Bears NFL Scouting Combine Primer: Surrounding Mitchell Trubisky With Help
It's funny how an NFL season can change perspectives.
When the Chicago Bears went into last year's NFL combine after a 12-4 record and division title, they looked strong enough so they really could avoid focusing too much on any one position.
This year after falling to 8-8, the Bears come into the combine needing help everywhere so they really can avoid focusing too much on any one position.
Bears general manager Ryan Pace doesn't perceive his team's quarterback position as the exercise in futility others see, largely because of his undying faith in Mitchell Trubisky. Coach Matt Nagy retooled the offensive braintrust with new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and new quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo. The idea is to surround Trubisky with every possible advantage from better talent to better coaching with hopes of returning to the playoffs, while possibly helping preserve Pace's job.
2019 Review: Double Doink to Downer
When the 2018 season ended on Cody Parkey's double-doink field goal miss, the Bears still came away with great optimism for 2019 because they had a young team, a dominant defense and Trubisky seemed to be catching on after leading them into position for the playoff win before a fateful finish.
Trubisky's struggles in 2019 resulted in a passer rating drop from 95.4 to 83.0 and he continued having trouble getting the ball downfield. The running game spun its wheels behind a underachieving offensive line which lost Long, its best blocker, to injury and retirement. Injuries hit the receiver corps and badly crippled the defense. Akiem Hicks' elbow injury led to a diminished run defense and pass rush, less pass-rush heat led to more gambling and it all exposed the secondary.
In an 8-8 season, the Bears learned there are limits even to what Khalil Mack's dominant pass rush can do for them.
It left the Bears badly in need of retooling, and the tight end position is one place to start after injuries ended the seasons early for Trey Burton, Adam Shaheen and Ben Braunecker, their top three players at the position.
2020 Draft Position
With no first-round pick for the second straight year due to the trade for Mack, the Bears do have an extra second-rounder resulting from that deal.
The Bears have the 43rd and 50th picks in Round 2, their third-round pick was traded in the Mack deal, they'll likely have a compensatory pick at the end of Round 4 because they lost safety Adrian Amos last year, they have two fifth-round picks, two sixth-round picks and a seventh-rounder.
Based on Pace's draft past, moving down or up is a real possibility. Normally it would be a no-brainer to anticipate he'd trade down in Round 2 with one of the picks to pick up a third-rounder and one additional pick. However, that may not be the case this year because they had to go without first- or second-round picks last year due to trades, and could feel the need to replenish the talent supply with more higher level players.
Help Wanted, Help Needed
The real need here is to find speed on both sides of the ball after losing wide receiver Taylor Gabriel and cornerback Prince Amukamara to salary cap cuts. The two were the fastest players on the team. The Bears need a burner at receiver to stretch the field, as well as a young starting cornerback. The tight end situation is depserate because both the U-tight end and Y-tight end spots are critical within Nagy's offensive structure. The Bears can't be certain Burton has healed from an other surgery, this to his hip. And Y-tight end Adam Shaheen faces a contract year after failing to achieve much his first three seasons. The offensive line was locked up last year with contracts and then underwhelmed with a poor performance, and the need exists for another guard as well as a tackle in the draft. The Bears have several open spots in the lineup currently due to free agency which must be filled, including one inside linebacker spot. Danny Trevathan and Nick Kwiatkoski are both free agents. Their fourth and fifth defensive linemen are free agents. So thinking about a quarterback at some point in this draft might be advisable but it's hardly essential.
The decision they face in Round 2 could be whether to go for speed at receiver and tight end or to focus on building up their offensive line and the running game.
Five Players to Watch
1. TCU Wide Receiver Trevor Reagor. He's an ideal Z-wide receiver, because he not only can flat out haul but also can go vertical despite being 5-foot-10.
2. Purdue tight end Brycen Hopkins. The son of former NFL tackle Brad Hopkins from University of Illinois, he is a player the team met with already.
3. Houston tackle Josh Jones. He was unheralded before the Senior Bowl and likely available in Round 2, but now every mock draft puts him out of the Bears' reach in Round 1. Will that reallybe the case or will his combine performance cause a slide?
4. Utah State quarterback Jordan Love. He is a player who could be of interest with his experience in an RPO offense like the Bears run. Interest in him seems to have increased and it's possible he would be taken in the first round, but if he dropped to Round 2 the Bears might face a tough decision.
5. Dayton tight end Adam Trautman. The Bears spoke with him at the Senior Bowl, where he excelled. He has played mostly against non-scholarship athletes but has the size and speed to be a George Kittle type. The problem is, after Shaheen has flopped coming out of Division II can Pace really risk a second-round pick on an unproven tight end?
Who Makes the Call?
The one thing the Bears can say is on their side on draft day is general manager and coach being on the same page. Nagy and Pace are tight and tight-lipped when it comes to personnel decisions even though Pace has the final call.
For all the criticism Pace receivers over the decision to move up and trade for Trubisky and his first-round pick of Kevin White in 2015, he has had numerous smashing successes after Round 1 like safety Eddie Jackson, running back Tarik Cohen, nose tackle Eddie Goldman and center Cody Whitehair