Figure Bears mostly to address defensive concerns in NFL draft
By Brad Biggs/Chicago Tribune (MCT)
April 25, 2012 at 4:25 a.m.
There is no history of Phil Emery as a general manager as a guide to determine what path he will choose for the Bears in the NFL draft that begins Thursday night.
But plenty of signs point to Emery focusing on defense in the next stage of roster building as he works to put the team in position to win immediately. Here are seven reasons why:
1. Follow the money: The Bears have re-signed or added 15 players since free agency opened and the bulk of investments have been on offense.
The club has $28.1 million committed to wide receiver Brandon Marshall over the next three seasons. Running back Michael Bush signed for $14 million over four years. Reserve quarterback Jason Campbell will make $3.5 million. It's time to invest in defense.
2. Defensive line has holes: The busy offseason has created flexibility for the Bears but the club still has gaps on the defensive line.
One of the first moves in free agency was an effort to sign end Jeremy Mincey but he chose to return to the Jaguars. Even with Israel Idonije back in the mix the Bears have a need for a third defensive end.
In the 28 regular-season games since Mark Anderson was released, the third end has produced only two sacks. Plus, the Bears have lost two tackles _ Anthony Adams and Amobi Okoye _ without replacing them.
3. Trust in Tice: Veteran guard Chilo Rachal has been added and the Bears have faith that with Mike Tice now running the offense he can lead marked improvement for the line.
Gabe Carimi and Chris Williams, both first-round picks, are returning from injuries and there aren't personnel holes like there are on the defensive front. There's also a full offseason that allows time to work with young players.
4. Help added: Even with the addition of Marshall you could make a case the team needs another playmaker for Jay Cutler. But three wide receivers have been added, including Devin Thomas and Eric Weems, enough to help withstand the potential loss of Johnny Knox for the season.
Still, in a draft deep with big wideouts, one of those in the middle rounds would make sense.
5. Talent aplenty: Emery said the strength of the draft is at defensive end, defensive tackle and wide receiver. Consider the Bears fortunate those are the team's areas of need. It increases chances a player who fits their plans will be available at No. 19.
6. Youth must be served: All of the core players on defense are in the 30-plus club. Committing to that side of the ball should add a player who can have an impact as a rookie and be a building block for the future. It's not about replacing the players in place as much as it is adding to the group.
7. Lovie Smith speaks: The coach always is going to have input in the process and the belief here is Smith has been in Emery's ear about defensive players for the last few months. Smith knows what holes need to be plugged and where help is needed.
So, what position will the Bears target? Obviously, that depends greatly on what happens in the 18 picks before theirs.
It probably doesn't make sense to invest a pick that high on a linebacker because he would play about half the time, at most. Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs are not going to come off the field in the sub package and the Bears used their nickel group about 53 percent of the time last season.
A young cornerback would be a nice addition even though the team has signed three, bringing Tim Jennings back and adding Kelvin Hayden and Jonathan Wilhite. Some talented corners like Stephen Gilmore and Dre Kirkpatrick could be available. But teams using a base Cover-2 defense typically don't use top picks on cornerbacks or sign them to huge contracts.
Alabama safety Mark Barron likely will be off the board before the Bears are on the clock.
That leads us back to the defensive line, where the Bears could have a handful of pass-rushing options to consider, including Illinois' Whitney Mercilus, South Carolina's Melvin Ingram, Boise State's Shea McClellin, Alabama's Courtney Upshaw, North Carolina's Quinton Coples and Syracuse's Chandler Jones.
(c)2012 the Chicago Tribune
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