Archive for April, 2009

GM Jerry Angelo Interview from ESPN 1000 Part II

April 29, 2009

In part two of the interview Bears general manager Jerry Angelo expands upon the value of some of the prospects who were drafted afterr Juaquin Iglesias.

Talking about the value of fourth round selection D.J. Moore who fell primarily because of his 5-foot-9 inch height Angelo talked about why he is such a good value. “He plays a lot taller than his height, as you know there are players in the league who play a lot taller than what they are and he is one of those players. He’s got tremendous ball skills some of the best ball skills I’ve seen since Vasher. He’s got really good leaping ability, he can go up and get the ball at it’s highest point.” Angelo definitely mentioned how Moore has first round ability but fourth round height and a lot of teams reached for players with the height because of the height of the receivers these days.

While it is true that you do like to have a CB who has good height, a player who plays taller than his height, and who has the ball skills and talent that Moore has is of equal importance.

The next question comes regarding the perceived lack of a true free safety in this draft. Silvy feels that Al Afalava is more suited for a strong safety rather than a free.

Angelo became pretty adamant in saying that they like Craig Steltz, the coaching staff feels really confident in him and feel he is the starting point for the discussion. They also brought in Josh Bullocks as another person to come in and player. It appears that Steltz is going to get the first crack at the free safety spot. Steltz leaves a lot to be desired athletically but he did prove that he is a gamer and someone that won’t give up on a play. Hopefully the learning curve is something he’s crossed in moving into his second year in the league.

Angelo went on to point out that in a one-gap scheme that the Bears utilize a safety has to be good tackler first and foremost. He has to cover his gap and help out in the running game primarily. It’s also true that the Bears’ defense was typically better when Mike Brown came up in run support and the pass defense was better when there was a better pass rush.

To understand where Jerry Angelo is coming from, yes there were blown coverages last year that led to touchdowns, but the most important aspect for the success of the defense is the pass rush first and foremost. There is no argument that can be made against a weak secondary when there was such an anemic pass rush generated by the front four. This is why the Bears drafted Gilbert and Melton to specifically better the pass rush which in turn makes the safeties better.

Yes it would be ideal to have a safety who is great in the run and a great center fielder, but those types of safeties are rare. There are not a lot of safeties in the league that have the combination of great ball skills and dynamite tackling ability in the run game.

The next question that popped was in regards to Charles Tillman being moved to safety and Brian Urlacher being moved to outside linebacker. Angelo talked about it be a possibility further into their careers but right now they’ll remain at their current positions. Tillman specifically was talked about how he was a safety coming out of college and they feel if he were to make the transition to safety he’d be an excellent safety. From what they saw of him as a kid coming out of college they felt he had corner skills so they felt they would try him there at CB and if that didn’t work out he’d be an excellent safety.

Urlacher there are no immediate plans to move him to SAM. Though Angelo expressed he could be successful just about anywhere you put him. If you moved him to tight end he could probably have an impact there.

To wrap up the interview the focus was on the receivers and Angelo feels that they like the group of receivers they have, they think they have a good balance of players with size and speed. He hopes one can emerge into the complete player the Dairy Queen referenced player with a twist and sprinkles. Right now they are going forward with the group they have and they think they’ll get good production from them.

I don’t think the words Angelo used necessarily put the receiver position at ease or into stable territory. I don’t think the rotation out there is chiseled in stone and going forward they can add to it as necessary. They are not starting camp tomorrow and don’t play a game for a few more months so things can change between now and then.

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GM Jerry Angelo Interview from ESPN 1000 Part I

April 28, 2009

Jerry Angelo joined the Waddle and Silvy show yesterday to talk Chicago Bears football after the NFL Draft on Sunday. It’s one of the first interviews Angelo has done with local sports talk radio in a few years and it was great to hear where some of his motivation lies in regards to making this team better. In part one of the interview we cover what steps the Bears made to trade for Anquan Boldin and cover the motivation behind trading down out of the first day of the draft.

To start things off it’s fair to say that everyone should recognize and mostly does recognize that this draft wasn’t about any of the players taken, but rather about Jay Cutler. The talk of the draft and it’s impact essentially starts and stops with Cutler.

A point that should be made that maybe hasn’t been touched on as much as it perhaps should be, is that lack of overall great talent in this draft. The value in the players from the Top-5 arguably all the way down to the top of the second round wasn’t all that much different. Evidence in this can be seen in some of the players who fell out of the first round and into the second. Ray Maualuga considered by many as a Top-5 talent fell out of the first round. Everette Brown precisely the same thing, arguably a top-10 level pick who fell to nearly the middle part of the second round.

