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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Official Start Kyle Orton Draft Prognostication Bukakke

Good evening, folks. As I've mentioned, Thursday night at 7 PM we'll be shoutcasting the NFL draft, so I hope you'll stop by as we make fun of Berman or Deion Sanders (who live-tweeted domestic assault today by the way) depending on whether or not you're going to watch the ESPN or NFL Network coverage. Hopefully we'll all walk away happy with the Bears pick.

Anywho, for the first time in SKO history Iggins!, Mrs. Code Red, and I all put together mock drafts. The scoring system is as follows:

50 points for correctly guessing the Bears pick.
30 points for correctly guessing all three phases of any other pick (team/slot/player)
20 points for 2 of 3 (right team/right player/wrong slot or wrong team/right player/right slot etc.)
10 points for picking a player withing 5 spots of their correct slot.
10 points for picking the right position/right team but wrong player (i.e. the Colts take RGIII instead of Luck or whatever)

The points do not add up, you can only have the maximum amount of points possible for that slot, meaning if you get the Bears pick correct you don't get 50+30 etc, just 50 pts. This shit's confusing as it is without all of that math.

Now that I've explained that and it makes no sense to any of you onto the Mocks:

1.) Colts:
Code Red: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford:RGIII may have more physical upside, by Luck is the best and most complete NFL-ready prospect in a decade.

Iggins!: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

Mrs. Code Red: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford.

2.) Redskins (from Rams):
Code Red: RGIII, QB, Baylor: I think it's unfair to compare him to Cam Newton, but RGIII will be an outstanding NFL player if the Redskins support him and don't expect consistent brilliance from day one.

Iggins!: RGIII, QB, Baylor.

Mrs. Code Red: RGIII, QB, Baylor.

3.) Vikings
Code Red: Matt Kalil, OT, USC: I don't think the Vikings want Kalil, but someone will and I'd expect a trade-up for him. They've been advertising this slot.

Iggins!: Matt Kalil, OT, USC: No comment on these first three, they're no-brainers.

Mrs. Code Red: Matt Kalil, OT, USC

4) Browns
Code Red: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama: The Browns seem legitimately willing to roll one more year with McCoy and take their chances at Barkley or Landry Jones next year, so they may as well get the best non-QB offensive player in the draft.

Iggins!: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama: I actually think the Browns will try to trade this for value, most likely to the Bengals for their two first-rounders and maybe a 2nd rounder next year (let's be honest they need more than just one RB. Two years ago Hillis had a great season and they still blew) but if they do have this pick it would be madness not to take Richardson.

Mrs. Code Red: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama.
5) Buccaneers
Code Red: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU: Ronde Barber is nearly dead and Aqib Talib is 1) Overrated 2) Possibly going to jail. Claiborne is a better CB than Patrick Peterson was.

Iggins!:Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU: The Bucs can't give up on their youth movement on offense for another year, and they can't fix the whole thing in one draft, so I think they'll let the amazing underachieving foursome of Freeman, Blount, Williams, and Benn have one more shot at it. They need some serious help at CB, so this is the obvious choice.

Mrs. Code Red: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU. (by the way, the Mrs. did not comment on any of her picks. She doesn't really know who any of these players are and just chose based on a quick glance at three or four mocks,  making it infinitely more amusing when she wins the whole damn thing).

6) Rams (from Redskins)
Code Red: Justin Blackmon, WR, OK State: They can't possibly pass up the best WR in the draft, can they?

Iggins!: Justin Blackmon, WR, OK State: If the rest of the draft falls this way, this has to be Blackmon. Bradford has no receivers. GOD DON'T BE THE TITANS AND FAIL TO DRAFT RECEIVERS FOR YOUR QB THEN BLAME HIM FOR BEING MEDIOCRE WHEN HIS #1 WR IS JUSTIN GAGE.

Code Red: Oh get over it. Vince Young was going to suck either way.

Mrs. Code Red: Justin Blackmon, WR, OK State.
7.)  Jaguars
Code Red: Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina: I think they should take Michael Floyd, but they've signed Laurent Robinson and Lee Evans, as though either of those moves will help. I think they go DE here.

Iggins!: Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina: This is the first real toss-up on the board. I think the Jags will try to give Gabbert support, so my logic is telling me the same team that drafted FREAKING BLAINE GABBERT will draft Michael Floyd here, but I want to believe the Jaguars will make the smart decision.

Mrs. Code Red: Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina


8.) Dolphins
Code Red: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M: I've never been impressed with Tannehill. After all, Jerrod Johnson put up similar numbers before losing his job to Tannehill, but the Dolphins need someone they can appease their fans with.

Iggins!: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M: This is pretty much the consensus pick at this spot. Too bad. Tannehill is not worth this pick.

Mrs. Code Red: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame

9.) Panthers
Code Red: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State: The Panthers drafted two DTs last year, but neither played well last year and it would be foolish to rely on both. Cox is an animal.

Iggins!: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State: Apparently the combine-babyness of Dontari Poe has worn off and made Cox the number one DT in the draft. With Blackmon off the board the Panthers will either trade down or try to help Cam out by ensuring he doesn't have to score approximately one billion points a game. Cox would be a great start.

Mrs. Code Red: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis.

10) Bills
Code Red: Riley Rieff, OT, Iowa: The Bills can't afford to pass on Rief after losing Demtress Bell.

Iggins!: Well, Buffalo doesn't exactly need a DE anymore, so the best available guy outside that position is Reiff. Being a Hawkeye fan I don't exactly understand the hype surrounding him. He was above average in college but not spectacular. On the other hand the guys with that designation that come out of Ferentz' house tend to have better careers than the guys who were highly touted. In any case, Buffalo needs line help to try and make this Fitzy thing work.

Mrs. Code Red: Riley Rieff, OT, Iowa
11) Chiefs
Code Red: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis: Poe may be the best 3-4 nose tackle in this draft, a position where the Chiefs defense definitely need an upgrade

Iggins!:David DeCastro, OG, Stanford: On paper the Chiefs have more talent than most teams in the NFL. It's crazy how having a mediocre-to-bad QB can completely tank a season. The talk lately is the Chiefs will try to trade up for Tannehill, which I think would be a huge mistake. If they don't do that I think this is as sure a thing in this draft as there is. The Chief's biggest weakness is at guard, and people love this guy. If the Chiefs can just wait this season out and trade up for Barkley next year they'll be a damn good team.

Mrs. Code Red: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M.
12) Seahawks
Code Red: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame: Sidney Rice can't stay healthy and none of the other Seahawks wideouts are inspiring. I think Floyd goes here.

Iggins!:Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College: The Seahawks need a lot of things, so they'll probably take the "Best Talent Available", which I hear is this guy with the hard-to-pronounce last name. The Seahawks might be the most interesting team to monitor this season, they have a lot of players who could still be good or bad (Flynn, Rice, Lynch). With those guys getting another chance to make it work, the good sense would be that the Seahawks will take defense.

Mrs. Code Red: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College

13) Cardinals
Code Red: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford: Martin's the number three tackle in this draft. Will that be enough for Arizona?

Iggins!:Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis: I keep seeing mock drafts where the Cardinals draft Michael Floyd. Why would they do that? The Cardinals have Fitzgerald and Doucet (who showed flashes of greatness last season, I mean, how much can a guy do with Kevin Kolb?) and had one of the worst defenses in the league last year. Poe is the best selection here.

Mrs. Code Red: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford.
14) Cowboys
Code Red: Mark Barron, S, Alabama: Mark Barron's not that great, but the Cowboys don't really have a safety worth starting, so they'll reach a little.

Mark Barron, SS, Alabama: Well, all the sure-thing DEs are off the board. People have Upshaw going here, but he doesn't really fit into a need for the Cowboys. Barron seems like the logical choice.

Mrs Code Red: Mark Barron, SS, Alabama
15) Eagles
Code Red: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU: I had a linebacker in this spot, but with the ridiculously cheap acquisition of DeMeco Ryans I think they strengthen their run defense with another defensive tackle.

Iggins!: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU: The Eagles will take whichever DT falls to this spot. Slap the Texans for trading Demeco Ryans.

