Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2011
By John Mullin
It is never too soon to start thinking about the draft.
ESPN guru Mel Kiper, in his first mock draft last week, IDd Texas cornerback Aaron Williams as the Bears first pick at No. 29. With the age of Charles Tillman, the lack of size in Tim Jennings and D.J. Moore, and the shaky play of Zackary Bowman, thats addressing a key need area.
Best guess here, though, is that Angelo and Ruskell hold to their base course and go line, probably offense. One big reason is that while Mel develops in-depth grades on players and Williams rates that slot at this point, Angelo believes that you frequently have to reach for offensive linemen. There are 160 of those jobs in the NFL and not enough talent in the annual pipeline to fill those with top players.
Jim Finks anchored his team-building around staffing the offensive tackles with top picks (witness No. 1s on Dennis Lick and Ted Albrecht in successive years, then Keith Van Horne and Jim Covert when injuries took away those first two), and then the quarterback.
In a similar vein, Angelos philosophy is that you build out from the ball; the closer to the ball, meaning the lines, the more critical is the need to be strong, both physically and in quality.
And you address quarterback, running back and pass-rushing defensive lineman as your franchise players. Those Angelo has secured with Jay Cutler, Matt Forte and Julius Peppers (all acquired by different means), so now the lines need attention after a time in which Angelo has not gone line with a pick higher than in the third round since 2008,
Ironically, given the difficulties up front these past two seasons, Angelos drafts going back through his time with the New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Bears have nearly always involved selecting a lineman with the first or second picks.
Look for that to continue.
The picks have not been overly distinguished. Tommie Harris is the only of his linemen picks to reach a Pro Bowl. But consider:
2002 OT Marc Colombo (29th overall); third pick: G Terrence Metcalf, 3rd rd;
2003 DE Michael Haynes (14th overall);
2004 DT Tommie Harris (14th overall); DT Tank Johnson, 2nd rd;
2005 RB Cedric Benson (5th overall); WR Mark Bradley, 2nd rd;
2006 DBs Danieal Manning, Devin Hester, both 2nd rd;
2007 DE Dan Bazuin (2nd rd, after Greg Olsen 1st rd;
2008 OT Chris Williams (14th overall);
2009 DT Jarron Gilbert (3rd rd, first pick after trades);
2010 DE Corey Wootton (4th rd, second pick after S Major Wright).
One reason for leaving the offensive line lie fallow was the successful acquisitions through free agency: tackles Fred Miller and John Tait, guards Ruben Brown and Roberto Garza.
The Ruskell factor
The personnel department has been rebuilt at the top with the departures of Bobby DePaul on the pro side and Greg Gabriel overseeing college scouting.
In their place is Tim Ruskell, who shares Angelos draft philosophies from their years with Tampa Bay and who also has a history of line-building.
His first pick as head of the Seattle Seahawks was guard Chris Spencer and in the 17 Tampa Bay drafts with which he was involved, linemen were taken with the first picks 10 times.
In 1996 the Bucs took two defensive linemen in the first round; in 1997 they grabbed a tackle in the second round and more than once invested multiple mid-round picks in the offensive line in particular.
Sometimes from the outside its difficult to see how a system really makes that huge a difference in a quarterback. They all throw the same ball, line up in the same place, but somethings different.
Pittsburgh Steelers great Jerome Bettis (whom the Bears passed on in 1993 to draft Curtis Conway, by the way, as long as were starting to swing onto early approach for the draft) said on Wednesdays The Dan Patrick Show that Ben Roethlisberger warrants inclusion in that class with Brady and Peyton Manning.
The numbers dont really support that, but thats because its easy to be looking at the wrong numbers. Roethlisberger is going for his third Super Bowl win, at only age 28), which would tie him with Brady and further his lead over Mannings one.
Bettis observation on Roethlisberger is that hes in a system thats not built for him to throw the ball 40 times a game. Thats the point. Roethlisberger is eighth all-time in passer rating at 92.8, and that measure factors in interceptions heavily, which Roethlisberger doesnt throw and shouldnt, given the defense and level of run game behind him.
The Bears have brought back Kevin ODea as assistant special teams coach, the role he filled in 2006-07 with the Bears before moving on to the New York Jets for two seasons and the Hartford Colonials of the UFL.
ODea replaces Chris Tabor, who went to the Cleveland Browns as special-teams coordinator.
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.