Monday, February 15, 2016

Free Agents Bears Need To Keep In 2016

 

 The time of the year has come where football fans are watching their Twitter alerts, ticker bottom lines and checking the web every hour.  Its NFL free agency time.  Free agency begins March 9th at 4pm ET but teams can begin negotiations with UFAs beginning March 7th.  The Bears have dipped into the free agent market over the last few years and made a some splashes.  The free agent pool this year is a little shallow but does include players like Eric Weddle, Muhammad Wilkerson, Von Miller and Jason Pierre-Paul.  Despite the surprising improvement in the defense this past year the Bears still could use one, two or all of those players.  With the Bears' cap space expected to be over $55 million I hope the Bears do land more than 1 high profile free agent or there might be an uprising.  Despite the attractive pieces that can be added from outside there are a few key players that need to be re-signed by the Bears.

Alshon Jeffery

  This is a pretty obvious target for the Bears to re-sign.  Jeffery is the only proven piece of the Bears wide receivers and it would be a big gamble to let him go.  The Bears did draft Kevin White in the 1st round last year but he missed the entire year due to injury.  The worry is two tiered; will he come back the same and will this injury linger?  If either scenario comes to be the Bears are in same trouble as they were this year depending on Wilson, Mariani, Royal and other lesser talented wide outs.  I understand Jeffery comes with his own string of injuries and having him is no insurance policy for a White injury.  However, if healthy, it does give the Bears great size and an ideal pairing of WRs where one WR can take the top off and the other can run any route asked underneath and outside.

Unfortunately for the Bears the free agent WR crop is extremely thin and Jeffery will be the 1st target on all teams' radar.  This might push his price sky high.  Last year WRs like Dez Bryant, AJ Green and Julio Jones all got a contract in the 5 year for $70M range.  With the salary cap increase and the lack of talent at the WR position I expect Jeffery to end up in the 5yr for $85M range.  That does not account for the usual crazy GM that will overpay and drive prices out of reach for most teams.  Do I think the Bears need to sign Jeffery? Yes.  Do I think the Bears should break the bank to sign him? No.

CONTINGENCY PLAN:  Rishard Matthews (MIA): 6'/217lb, 43rec, 662yds, 4TDs; Travis Benjamin (CLE): 5' 10"/175lb, 68rec, 966yds, 5TDs; Marvin Jones (CIN): 6'2'/198lb, 65rec, 816yds, 4TDs; 



Shea McClellin

   This was the year McClellin was suppossed to break out.  He was in a 3-4 defense, he was off the line so his size wasn't a mismatch and he had a defensive coach that has groomed star LBs in the past.  None of that helped. Trust me I never thought I would be defending a re-signing of Shea McClellin but I can see some value in him. He is definitely not a starting LB in the NFL but his speed and athleticism can be used in the special teams game.  If McClellin gets relieved of all the responsibility that comes with being a starting LB and just concentrate on being a "special teams ace" he may be able to thrive.  I know Bear fans remember Brendon Ayanbadejo and I think this is where McClellin can find his niche in the NFL.  Of course, this contract would have to come at the right price.  A contract in the range of $1.5-$2M/yr is fair for a core special teamer.  The Bears gave up a shade over 25 yards per KO return and were the only team to allow more than 1 return TD last year.  They need to improve the talent there and McClellin should end up leading this crew.  The Bears  must find a starting ILB via the draft or free agency and find a solid backup/special teamer if they dont sign McClellin to fill that role.

 CONTINGENCY PLAN: Zach Brown (TEN): 6'1"/241lb, 77Tck, .5Sck, 2Int; Sean Spence (PIT): 5'11"/231lb, 37Tck, 1Sck, 3TFL,  Craig Robertson (CLE): 6'1"/234lb, 59Tck, 2TFL, 1 Int



Alan Ball & Tracy Porter

  The Bears' pass defense was a pleasant surprise this year.  The unit did well in limiting the yards given up but fell short when it came to keeping teams out of the end zone and creating turnovers.  Neither Ball nor Porter are top tier CBs and this is reflected by their very poor ratings by PFF.com.  The Bears will probably have to look to free agency for a starting CB across from Fuller.  Lucky for the Bears there are a good amount starting caliber CBs  in the free agent pool this year, including Josh Norman.  The Bears will need as many hands in the secondary as possible with quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Teddy Bridgewater in their division.  So re-signing Ball and Porter in a nickel/dime role make perfect sense for the Bears at this point.  They provide a veteran presence in a young secondary and are good in run support.  Also, both are familiar in the system and should come at a reasonable price.  If the Bears sign a starting CB in free agency and retain Ball and Porter it would give the Bears a very experienced secondary with some insurance in case of injury.

