Chicago Bears

BearsNFL Team Column
Trevor Cipriano
2011 NFL Draft Review

28 November 2012

Bears Dominate Vikings

Coming off two- really three- underwhelming performances the Bears really needed to put one away early this week at home against the Vikings.  They did just that- despite the injury bug hitting home in numbers like we’ve rarely seen.  

                  Of all places where the Bears could least afford to get more inexperienced the offensive line heads up the list, which ironically was the hardest hit on Sunday as Chris Spencer (already starting in place of troubled linemate Chilo Rachal) and Lance Louis went down.  Louis was placed on IR Monday with a torn ACL; all the more unfortunate for the Bears as Louis has been a long bright spot amongst the beleaguered front five.  There is no definitive word yet on Chris Spencer but the Bears must be ready to play on Sunday without the former Seahawks first-rounder.  

                  Much of the reaction around the water cooler, as far as I can tell, has been a general ‘good riddance’ sentiment given the lack of success that the Bears have had lately up front.  I am inclined to vehemently disagree with this mind set- even though early returns on the patch work line were positive.  NFL schemes are simply too detailed to expect even a talented player to step right in, system ignorant, and get to the right place at the right time.  Still, sometimes Wally Pipp gets injured and Lou Gehrig steps in.

So how will they line the five up this Sunday?  Well assuming that Spencer remains out the Bears will need to fill the two starting guard spots as well as add some depth.  I would look for Edwin Williams to get the nod at LG just as he did filling in for Spencer during the game.  Williams has been on the roster all year, although inactive, and started about half of the games last season.  He represents the experienced option.

Things get more interesting over at the RG spot.  Demoted RT Gabe Carimi has struggled as an NFL pass protector but might find the opportunity to get his groove back on the interior of the line.  Carimi’s run blocking was definitely a strength coming out of a run-oriented Wisconsin system in college.  He looks far more comfortable teeing off against someone directly over him than he does working in space against a pass rusher.  This move plays to some of his strengths and even though Coach Lovie Smith was complimentary about his performance it remains to be seen if Carimi will make the move for longer than the emergency duty he swung at the position on Sunday.  If Carimi does take the field on Sunday at that guard spot, it will be a fascinating afternoon and may even have long term implications.

Despite the depleted roster, the former Badger is not the only option against Seattle.  If not Carimi at guard on Sunday- who then?  The other option on the active roster right now is undrafted rookie James Brown out of Sunbelt powerhouse Troy.  Don’t wrinkle your nose.  Brown is actually a very intriguing prospect whom many had ranked during the pre-draft process as a likely mid round selection.  One publication had Brown ranked as their #6 guard prospect out of college- the knock on Brown is that despite his athleticism (6’3” 310lbs, 4.97 40yd!) he really struggled to adapt to the increased level of competition at post-season showcases such as the Senior Bowl.  He had been on the practice squad up until this past week when he was signed to the active roster.  Like Carimi, Brown played LT in college and is better suited to playing in tight spaces; using his athleticism to bull doze and pull- not pass block on an island.  Perhaps after a 10 week acclimation period on the practice squad and a move to the interior of the line, Brown may have found his own mojo.   

Whatever happens it surely will be an interesting week at Halas Hall and an exciting watch against the 6-5 Seahawks.

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11 May 2011

Chicago Bears Post Draft Review

The 2011 NFL Draft has come and gone and like we have had with most any NFL Draft, there were a few surprises in this one.  The Bears went into this year’s drafts with some specific needs and walked out a couple of nice players and some head scratchers.
Their needs on the offensive were partially met with their first round pick and that was a good move by the Bears.  They didn’t reach with that pick and got a guy that doesn’t come pre-injured like they did when they brought in Chris Williams.  This pick really helped them out.

