Archive for the ‘NFL.com’ Category

NFL Total Access: Warren Sapp’s Top-5 QBs in the league

July 24, 2009

Warren Sapp ran through his Top-5 Best in the Biz segment on NFL Total Access. As part of their lead in pre-season football coverage the folks at NFLTA are taking the time to voice their opinions on the best players at each position in the league.

Chicago Bears fans should be happy to know that Warren Sapp has Jay Cutler rated as the fifth best QB in the league behind Donovan McNabb at four, Drew Brees at three, Peyton Manning at two and Tom Brady at number one best quarterback in the league.

The props to Cutler were for the way he carried the Denver Broncos’ offense last year with over 4,500 yards passing and 25 touchdowns. Cutler is what obviously everyone has been talking about since the Bears made the trade back in April.

From here on out all the talk will mostly be about Cutler or related to Cutler since he is the first franchise level QB the Bears have had in the modern era of the NFL.

For More In Depth Discussion Link to the Midway Illustrated Forums

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You can’t escape the hype

April 25, 2009

Well sports fans it’s finally here, the day of the 2009 NFL Draft. The official end to the second season of the National Football League. Make no mistake this IS the second season. It may sound like silly cliche to explain the hype surrounding the NFL Draft, but make no mistake the league survives because of the second season.

Take for instance just the coverage that the draft gets on a monthly basis leading up to weekend of on ESPN. Mel Kiper Jr has a solid career and perhaps the most famous hair cut on TV because of the draft. With the invent of the internet the draft has taken off into a completely different world of hype and coverage.

Now comprehend the magnitude of the Mock Draft phenomenon a database by a Washington Redskins site lists 221 mock drafts. This doesn’t include all the updates that constantly occur from the end of the college football season until the day of the draft. Fans just can’t get enough of the draft coverage.

So the question is why? Well the popularity of the NFL for one. It’s the most popular sport in the U.S. and with all the marketing opportunities that stem from it appealing to the most marketable class of people in the country (18-35 year old males) it’s easy to see why an entire second season can spring up just from the draft hype.

The amount of draft hype is insane given the rare success of first round draft picks and the even further failure of draft picks there after. Less than 50% of first round picks wind up with a successful NFL career. But if you were to listen to all of the scouting experts just about every player drafted from one to seventy-five in the league will have a long tenured career of 10 or more years in the draft.

Then the level of hype is magnified ten fold over a period of roughly four months. Non stop coverage, talk of the combine, Pro-Days, personal workouts, private workouts, official visits, and analysis so thorough it would make the folks at NASA envious.

However even with the more recent recognition I have had in the fact that most players don’t live up to the hype I still can’t escape it. The Chicago Bears traded away their first round pick for the next two years in the Jay Cutler trade yet myself as well as many other Bears fans have not dropped in our collective level of excitement. I still want to see who the Bears draft at 49 and I’ll be faithfully watching the draft unfold pick by pick up until the Bears make their selection.

So while I recognize the gigantic level of ridiculous hype and the enormous lack of clarity shown by most fans and analysts and experts during this period of time. I still recognize it is the NFL and any football is GOOD football.

NFL Network: Chicago Bears draft needs

March 28, 2009

Breaking up the state of the franchise segement into two less grueling on the eyes posts, we come to part two team needs. Most everyone that is a Bears fan and has a pulse understands what the Bears’ team needs are.

Charles Davis who is serving as a draft analyst on the NFL Network points out mostly what we already know. The needs Davis specifically targets in his statement are offensive tackle, wide receiver and defensive line. But Davis projects the Bears utilizing the #18th overall selection on Hakeem Nicks wide receiver from North Carolina.

Davis states that Kyle Orton needs another weapon to stretch the defenses and Hakeem Nicks provides just that. Big, strong, fast, smooth with terrific hands, I think Hakeem Nicks would be a terrific selection for the Chicago Bears.