CONTINGENCY PLAN: Jeremy Lane (SEA): 6'/190lb, 13Tck, 6PD, 2Int (6 games); Coty Sensabaugh (TEN): 5'11"/187lb, 60Tck, 8PD, 2Int;  Kyle Wilson (NO): 5'10"/190, 24Tck, 4PD, 1Int

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Prospects From The Senior Bowl Bear Fans Should Watch





Every year the Senior Bowl puts on one of the biggest scouting events of the year with over 100 prospects looking to catch the eye of a team. The beauty of the Senior Bowl is that every year there are multiple prospects that improve their position in the draft or even move into the range of being "draftable." Since 2012 there have been 30 prospects drafted in the 1st round that played in the Senior Bowl and countless others drafted in later rounds. The Bears have been fairly active in scooping up Senior Bowl prospects, 9 since 2012, and have seen the benefits. Key contributors for the Bears like Adrian Amos, Will Sutton, Christian Jones, Shea McClellin and Kyle Long have all been participants in the Senior Bowl. Who will the Bears find in this year's crop? You never know. But here are a few lesser known names I hope they will be watching.

LINEBACKER






The Bears have held a long history of iconic linebackers gracing the filed.  Last few years, not so much.  The Bears need to find at least one ILB and OLB in the draft.  Christian Jones has shown a little more promise than McClellin in the middle and, despite some success across from McPhee, the Bears need a legit OLB and not a converted 4-3 DE.  Here are two Senior Bowl prospects that the Bears should keep an eye on.





KENTRELL BROTHERS-ILB Mizzou (HT: 6'0"; WT: 249; Arm: 30.3"; Wing: 75.3" ) 

2015 Stats: Tck: 152 (73 solo); Sck: 2.5; INT: 2; TFL: 12                                                       2014 Stats: Tck: 122 (64 solo); Sck: 1; INT: 0; TFL: 5

STRENGTHS:


His tackling instincts seem very natural.  Definitely a guy you can tag as having "a nose for the ball."  Shows good body strength when he stacks & sheds OL blocks but also has the athletic ability to slip those blocks as well.  He has shown the ability to fend off block with one hand and make tackle on RB with other.  Consistently keeps head up while engaged so he can follow and attack play.  While tackling in open field he is decisive and will attack carrier rather than dance and allow himself to get juked.  Demonstrates knowledge of using proper angles to tackle carrier.  He is able to weave through traffic at line to get to carrier.  Brings power when he reaches target and finishes tackle through target.  In coverage he is smooth and does not seem lost in zone.  Will turn hips properly when dropper deeper into coverage.

WEAKNESSES:


Brothers lacks the ideal size for a NFL linebacker.  His lack of height and short arms can allow for passing lanes over the middle.  Does not seem like he has great speed, expect him to run mid 4.7-4.8 at 40yd dash.  Lower body movements seem stiff.  Needs to be more aggressive when asked to blitz.  Brothers has shown difficulty with handling trash around his feet.

ANALYSIS:


Despite lacking in the athleticism and physical traits desired by NFL teams, Brothers can compete at the next level.  His natural ability to find the ball with his ability to shed blockers will help him be successful in the NFL.  There are so many teams lacking players who actually know how to tackle that I believe Brothers will make some team very happy.  As it is he looks to be strong as an ox, so once he enters a NFL strength and conditioning program you can expect him to improve as well.  His stature may limit how high his ceiling can be but he should be able to contribute to a team immediately and move into a starting role very soon.  BEAR TALK: WE NEED HIM.  On the field he demonstrates that hard working blue-collar attitude that Bear fans love.  Mix that in with his hard hitting ways and you have a guy the fans can rally around.



JORDAN JENKINS-OLB UGA (HT: 6'2"; WT: 257; Arm: 34" Wing: 82")      

 2015 Stats: Tck: 59 (28 solo); Sck: 4; TFL: 10.5; QB Hurries: 5)                                              2014 Stats: Tck: 70(32 solo); Sck: 5; TFL: 9.5; QB Hurries: 21

STRENGTHS:


Jenkins only knows 1 speed, full speed ahead.  He plays fast, violent and more violent.  Jenkins can stand up in a 3-4 and be a serious pass rusher.  Aside from his play speed, Jenkins plays extremely strong for only weighing 249lbs.  When he takes on blockers he does not shy away and will use his upper and lower body strength to shed them fairly easily.  Uses his long arms well on pass rush and when he stands up OL.  Does not allow himself to be blocked.  Motor and heart is not a question for Jenkins.  He will chase sideline to sideline and played a good amount of season injured.