Their need to replace the departed Tommie Harris was met soundly with a guy that could have easily gone in the latter part of the first round in Stephen Paea.  This was an excellent pick.
Things got a little bit dicey from there on out as the Bears selected a safety with one starting college season, a quarterback and someone that shouldn’t have even been drafted so the tail end of the Bears  draft was not as good as it should have been.
Let’s take a look at the Bear’s five draft picks giving them each a grade and then one final grade for their draft overall.

Round 1, Pick 29: Gabe Carimi-OT-Wisconsin-Chicago had needs on the offensive line and they took care of at least one of their most important needs by taking him.  Carimi has been projected to be a right tackle in the NFL and this presents the Bears with an interesting situation.  For one, they could go ahead and let him try out for the left tackle position where current starter Frank Omiyale isn’t cutting it.

Or they could move starting right tackle J’Marcus Webb over to the left side and let Carimi complete for the right tackle spot where he would almost assuredly win.  This seems like the most likely scenario especially since the Bears like Webb and think that he can play the left tackle position.

Overall this is a great pick and one that will help the Bears out for many years to come.

Grade: A

Round 2, Pick 53-Stephen Paea-DT-Oregon State-The Bears ended up with a player that they coveted before the draft and got him in a great spot in the draft.  It was surprising to see Paea fall into the second round of the draft and the Bears just couldn’t pass him up.
Paea has the size and the speed that the Bears covet in their defensive tackles and gives them a lot of strength at the point of attack which is exactly what they need.  Not only can he play the run well but he can also get up the field and rush the passer.  He’s the ideal fit for the Bears.

Grade: A

Round 3, Pick 93rd-Chris Conte-S-California-This became the Bear’s first head scratcher in this year’s draft.  While Conte had been advancing up draft boards and could have been a solid late round prospect the Bears defined convention and selected him in the third round of the draft.  Conte had only started his senior season at California and while he did receiver All Pac-10 honors he doesn’t have the experience that is needed to play the position.
Couple that with poor pass protection skills and the Bears may have gotten much less than they bargained for.  Unfortunately they will have to keep him on the roster (at least this year) because of his draft status.  And someone will have to leave to make room for Conte and so it will be interesting to see who the Bears let walk.

Grade: D

Round 5, Pick 160-Nathan Enderle-QB-Idaho-As the draft drew closer we started to hear rumors that the Bears could be in the market for a quarterback in the draft and sure enough the Bears lived up to the hype and took Enderle in the fifth round.  This pick seemed like a mistake at first but the more that you evaluate this pick the more that you see that it does actually make sense.
If the Bears can get offensive coordinator Mike Martz signed to a longer term deal (this is currently something that the team is working on) he will have the time he needs to develop Enderle and make him a potential starter either for the Bears or for another NFL team.  There is no rush to get Enderle into starting shape so he won’t be forced into anything. 

Keep an eye on his development as he could become an important part of the Bear’s future later on down the road.

Grade: C+

Round 6, Pick 195-J.T. Thomas-OLB-West Virginia

The Bears went into this draft needing some help at the outside linebacker position because both Nick Roach and Pisa Tinoisamoa remained unsigned heading into the draft period.  What they came out with was a guy that was rated by most as an undrafted free agent and would have a long way to go to make the roster.
The Bears may have been thinking special teams here with this pick because it’s difficult to think that Thomas is going to be able to be a starter at some point in his career.  He doesn’t have the mechanics to rush the passer (which is something important in the outside linebacker position) and he could be a liability if he makes the roster.

The Bears certainly could have done something better here.

Grade: F

The Bears failed to address needs at the center, guard and cornerback position in this draft and if free agency works out the way that everyone thinks that it will they won’t find any help there.  It doesn’t come as a surprise that the Bears didn’t adhere to trying to fix some of their holes in the later rounds of the draft as Jerry Anglo tends to lock onto players he likes, no matter what their value and selects them later on in the draft.
The Bears got two great players to start and this helps make their draft get a much higher draft than they would have had if they hadn’t had drafted these two players.  Enderle is a nice prospect and one that they can develop for the future but Conte and Thomas may not help them that much. 