Based on a lot of the scouting reports I’ve read about Hakeem Nicks he doesn’t seem to have a real weakness to his game. Nicks is arguably the most complete WR in the draft opposite Jeremy Crabtree. The one true thing that old Nicks back, ever so slightly from being THE most complete WR in the draft is his lack of ideal or elite speed in his 40-yard dash times.

However when you pop in the tape of Nicks you can see that he has plenty of speed to make big plays. In the Miami game, Nicks had a huge day making plays which may have been his national coming out party for NFL scouts and analysts.

His exclamation point game came in the final game of the season , the bowl game against West Virginia. Nicks attempted to take on the West Virginia team by himself, attempting to win the game on his own by finishing with eight catches for 217-yards and three touchdowns against the Mountaineers. Nicks was a man possessed in the game with his game-breaking receiving ability.

Nicks fits into the mold of a complete player who will be available at 18 because of his perceived lack of game-breaking speed. But it should be noted the lack of game breaking speed that Jerry Rice and Anquan Boldin showed at the NFL combine as well. Nicks fits into that physical mold of receiver as well.

In our earlier combine coverage we covered what Indianapolis Colts GM Bill Polian had to say about Nicks during his combine workout:

Hakeem Nicks is a very very good player, he’s got a great feel for routes, he’s got very very good hands, he’s got exceptional run after the catch, and he’s a very strong guy. And I think he’s going to have a very fine career in the National Football League.

Nicks was a player I noticed early into the college football season during the ESPN televised game of Miami versus North Carolina. Nicks stood out to me then and I followed him throughout the rest of the season.

It’s almost to the point the way the hype as built around Nicks and the way the draft board is aligning itself and the Bears’ needs that they would be foolish not to draft Hakeem Nicks. This is not to say that there are other great players out there, Nicks just seems to be the near consensus pick that would suit the Bears the best at #18.

NFL Network puts the Bears on the clock

March 21, 2009

The NFL Network’s Path to the Draft show is essentially a prospect and team preview show that happens every day for half an hour. It’s better than any of the crap on ESPN because it encompasses real analysts who have played the game and gasp a real former GM. So when you’re getting opinion on these players from these guys at least they’ve been there done that or have made a living off of doing it. Instead of the Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay pissing match you get real in-sight and analysis on the players. Plus it’s not a five minute segment that they do on ESPN’s sports center where you have to watch the douche bag commentators on there who are trying to be as witty and funny as Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann were. Never can beat the original.

So with that in mind they’re addressing the Chicago Bears’ first round team need at O-Line, WR and apparently QB. Until the Bears have a hall of famer under center well the majority opinion is that the Bears will need to draft a QB. There’s a quick mention of the Bears’ last four first round draft picks, Tommie Harris at 14, Cedric Benson at 4, Greg Olsen at 31 and Chris Williams at 14. Benson being the biggest bust of the bunch Angelo made up for it immediately before cutting him by drafting Matt Forte last year.

The analyst brought in to talk about the Bears is Dan Pompei. There’s a major advantage the Bears have in already holding mini-camp, they know how well some of the players have stayed in shape in the off-season. Additionally they know whether or not the players on the roster are serious about football and how it is a year round job. Pompei immediately dives into the Bears’ need at OT. Pompei’s opinion is far different than mine, he seems to have completely bought into the argument that Frank Omiyale was brought in to strictly compete at left guard. That’s pretty funny because Omiyale has never played guard in his career and earned his money based on his ability to play OT for the Carolina Panthers. The media has fallen for the smoke screen that Jerry Angelo put out there regarding Omiyale. Angelo puffed up the smoke screen because he wanted to not publicly apply pressure to John St. Clair that they had already found his replacement. They did find his replacement because after one day at guard, Omiyale moved over to RT immediately upon St. Clair signing.

Omiyale would have likely supplanted a starter and it wouldn’t have been Josh Beekman because Beekman didn’t play as bad as St. Clair did last season. Plus you can be safe in the starting five being what it would have been last year had Chris Williams not been injured. Williams will be an upgrade over St. Clair and Omiyale might be an upgrade over Tait, because Tait aged so fast.