So the talent and the depth not being as strong as it was in past years made it all the more easy for the Bears to trade out. There are players in this draft that are hard to project and have a very high boom or bust factor that was likely taken into consideration when the idea to trade for Cutler came around.

The Bears also made a trade phone call to the Arizona Cardinals about Anquan Boldin. Angelo could not and didn’t want to get into all the specific details surrounding the trade talks (Boldin is still under contract) and he wants to be able to keep a solid reputation around the league with other GMs. Angelo could have said explicitly what prevented the trade from Boldin from happening, but that in turn would hurt any future endeavors he may have in the trade market. He wants to keep a good solid working relationship so the refusal to go into specific details is easy to understand.

A certain level of respect needs to be maintained and he didn’t want to throw the Cardinals under the bus or affix any blame for any possible outrageous demands the Cardinals may have made etc.

However the point of emphasis should that Jerry Angelo did everything within reason, and within his power to explore the possibility of landing Anquan Boldin. Angelo definitely feels that Boldin would make the Bears a better football team and with the line of thought being that the Bears want to win now, Boldin is a player that would help him achieve that goal.

The next segment flowed into the decision to trade down out and out the first round of the draft. Angelo was pretty explicit with this answer as well in that the Bears had an idea of what player they would take at 49 and what type of player gave them the most value at 49. The focus obviously being on the big three receivers that we had all hoped would slide into the second round. In my Chicago Bears Draft Day Thoughts Blog I touched on the exact line of thinking that Angelo went with. The dream scenario being all three receivers fall into the second round, giving the Bears a better chance to grab one at 49. The more likely scenario I gave obviously is the one that panned out and I was right on target with where I thought the Bears could target either Massaqoi or Iglesias. Iglesias turned out to be the player taken at 99th overall in the third.

Angelo did the best thing for this football team by trading back and picking up an extra third and an extra fourth round pick. The third round pick netted him high value prospect Jarron Gilbert (arguably a first or second round worthy target). This immediately boosted the position on the team that cause the most losses on the team in a direct way. The pass rush defensive end problem that was again addressed in the fourth round with the Henry Melton selection.

Angelo touched on the Jarron Gilbert selection by talking about a few points:

A) Jarron Gilbert is a player that they plan to play at defensive end “versus the run but when we get into our third down situation he’s going to shift inside just as he was in his senior year. He’s been exposed to playing defensive end a bit.”

Dick Tomey (San Jose State’s head coach) as Angelo went on to explain has been a college football coach for a number of years. Tomey has been a specialist in developing defensive lineman for a number of years at schools that he’s coached. Tomey is probably most famous for the Arizona Wildcats’ “Desert Swarm” days when the UofA had one of the best and most consistent defensive lines in the country. Tomey is unquestionably a good football coach and any NFL coach or GM (Angelo in this case) receiving advice from him should take it to heart because he’s one of those coaches that’s been around the block a few times. Tomey feels that Gilbert’s best potential is still ahead of him and he’s just beginning to scrape the surface of what he can do on the football field.

I think some of the points to look at here regarding Jarron Gilbert and Henry Melton is the the idea of getting a lot of speed and athleticism up front. The big fad right now in the NFL is the 3-4 because it’s the defense the Pittsburgh Steelers won the Super Bowl with. However what is consistently overlooked is the New York Giants won the Super Bowl title merely a year ago with the 4-3 defense in place. The Giants led the NFL in sacks with a 4-3 defensive scheme.

The point is and always will be to get the most pressure you can from your front four. This is always accomplished best with speed off the edge and athleticism up the middle. The song remains the same and you could argue that it has since the days of the Bears’ dominating pass rush utilizing the 46 scheme. It’s about getting to the quarterback plain and simple, giving him little no time to throw the ball, it doesn’t matter if it comes from the 3-4, 4-3, 4-4, 5-2, 46, flex-eagle look, ANYTHING that you want to throw out there. The song remains the same get to the quarterback on third down.

Adding speed like Gilbert to the middle of the defense and speed of the edge with someone like Henry Melton is geared specifically towards that idea. The Bears don’t need to switch to a 3-4, they just need to have more speed and with a front four of Israel Idonije, Marcus Harrison, Jarron Gilbert and Henry Melton that is a very fast and athletic front four geared to get to the QB on third down. Much the same way the New York Giants focus their defense so much on speed, the Bears are attempting to do the same things.

With Juaqin Iglesias the Bears wanted to get an established receiver. With Mark Bradley they looked at his ceiling and where he could go. Bradley was a defensive back and was moved around before he was the third best receiver on a team that had two other WRs drafted. Iglesias was THE man at Oklahoma, the established number one target and Angelo felt he really compliments what they are trying to do on offense. It’s not taking an expert to see why the Bears targeted these prospects based on what we saw and what the Bears lack on offense and defense.

