Archive for May, 2011

Potential Undrafted Free Agent Fits for the Chicago Bears

Cb Kendric Burney; LB Mario Harvey; WR Terrence Toliver; C Jake Kirkpatrick

One of the interesting side-effects of the lockout is that teams can not have contact with players that they did not select in the draft. Hence, there was no rush to sign the top undrafted free agents as there usually is. Some teams, like the Packers, traded down in the draft to acquire multiple 7th-round picks to , in a sense, get a leg up on signing players they had targeted as UFAs. The list is actually pretty decent, and there are some guys who could potentially come in and fill needs for the Bears. Here are a list of the players that would be good fits for the Bears, based on need and scheme (Click on the name for a video/scouting report):

1. Kendric Burney, CB, North Carolina: He went undrafted due to his lack of size (5-9; 190 lbs) and mediocre showing at the combine (4.69-40 yard; 30-inch vertical). But his toughness and penchant for big plays make him almost a perfect fit for the cover-2 scheme the Bears run—he is a willing and capable tackler, and has good ball instincts. The problem here might be the Bears getting a chance at him, as Burney will probably have more than a few suitors looking to make him an immediate special teams player.
Featured Video versus Pittsburgh’s Jonathan Baldwin (1st-Rd pick of the Chiefs)
Big hit on Rutgers’ Tiquan Underwood (now on the Jaguars)
Interception and runback versus Miami (3rd INT of the game)
Devon Torrence (Ohio State): Another guy who is limited in man coverage; but could be a good fit in our cover-2 scheme. has good size at 6-0; 200.

2. Mario Harvey, LB, Marshall: Its hard to figure out why this guy went undrafted; he has the ability to play inside or outside, as well as on special teams. He is a little short, I guess, at 5-11; but has good size at 250 pounds and ran a 4.46 40-yard at the Marshall Pro Day. He didn’t seem out of place when they played big teams with NFL-level talent, like Ohio State. He plays with a high motor and intensity. Harvey would be an immediate impact special teamer from Day One, and could end up being a pretty good NFL linebacker.
Harvey’s 2010 Highlights
Harvey’s 2009 Highlights
Harvey playing against Ohio State as a senior
Adrian Moten (Maryland): From the same mold speed and intensity-wise as Harvey; but a bit undersized at 230 pounds.

3. Jake Kirkpatrick, C, TCU: The most Pro-ready of the Centers available on the UFA market; the Bears need to start thinking of a contingency plan, long-term for Olin Kreutz. PLayed in a spread-type offense in college, so has experience pass-blocking; and is adept at blocking in the open field on screens and getting to the second level. A little light in the feet, so he can get pushed around some. But he would not be a bad pickup, and can benefit from learning from one of the best for at least next season.
Kirkpatrick versus Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl
Colin Baxter (Arizona): A good prospect like Kirkpatrick, but had injury issues toward the end of his college career.
Tim Barnes (Missouri): A good, durable player; but more limited athletically than Kirkpatrick or Baxter. Also has injury issues.

4. Terrence Toliver, WR, LSU: Has the size (6-4, 210) that the Bears are missing at the WR position; plays at his best in the red zone, and showed up last year against top-flight competition, like Alabama and Florida. Had a bad Pro Day because of a pulled hamstring; running a 4.6-40 and a 33″ vertical. But he catches everything thrown his way, and competes on every down.
Toliver against Florida
Toliver in the end zone against Texas A&M
Lester Jean (Florida Atlantic): Good size, and played in a pro-style offense at FAU. In need of some coaching on how to beat press coverage and run routes; but has some tools.
Armon Binns (Cincinnati): Would have been a mid-round pick had he come out last year; but with no quarterback Tony Pike and Head Coach Brian Kelly, really fell off of the map in 2010. Binns is a big (6-3, 210) target with an ability to get deep; but lacks consistent hands.


An Early Look at the 2012 Depth Chart – Defense

Part 1 Of this post covered the projected depth chart on the offensive side of the ball, as the roster stands presently; now we will look at the defensive side of the ball. Again, keep in mind that some holes can still be filled via Free Agency, once the lockout is lifted.
Defensive End –
1) Julius Peppers
2) Israel Idonije

3) Corey Wootton
4) Nick Reed
Peppers was exactly what the Bears’ defense needed last season; being that guy on the defensive line that the other team has to account for on every play. He made game-changing plays in the 1st Detroit game and the Eagles game; and finished the season with 8 sacks, despite getting held on nearly every single play. Idonije had a great season in his first year moving from tackle to end; racking up 8 sacks. I still believe that if the Bears had seen a defensive end they really wanted in the first round; they would have no problem moving Izzy back to the 3-technique tackle. But since we drafted a DT, Izzy will stay at end. Wootton came on strong at the end of the season, and should be the top backup at both end spots. Nick Reed was claimed from the Seahawks, and could be an interesting addition as a backup end. Here is some video of Reed going against the Chargers’ Marcus McNeill. He shows good quickness in getting into the backfield.