Mrs. Code Red: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
16) Jets
Code Red: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama: Mirerez sucks. There's no point in the Jets trying once again to surround him with great talent, as that's failed before. Just load up on D with the pass-rushing OLB they've needed for years.

Iggins!: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
Here's another pick where confusion reigns. Nobody seems to be agreeing on what the Jets will do here. I don't think they'll take Floyd, that would be a wasted pick. Sanchez doesn't need WRs! He needs to be released! This seems like as sensible a pick as any.

Code Red: Man, the hive mind is really dominating so far in this draft.

Mrs. Code Red: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama.
17.) Bengals (from Raiders)
Code Red:Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina: The Bengals need a replacement for Jonathan Joseph to keep teams from exploiting the other side of the field away from Leon Hall.

Iggins!: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama: Here's another place people say Floyd could land. I don't think Cincinnati is so smitten with him that they would risk missing out on Kirkpatrick when they pick at #21. They need corner help badly, and if Floyd is chosen before they pick again they can take any number of other WR prospects.

Mrs. Code Red: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama

18) Chargers
Code Red: Whitney Mercilus, OLB, Illinois: Mercilus has had a good offseason and seems to have all of the physical tools necessary to provide the pass rush as a 3-4 OLB that the Chargers need.

Iggins!: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame: I had this pick as a DE for a long, long time... but now that I think about it, why wouldn't the Chargers take Floyd? They have Malcolm Floyd and Robert Meachem at receiver, yet they have one of the best QBs in the game? This would be a smart pick.

Mrs. Code Red: Whitney Mercilus, OLB, Illinois.

Code Red: Quinton Coples, DE, UNC: Coples is falling down some boards for supposedly "taking plays off." They said the same about Peppers, Mario Williams, and Haloti Ngata. With the veteran leadership on the Bears D, Lovie and Emery laugh all the way to the bank with Coples.

Iggins!: Quinton Coples, DE, UNC: The Bears will crap their pants if Coples falls here. So hopefully they buy some depends. This pick really hinges on who the Bolts take. If they take Coples, I think this is Floyd. Either way this pick is going to be a good selection for Chicago. (Though, as Code Red knows, I want Dont'a Hightower here. He's going to be the steal of this draft.)

Mrs. Code Red: Quinton Coples, DE, UNC.

20) Titans
Code Red: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama:  Kirkpatrick appears to have fallen behind Gilmore for the #2 CB in the draft. I think the Titans will be happy he fell this far. 

Iggins!: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina: This is the replacement for Finnegan. Their run defense was much worse than their pass defense last season, but finnegan has always been a large part of the success their pass D has had.

Mrs. Code Red: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
21) Bengals
Code Red: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College: After trading Keith Rivers to the Giants the Bengals will be happy to see Luke Kuechly fall to them.

Iggins!: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor: and here's the WR pick I forecasted for the Bengals. They have one of the best young offenses out there right now, and this only makes it better. If they can steal Isiah Pead or Lamichael James in the third or fourth rounds this team will be set for years and years (Pead feels a lot like Ray Rice to me).

Mrs. Code Red: David DeCastro, OG, Stanford

22) Browns (From Falcons)
Code Red: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor: I don't know that a deep threat has a lot of value with Colt McCoy's arm, but Wright is an explosive player and the Browns need as many of those as they can get.

Iggins!: Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech: I think this will be the last chance for McCoy. The Browns will have given him all they can in this draft to succeed. If he fails, look for them to make a move for a QB next year. I feel bad for the Browns, they were all set up to take RG3, but thems the breaks, Cleveland. I agree with Joakim Noah here; your city sucks.

Mrs. Code Red: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor.
23) Lions
Code Red: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama: The Lions really need corners and they're obviously not scared off by DOPE SMOKING CRIMINALS!

Iggins!: Cordy Glenn, OG/OT, Georgia
The Lions should draft Hightower. They really should. But, because they're the Lions, they will not. The Lions need defensive help here, but instead... they are targeting offensive linemen. Sigh.

Code Red: Have you ever even heard of Stephen Tulloch? He's not a bad player.

Mrs. Code Red: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State.
24) Steelers
Code Red: Dont'a Hightower, ILB, Alabama: The Steelers need offensive line upgrades, but there's no way they can let Hightower go by.

Iggins!: Dont'a Hightower, ILB, Alabama: This is my worst nightmare. I remember watching the '07 draft, veins pulsing in my forehead, as Adrian Peterson fell to the Vikings at #7. It didn't make sense. Was it because of his injury? I'm asking myself the same questions with Hightower here. This is the best pure linebacker prospect since Patrick Willis, and now he will be a Steeler, which means he will probably be even better than he would have anywhere else.

Mrs. Code Red: Dont'a Hightower, ILB, Alabama.

25) Broncos
Code Red: Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State: With the loss of Broderick Bunkley, the Broncos need a DT. They could also use some youth at CB, but all of the best will be off the board by now.

Iggins!: Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State: HAHAHA jesus it's weird that the Broncos have to pick at #25. All signs point to Worthy, but there is a distinct possibility the Broncos reach on a WR. PeyPey needs someone to throw to, doesn't he? If the Broncos are smart, they'll realize that there will be WR options in the second round that will be just as good as the options here.

Mrs. Code Red: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU.
26) Texans
Code Red: Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech: The Texans need someone opposite of Andre Johnson. Hill is a big upgrade (both physically and figuratively) over Kevin Walters.

Iggins!: Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois: For the reasons listed above I don't think the (extremely draft-smart) Texans will reach on a WR here. A replacement for Super Mario/Demeco Ryans makes sense here. If Hightower gets passed on by Pittsburgh, that's the pick, but I don't think that'll happen.

Mrs. Code Red: Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
27) Patriots (From Saints)
Code Red: Andre Branch, OLB, Clemson: Branch could play end or pass rushing OLB in their defense.

Iggins!: Shea McClellin, DE/OLB, Boise State: This guy is rising up draft boards, and he seems just the player to fit the Patriot system. This is a toss-up between him and Chandler Jones.

Mrs. Code Red: Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State
28) Packers
Code Red: Nick Perry, DE, USC: The Packers defense regressed big time last year, partly because Clay Matthews was their only pass-rushing threat. Perry could be converted into a pass rushing 3-4 OLB or could bulk up at 3-4 DE.

Iggins!: Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse: What the flying fuck happened to the Packer pass defense last year? They were LAST in pass yards per game. LAST. That is clearly where they will go, and Chandler will be a huge help to the pass rush. They could also go for a safety, but I think the talent level available here at that position is roughly equal to what will be available in round 2.

Mrs. Code Red: Nick Perry, DE, USC.

29) Ravens
Code Red:  Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State: The Ravens can't possibly go another year with Bryant McKinnie protecting Joe Flacco's blindside.

Iggins!: Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
The Konnnnnnnnz. I have nothing to contribute to this selection. It's a solid, safe pick.

Mrs. Code Red: Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin

30) 49erst

Code Red: Alshon Jeffery WR, South Carolina: The 49ers can't depend on Randy Moss. Jeffery gives them a younger wideout to pair with Mario Manningham.

Iggins!: Amini Silatolu, G/OT, Midwestern State: Crap. This could be anyone. The receivers the 49ers want are off the board, and it isn't like they need much. The closest thing to a need, after WR, is guard. You must be pretty damn good to be projected as a first rounder out of somewhere called "Midwestern State" (Flashes back to Northwestern State beating Iowa in first round of NCAA tournament)(Hangs self)(Returns to life)(Asks God why he must continue living this nightmare over and over).

Mrs. Code Red: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama.
31) Patriots
Code Red: Harrison Smith, FS, Notre Dame: Because they're secondary is garbage and an upgrade at any position would be acceptable.

Iggins!: Harrison Smith, FS, Notre Dame: The Patriots are trying to trade this pick, but if they keep it all signs point to this guy.

Mrs. Code Red:  Harrison Smith, FS, Notre Dame.

32) Giants
Code Red: Cordy Glenn, OG, Georgia: The Giants offensive line struggled greatly this year despite their Superbowl win. A good run-blocking interior lineman like Glenn would help.