Digesting the hype from the NFL Draft

April 28, 2009

Well after about 48 hours of diegesting the Bears 2009 NFL Draft I have come to a simple conclusion. I don’t care right now who they drafted and where and I won’t care until I see these players do something on the football field. I can read all the draft grades and evaluations in the world, it’s not much different than reading a lot of the pre-draft hype. What matters a lot though will be how these players look on the football field during the pre-season games. It’s then we’ll get the best idea of what each one of these players is REALLY capable of.

For now it’s all still names heights weights and 40-yard dash times on a piece of paper mixed in with college stats. We know that the players drafted were the best players in college football, but we also know that doesn’t mean it translates them into being the best in the NFL. For all the hype and excitement of Jarron Gilbert jumping out of a swimming pool onto the deck from the shallow end, it doesn’t mean he’ll be able to go toe to toe with Steve Hutchinson on Sundays.

For all the speed and athleticism and potential we have heard about regarding Henry Melton, it doesn’t mean he’ll have the NFL work ethic to become a contributor to this defense. For all great catches Juaqin Igelsias made at Oklahoma, it doesn’t mean he’ll be able to get separation and get open against NFL level DBs.

What this all means right now is that these are the players the Bears felt were the best available at the time. Right or wrong the Bears are stuck with these players for a while and hope for the best coming out this draft.

I can also say without question that of these draft picks on this roster not one of them will be a starter on the field against the Green Bay Packers on opening night. Juaqin Iglesias has the most potential to be an opening night starter given the lack of overall depth at the WR position, but given the giant learning curve receivers go through during the transition from college to the NFL I can say almost certainly he won’t be a starter.

The hope from my vantage point is that these players will play their best football during the pre-season. That is typically where most young players begin to stand out and show what they have in terms of NFL ability and promise. If given opportunities during the regular season I want to see them make the most of those chances much like Marcus Harrison did for the Bears last year. The hope lies with Gilbert, Iglesias and Melton that in three years they will be players that are likely to start or will already be starting.

For the rookies now it’s developing good work habits, study habits and knowing that their job is primarily to learn. There is enough talent ahead of them, that they should be able to apply themselves and develop well enough to become successful players in this league. I hope that they know that they do not carry the weight of the world on them, the expectations for them for right now are extremely low. There is no pressure to contribute on day one, the pressure is to just show that you belong on the 53-man roster.

Learn from the veterans ahead of you who have been around for more than four years. Listen, to they have to give you in the way of advice and no that you are not expected to be a starter on day one. If they do happen to become a starter on day one, that’s pure gravy. But their presence represents the future of the Chicago Bears franchise, and does not represent a chance to win the Lombardi trophy.

Speed to burn: Bears Draft Pick Johnny Knox

April 27, 2009

One of the three draft picks the Bears used on wide receivers today went to a player from a small school with one of the fastest 40-yard dash times at the combine. Abiliene Christian’s Johnny Knox was the Bears’ fifth round draft choice and Bears fans should not be asking why.

Knox is mixture of good size at 6-foot 198-pounds and has shown some pretty good ball skills to go with that speed. He was one of the top performers at the combine that I noticed while scouting it in my live blog earlier this year. He is a very smooth athlete who shows some great athletic promise with an ability to go up and get the ball at it’s highest point and he has excellent body control.

His only downside would be he’s not as strong as you’d like in a receiver. He won’t break a lot of tackles or make a lot of yards after contact because of his small hips and legs.

Overall though he was very productive at a small school. With 118 career catches to go with 2,227 yards and an 18.9 yards per catch average and lastly 30 touchdowns you can see he easily dominated a low level of competition. He may be a bit of a project but he gives the Bears another option in stretch the field.

Reminds me a bit of a young Bernard Berrian a player with a lot of athletic prowess who needs some polish. If he gets that polish and develops he could make an impacct sooner, rather than later.

D.J. Moore an absolute steal in the fourth round

April 26, 2009

People across the country who are draft gurus and analysts are wondering how D.J. Moore lasted until the fourth round of the NFL draft as a CB prospect. Look at his bio on the NFL.com website and you see that he could have joined Jay Cutler and Chris Williams as players selected in the first round. But Moore lasted all the way until the Bears grabbed with him their second fourth round draft pick in the draft.

He’s a classic Cover-2 corner type of guy and should come in and help solidify the secondary immediately for a player with his ability.

