View From the Moon: Jumping into the draft

357350.jpg

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.

Jordan Howard wants to lead Bears... and lead the league

Jordan Howard wants to lead Bears... and lead the league

So Jordan Howard finished second in the NFL in rushing in his rookie season, despite just a dozen carries in the first three games. The fifth-round pick joined the man who beat him out for the rushing title, Ezekiel Elliott, as one of just five rookies in history to average five or more yards per carry on over 250 carries. And he set the Bears' rookie rushing record with his 1,313 yards while becoming just the fourth in franchise history to rush for that many yards in a season.

Sounds pretty hard to top, like we might be set up for the dreaded sophomore slump.

But...

"Things are a lot different this year because I know what to expect," Howard said during the team's minicamp two weeks ago. "I know all the plays and things like that. I’m not out there thinking, so I can just play free and fast.

"I definitely feel like a veteran 'cause I know what to expect and can help the young guys on the plays that they're not understanding. I’m just more comfortable and want to be a leader."

One of the other things we learned about Howard last year is he's low-key, a man of few words. So the Indiana product by way of UAB will make his points verbally when needed, but his actions will speak louder.

"He was a rookie a year ago and didn't even go in trying to be a leader, telling a five-year guy what was up," said head coach John Fox. "I think with time, and obviously with production like he had, I think it's a role he can fall in to. We're in a performance-based business and even in that locker room, what they do on Sundays gives them some credibility."

One of the concerns about Howard coming out of college was durability, but he answered the bell once he became the starter in week four against Detroit. And he probably wasn't used nearly as much as he should have. The good news about that is he was subject to less wear and tear, averaging just 18 carries per game from that Lions game on.

But besides taking more of a leadership role, Howard wanted to work on his speed without sacrificing the strong base that, paired with keen vision and work by the offensive line, allowed him to hit holes quickly and charge toward the second level of opposing defenses.

"Just improving on the little things – my conditioning, my weight, catching passes. And looking for ways to finish runs better," says Howard. "I feel like I’m in much better shape than I was at this time last year, a little more toned-up."

"It's just training," said Fox. "When you get to that it's more like track speed than football speed and I think he proved pretty worthy of that a year ago as a rookie. Y'know we all can improve on things, and that's the expectation. He's trained hard.

"This time of year last year he wasn’t even practicing," Fox remembered. "I like where we are, we’ve brought in more competition, and he’s better for it. He’s kind of gotten used to an NFL season, he’s come back ready to roll, but he still has work to do before we get to training camp."  

Oh, and the 22-year-old has a couple of other goals he didn't mind sharing, besides being a leader and getting a little faster.

"First off, make the playoffs. Be the leading rusher, and just help the team in any way I can and stay consistent."

Did Brandon Marshall disrespect Jay Cutler with Hall of Fame shade?

Did Brandon Marshall disrespect Jay Cutler with Hall of Fame shade?

Brandon Marshall is no stranger to keeping it real.

The outspoken All-Pro receiver never minces his words and that continued over the weekend when he showed off his signed jersey collection.

Marshall took to Instagram and showed off "Santa" hanging all of the jerseys he's swapped with other NFL players:

Santa doing work.. . #jerseychallenge

A post shared by Brandon Marshall (@bmarshall) on

The list includes a host of current and future Hall of Fame players: Champ Bailey, Cris Carter, John Lynch, Darrelle Revis, Lance Briggs, Adam Vinatieri, Adrian Peterson, Larry Fitzgerald, Joe Thomas.

When almost all the framed jerseys were hung, Marshall took his followers through:

@nfl #jerseychallenge

A post shared by Brandon Marshall (@bmarshall) on

Marshall compliments each player before, calling them "Hall of Famers" before getting to Jay Cutler at the end and going "Hall of..." multiple times.

Was that Marshall throwing shade at his former quarterback in both Denver and Chicago? If it was an innocent mistake or whatever, there's no way Marshall would've posted the Instagram video, right?

Marshall and Cutler were good friends from the beginning of their careers with the Broncos. So much so that the Bears traded a pair of third round draft picks in March 2012 to allow the two to continue their bromance by the lake:

But Marshall and Cutler have had a contentious relationship since.

Last summer, Marshall responded to a Tweet saying "of course" he misses Cutler. Last August, Marshall hopped on ESPN's First Take and said he thought Cutler could win the MVP Award in the 2016 NFL season.

At the same time, Marshall talked about his relationship with Cutler and said he was the only person on the Bears with the "huevos" to hold the enigmatic quarterback accountable. Marshall also said he was "sad" he didn't talk to Cutler much in the year leading up to August 2016.