Overall Grade: B-

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27 April 2011

Chicago Bears Draft Possibilities:  A Full Six Round Mock Draft

(Note: Chicago doesn’t have a seventh round pick so this is only a six round mock).

If ever there was a time where the Bears needed to have a solid draft in order to stay in the hunt for the playoffs and maintain what their team has been doing that time is now.  Chicago had a surprising run to the NFC Championship game last year and you can’t find anyone who will tell you that this is exactly what they expected Chicago to do.  Everyone felt that Chicago would either just miss the playoffs or not even come close to making them so needless to say, this season was a surprise.

Chicago could have had a much better season had they been able to protect quarterback Jay Cutler.  All of their losses can be traced to their lack of pass protection and had they had better pass protection we might be talking about the Bears as a Super Bowl winner and not a team that fell just short of getting there. 

So pass protection is something that the Bears have to concentrate on in this draft and they need to strike early and often there.

The defensive line could also use some help and the Bears may juggle with picking an offensive linemen or a defensive tackle right up until they make their pick in the first round.  Depending on who you listen to the Bears may be leaning towards taking a defensive tackle with that first pick but will probably wait to see who is there at number 29 before making a clear decision as to who they are going to draft.

As the draft approaches we are now starting to get a better look at which teams are interested in which players and what positions team is looking at drafting.  The Bears have shown us their cards just a little bit in saying that they are very interested in drafting a defensive lineman but they could be just using that as a smokescreen to help hide their real intentions.

The following is a full six round mock draft for the Bears heading into the month of April with a pick for each round and some reasons why this pick makes sense.

Round One, Pick 29: Mike Pouncey-G/C-Florida-This would be the ideal pick for the Bears if he was around when Chicago made their pick at number 29 (odds are he will probably be gone by then).  Chicago has openly stated that that they may not be looking for an offensive lineman in the draft and this may have been something created so that other teams don’t think that they are going to choose an offensive lineman and he slides to them. 

If they miss on Pouncey than Wisconsin offensive tackle Gabe Carimi would be their next best option if he is there.

Round Two, Pick 30 (62nd Overall): Jarvis Jenkins-DT-Clemson-If the Bears don’t get a defensive lineman in the first round then they will most likely try to get one in the second round and with there being some good possibilities here, they may want to go for someone like Jenkins.  Jenkins is a guy that could fit pretty well in the Bear’s 4-3 Cover Two defensive scheme and with a little work could be a good prospect to have in their tackle rotation.

Round Three, Pick 29 (93rd Overall)-Clint Boling-G-Georgia-The Bears need to add some help at the guard position and may want to take a look at Boling, a guy that could fill that need.  With the status of Chris Williams up in the air (in playing the guard position) and Roberto Garza getting older now is the time for the Bears to start getting some help at the guard position.  Boling would be a nice addition to the team and could learn behind Garza replacing him, eventually in the lineup.

Round Four, Pick 30 (126th Overall)-Jah Reid-OT-Central Florida-Reid is an interesting prospect that has given NFL scouts and general managers something to talk about and it’s possible that the Bears could show some interest in Reid.  He had a very good combine and has impressed in workouts so if the Bears are interested they may want to try to pick him up and develop him as a future starter.

Round 5, Pick 29 (157th Overall): Doug Houge, LB, Syracuse-The Bears have expressed a lot of interest in Houge this offseason and may try to select him at this stage in the draft.  With both Nick Roach and Pisa Tinoisamoa not having signed contracts as of this writing the Bears could struggle with depth and starting potential there.  Getting some help in the draft will at least assure them that their depth will at least look better but it may not give them the immediate starter that they are looking for.

Round 6, Pick 30 (190th Overall): Ronald Johnson-WR-USC-The Bears may try for wide receiver earlier in the draft but if they are concentrated on the more pressing needs on the defensive and offensive lines as well as at outside linebacker they may choose to take a developmental player that could contribute sometime in the future.

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