Pompei next has to answer to the column in which he wrote about “If Jay Cutler is available the Bears should pursue him. To which Pompei has to essentially back track on that column with more support towards Kyle Orton than he originally intended to give when he wrote the column. They wax poetic about the Jay Cutler trade, to which the question immediately shifts to, do the Bears take a QB at 18 or a OT. Ummm…the consensus is the Bears need a WR or an OT at 18. Kyle Orton is fine as a QB, his production slipped due to injury. He played five games he likely shouldn’t have because his production in those five games where he was injured was better than what Rex Grossman would have been healthy. That says a lot about Grossman that a hobbled Kyle Orton is better than you.

Pompei not the subject matter expert you would expect here. He says Angelo likes to draft lineman and is pretty good at drafting lineman. Yeah perhaps D-Lineman but certainly not O-Lineman. Angelo has only drafted two OTs in the first round in drafts that he was allegedly a part of in his career (including Tampa Bay and Chicago). One OT had a decent career and is currently a free agent, the other had injury problems forcing the Bears to release him, but now he’s a multi-year starter in Dallas. Angelo’s evaluating strength is on defense rather than offense, let’s be clear on that immediately.

So who would Dan Pompei take at 18 if an OT was available? Eben Britton from Arizona. Pompei’s opinion is that he could man that RT spot immediately because he’s big and strong and help in the run game. Uh Britton was rarely asked to run block the last two years at Arizona. They ran most of their offense out of the Texas Tech passing spread offense. So there wasn’t a lot of creativity with their run plays at the UofA. To say Britton can stick his hand in the dirt and be a run blocker is a bit ignorant when the guy comes out of a pass first pass heavy offense. The same questions arise when people talk about Jason Smith at Baylor because he played in the spread too.

So apparently in this segment Dan Pompei has no clue to which he speaks he talks in generalities and football cliches about players of which he has no clue about what they are like or what system they come from. This is not to say Britton wouldn’t be a good pick at 18, it’s just saying his strengths lie elsewhere beside run blocking. To add to my point the high-lights they show of Britton show him run blocking, albeit out of two point stance. He stands in his two point stance essentially giving the DE the idea that he’s going to pass block, the DE shoots up the field and Britton simply walls him off like it’s a draw play. Britton already has the inside advantage because the play is going to the opposite side of where the defender is attacking, advantage to the blocker.

Sticking your hand in the dirt and firing off the line when it’s a HB-Iso or zone blocking running play is much more important to the Bears than being able to fool the defender by making them think you’re going to pass when in fact it’s a run call. Neither the host of the segment or Pompei has a clue about this little common sense difference between OTs who come from a spread offense and OTs who come from a pro-style offense.

Pompei’s next line of thought as to who the Bears might select at WR if they go that route at 18 is Kenny Britt from Rutgers. He might be a bit of a reach at 18 but I could definitely see him in the second round. Britt is as Pompei says the perfect compliment to Devin Hester, he’s big fast and catches the ball well. If the Bears don’t trade down, but can trade up into the earlier part of the second round to take a WR like Britt after they draft an OT at 18 that’s a good strategy as well.

The next question is why the Bears were not more active in free agency and Pompei is a better subject matter expert on this than most of the Bears related talk we’ve heard to this point. Pompei has spoken to Angelo at length and he essentially stated that this is the worst free agent class he’s ever seen. Why were the Bears not more active, when the GM feels like it’s the worst free agency class ever, there’s your answer. Rightly or wrongly Bears fans Angelo is the GM and is getting paid for his judgment and based on that football knowledge and judgment the Bears didn’t go on a spending spree to add average to marginal level talent. They did add players that are marginal or average, but they did so in a cost effective manner.
History will prove Angelo right or wrong on this call so we’ll see how things go.

So to wrap up the segment of the Bears on the clock with Dan Pompei as the subject matter expert the Bears may look at Eben Britton or Kenny Britt at 18. WR and OT are the most important aspects to this franchise, heading into the draft. Although if I’m making the call it’s a player like Hakeem Nicks at 18 and maybe a Phil Loadholt in the second round.