Iggins!: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford: Wow. No team picking at 32 has needed so much since... well, the last time the Giants picked here. If Martin actually somehow careens down the draft board and into New York's lap, I am sure the Giants will be happier than we can possibly know, and somehow he is doing just that in my mock here.

Mrs. Code Red: Cordy Glenn, OG, Georgia

So there we go, folks. Feel free to follow along. Hope you'll join us Thursday night.

Monday, April 23, 2012

2011 Bears Position Reviews: The Defensive Line

#90 Julius Peppers, DE: 16 games, 16 games started, 37 Tackles, 11 sacks, 4 pass deflections, 3 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries.
What can I honestly say about Julius Peppers? I mean, hell, look at that stat line. The man's incredible, considering he did all of that despite battling a knee injury for most of the season. Who can forget when he left the game against the Eagles and came back to sack Vick and end an Eagles drive on his first play? There's no way to overstate just how much he means to the entire Bears defense. For long stretches over the last two years he was the only effective pass rusher, he completely dominates one half of the field in the run game, and he's a turnover producing machine, considering he's created 8 of them during his time in Chicago. The only major concern with Julius going forward is that he just turned 32 in January, but he's in great shape and guys like Bruce Smith, Michael Strahan, and Reggie White had 10.5, 18.5, and 13.5 sacks respectively in their age 32 seasons. If you think I'm wrong to compare him to three Hall of Fame defensive ends, well, you need to watch Julius Peppers play football.

#69 Henry Melton, DT: 15 games, 15 games started, 24 tackles, 7 sacks.
Henry Melton was my pick for breakout player of the year before the season, and for once I managed to get one of those predictions right. The former runningback took over for Tommie Harris, but he personally reminds me of John Randle. Melton ended the season tied for third among all NFL defensive tackles in sacks, and he was Pro Football Focus' highest rated pass rushing DT. Unfortunately, he sometimes struggled against the run and he was also inconsistent, with some huge games and some games where he completely disappeared. Lovie called him out midway through the season and he seemed to respond with a strong finish. Next year I'd expect Melton to play even better with a year of experience. Hopefully he can develop into a guy that can create on his own without having to rely on the favorable matchups generated by the attention teams devote to Peppers. If Melton and the rest can carry pick up more of the slack the Bears can prolong Peppers' effectiveness.

#75 Matt Toeaina, DT: 12 games, 12 games started, 16 tackles, 0 sacks.
Like most of the nose tackles in Lovie's scheme, Toeiana doesn't have much in the way of statistics to show for his efforts. He's a nice player, although I'm not sure he can hold off Stephen Paea's challenge to his job. He plays the run well and he's a high motor guy. Regardless of whether or not Paea becomes the starter as I suspect, Toeaina will be a key part of the rotation.

#71 Israel Idonije, DE: 16 games, 16 games started, 53 tackles, 5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 TD
 I love Izzy. Who doesn't? He's a classic over-achiever who has been a Bear for longer than most people even realize (2004). Unfortunately, his production tailed off considerably this year. His sacks and hurries both declined, and he just didn't profit as much from being the bookend to Julius Peppers as you would like him to do. Obviously the Bears understand this, which is why they brought him back on a much more cap-friendly deal and they're taking a good hard look at young defensive ends in the draft that they can bring in and rotate with him. We'll see if fewer snaps will lead to greater productivity for Idonije next year.

 #95 Anthony Adams, DT: 11 games, 4 games started, 16 tackles.
Anthony seems like a nice guy, and he was a solid but unspectacular contributor from 2007-2010. Last year, however, he was one of the biggest weaknesses on the team during the horrid start on defense in the first five games. He was no longer the run stuffing presence he once was and it showed, considering the run defense improved from 124.5 yards allowed per game to 87 yards per game after Anthony was pulled from the starting lineup. The Bears smartly made the decision to let him walk in free agency. Thanks for everything, Anthony.

#91 Amobe Okoye, DT: 16 games, 1 game started, 27 tackles, 4 sacks, 1 pass defensed.
Let's give Jerry Angelo credit for one of the last good signings of his tenure as Bears GM. Okoye was a solid bargain pickup and he paired with Melton to give the Bears more production from the under tackle position than they've had since Tommie Harris fell apart in 2007. Unfortunately, he priced himself right out of the Bears' budget and Melton's next backup will have to come from the draft. Still, I wish Okoye the best because he's a very good pass rusher when he's used correctly in a 4-3 defense.

#92 Stephen Paea, DT: 10 games,14 tackles, 2 sacks.
Stephen Paea is an intriguing player. He's incredibly strong, as he set an NFL combine record with 49 bench press reps at 225 lbs last year. He's got a quick punch and he's a rare player who can be effective at both under tackle and nose in Lovie's defense. It took him a while to crack the rotation, but he was a very effective sub over the last 10 games and he graded out against both the run and pass according to Pro Football Focus. If the Bears can find a way to get one of the top edge rushers in this year's draft, a front four of Peppers, Melton, Paea, and Coples/Ingram/Mercilus would be very frightening for opposing passers on third down. Either way, I think the Bears future at DT is bright with Melton and Paea.

#98 Corey Wootton, DE: 7 games, 4 tackles.
So far in his NFL career Corey Wootton has been exactly what everyone was afraid of when the Bears drafted him: fragile. He's flashed some potential in training camp and the preseason, and he started to come on late in 2010:

Yes, I did just want an excuse to post that video. Unfortunately, injuries have derailed any opportunities Corey's had to develop. The team could really have used him last year as Izzy struggled. We'll see if he can be healthy and effective enough to hold on to a roster spot with the addition of 1st or 2nd round defensive end to compete with him.

 #94 Chauncey Davis, DE: 6 games, 9 tackles, 1 sack
A decent rotational DE who was an okay waiver-wire pickup from the Falcons. He may make the roster again next year if Wootton under-performs again, but he's nothing special.

#94 Nick Reed, DE: 6 games, 6 tackles, 1 pass defensed
No, that's not a typo. Reed wore #94 first, then was waived to make room for Davis. He knocked down a pass against the Falcons. That's about it.

#78 Mario Addison, DE: 2 games
An undrafted rookie out of Troy, Mario did nothing remarkable in 2 games before he was waived in November and claimed by the Colts. Bright future, I'm sure.

#93 Thaddeus Gibson, DE: 2 games
A late season pick up from Pittsburgh. He played some special teams and his still on the roster, so he may get a look in camp this year. I don't expect much, though.

The Bears got 30 sacks from their defensive line, which is acceptable, but they're still too over-reliant on Peppers. As I said, I don't expect Peppers to tail off much this year, Melton will be more consistent in his second year as a starter, and Paea will also improve in year two. As it stands now, though, they only have Melton, Paea, and Toeina under contract at DT and only Peppers, and Idonije seem like locks to make next year's roster at DE, so I'd expect both a defensive end and a defensive tackle at some point in the draft.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Looking Back at a Decade of Shitty Predictions

I thought I'd take a moment between doing Bears position reviews and before this week's NFL draft (Iggins!, Mrs. Code Red, and myself will post our official mock drafts Wednesday and explain the scoring system for the Prog Bukakke Draft Edition) to look back on some of my previous predictions regarding the glamor position in the NFL and in the draft: Quarterback. I'll finish with my opinion of the top of this year's QB crop.

Now, for some of these there's evidence in the archives of this site, for others Iggins! is available to call bullshit, but you'll have to just trust that I actually said all of these things. I think you'll believe me when I establish my credibility by copping to my absolutely horrible prediction regarding the 2004 QB class.

Anywho, onto the self-mocking.

 2002: David Carr (1): I believe my exact words were "This has Tim Couch written all over it," because while I didn't dislike Carr I didn't think he was the kind of elite prospect that could make a terrible expansion team any good. I didn't foresee him getting absolutely demolished for five years, though.

Joey Harrington (3): I never liked Harrington in college and kind of always thought he had a stupid face. My predictions became more scientific as time went on. Regardless, I thought he was fucked because, well, Detroit.

Patrick Ramsey (32): "Why would the Redskins draft a guy who wasn't even good in college? Oh, and that college was Tulane. He'll suck."