Defensive Tackle –
1) Matt Toeaina
2) Henry Melton

3) Stephen Paea
4) Marcus Harrison
5) Tank Tyler
Anthony Adams is a Free Agent, and may or may not be re-signed. Matt Toeaina had an okay season sharing starting duties with Tommie Harris; but is more of a hustle guy and better suited to be a 3rd DT in a rotation. Reports have Melton as bulking up to 290 pounds to switch to the 3-technique DT, and if he can maintain his quickness at that weight, could be a stud. Stephen Paea was drafted to line up on the nose at the other tackle. If the knee injury suffered this post-season is not serious, then he might start from Day one. Some experts had Paea as the 3rd-rated DT in the draft; behind Dareus and Fairley. Its hard to tell what to make of Marcus Harrison. His time may be up here. Tank Tyler is a one-time 3rd-round draft pick of the Cheifs, and has also spent time with the Panthers. Here are some highlights that include Tyler in college. He has some tools; but looks now to be fighting for a roster spot with Harrison.

Linebackers –
WLB) Lance Briggs
MLB) Brian Urlacher
SLB) J.T. Thomas

LB) Patrick Trahan
LB) Chris Johnson
This is a position that could change quite a bit in the next 2-3 months. As of now, the only LBs under contract for 2011-2012 are Briggs, Urlacher, Thomas, and 2 unknowns—Patrick Trahan and Chris Johnson. Nick Roach, Pisa Tinoisamoa, Brian Iwuh and Rod Wilson are all free agents, and Hunter Hillenmeyer was let go. I wouldn’t be surprised if 2 of those 4 are re-signed; if I had to guess, I would say Roach and Iwuh, because of their value on special teams. I scoured the internet for information on Trahan and Johnson; all I could find was some obscure scouting reports. So not real sure what to make of this position.

Cornerbacks –
1) Charles Tillman
2) Tim Jennings

3) DJ Moore
4) Zack Bowman
5) Josh Moore
6) KJ Gerard
Corey Graham is the only CB on the roster who us a free agent; and he really did not spend much time on the field other than on special teams. I could see the Bears re-signing him, if he does not get the interest from other teams that he obviously anticipates he will get. Zack Bowman lost his starting job for good in Week 2 versus the Cowboys to Tim Jennings. Jennings is good, but he is smallish and can get abused if he has to start for 16 games. DJ Moore had a solid year as the nickleback, but also is probably too small to start full-time. Josh Moore spent the season on the inactive list for almost all of the games, as he tries to get stronger; but he did impress me with his closing speed and footwork last preseason. Charles Tillman stayed healthy for the first time in a long time, and had maybe the best season of his career. KJ Gerard spent the entire season on our practice squad. He has good size (6-1, 192) and speed (4.49-40), but other than that, there is not enough information on the web about him to consider him anything more than a training camp body. Overall, I feel like we can get by with this group; but I wouldn’t be terribly upset if we upgraded during Free Agency. I cannot see the Bears shelling out the money for All-Pro CB Nnamdi Asumoguha; but I could see us making a run at Carlos Rogers of the Redskins or Jonathan Joseph of the Bengals, should they be allowed to test Free Agency.

Safety –
1) Chris Harris
2) Major Wright

3) Chris Conte
4) Craig Steltz
Chris Harris played well in his return to the Bears, making big plays and solidifying the back half of our defense. Danieal Manning had his best season as a Bear, but he is a free agent after rejecting the Bears’ extension. Major Wright was hurt most of the season, and looked quite lost when he was in there; hopefully a full offseason will help him in 2012. Chris Conte was drafted to be the long-term answer at Free Safety. He has the range that the other 3 safeties on our roster all lack; how he holds up against the physical, greuling nature of the safety position in the NFL after spending just one year there in college remains to be seen. Craig Steltz can not seem to get any playing time other than on special teams. I think the Bears feel much better about the safety position than most experts or fans do at this point. It might not be a bad idea to go after a free agent, like Michael Huff or OJ Atogwe, once Free Agency begins.

Punter –
1) Richmond McGee

Brad Maynard is a free agent, after having his worst year statistically as a punter. It would not surprise me if the Bears re-signed him for insurance; it would not surprise me if the Bears just go with McGee.

Another By-Product of the Lockout…

Report: NFL teams tampering with undrafted free agents
PUBLISHED Sunday, May 8, 2011 at 3:17 pm EDT
LAST UPDATED 19 hours and 49 minutes ago
Staff report Sporting News

NFL teams are not allowed contact of any kind with players during the lockout, but a report in Pro Football Weekly could place several teams at risk for tampering violations if true.

Six unnamed NFL agents, according to PFW, said they had been approached by teams interested in undrafted free agents who were among their clients.
Six unnamed NFL agents, according to Pro Football Weekly, said they had been approached by teams interested in undrafted free agents who were among their clients. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello (pictured) said such inquiries are not permitted under current lockout conditions. (AP Photo)

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said such inquiries are not permitted under current lockout conditions.

