, where there’s an over-emphasis on creating turnovers and not enough attention paid to, as Demps said, “doing your job.” There’s a fine line between being opportunistic and undisciplined.

“I tell my safeties all the time, we gotta tackle first,” Demps said. “Tackle first, don’t miss any tackles and then the picks are going to come. I promise you that.”

The Bears felt positively after signs of being more opportunistic as a defense during shorts-and-helmets practices in May and June, though if that was because of any real improvements or because the defense is usually ahead of the offense is hard to tell at this stage of the year. 

The offseason program was valuable for the Bears’ secondary in growing trust within a group that had — no pun intended — plenty of turnover after the 2016 season. The hope is that the offseason additions of Demps, Prince Amukamara, Marcus Cooper and Eddie Jackson will solidify the secondary and lead to something better than last year’s historically-low turnover total. 

“We’re still trying to build something, but the actual, real building happens in training camp because I think then you start to see the group start to get formed and yo know who’s going to go with the one’s, who’s going to go with the two’s, stuff like that,” Amukamara said. “So I think that starts to get formed. But I think with a lot of guys now, I think what that creates is competition and guys trying their hardest to make the team.”