2003: Carson Palmer (1): I'll go down to the death stating that Carson Palmer, before the injuries, was perhaps the single most perfect quarterback prospect I've ever seen. He had the arm strength of Favre, he ran the no-huddle as well as Manning (at least in 2005), and he was as accurate as Brady. Then he was absolutely ruined and now I sometimes cry when I watch him desperately attempt to recover some of his old glory. DAMN YOU, CRUEL WORLD. CARSON AND I WERE HAPPY TOGETHER.

Byron Leftwich (7): Yeah, I'll admit I loved him just because of that game where his linemen had to carry him down the field because of his broken leg. I CAN LOVE GRIT TOO YOU KNOW. Hell, he wasn't even that bad, considering his last year in Jacksonville he managed a 15-5 ratio and a 89.3 rating. He was just dreadfully slow, easier to sack than a frozen Drew Bledsoe, and very injury prone.

Kyle Boller (19): I thought Brian Billick was absolutely idiotic to draft a guy who couldn't even complete Half of his passes for three years in college. He was. BUT HE COULD THROW 50 YARDS FROM HIS KNEES!

Rex Grossman (22): My love of Rex Grossman was not just Bears homerism. I loved him in college. I still think he was wrongfully screwed out of the 2001 Heisman but I absolutely loved his deep ball, his quick release, and his swagger. I, like the Bears, overlooked his dreadful decline in 2002 when he threw 17 interceptions. My bad.

2004: Eli Manning (1): I like Philip Rivers more, but I thought Eli would be good. Man, do I look smart now.

Philip Rivers (4): He was fun to watch at NC State. I liked him the best out of the group, but I didn't know if his arm was strong enough. Hasn't seemed like much of a problem.

Ben Roethlisberger (11): I thought he was a project with potential but wouldn't be very successful if he started before his third year. Turns out he'd have the best rookie season since Dan Marino and he'd win a Superbowl a year later. I was wrong, but it looks even worse when you consider that I said....

JP Losman (22): would be better than Roethlisberger. Yep. Losman had a cannon arm, he ran like a gazelle, and I thought he had a lot of talent around him in Lee Evans, Eric Moulds, Travis Henry, and Willis McGahee. He ended up winning a UFL championship. Guh. My biggest failure.

2005: Alex Smith (1): I thought he sucked then and I think he sucks now. I know he sucks less, but if the number one overall pick in the draft can't even throw for 200 yards a game, c'mon.

Aaron Rodgers (24): Thought he was the best QB in this draft but certainly never expected the terrifying demi-God he became.

Jason Campbell (25): I thought he would be good if he ever got out of Washington. Well, he still wasn't that good, but he may be the best backup quarterback in the NFL, so that's nice.

2006: Vince Young (3): I have hated Vince Young for so long it's not even funny. I despised everything about him from his attitude to his ridiculous sidearm throwing motion to the hype constantly surrounding him in college. He's been mostly terrible in the NFL and he may rot.

Matt Leinart (10): Iggins! and I had a bet with each other for three years over whether Leinart or Young would be better. We eventually just tossed it out, but I won't deny I thought Leinart would at least be a starting quarterback in the NFL, so that one's on me as well.

Jay Cutler (11): Like Rex Grossman, my Jay Cutler love began well before his Bears career, as I said before the draft in 2006 that Jay would easily be the best quarterback in his class. His incredibly shitty classmates not withstanding, he's been a top ten NFL quarterback for most of his career, and I still sometimes shit myself when I think of how different the Bears franchise would be if Josh McDaniel wasn't a fucking moron.

2007: JaMarcus Russell (1): I'm not going to act like I was any kind of genius when I said Russell would be a bust, because everyone who wasn't in the Raiders organization said that. Hell, everyone but one person IN the Raiders organization said that. We miss you, Al.

Brady Quinn (22): Apparently if you are a quarterback taken at #22 (Grossman, Losman, Quinn), you will most likely suck. I said at the time that Brady Quinn would have been a 3rd round pick if he hadn't played at Notre Dame. Then again, he's never really even gotten a chance to start. Who was worse, the Russell/Quinn Duo of 2007, the Maddox/Klingler Duo of 1992, or the McGwire/Marinovich pairing of 1991?

2008: Matt Ryan (3): I liked Matt Ryan at the time, although I thought #3 was a bit high. He's certainly resurrected the Falcons, but I still have my doubts that he can ever really be anything more than a very highly touted game manager. Everyone wanted to compare him to Tom Brady after his hot start, but I still see him as more of a Matt Hasselbeck type. Not to say you can't win a Superbowl with him. The Seahawks nearly did.

Joe Flacco (18): I may have overrated Flacco a bit. Statistically and physically he's very similar to Cutler, and I argued up until this year he was underrated, then he kind of shit the bed. Yeah, his offensive line has issues at times but he has generally had way more talent around him than most QBs get (Cutler in particular) and he never really seems to go beyond what he was as early as his second year. I compared him to Drew Bledsoe once: on the one hand, you could say that's a pretty good thing, a consistently above average QB, but on the other hand, did anyone ever say "Fuck yeah, we've got Drew Bledsoe"? Besides dipshit Bills fans, I mean.

2009: Matthew Stafford (1): Iggins! and I also had a three year bet regarding Stafford vs. Mark Sanchez. I said Stafford was better and, well, obviously I'm right. Granted, I still thank that Matthew Stafford without Calvin Johnson is probably somewhere in Joe Flacco territory, but numbers are numbers. That said, I'm disappointed the he turned out to be a sonofabitch. Let's see if he picks a fight with someone bigger than DJ Moore next year.

Mark Sanchez (5): Sure, everyone's come around to Sanchez and his enormous level of suck now, but I was there from day one. If he hadn't gone to USC he'd have been a mid-level prospect. I coined Rico Mirerez as early as the second half of his rookie year. You suck, Mirerez. This is yet another cautionary reminder that you don't draft someone for "poise," at least not in the top five.

Josh Freeman (17): I thought Josh Freeman was physically more impressive than Stafford but incredibly raw, considering Kansas State doesn't exactly run the most pass-friendly offense in America. His first three inconsistent years are evidence of that, especially when you consider that the whole 2010 Bucs team was one big mirage of luck and weak scheduling. I don't know if he'll turn it around.

2010: Sam Bradford (1): I never cared much for Bradford, and I railed against people who thought his rookie campaign was excellent, since it was really just a case of incredibly conservative play calling help him to pad his completion % and avoid interceptions while not actually playing very well. His physical skills are still impressive but he's injury prone and the Rams don't appear to have any idea how to build around him. Even considering the shitty talent around him, 6 TD passes in 10 starts last year is pretty pathetic.

Tim Tebow (25): Yeah, I was as much a part of the "Tim Tebow is not an NFL Quarterback" club then as I am now, although I've nearly reached the point where I hate his detractors as much as his supporters.

2011: Cam Newton (1): I was not on the list of people who thought Newton would be a bust, as my exact quote was that I didn't think he'd learn an NFL offense quickly enough to justify the number one pick. I saw him more as a guy who would hit his stride sometime around year three. I'll give Iggins! credit, though, because he thought Newton would be a star from day one. He needs this kind of encouragement, since he once said that "Jason White can make ALL the throws." Jason will be glad to hear you tell him that the next time you visit your local footlocker.

Jake Locker (8): College statistics tell me I should beware of Jake Locker, but his big, throbbing armcock disagrees. I saw him play some outstanding games at Washington and have some total meltdowns. His brief audition last year only showed that he was still kinda inaccurate (51.5 comp. %) and yet still armcocky (15.9 yards per completion). I said I thought he'd be a success so long as the Titans running game and play action allowed him to rely on play action and big plays downfield. Armcock.

Blaine Gabbert (10): I preached from the mountain tops that you shouldn't draft a guy who wasn't even good in college. Gabbert averaged just 6.7 ypa his last year in the fucking spread (it should also concern the Jaguars that Chase Daniel, Gabbert's predecessor, and James Franklin, his successor, aren't really NFL prospects and both had far better numbers at Mizzou than Gabbert). He had no pocket presence and he had stupid hair. He's still got no pocket presence, he was absolutely atrocious as a rookie, and he cut his stupid hair and somehow made it even more stupid. Gabbert sucks.