The issue of tampering arose earlier this week when Tim Barnes, an undrafted center from Missouri, told the Columbia Tribune that he’d heard from the Bengals, Ravens and Dolphins following the draft.

Three agents told PFW they were contacted by personal cell phones from representatives of NFL teams, while two other agents claim teams called players directly.

“It was almost like a normal year in terms of contact, a little less (phone contact) than normal maybe, only without the signed contracts at the end,” one of the agents was quoted as saying.

Bengals spokesman Jack Brennan said he was “puzzled by the report” and unaware of any official contact with Barnes after the draft.

“We would look into it if we had specific information,” Aiello told PFW.

Potential penalties for tampering include fines and the loss of future draft picks.

Read more: http://aol.sportingnews.com/nfl/story/2011-05-08/report-nfl-teams-tampering-with-undrafted-free-agents#ixzz1LtMGSpos

An Early Look at the 2012 Depth Chart – Offense

There is a great deal of uncertainty throughout the NFL right now, and this is especially true for the Bears, who face big decisions regarding some players who played substantial roles in last year’s NFC North Division Championship season. DT Tommie Harris has already been shown the door, and starting SS Danieal Manning; SLBs Pisa Tinoisamoa and Nick Roach, and LT Frank Omiyale will probably be or have to be replaced. We are also facing the free agency of 4-phase special teams standouts like Garrett Wolfe, Corey Graham, and Rashied Davis. The draft did fill a few bigger needs, but there are still a great deal of empty holes that have to be addressed. Problem is, with the lockout hanging over our heads, we have not been able to do anything in Free Agency; and we are prohibited from talking to undrafted free agents until the lockout is lifted. So here is a look at the team, as it stands presently. First, we will look at the positions that seem pretty settled:

1) Jay Cutler;

2) Caleb Hanie;
3) Nathan Enderle
Caleb Hanie is a RESTRICTED free agent; so the Bears have the right to and should retain him. Keep an eye on Enderle, however; from everything coming out of Bears administration, he is expected to give Hanie a run at the backup job. One thing is for certain—-Cutler will be the starter in 2012.

Running Back –
1) Matt Forte;

2) Chester Taylor;
3) Harvey Unga
Garrett Wolfe and Kahilil Bell will probably not be back, as the Bears are really anxious to see what Unga (who they took in the 2011 Supplemental Draft and promptly put on IR for the season) can do. Unga should immediately be the Bears’ short-yardage back; and he has surprisingly good hands for a big guy. The question is whether he can fill some of the void let by Wolfe’s departure on special teams. Forte will be the starter, and if the Bears cannot sign him to an extension by the beginning of the year, may be primed for a HUGE season, as he seeks his big money, long-term deal.

Wide Receiver –
1) Johnny Knox;
2) Earl Bennett;
3) Devin Hester;

4) Andy Fantuz;
5) Onrea Jones
This is a position that many expected the Bears to address in the draft; but the Bears chose to fill other positions of need. As a group, they will win the speed matchup with almost any secondary in the league; on the downside, they lack the ability to fight through jams and make big catches over the middle. It will be intriguing to watch Fantuz in camp (provided there is one), as he possesses the traits of a big possession receiver—which the Bears lack. If the lockout ends soon and Free Agency begins, I would be fairly surprised if the Bears do not go after Sidney Rice (Vikings), Vincent Jackson (Chargers), or Mike Sims-Walker (Jaguars).

Tight Ends-
1) Greg Olsen
2) Brendan Manumaleuna

3) Kellen Davis
Manumaleuna is on the team simply for his blocking abilities; and I expect Olsen and Davis to be utilized more this season than last. Desmond Clark will not be back.

Offensive Line –
LT) Gabe Carimi
LG) Chris Williams
C) Olin Kreutz
RG) Roberto Garza
RT) J’Marcus Webb

T) Kevin Shaffer
G) Lance Louis
G) Herman Johnson
C) Edwin Williams
From all appearances, the Bears look like they fully intend to start the rookie Carimi from Day One at Left Tackle. He will definitely bring more size and tenacity to the table than last year’s starter Omiyale—how he handles the speed rushes of Jared Allen, Clay Matthews, and Kyle VandenBosch remains to be seen. Chris Williams settled in a Left Guard, as did Webb at Right Tackle—and both should start at those same spots this season. Kreutz should be re-signed after the lockout is lifted; and there might not be two better blockers out in space on screen passes than him and Garza, who should start at Right Guard. I fully expect either Omiyale or Shaffer to be released; and while Omiyale does offer a bit more versatility; cutting him would offer a great deal more cap relief. It will be interesting to watch what plans the Bears have in store for Johnson; and Louis and Williams (who I anticipate will be re-signed) provide good depth and some starting experience. Overall, this is a group that got alot better as the season went on, and should be even better this season, with the addition of Carimi and another year under the coaching of Mike Tice.

Kicker –
1) Robbie Gould

Gould, the most accurate kicker in Bears’ history, had a subpar year by his standards; but I would expect him to bounce back nicely and he should really benefit from the moving up of kickoffs to the 35-yard line.