Bears target Henry Melton, pull the trigger on the Longhorn

April 26, 2009

Henry Melton can be questioned by some people as being a reach early in the fourth round of the NFL draft today. But rest at ease Bears fans, Jerry Angelo and his crew did their homework on him as a prospect. He was one of the players on the Private Workout list we were the first blog or media outlet to provide and we did a prospect preview on him based on the Bears’ interest in him.

Melton is a classic 4-3 DE prospect with his size and speed of the edge. He is strong enough to hold things down at the point of attack in the run game, and he’s got enough of a burst to get to the QB. He is the type of player that would immensely benefit from learning under the veterans the Bears do have on the roster currently. Not to mention the plus of learning the techniques he’ll get from Rod Marinelli. Melton is a project, but with proper grooming and learning from Marinelli he could be an impact player. He has tremendous upside and he will easily learn good workout and technique habits from the new D-Line coach.

Melton is very new to the position having only played it for two years for the Texas Longhorns. Everyone spoke about him being a prototype DE coming out of high school, where he was a running back, but he never worked out. From there they flipped him to DE where he is now a draft pick for the Chicago Bears.

Juaqin Iglesias good value at 99th overall

April 26, 2009

Earlier this week I was a bit hard on Iglesias in my prospect preview of him. However I was hard on him for being talked about as a prospect at 49th overall, in the second round. I had no problems with him being selected at the 99th slot in the draft which is where he landed.

Iglesias has value for the 99th overall selection, he could have been a small reach at 49 and a player who could have been scooped up in the second round. Some experts had him pegged with second round value, but the safest place to take him was in the third round and beyond. The Bears looked like they knew what they saw in Iglesias snatching him up in the back end of the third round.

The loss of Bernard Berrian in free agency brings the Bears a solid possession receiver who will get get yards and hopefully continue to move the chains. He’s not going to go deep and make big plays, he’s not going to run away from people. But he should be a third down option who keeps the chains moving in important games late in the season. Decent size, good hands and the ability to seperate and mak plays in the soft spots of zones is what the Bears needed at WR and Iglesias brings good value for that at the 99th overall spot.

Bears Draft Jarron Gilbert D-Lineman at 68th overall

April 26, 2009

The Chicago Bears select, Jerron Gilbert defensive lineman from San Jose State. Gilbert of YouTube fame for jumping out of the swimming pool and on to the deck. He is one of those athletic freak type of players 6-foot-5 288-pounds 4.86 40-yard dash, just long and lanky and pretty strong.

Gilbert’s role on defense won’t be all that dissimilar to Israel Idonije’s role a stick your hand in the dirt player for rushing downs, and then flip him inside on pass rushing downs. You have to seriously question what this pick means to the D-Line rotation. The staff has always been high on Idonije, they were very happy with Marcus Harrison last year and then there’s the multi-million-dollar man Tommie Harris he of the arthritic knee.

Gibert’s senior season was impressive against lighter competition than a BCS level school. He had 9.5 sacks and 22 tackles-for-a-loss which is pretty impressive anyway you slice it.

For one of the comprehensive scouting reports on the web click here

The Bears trade the 49th pick in the draft to Seattle

April 25, 2009

The Chicago Bears made a move downward as had been rumored by the Chicago SunTimes this morning the Bears traded the 49th pick in the draft to the Seattle Seahawks.

Trying to recoup picks from the Jay Cutler trade landed No. 68 in Round 3 and No. 105 in Round 4 from Seattle.

The trade means the Bears will not be selecting on the first day of the NFL draft today. We’ll have more on possible selections later tonight. Looks like the Bears may go with a WR in the third and address more needs on defense in the third and the fourth rounds.

Angelo came out and said that the Bears did try to get a deal done for Anquan Boldin. They spoke at length with the Arizona Cardinals but were unable to come to an agreement.

They had hoped things would fall better for them regarding some of the WRs they were targeting. They were obviously looking at Nicks, Robiskie and Britt. Two of those three went in round one, Robiskie early in round two and Mohammed Massaquoi went #50 to the Cleveland Browns immediately after the Bears traded 49 to Seattle.

Some of the other players off the board include Phil Loadholt the OT from OU, Sherrod Martin the safety from Troy, William Beatty the OT from UConn, William Moore the safety is off the board. Paul Kruger the DE from Utah is now off the board as well as David Veikune a DE from Hawaii I covered extensively at the NFL Scouting Combine.

The trade means the Bears will not be selecting on the first day of the NFL draft today. Looks like the Bears may go with a WR in the third and address more needs on defense in the third and the fourth rounds.
We’ll have more on possible selections later tonight.