Christian Ponder (12): I wondered aloud why the Vikings would spend the 12th overall pick of the draft on a guy who might hopefully someday be the next Chad Pennington. I still wonder. He would have been available in the 2nd round, I'm sure, or later in the 1st round at least, and he's just not that talented. He had his moments as a rookie and might be a quality starter, but he's not going to be a franchise quarterback. Does not compute.

2012: Andrew Luck: I think he's the real deal, and I think he's the right pick for the Colts. Any concerns about his arm strength are overrated, as I really don't think his is any worse than Manning's and he's much more mobile. He's really the no-brainer everyone makes him out to be.

Robert Griffin III: This year has really gotten my football hipster up since I knew about RGIII back when he was a freshman just because I've followed the career of his head coach, Art Briles for a while (he was the OC at Texas Tech for a while and my infatuation with the Mike Leach coaching tree is well-known). Therefore I knew about him before you did. Probably. Anyway, I think the Cam Newton comparisons and the impatience of Redskins fans will probably raise expectations too high, too fast, but he's going to be a great player if the Redskins can protect him. I keep groaning when I read predictable, stereotypical black quarterback analysis like this from the 2012 Pro Football Draft Guide:

Athlete making major strides as passer.
Really? Is that why he had a career completion % higher than Luck? (67.1 to 67). Raycess.

Ryan Tannehill: He's not very good. He's certainly not a top ten pick. Beware a quarterback with limited starting experience who has somehow climbed up draft boards without being able to even work out the combine or do all of the drills at his pro day. Desperation is a cruel mistress.

Brandon Weeden: If he were younger than Tannehill I'd rank him higher, because he's got a better arm and he makes better decisions, but it's hard to deal with a 28 year old rookie. He's better than, say, Chris Weinke, but if the Browns take him at #22 as some have said they'll probably regret it.

Kirk Cousins: I knew the Andy Dalton comparisons would come. I said back in November that he'd be the guy benefiting most from Dalton's success. Seriously, though, one mediocre game manager having a good year largely thanks to a dynamic fellow-rookie receiver doesn't mean that all college game managers will be good NFL players. Not to say that Cousins couldn't be an OK NFL starter, but teams that take him as the next Dalton will be reaching.

Brock Osweiler: Has Derek Anderson 2.0 written all over him.

Nick Foles: Not very good.

Well, that's everything. You now have all of the ammunition you need to trust or not trust my judgement on any quarterback prospect I ever mention, and you have the definitive statements you need on this year's crop to mock me next spring.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

2011 Bears Position Reviews: The Offensive Line

It's tough to be a Bears offensive lineman. It really is. Although the sack total (49) certainly makes it seem that not much changed between last year and 2010 (56), the fact is the Bears offensive line made some positive strides last year. As I mentioned before, it's worth noting that the Bears allowed 23 sacks in 10 games with Cutler, and just 5 in the last 5 games, vs. 26 in 6 games of Hanie/McCown. It's also worth noting that the guy who was supposed to be the key to the line's resurgence, Gabe Carimi, played less than two full games, and that Chris Williams, Chris Spencer, and Lance Louis all suffered from injuries at some point throughout the season. The outstanding rushing totals: 2015 yds, 4.4 ypc, 10 TDs are evidence of the fact that they have the bulk necessary to be successful in that department and pave the way for big years for Forte and Bush next year. Finally, no one can overstate just how much of an effect Mike Martz had on the sack totals, since there's only been two seasons in his entire career as an offensive coordinator or head coach when his team allowed less than 40 sacks.

Excuses aside, however, no one is going to pretend that this offensive line doesn't need to improve. The fact is, however, that it's hard to say the answer is to bring in new players, when they have some promising pieces that just need to stay healthy, and some guys who have enough talent that they can't be abandoned yet.

#73 J'Marcus Webb: 16 games, 16 games started, 14 sacks allowed, 8 false starts, 4 holds.
The numbers are godawful. There's no way to hide that. It's sad to see how much of a beating J'Marcus has taken all offseason, because he really isn't as bad as the numbers say he is. He's still a very athletic guy with prototypical left tackle size. Up until Cutler went down, he actually had a Positive rating from Pro Football Focus, and he maintained a positive rating all year long in run blocking, where he's an absolute mauler. His numbers absolutely tanked due to three bad games: week 5, in Detroit, where he false started all over the damn place and had a terrible time with Cliff Avril, and weeks 13 and 14, when Kansas City's stout front seven and the Von Miller/Elvis Dumervil combo, combined with Caleb Hanie's awful pocket presence, led to 11 total sacks in two games (not all on Webb). Again though, it's worth noting that four of the seven sacks in the Kansas City game came on seven step drops, as did several in the Denver game. Although the numbers are what they are, I still don't think there's any reason to give up on J'Marcus. Could they find competition for him? Absolutely, and they should also consider flipping Carimi and Webb if need be, but I think J'Marcus will surprise in 2012. I really do.

The one thing that is entirely on J'Marcus, however, is the penalties, and there's just no excuse for that many. If he can cut those in half, that alone would send his ratings up.

#74 Chris Williams: 9 games, 9 games started, 1 sack allowed, 2 false start, 0 holds.
Chris Williams is a hard luck player if I've ever seen one. For one, it's not his fault that Jerry didn't know about his back injury. For another, I've always felt it was unfair of the team to boot him inside after less than 2 full starts at left tackle in 2010. It's hard to shed a bust label with that little playing time. That said, the move was working out for Chris, as he played very well down the stretch in 2010 and was off to a stellar start in 2011. He allowed just one sack, but his real strength was run blocking, and his ability to swing out was a major factor in Forte's success in the first half. It's no coincidence that Forte started to struggle after Williams went down. There's a possibility the Bears may give Chris another shot at tackle this year if Webb falters, but I think the best thing for the team would be to try and get a full year of continuity out of Webb and Williams together on the left side.

#63 Roberto Garza: 16 games, 16 games started, 1 sack allowed, 0 false starts, 1 hold.
I love being right. It's like a goddamn addiction, and frankly, I'm going to just say that when it comes to the great Garza/Kreutz debate of 2011, I WAS RIGHT. Garza was solid in his first year as a full time center, a vast improvement over Kreutz in pass blocking and a mild improvement in run blocking. He was also capable of snapping in the shotgun, didn't false start, and also didn't retire less than halfway into the season. That's really all I wanted. Thanks, Roberto. I'd say something about his age, but I'm not terribly worried. If Garza declines, they have Spencer on board to take over.

#60 Lance Louis: 14 games, 13 games started, 10 sacks allowed, 3 starts, 0 hold.
Lance's numbers also have to be taken with a grain of salt, since he was playing out of position for most of the year. Even then, however, his numbers were much better before Cutler went down. Louis, like Webb, earned his poor rating mostly through total breakdowns in week 13 and 14, and was a plus run blocker and okay pass protector the rest of the year. A move back in side next year will help. Louis was the best Bears lineman when he was healthy in 2010, and he's still a serviceable guy at guard. I just hope not to see him at right tackle again.

#72 Gabe Carimi: 2 games, 2 games started, 1 sack allowed, 0 false starts, 0 holds.
His knee is always going to scare us, but you'll never find an offensive lineman without knee concerns. He held his own quite well in the preseason and in a tough matchup against John Abraham in the season opener. He may get an opportunity on the left side next year, but he's still got the potential to be a Pro Bowl right tackle. Just stay healthy, Gabe.

#67 Chris Spencer: 15 games, 14 games started, 1 sack allowed, 3 false starts, 1 hold.
Chris was a surprisingly good find last year. Despite the fact that he started 14 games st guard, not his natural position of center, he was the most effective starter the Bears had over the course of the season. He was a solid run blocker, a serviceable pass protector, and he was very rarely penalized. Kudos to Jerry Angelo for one of his last good signings. Even if he doesn't start next year, he's a quality backup along any of the three interior line positions. That's a rarity in the recent history of Bears football.