WEAKNESSES:


At times he will be too aggressive and will run past the carrier.  He needs to play with more awareness on the edge vs the run.  He was used all over the front line at UGA so he is still fairly raw in coverage. When tackling he will come in high and get shook off at times.  His pad level is also an issue on the LOS at times.  When Jenkins meets an OL he cant completely overpower he will get caught up in trying to prove he is stronger rather than shedding and pursuing.  He will need to develop a secondary rush move.  When his initial rush is stuffed it seems as though he does not know what to do to counter it.

ANALYSIS:


Jenkins is by no means a plug and play prospect.  However, he has the look and the tools of a player that can raise havoc on the football field.  Initially he can step in and be a passing situation rusher and be effective.  He began the season like a man possessed and then suffered and hip/groin injury and he never regained that form completely.  Will he ever regain that form?  I dont know.  What I do know is that the tape from early in the season was 1st rd material.  As it stands he will probably be a late 2nd/3rd pick.  If he is fully healthy by the time the combine comes I expect him to put on a show and creep up draft boards.  BEAR TALK: For Bear fans all i have to say is, do you remember Wilbur Marshall?



OFFENSIVE LINE



It seems like we have come full circle with the Bears' offense.  When the Bears started with Cutler there were constantly changing offenses and shotty offensive line work.  We are nearing the end of the road with Cutler and the Bears have changed offensive coordinator three times in three years and have shotty offensive line work.  The Bears have gone toward a more pass friendly offense and a finesse running game over the years.  It is time for the Bears to get back to power running and refresh the talent pool with some youth.



SPENCER DRANGO OT-BAYLOR (HT: 6'6"; WT: 320; Arm: 32"; Wing: 79")    

STRENGTHS:

Drango moves well for his large size.  When he is asked to pull he does a nice job of lowering pads to make contact with target.  He has no problem fending off bull rushes because he looks to have solid strength in upper and lower body.  Uses his hands well when passing off assignments and dealing with rush moves.  His punch is strong enough to knock a defender off balance.  In pass pro he gets to the outside quickly and without much struggle.  His footwork is good enough to stuff inside and spin counter moves.

WEAKNESSES:

When run blocking forward he can get off balance from time to time and lean too far.  His hand placement needs to be more consistent.  Although he moves well, his movements are a little stiff.  When getting out on the second level he needs to be more aggressive and attack his target rather than waiting for the man to come to him.  Does not play as aggressive as you would hope from someone in the trenches.  Will often get very high when coming out of his stance.

ANALYSIS:

I wish I could call Drango the BIG & NASTY but hes just the BIG & POWERFUL.  But I will take it.  What stands out to me about Drango is that blocking looks effortless to him.  He never looks like he got the jitters or he is on the verge of collapsing to another guy's power.  He is calm, collected and in control at all times.  At the next level I do not think he should play LT.  He will probably be a monster inside with the ability to play RT in a pinch.  His power and size should open holes up the middle in a power run game.  BEAR TALK:  He is going to be able to step in day 1 and hold his own on the inside.  The inside of the Bears' line is its weakest link and adding Drango will give it an instant upgrade.  After he gets some experience he may be able to kick out to RT and allow Kyle Long to take over at LT.



WILLIE BEAVERS LT-WMU (HT: 6'4"; WT: 324; Arm: 33"; Wing: 80")

STRENGTHS:

Beavers has the body style teams drool over.  He is 6'4" with long arms and a thick base.  His feet and movements are quick enough to kick outside vs speed rushers.  Uses his punch effectively.  When he comes out of his stance in pass pro he does a good job of maintaining his form.  He will stay "in the chair" and avoid leaning.  His large base anchors well vs bull rushers.

WEAKNESSES:

He needs to learn how to make use of his long arms.  There are too many instances where he kicks out but waits for the defender to get into his chest to use his hands rather than punch out 1st.  He looks like  he needs to work on his upper body strength.  Gets lost on the second level and will block air at times.  On occasion he will miss an assignment on a blitz or a stunt and be out of position.  When run blocking requires him to move forward he will lean out too far and lose balance.  Will look like he is just coasting through a game and looking to work too hard.

ANALYSIS:

Beavers brings the whole package to the table that is wanted in a LT.  He is big, has good movement, long arms and a strong base.  He needs to be coached up and eventually may be an answer at LT.  He will need to get stronger and learn to use his hands better if he is going to be able to make it as an everyday starter.  BEARS TALK:  Jermon Bushrod only has two years left on his contract with the Bears and somebody needs to be groomed to take that role.  The Bears like Leno but I have my doubts that he will be the answer.  If Beavers can get two years of knowledge from Bushrod and Long he may just turn out to be a young long term answer.