NFL Network Playbook segment on Matt Forte

March 18, 2009

Say what you will about the NFL Network but every so often they have some pretty solid reporting segments on players in the league. Yesterday they focused in on Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte. Forte as we all know was drafted to come in and provide competition for Cedric Benson the 2004 bust the Bears landed in the first round. What no one foresaw was Benson’s legal problems and subsequent dismissal from the team.

Forte was then promptly made the starter for the 2008 season and instantaneously stabilized the RB position for perhaps the next decade. It’s hard to say whether or not the organization thought Forte would be as successful as soon as he was in the league. But what we do know is that Forte was the intense focus of this organization the instant they started evaluating prospects for the 2008 draft. That focus never let up and when Forte was there, the Bears didn’t hesitate in grabbing this 1,000-yard rookie rusher.

So what is it exactly that makes Forte so special? He already performs like a 5-year veteran in the league and achieved more in one year than Cedric Benson did in his entire career. No not meaning production, but all around capabilities from running, catching and perhaps most importantly blocking/blitz pick up. Forte’s unique abilities were part of what was high-lighted by the experts on the NFL network.

The first video high-lite came from the Carolina Panthers game, the play was a running play to Forte a simple sliding zone block isolation play. There was no pulling, no traps, just simple one on one blocking with one double team block by Olin Kreutz and Josh Beekman on the nose tackle. The play was designed to go the left with Forte making a read and plowing ahead into the the line where a possible open hole may be. But Forte didn’t do just a simple plow ahead into the line and this is what separates him from Benson. Where Benson may have taken what was directly in front of him, Forte took what the defense gave him. He took his time, patiently read how the defense flowed, found the soft spot in the line which turned into a solid hole to day light, stuck his foot in the ground and instantly accelerated to the second level.

This play high-lites the most important aspect of Forte’s running ability, it’s not his size, it’s not his speed, it’s his VISION to the hole. Waiting and then exploding through the best hole he sees in front of him. While the defense flowed to the blocking scheme, they in turn were caught up in the wash and put in a over pursuing angle.

What made the play happen from a blocking standpoint was the brush or chip block made by Roberto Garza on the left DT. Garza simply drives up the field with his outside right shoulder with the drive block from John Tait, Garza then slides to the second level and eats up the outside LB opening up the gaping hole. Forte who takes the hand off to the left slides back right following the block by Garza and is immediately into the secondary. The play is both well blocked and well read by Forte for a solid gain. Where as Forte could have gone the direction of strength where the O-Line was lined up strong side blocking, he cut it back based on the alignments of the LBs were were shift towards the strong side of the defense.

From there once Forte is in the second level and into the third level he rarely is tackles by the first open field defender. He doesn’t do a Barry Sanders wiggle, but he sets up enough of a juke that the safety can’t tackle his square and typically falls off to the side.

The second play high-lighted by the NFL network experts is how Forte has an excellent sense of timing in setting up a screen play. He makes the lineman think it’s a sure fire passing play and he’s attacking the defensive end for a chip block. Instead he slides behind the defender, sets up the screen blockers and then utilizes those blockers to maximum effectiveness. The play action screen is set up by a nice long drive side by John St Clair that has the DE completely out of position thus opening up the lane for Forte. The play-action motion isn’t what is the most effective aspect of this play because the LBs read it well and drop back into a soft middle zone. But that’s not the intent of this play, the purpose is to make them think deep play action pass get a drive up the field by the DEs, get the LBs into their zone coverage thus letting the O-Lineman be at the second level instantly to take on the ‘backers. While some screen plays may use the play action to get the LBs to cheat up, this play is set up by the deliberately long motion of the QB on a fake hand off.

This play against the Tampa Buccaneers exposes us again to Forte’s greatest strength, not his size, not his speed but his vision to the hole and making that one cut acceleration. Whereas fans all to often focus in on a RBs height and weight, his 40-yard dash time, and college stats. They overlook the important aspect of vision to the hole, making the one cut and accelerating to day light. NFL defenses are superb at filling gaps, maintaining gap discipline to slow down a running game to a mere 3 yards per carry. The special backs see the flow, make their own pre-snap reads on the alignment of the defense and attack the defense accordingly.

