Chicago Bears

View From the Moon: Jumping into the draft

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View From the Moon: Jumping into the draft

Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2011
12:22 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com
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.
Team-building

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.

Angelos pattern

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.
QB thinking

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.

Staffing up

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.

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 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.”