#70 Edwin Williams: 15 games, 7 games started, 0 sacks allowed, 1 false start, 0 hold.
Edwin Williams, according to Pro Football Focus, was the highest rated player the Bears had on the line all season. It's interesting to note that he's started 10 games over the last two years and allowed just one sack. While he's not a great run blocker (not a terrible one either) he's the only guard the Bears have that's really a good, not just serviceable, pass blocker. Angelo and Tice should get some credit for picking him off of waivers in 2010, as he's a quality back up at the least.

#68 Frank Omiyale: 16 games, 3 games started, 4 sacks allowed, 7 false starts, 0 holds.
You can say all you want about J'Marcus Webb's 14 sacks allowed, at least he was better than Frank could have ever been, considering Frank's 4 sacks and 7 penalties in THREE FUCKING STARTS projects to 21 sacks and 37 penalties over the course of a full season. My God. It's hard to imagine a more worthless player than Frank, or one that got more undeserved chances to start. He was just plain awful in every way possible, and I cannot express the joy in my heart upon hearing that Emery cut the bastard. I hope Carpenter and Okung tear their everything next year and Seattle has to endure 16 games of Frank. I want someone else to know my suffering. Seriously, fuck you, Frank Omiyale.

That's it for now. It'll be really interesting to see how the Bears starting five shakes out next year, because there's a lot of quality depth on the interior in the Williamses, Spencer, Louis, and Garza. If Carimi can stay healthy, the only real question mark is left tackle, and I assume we'll see a competition between Chris Williams, J'Marcus Webb, and a potential rookie to be named later. The fact is, the silver lining in the disaster that was the injury plagued line last year was that many guys got a chance to play, and several of them played well. Other than Garza, there's still youth on their side, as every other lineman on the roster is still south of 30. I know I said this before last season (and it was looking like I was right ten games in), but the Bears really can put together a good offensive line with the talent they have. It's going to take the right combination of health, experience, and playcalling, but they're capable of big things. Sometimes the numbers really don't tell the whole story.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

2011 Bears Position Reviews: The Tight Ends

In 2010, the whole "Martz doesn't use the tight end" thing proved to be largely overblown, as Greg Olsen and Kellen Davis combined to have a pretty decent season. Last year, however, with Olsen gone and Davis taking over the top spot, Martz truly earned his reputation. Altogether, the Bears TE duo of Kellen Davis and Matt Spaeth combined for just 25 receptions for 256 yards, although they did have 7 combined touchdowns. That was the lowest yardage total for a Bears TE unit since 2005.

That doesn't mean we can't break down these two players, though.

#87 Kellen Davis: 18 receptions, 206 yds, 5 TDs, 11.4 ypc.
I like Kellen Davis. He's a good football player. It's not just that a third of all of the catches he's made in his entire career have gone for touchdowns (28 catches, 9 TDs). It's mostly got to do with his athleticism and the fact that, unlike Greg Olsen, he really can block. Kellen got off to a rough start like everyone else, and during the five games at the beginning of the season he allowed five pressures as Martz often had him alone on an island against team's starting defensive ends. After the shift back toward sanity, Kellen allowed zero pressures in his last eleven games. That's good stuff, folks. He struggled slightly in run blocking, but nowhere near as much as his predecessor, who was typically a nonfactor.

The Bears smartly re-signed Kellen for a very fair price. I think he'll open some eyes this year as a receiving tight end, but if his main contribution is simply helping to keep Cutler upright, well, that's fine by me.

#89 Matt Spaeth: 7 receptions, 50 yds, 2 TDs, 7.1 ypc.
Spaeth was every thing he was advertised to be: a stout run blocker, an OK pass blocker, and a complete non-entity catching the ball. I did enjoy when he scored a touchdown against the Falcons on that "Play-action toss to the wide-open #2 TE" play that's resulted in 98.7% of all Bears touchdowns since 2005, though. I expect Matt will be back next year as a blocking specialist, and that, too, is fine with me.

#44 Tyler Clutts: 8 receptions, 48 yds, 0 TDs, 6.0 ypc.
I'm including Tyler here just because there's nowhere else to put him. Martz finally broke down this year and admitted that he needed a fullback rather than just a fat tight end. He got Tyler Clutts, who caught passes about as well as a blind Muhsin Muhammed and didn't grade out very well as a blocker, at least according to Pro Football Focus. I think he was better than his grade at run blocking, but overall he's not much of a contributor and I wouldn't be surprised to see the team look at some veterans who might have more to offer in Tice's smash mouth offense.

That's all for the tight ends. I think the team may find a mid or later round rookie pass-catching specialist to come in and compete for some playing time, but I'd put more money on Kellen Davis emerging as a pass catching threat next year.

Monday, April 16, 2012

2011 Bears Position Reviews: Wide Receivers

Next to the offensive line (or the secondary if you're this guy) no unit on the Bears has received as much flak the last few years as the wide receivers. It's true that they've not been a dominating unit. I always maintained, however, that the group the Bears had was good enough to win with. Obviously, since the team was 19-8 in Jay's last 27 games with this group of receivers, it was possible. However, life is much easier on a quarterback when he's got a true, reliable target like Brandon Marshall, the virtues of whom I've already espoused on this website. So why did Phil Emery finally decide to make the move for a real wide receiver (besides common sense)? Let's take a look:

#13 Johnny Knox: 37 receptions, 727 yards, 2 TDs, 19.6 YPC
For the second straight year, Johnny led the group in yards and tied for the lead in receptions, which he most likely would have won had he not gone down with one of the more gruesome looking injuries in Bears history.

Johnny made some progress before he went down, as the Chargers game and the Raiders game were two of the better games of his career, and in both he did some very un-Johnny Knox like things: adjusting to underthrown balls, fighting defensive backs, not quitting on routes. Unfortunately, the Chargers game also featured another Johnny Knox classic: falling down on a fucking slant route, and that, as we know, had fatal consequences for the season.

It's a shame that it seems Johnny won't be available in 2012. He was undoubtedly the most talented of the group the Bears threw out on the field in 2009-2011, but that was more of a curse than a blessing, really. In 2010 Jay forced a lot of balls Johnny's way when he just wasn't ready to be an every down target, and the combination of Jay's desperation and Johnny's shitty route running, terrible discipline, and frequent alligator-arms led to the most interceptions of any QB-WR duo in the NFL. This year, Johnny took his demotion in favor of Roy Williams quite well and earned his way back on the field, even if he had some very frustrating moments (his drop of a potential first down pass on 2nd and 17 late in the Packers game will stick in my mind forever). Hopefully someday we'll see what might become of him if Brandon Marshall is there to draw the attention that was just too much for Johnny to deal with.

#11 Roy Williams: 37 receptions, 507 yds, 2 TDs, 13.7 ypc.
I knew better. I fucking knew better. Oh how I loathed Roy Williams. How I loathed his first down gesture. How I loathed his empty boasts. How I loathed the fact that a 6'3'' wide receiver took a hit as well as a French tank. But alas, I tried to think positively when the Bears brought him aboard. "Look at his numbers with Martz in Detroit!" I did say. "Cutler will make him look good!" I did protest. And yes, like Johnny, there was a brief flash this season where Roy was playing rather well too, using his big body to pick up first downs, as in the Chargers game where he caught 6 balls and all 6 moved the chains.

Overall, though, Roy was everything his critics said he was. Soft, stupid, and lazy with hands of stone. From his first real preseason action against the Titans, when he let a ball go right through his hands for an interception, to pulling up lame without even taking a hit on a first down catch against the Falcons, to his many, many drops (10 total, including the one that donked off of his hands for an interception on what should have been the game tying TD against the Chiefs), Roy was a bust for the Bears and we will hopefully never see him again. Seriously, fuck Mike Martz. I knew better.

#18 Dane Sanzenbacher: 27 receptions, 276 yds, 3 TDs, 10.2 YPC.
I spent a lot of time last summer making fun of the usual Bears meatballs who fell in love with Sanzenbacher. Then the sonofabitch actually made the team. That was strike one. Then he had touchdowns in his first two games. That was strike two. Then the rest of the season he proceeded to suck ass, with one of the lowest catch rates in the game (caught less than 50% of the balls thrown his way according to Pro Football Focus, which isn't surprising since he's a damned no-talent midget). That's strike three. He also dropped six passes, an absurd total for a guy who barely had 50 targets on the season. So he's slow, short, he has bad hands, and he's a terrible route runner. With any luck, the addition of Devin Thomas, Eric Weems, and hopefully Rookie-To-Be-Named-Later, Sanzenbacher's played his last down for the Bears. I'll be willing to deal with the asshurt morons. Especially the one I saw at Soldier Field wearing the Sanzenbacher jersey. You've got issues, pal.