The third play high-lighted is Forte split wide like a wide receiver in one on one coverage in the red-zone. Forte wins the one on one battle in front of the defender for the touchdown reception.

Forte’s production will likely grow as the Bears get a better and stronger group of run blockers in front of him. Players like Frank Omiyale who come from a run heavy attack like the Carolina Panthers understand the importance of solid fundamental run blocking and they love to get out and attack a defense with the run.

Same goes for a big massive young RT like Phil Loadholt that the Bears seem to be intensely focused on in much the same way they scouted Matt Forte. A big drive blocker who can swallow up multiple defenders just by his size alone. Driving into a defender allowing the guard to scrape and get to the second level gives Forte 4 more yards of day light.

The intent to do what it takes to make the Bears a more successful offense will start with the offensive line and Matt Forte. Continuing to develop the rushing attack will be even more important in Kyle Orton’s development. The good news is the Bears finally have a RB capable of keeping this offense dangerous and effective.

First Day Impressions of Mini-Camp

March 17, 2009

Reports in from Halas Hall has the Bears pretty excited to be back in camp. Though they only did team drills and seven on seven work today in no pads it’s to have the team focusing in on 2009 at this juncture.

Some of the talk via ESPN 1000 sports radio had bits from Rod Marinelli who is excited to be back out there as a positional coach. This is the area of expertise that Marinelli has and working with the D-Linemen and their technique is stuff you like to hear. Warren Sapp has given a lot of credit to Marinelli for making him the sure fire hall of famer that he is at the DT position. Given Tommie Harris’ level of talent hopefully he can develop him along the same line.

Marinelli talked about how excited he was to be out there and how much he loves football. To him football in general is just a wonderful thing and he looks forward to continuing to work with this group of guys. Having followed Marinelli’s career since his young days at Arizona State there is little doubt in my mind of his enthusiasm and intensity as a coach.

Talk from Marinelli also surrounded how much he loves coaching the D-Lineman. He has a great appreciation for those guys that do battle in the trenches and fight hard week in and week out. To put it simply perhaps no one better understands that the success of the defensive unit as a whole starts with the men up front.

Marinelli has a lot of talent to work with, guys that have had successful careers and guys just cutting their teeth in develop a successful career. Don’t underestimate the type of player DT Marcus Harrison is going to be for this defense. Although he better fits the 3-technique type of player in this scheme, Harrison could see more time with Dusty Dvoracek recovering from his triceps surgery.

Elsewhere on the field today the first reports came in regarding WR Earl Bennett. Bennett caught some balls and worked on some things with Kyle Orton. Not much happened though since it was a little breezy out today. Hester is out there as the self-proclaimed #1 receiver and seems determined to be THE player the Bears need out there. He’ll get every opportunity in mini-camp to prove just that.

Jay Cutler rumors also don’t appear to have effected Kyle Orton’s mentality about being the long term solution at QB. From the NFL Network Orton said “I think I’m going to do everything I can and work as hard as I can and be the guy that stabilizes it (the QB position). I don’ think that say I’m not going to be that guy, I think I am going to be that guy. I think this is my offense and I’m working as hard as I can to show everybody that it’s my job.”

Lovie Smith himself feels confident in Orton as the long term solution given how well he performed the first half of the season. The numbers back up Lovie’s assessment of Orton and given that the Bears will likely bring in a receiver on day one of the draft Orton will have every opportunity to play himself into a long term extension in the final year of his contract. The more weapons surrounding Orton the better off the offense and Orton will be. Orton should only build upon the early success he had in 2008 and will likely have a break out year which causes fans to forget about this Cutler crap.

Elsewhere with the news that John St. Clair is moving on to play with the Cleveland Browns second year man Cody Balough was getting the reps at first team RT. There could be movement on the free agent market to keep an eye on in the coming days with Orlando Pace, Levi Jones, Marvel Smith of three former Pro-Bowlers available in free agency. If the Bears don’t choose the free agent route they could move Frank Omiyale out to RT (he was running 2nd team LG today) or they could draft a solid prospect on day one. For the sake of mini-camp it will be Balough as the “starter”.