Chicago Bears Draft Day Thoughts

April 25, 2009

This is as close to a mock draft as you’re going to see out of me today. I honestly just don’t see the point of making a wild prediction or even a slightly educated prediction about every team that is likely to select a player today.

However given that I have been steadily covering the Bears’ draft needs and off-season activity since Day-1 of the NFL combine I will provide just some thoughts of how this day and the draft may develop for the Chicago Bears.

First of all I’ll cover some basic thoughts on the needs. The Bears obviously need a wide receiver, an offensive lineman with a bit of versatility (able to play more than one position) a free safety and a pass rushing threat.

The good news is there is a plethora of talent available at those positions that are likely to be there with the Bears select at the 49th pick overall in the second round. Most Bears fans who have followed this blog and other media outlets covering the draft hype up until this point know precisely what I am about to write next and for the most part everyone is about unanimous on the idea of who the Bears should take if things roll as we all hope they do.

There is a group of wide receivers that I have now taken to calling the big three. Not because they’re the three best WRs in the draft, nor the biggest players overall. They are the big three because they have been talked about and scouted and analyzed extensively by myself and just about every other Bears outlet. The big three are obviously Kenny Britt, Hakeem Nicks and Brian Robiskie, players that we hope and pray will fall out of the first round. All three are considered first round worthy selections, but the good news is not all three will be drafted in the first round. The question is if one of the three goes in the first round will the other two quickly follow in the early part of the second round?

That’s the ultimate and primary question Bears fans want to know and they’ll follow closely as the draft wears on. Most fans will be out working hard today with spring clean up projects, fertilizing the lawn, pulling up thatch, clipping off dead parts of plants and trees. All the fun stuff you do on a Saturday during the spring. Then the draft will start later this afternoon and fans will sit and start to watch the coverage on the NFL Network or ESPN. Each time a WR is taken off the board in this draft fans will start to grind the gears as to what the possible implications are for later in the draft.

Most fans hope that a lot of the first round is dedicated to players who don’t necessarily fit the needs of the Bears. Three QBs going in the first round would be a positive development. A slide in the draft by Percy Harvin would definitely hope the Bears out. A few DTs going in the first round would help out the Bears so on and so forth.

The key to the entire draft may be what happens from about pick 22 to 48 for the Bears. That is the area of the draft where members of the big three are most likely to go. A span of 27 picks that could arguably make or break the draft for the Bears in 2009.

Dream scenario: The members of the big three fall out of the first round leaving 17 picks between the Bears and landing the wide receiver needed to help put this offense over the top for the next three to eight years. One of them is left on the board at 49 the Bears make that selection and then start planning to fill the rest of the needs from the third round on.

Likely scenario: One or two of the big three will go to either the Colts Giants, Vikings or Titans. The Colts would like to find someone to replace Marvin Harrison and while not a lot of experts have the Colts grabbing a WR in their draft slot, no one predicted Anthony Gonzales would be the pick a few years ago either. The Titans have been working hard to get a receiver the entire off-season. Every time the Bears are mentioned as a suitor, the Titans are usually named in the same report. The Torry Holt sweepstakes, the Anquan Boldin trade talk, the Titans are in the mix. I have a feeling that either Britt or Robiskie will be the pick at 30.

What to do if all three of the big three are off the board? Well the Bears will not likely touch one of the next two receivers on the board that they have been linked to the most. Juaqin Iglesias and Mohammed Massaquoi while second round worthy are just as likely to be there at 99 as 49. That’s a lot of players between then and now.

Plan B: If the big three are gone the Bears can go after safeties Louis Delmas and Rashad Johnson, DE Michael Johnson or OT Phil Loadholt or Guard Duke Robinson. There is also talk of other pass rusher types being available af 49 that the Bears may look at. Larry English, Lawrence Sidbury are two that may be thoughts at that point in the draft if they fall that far.

Plan C: Trade down a way into the later part of the second round, grab a safety like Patrick Chung from Oregon and add a second third round pick. If the nine players most closely linked to the Bears are gon at 49 it may be a good time to consider trading down in the draft to avoid making a reach. Recouping a loss third from the Denver trade may give Jerry Angelo the chance of landing four future starters from this draft. Angelo’s plan is already to get three from the current crop of draft picks he has, the opportunity to add a possible fourth future starter may be to enticing to pass up if the value at 49 is gone.

The likelihood that one of the big three falls to the Bears at 49 is less than 50% and probably closer to 20%. Meaning that the other scenarios in this draft are a lot more likely. The Bears can get better value in the third and fourth round at WR if big three are off the board. Plus with other teams likely wanting to target players the Bears aren’t as high on, trading down remains a 50-50 option in my opinion.