#23 Devin Hester: 26 receptions, 369 yds, 1 TD, 14.2 ypc.
This was Devin's most disappointing year as a Bears receiver yet, even when you factor in the stat-killing injury to Cutler. Usually Devin could be expected to catch most of the balls thrown his way, but this year his catch % was all the way down to a pathetic 46%. He dropped seven passes, also an unusually high total for him, and he was a complete nonfactor in the red zone. He made a classic Hester Route Running Mistake in the first Green Bay game when he bumped into Charles Woodson in an attempt to draw a foul when it was clear to everyone (especially Jay, who threw yet another beautiful and futile deep ball his way) that he'd have a touchdown if he'd just kept running straight. Fortunately, Phil Emery has somewhat less tolerance for bullshit than Jerry Angelo, and decided to put the final nail in the "Devin Hester is our #1 receiver" coffin. That's not to say Devin can't be an effective weapon now that Brandon Marshall is there. I've read some proposals that Devin belongs in the slot, where he can use his speed to beat safeties and nickelbacks, and that's a fine idea so long as Earl Bennett still has a role. As for 2011, though, it's hard to take away much that was positive about Devin Hester the Receiver (a complete different entity, as we know, than Devin Hester the Greatest Return Man of All Time).

#80 Earl Bennett: 24 receptions, 381 yds, 1 TD, 15.9 ypc.
Earl Bennett's 2011 was also disappointing, but for a different reason. A severe injury in the New Orleans game caused him to miss five games. When he came back, he and Jay showed their telepathic connection and he averaged 5 catches for 83 yards in the three games between his return and Jay's injury. He was also surprisingly effective downfield in those three games, as he averaged 18 yards per catch during those three games. Then, of course, Jay went down and Caleb Hanie was incapable of finding anyone with regularity, let alone the BBE. Hopefully next year will be the best and healthiest year yet for the Cutler-BBE combo, since it's very possible that Earl could get starter's reps flipping back and forth with Hester at slot and flanker while Marshall plays mostly at split end. I remember when Jay first came to the Bears in 2009 he said that Earl reminded him of Eddie Royal, and it wouldn't seem ridiculous to think that a full year of Cutler and Earl together might resemble Royal's 2008 campaign: 91 rec, 980 yds, 5 tds. Whatever role he plays, we all know the Bears can count on the BBE.

#81 Sam Hurd: 8 rec, 109 yds, 0 TDs, 13.6 ypc.
He was playing alright for a fifth wide receiver up until he was busted for selling cocaine. The fact that he was already under investigation for trafficking when Jerry Angelo signed him, supposedly after Jerry had thoroughly vetted him, might have honestly been the final nail in Jerry's coffin. So, thanks Sam?

That's all for the wideouts. Obviously this unit will look very different in 2012 with the addition of Marshall. Roy's already gone, and it seems unlikely that we'll see any of Johnny Knox next year. That leaves Marshall, Bennett, Hester, Weems, Thomas, and Sanzenbacher. I've already said that I expect a wide receiver somewhere in the draft, so it'll be interesting to see who shakes out as starters out of that group. The Bears don't usually carry six wideouts as they did last year, but Weems is obviously a lock on special teams, and my guess is that Thomas may earn playing time as a wideout but will definitely make the roster as a special teams player, so all signs point to Sanzenbacher getting the axe. That'll be a good day.


Monday, April 9, 2012

2011 Bears Position Reviews: Runningback

#22 Matt Forte-
It's hard to believe that Matt Forte of all people has become a divisive player. I won't dispute Matt's claim that he's "done everything the team has asked him to do." He really has. He's an outstanding player with a very useful skillset who may be the most complete back in the NFL. He's also not very business savvy.

If Matt wanted a contract, he should have gotten himself a real agent, one that would have advised him that last fall was the time to hold out. When he rejected a long term deal with 14 million in guaranteed money, he was basically gambling on a year so big that the Bears would have to pay him top dollar. He was on the way, but he got hurt. Ergo, he lost.

When you throw in the injury (his second major injury in three years, since he claims his hamstring was the problem during his awful 2009 season), the signing of Michael Bush, and the Bears cap situation (just about 3.5 million under, with a whole draft class yet to sign), it's clear Matt really doesn't have many options. We'll see how long it takes him to figure that out. All I know is that he's a fifth year back with a ton of mileage on him, and Jay Cutler's contract is up in 2013. If you have to ask which of those guys I'd rather give a big money extension to, well, you aren't paying much attention.

Contract dispute aside, though, this is about Matt Forte the player, and Matt Forte the player was very good in 2011. He picked up 997 yards on 203 carries (a spectacular 4.9 YPC avg) while throwing in 490 yards receiving in just 11 full games. Had he not been injured, and had Jay Cutler been there to force defenses to respect the pass (a major problem that led to Forte's numbers tailing off in his last couple of games), Forte could very easily have gotten over 2,000 yards from scrimmage. Even with the addition of Michael Bush, Mike Tice's greater emphasis on the run means he'll probably get close to those totals again next year, although he may end up with fewer receptions since the Bears actually have a real, legitimate, big boy wide receiver. Once he gets into camp that is. Which he will, because he has no options. Sorry Matt.

#24 Marion Barber-
Dammit, I wanted to love Marion. I really did. He was certainly better than Chester Taylor, or Kevin Jones, but when you sign Marion Barber you hope for a short yardage beast while accepting the risk of constant injury. Unfortunately, he did far too little of the former and got hurt as often as, well, Marion Barber.

In all, Marion posted decent numbers for a backup runningback: 422 yards on 114 carries (3.7 ypc), 6 TDs, 5 rec., 50 yards, but he was unavailable for large parts of the season and he wore down way too quickly once he was forced into the top spot after Forte's injury. His best game statistically was the Denver game, but that'll forever be remembered as the game where he, more than anyone other than Jay Cutler's Thumb, did the most to torch the playoff hopes of the 2011 Bears. I don't begrudge him the fumble. That happens, but I still can't process the fact that a guy who built his entire reputation off of plowing over opponents went out of bounds in a crucial situation rather than just falling down. He compounded that mistake by hiding from the press after the game and, according to some reports, seemed to lose the respect of his teammates after that. He was ineffective the next week against Seattle before suffering yet another injury and sitting out the last two games. I really don't blame him for retiring. Get out while you can still walk, Marion. One can only hope that Michael Bush will break the disappointing chain of failed Bears power backs (Benson, Taylor, Barber, hell you could go all the way back to Enis if you wanted).

#32 Kahlil Bell
Before this year, Kahlil was known for one long run against Philadelphia in 2009. I never really thought he'd be much more than a special teamer, but he played really well when given the opportunity this year. He was actually much more effective than Barber, as he picked up 337 yards on just 79 carries (4.3 ypc) and proved surprisingly adept at catching passes out of the backfield, with 133 yards and a TD on 19 receptions. I think most of us would have felt comfortable heading into 2012 with Bell as the primary backup, but it's exciting to think of the potential of a Forte/Bush/Bell rotation, although that's still more evidence that Forte has no options and should really just sign the damn contract already.

#25 Armando Allen-
A forgettable emergency player brought in after Barber went down. He managed 48 yards on 15 carries (3.2 ypc) and will most likely never wear a Bear uniform again. Thanks, Armando.

It's easy to forget, with the disappointing finish for the Bears offense after the injuries to Cutler and Forte, that the team had one of it's best rushing seasons in recent memory. They racked up 2015 yards from scrimmage (helped somewhat by the mobility of Cutler, Hanie, and McCown, but mostly by the the solid showings, yardage-wise, of Forte/Barber/Bell) and averaged 4.4 yards per rush, with 10 rushing TDs. Those numbers are even more impressive when you consider that Martz called just 51 running plays in the first three games of the season. With Jay Cutler keeping that eighth man out of the box, Michael Bush joining the mix, an offensive scheme with more balance, and hopefully better health on the offensive line (full seasons from Chris Williams and Gabe Carimi would be huge), you'd have to figure that those numbers will get even better next year.