When asked if the Bears were still in the market for more offensive lineman Lovie’s answer was more direct in saying “It’s the off-season we keep all our options open.”

Those options could be in free agency or the draft, either way now that St. Clair is in fact gone, the Bears will be upgrading the OT position from last year.

WVU’s Pat White continues to prove he is a QB

March 13, 2009

West Virginia put on it’s pro-day yesterday with some 27 NFL teams in attendance to check out WR/QB prospect Pat White. Problem is White continues to shine as a QB and likely won’t be drafted as a WR. Thus proving his worth as a passer who just happens to be the most mobile of QBs available in the draft.

At the combine NFL scouts requested that White workout as a WR with the WR, White refused by said that by request he would be willing to run through WR drills at his pro-day. Well yesterday was that pro-day and after about 45 passes in his QB workout most of the NFL scouts left and none requested White run through receiver drills. White improved upon or met all of the accomplishments he showed at the combine. White’s stellar combine performance makes it even more likely an NFL team will take a shot at him as a QB.

Said one NFL assistant coach in attendance according to the NFL Network, “that at this point White throws the ball better than Michael Vick did coming out of college.” Vick as you recall was drafted number on overall by the Atlanta Falcons. While yet another scout simply said “Pat White is a quarterback.”

White measure just a hair over 6-foot-1 but ran the fastest time in the 40-yard dash among QBs at the combine. He also threw better than the much more heralded Mark Sanchez. Sanchez also has about half of the game experience that White has leading to a somewhat intriguing question as things move forward towards draft day. Sanchez is pegged as a sure fire first round QB, but could his lack of experience hurt him? Could Sanchez be hurt by a higher draft status and more pressure to come in and succeed right away thus hindering some of his development as a QB?

White could easily be in a better position to succeed because he won’t be looked upon to be a franchise QB on day one. He’ll be handed a clip board and some popcorn and told to watch from the sidelines and get comfy in the film room. Plus has another dimension that Sanchez lacks which also could help him succeed. White’s only pressure continues to be the pressure he puts on himself to prove he is worthy as a quarterback. The great part about self imposed pressure is you work harder to meet those expectations placed upon yourself.

So would the Bears consider a player like White? It remains to be seen what the Bears plan to do as the QB position. Caleb Hannie looked fine in the pre-season for an un-drafted free agent. Kyle Orton shined as the starter for the first seven games before his high ankle sprain hampered his consistency the rest of the way. Brett Basanez is simply a mini-camp/pre-season invitee who won’t have a roster spot. There is spotty veteran QB talent at best available, so what is the harm in looking at someone like Pat White in the later rounds? A Wildcat formation with Hester and White would scare the crap out of any NFL defensive coordinator.

I for one after hearing and seeing what White has done am not opposed to the idea. White was quite efficient and productive in college in a spread option offense. His career numbers are quite good coming out of college. As a starter his completion percentage is well over 65% and he has a career TD to INT number of 56 TDs to 23 INTs. White is impressive as an athlete and is worth a second look by Chicago Bear coaches and scouts.

Alabama OT Andre Smith bombs at Pro-Day

March 12, 2009

So I’m really beginning to question if Andre Smith is the byproduct of Alabama’s successful season more than he is a product of his own play and ability. Smith had his pro-day workout yesterday and completely flopped in the process, sending up even more red flags in the lack of athleticism department as he already has in the character department.

These things we know for sure,

a) He has severe motivation and laziness problems,

b) He decided to put himself ahead of the team heading into the biggest Bowl the Alabama football team has been to in nearly a decade by having illegal contact with an agent.

c)He wasn’t all that in shape at his pro-day

d) His erratic behavior at the combine with honesty about why he wasn’t going to work out and then just up and leaving and not showing up for the combine for the second round of questioning etc also posed a problem.