Friday, April 6, 2012

2011 Bears Position Reviews: Quarterback

Well, it's probably about time I get to this, isn't it?

#6 Jay Cutler-
We all know the way Jay Cutler's 2010 season ended, with an injury that brought a hail of undeserved and absolutely ridiculous meathead criticism upon him. Unfortunately, his 2011 season also ended with an injury, but by the time his second injury occurred most of his critics had come to accept the simple fact that Jay Cutler is a damn good quarterback.

No, the numbers (2319 YDS, 13 TDS, 7 INTs, 85.7 rating) weren't mindblowing, but if there was one thing Jay's absence taught us, it was that those of us who have always defended him were right: without him, the Bears were nothing.

He dealt with an offensive coordinator who desperately tried to force an poorly conceived, dangerous scheme down his throat. He dealt with an offensive line that continually struggled with injuries and lapses before settling into a nice rhythm in the last five games before his injury. He dealt once again with a mediocre corps of wide receivers, especially when Earl Bennett missed most of the first half with an injury. Eventually, Jerry Angelo's refusal to get him a real receiver proved to be the undoing of the entire team, as Jay injured himself after an interception caused by Johnny Knox slipping. Again.

Through it all, Jay continued to play well, limit mistakes, make some absolutely breathtaking throws, and prove that he was tough as a quarterback gets. More importantly, he won, as he has in 19 of his last 27 regular season starts with the Bears. Next year he'll hopefully have better protection, a coordinator who won't hesitate to use the stable of very good backs that the Bears have in order to take the load off of Jay, and, finally, a real receiver to throw to. I cannot wait to see #6 take the field again. It's been far too long.

#12 Caleb Hanie-
Well, shit. Did you see that coming? I'll admit, my initial reaction to Jay's injury was absolute panic and woe, but as you saw, I talked myself out of it long enough to freak out all over again in the Raiders game. I should have known. Generally speaking, any time Bears fans are enamored with a backup quarterback, they always find out how wrong they are.

I had hoped Caleb would be different. He had experience in the scheme, he was big, mobile, and physically talented. He seemed like he wasn't a shithead, and he didn't seem phased by the NFC Title Game, so I had hoped for a little bit more than the shifty, panicky, absolutely atrocious flop of a quarterback that we got. People can blame the Bears offensive line and the talent around him all they want, but there's no good reason why Jay Cutler can take 23 sacks in 10 games (and just 5 in his last 5) and Caleb can get sacked 19 times in 4 games. Most of those are on him. He had no sense of the rush, he had no idea how to throw the ball away, and he had no ability to make decisions on the run. In the end, his numbers (51/102 (50%), 613 yds, 3 TDs, 9 INTS, 6.0 YPA and 41.8 rating) show he was really just Craig Krenzel without the molecular genetics degree.

Needless to say, the Bears made the best decision possible when they brought in Jason Campbell and re-signed McCown to upgrade the depth chart, as Caleb could never be trusted as a reliable fallback plan again. I'm sure he'll work out fine in Denver, though. Totally.

#15 Josh McCown-
The Bears may have made the playoffs this year had Josh McCown not signed a contract with the Hartford Colonials in 2010. If Josh had decided to pass on the UFL, Mike Martz may have signed Josh instead of Todd Collins, Caleb would never have had the #2 job, and a much less rusty Josh McCown may have been able to get the Bears the 2 wins in 6 tries the team would have needed to make the playoffs and hand things back over to Jay Cutler.

Alas, none of the above happened, and all we were left with was two relatively decent spot starts by McCown after Hanie had already tanked the season. There's no need to pretend that Josh was anything spectacular, but he may win the coveted title of Best Third String Quarterback in Bears History (or at least since the George Blanda Era) next year.

#10 Nathan Enderle-
Didn't play. Totally going to be cut in training camp.

In a familiar scenario, the quarterback position proved to be the undoing of a promising Bears team in 2011. Fortunately, Phil Emery opened up the wallet for a capable backup for the first time in recent Bears memory and brought in Jason Campbell. At least we have the comfort of knowing that the nightmare is over, since Jay will be back and better than ever in 2012.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

What Does Brandon Marshall do for the Bears?

Warning folks, I’m talking X’s and O’s, so this is going to be a long one:

I realize I haven’t spent much time lately discussing Brandon Marshall, other than to react with glee to the trade and to give my take on the alleged punching incident. As I suspected, that whole mess has blown over so there’s very little left to get in the way of unadulterated enthusiasm about the potential of the Bears offense in 2012 with Brandon Marshall in the lineup.

So what exactly does Brandon Marshall do for the Bears offense beyond the vague notion of giving them “a true no.1 receiver?” I was listening to someone on the score a few weeks ago (can’t remember if it was Mike Klis, the bitter sumbitch from Denver who still takes potshots at Brandon Marshall and Jay Cutler, or if it was some bitter sumbitch from Miami) who tried to belittle Marshall as a possession receiver whose main role was to be the “guy who can take the 8 yard hitch.”

I’m not going to actually argue with classifying Marshall as more of a possession receiver than a true deep threat, but I’m certainly going to take exception to the idea that this means his job is to catch passes on the wrong side of the first down marker. The truth is, with a career average of 12.6, Marshall’s not a game-breaking deep threat. Who cares? The Bears have a guy in Devin Hester who can be a deep threat, and if Johnny Knox ever comes back they have two of them. The problem with this offense for years hasn’t been the lack of a deep threat, it’s the lack of an “X” receiver.

There are two approaches to throwing the ball deep in an NFL offense. You can take the Coryell approach, like our buddy Mike Martz, and take deep drops and force the ball downfield in huge chunks. The Bears had the speed to execute that offense but, as we all know, they lacked the protection. The approach most effective NFL offenses take is a more organic one, where you work the ball in the short and intermediate passing game and wait for openings to appear downfield. The Saints and Packers come to mind as two teams that beat the living hell out of teams with intermediate routes before going downfield the second the safeties cheat. This is all an over-simplified explanation of things, but bear with me.

The last few years the Bears have spent the first half of the season trying to run the Mike Martz offense, gaining big chunks through deep tosses until the beating Jay Cutler took forced them to switch to a hodgepodge approach that combined shorter throws with more protection and fewer receivers on the few deep balls they attempted (the 48 yard throw from Cutler to Hester in the first Vikings game had just 2 receivers on the pattern). They weren’t able to really work defenses from sideline to sideline in order to stretch the field vertically later on because neither Johnny Knox or Devin Hester was the big, consistent route runner you need to beat a team with 15-25 yard routes, while Earl Bennett limited speed makes him more of an underneath guy. When you don’t have someone to fear in that intermediate distance of 15-25 yards, it’s easy to roll a safety over to cover Knox and Hester deep or to squat on shorter throws.

To Martz’s credit, he understood this and brought in Roy Williams to run the deep dig and other routes that required a bigger body in the middle of the field. Of course, Martz is also the fucking idiot that thought Roy Williams of all people could hold onto the ball and take a hit.

Brandon Marshall can be that guy. He greatly expands the route tree the Bears can use in their offense by giving Jay Cutler a receiver that frequently makes teams pay in the intermediate passing game. In 2008, when Cutler threw for over 4500 yards and Marshall had over 1200 yards receiving, their longest connection was 47 yards. That’s not a bad thing. It’s where most of the NFL’s best passers do their damage.

With Marshall undoubtedly drawing the attention of a safety, and a hopefully healthy year from the BBE (think of Earl as the Eddie Royal of this offense), Hester (or the potential rookie wide receiver the team may draft) might become more than a gimmick and a guy who can exploit isolated corners with his speed. Free from the burden of mastering the precise routes and the discipline required of a #1 receiver, Hester might become a much more effective part of the offense than he’s ever really been before.

So what does the acquisition of Brandon Marshall do for the Bears? It makes them better. Obviously. I don’t even get why you’re asking the question. Morons.