So what precisely is Andre Smith and just how much of his hype is a product of playing for the University of Alabama and Nick Saban as much as the hype of the kids who come out of USC who don’t pan out to be much of a player in the NFL?

If Smith played at Ball State, UConn or Troy would he be receiving the same level of confidence from scouts that he does by coming out of Alabama? I mean the argument appears to go as such, Smith was one of the best players on one of the best team’s in all of college football so that automatically means he’s going to be a great player to select in the draft.

What’s the most intriguing to me is how Smith has gone from possible top overall pick to possibly being available to draft for the Bears at 18. Followed by questions of what to do if Smith falls there to the Bears at 18. My response is simple and quick, pass on him just like the 17 teams in front of him have passed on him.

Smith did nothing at his Pro-Day to improve his standing, granted we should not completely put to much stock in what he did in T-shirt and underwear, but his questionable work ethic really stymies any glow he has.

Smith’s 40-yard dash time was in the 5.3 range, his broad jump vertical and 19 reps on the bench press weren’t anywhere near being in the top-10 of performers at the combine, and he looked just average in his position drills. Suddenly there’s a little bit more tape watching being done on this kid, suddenly teams are taking better stock of his actual performance on the field and slowly he’s starting to fall.

To top it all off Smith’s size doesn’t really evoke images of a dominating presence anchoring the left side of an O-Line for years to come either. Smith is 6-foot-4 325-pounds, too heavy for his height, especially when you see pics of him and there appears to be a bit of an inner tube around his waist.

My opinion is that the Bears shouldn’t even bother with a kid who doesn’t have dominating size, gifted athleticism, a glowing work ethic or character, or phenomenal strength. When you put it all together, you get an average prospect who plays on one of the most storied programs in the country.

NFL draft prospects: 2nd day OTs

March 10, 2009

Since there is a high likelihood that the top OT prospects in this draft will all be gone before the Bears draft at 18, there is a need to examine who is there to be had after the first rounds. There is a nice group of players who played LT in college who might be better suited for RT in the NFL. They may also be the type of player that needs a couple years of grooming before they’re run out there as starters. John St. Clair resigning would give the Bears the opportunity to groom a mid round prospect to eventually replace him since he is 32.

With this in mind we take a look at some of those prospects who show promise but may not be the type of player you see taken on the first day.

Jamon Meredith 6-foot-5 304-pounds from South Carolina. Meredith was one of the better prospects I noticed at the NFL combine. He was one of the top performers in the 40-yard dash, the bench press and the broad jump. He also performed well in drills showing solid footwork, quickness and technique. Meredith also offers the same level of versatility that the Bears’ scouts crave having played all four line positions but center in college.

It was obvious Meredith came to compete and make himself some money at the combine. He likely did just that and will grab the attention of the Bears’ scouts at his pro-day on March 25th. The Bears have already taken notice of other OT prospects at their pro days, expect Meredith to stand out as well.

William Beatty 6-foot-6 291-pounds from UConn is an intriguing prospect. He’s rated higher than a second day draft pick so he might not be around that late. However his weight seems to be an issue, opposite of what you would usually expect from an O-lineman in that he can’t keep weight on. It likely won’t be a problem for him in the NFL once he gets on the NFL training program and diet.

If the Bears goes WR in round one, Beatty could be had in the middle of round two. He has all the good things you look for but the concern is does he carry enough weight to play RT? For the Bears overlooking this concern may be pretty easy if he needs to be groomed behind St. Clair for a couple years. Beatty’s pro-day also comes on the 25th of March.

Phil LoadholdtOn the flip side of the size and weight concerns is this prospect from Oklahoma. Loadholdt goes 6-foot-8 338-pounds and is working to shed some weight. What I saw at the combine was a player that was determined to lose weight and show up in shape. Loadholdt looked like he was working to control his weight and it helped in his combine performance.

That being said Loadholdt is a lot more big than he is athletic or agile or quick. He didn’t show a lot of flexibility or quickness and look pretty stiff going through the drills. I won’t say the combine necessarily hurt his stock, but it did reaffirm a lot of the concerns scouts had prior to the combine. If the Bears draft him he essentially is a RT only type of prospect who doesn’t offer the desired level of versatility the front office likes. Beyond that it was reported that Loadholdt was one of a few of the prospects the Bears’ staff interviewed at the combine.

Robert Brewster from Ball State is another kid that is intriguing to the Bears. He’s 6-foot-4 325-pounds which would hold up well in the NFL manning the RT side. Brewster had a solid combine performance and scouts out well according to almost all of his evaluations. He’s not the perfect prospect but his value is solid for a second day type pick. The Patriots feel strong enough that Brewster is going to be working out at the Patriots’ team facility in the upcoming days.

Other prospects of interest: Fenuki Tupou, Troy Kopog, Gerald Cadogan, Jason Watkins, Xavier Fulton

Updated: The Bears checked out Phil Loadholdt in person today at Oklahoma’s pro-day in Norman. The Sun Times has this report on it and it represents more proof in how interested in Loadholdt the Bears are.

Chicago Bears more focused on draft than free agency

March 9, 2009

Much to the chagrin of Bears fans, it appears the franchise will not be making anymore moves in free agency. Money is being allocated on the teams’ own free agents and the likelihood the Bears pursue a Terrell Owens or Marvin Harrison or Torry Holt appears to be slim and none.

What we do know though is the Bears have gaping holes at multiple positions on this team and they will likely live and die with who is on this team. If the Bears do address it through free agency the one advantage they have is the longer specific players stay on the market, the lower their price will automatically fall.

So what’s a Bears fan to look forward to? College Pro Days and lots of bickering by Mel Kiper Jr and Todd McShay. They fight like your average message board poster who have a disagreement and you’d like to see them get involved in a celebrity boxing match.

Making an attempt to stick up for Jerry Angelo is not very easy on the stomach. It really hurts to try and defend the lack of effort Angelo has made in signing any free agents. Trying to find the logic in his methods is very hard to.

For the sake of argument let’s try and put a method to Angelo’s madness by pointing out a few things:

The Bears have in the past have spent quite a bit of money on free agents. Usually money goes as a reward to players who have performed at a high level for the franchise.

The Bears have always been a family owned franchise with the main source of income being the revenue generated by the team. To take money and spend it hurts the family income especially in these trying economic times.

As mentioned by numerous media outlets in the Chicago area the free agency pool was a puddle at best. Sure there were a few big name free agents, but not any that you’d particularly want to get in a biddindg war over, or mortgage the future of your salary cap on. Sure 2010 looks like it would be an uncapped year, but one year uncapped isn’t going to simply be a way to buy this franchise a championship no matter how bad the fans want it.

Super Bowl championships have never been bought through major free agency moves. They’re always built through the draft and focusing primarily on the draft is head and shoulders more important to the Bears than free agency. Whether the fans like it or not this team needs to build around Matt Forte rather than Brian Urlacher. If the Bears are fortunate enough to win a championship during Urlacher’s final few years great. But the focus should be building a competitor around the strong youth. Kyle Orton is only in heading into his fifth year, Devin Hester his fourth year and so on down the line.

The Jets were the most recent team to try and buy their way into the playoffs and possible Super Bowl championship by spending an exorbitant amount of money in free agency in 2008 on Alan Faneca (most Bears fans wanted to sign him) trading for Brett Favre (the idea of landing Favre was tossed around heavily as well) and LB Calvin Pace. Pace was good for 7 sacks and $22-million in guaranteed money, Favre 22 TDs and 22 INTs (a far cry from his one last major hurrah season in Green Bay) Faneca got his big contract but is also 32-years old and a 12-year vet easily on the downside of his career.

Then cycle through the Washington Redskins’ putrid attempts to buy themselves a championship with spend anything at all costs, resurrect Joe Gibbs from the coaching retirement graveyard owner Daniel Snyder. Add in any owner that’s signed Team Obliterator (Terrell Owens) to try and turn in an instant championship and you can easily see the reasons why spending out of your minds and irresponsibly is not a sure fire recipe for success.

So the question is what should the Bears do?