It’s a belated Christmas for every Bears new coach and even some of the old ones on the defensive side of the football. When a team is 5-11 and suffers 4 straight double-digit loss seasons resulting in last place division finishes fresh blood being pumped into a losing roster is academic. There will be new faces to tutor both drafted players out of college along with veteran free agents and college free agents. Maybe even some street free agents and free agents coming from other leagues like the Canadian Football League as is the case with freshly signed Bears cornerback Jonathon Mincy.
In actuality, a new coach on a new team comes into a situation where every player they coach is, in essence, a new toy to tinker with. So Mitch Trubisky is a new toy for Mark Helfrich. Kevin White a challenging project for Mike Furrey. Adam Shaheen a can of playdoh for Kevin Gilbride to mold. However, where’s the fun in that? Let’s talk about all these new guys the Bears can bring in here for these guys to play with.
Head Coach – Matt Nagy: Vic Fangio – Defensive Coordinator
Yes, that’s right, I gave him Fangio for his new toy. Fangio kind of qualifies as he is a new signing by him although he was here for the last 3 seasons. Two things that might confuse people about this is that it’s a Coach and not a player and a Defensive Coach at that. My reasoning behind this is what Nagy talked about in his presser as well as Mark Helfrich. Both expressed excitement about possibly bouncing off ideas regarding their offensive concepts and hopefully get his expertise in how he and other Defensive Coordinators would defense some of their plays. This way they can design better options off of those plays that can offset whatever the defense may counter. For those that think Fangio may not be receptive to it, he was asked that question by ex-Bears Quarterback and NFL sirius radio’s talk show host Jim Miller on Bears all access radio show on 670 the score a couple weeks ago in reference to Helfrich’s comments about having access to Fangio. His answer was that anyone would be welcome inside his office anytime as they’re all on the same team with the same goals. Fangio’s role in the Bears new offense might be as valuable and influential as any of the Bears offensive staff members.
Offensive Coordinator – Mark Helfrich: Wide Receiver – Sammy Watkins
Just to be clear these aren’t predictions. More like a wish list for these coaches. In this case, Watkins is, in my opinion, the most versatile and talented receiver in this free agent class. So he should be the number one wish for an offensive Coordinator who would prefer a vet more than anything else. What better vet than the most talented one available.
There is nothing on the football field Watkins can’t do. He can play at any position and run any route with success. He’s fast, quick and strong and has a very cerebral game about him. He is a very polished route runner and has a good pair of mitts on him. He’s fearless running in-breaking routes and a terror streaking up the sidelines on the perimeter. And if you feel like it you can just sling up a 50/50 ball and he will outmuscle and out time most any cornerback jumping for the ball in the NFL and come down with it.
Now he does have to be on the field to do this and he has had issues with availability and playing at 100%. So far, in his short career, he’s had broken ribs, offseason hip surgery, Glute, hamstring and calf injuries, and two offseason foot surgeries which is probably the biggest concern. However, for an Offensive Coordinator, a weapon like Watkins opens up a lot of things. Whether as a first option on a pass route, as a decoy to open things up for others, or running a go route to clear the box by forcing teams to blanket cover over the top with a safety this is the kind of all-purpose coverage dictator you want on your side.
Offensive line Coach – Harry Heistand: Offensive Tackle – Kolton Miller
I don’t think most people would argue the Bears could use an upgrade at Offensive tackle. I know when mentioning this fact most people for some reason tend to go with Left tackle assuming Charles Leno is the lines biggest weakness. Well, the Bears sure don’t feel that way. Leno has taken every snap on the Quarterbacks blind side since being inserted as the teams starting Left Tackle. No, it’s the Bears Right Tackle position that is most likely going to get an upgrade in spite of the most recent Bleacher Report ranking that had Bobbie Massie as the 14th best Tackle in the NFL. Not sure how the author of that piece came to that conclusion but credibility is instantly gone for that assertion. The Bears already tried to upgrade there with the attempted signing of Ricky Wagner last off season but lost out to the Lions in the bidding for his services. What better gift to give Heistand than a very large, very angry long-armed Right Tackle to hone into his new starting Right Tackle.
Miller is very big at 6’8″ and 310 with very long arms. He also has himself a mean streak who will block until the echo of the whistle. He has Left Tackle feet as he was responsible for blocking Josh Rosen’s blind side with UCLA and did an excellent job at it. According to Pro Football Focus he allowed just 15 pressures broken down in 2 sacks, 8 hits, and 5 hurries in 544 pass blocking snaps. their 10th best-blocking efficiency ranking amongst 121 qualifying Offensive Tackles. For those that don’t look at PFF as the pro football bible, I am with you on that. However, even if these stats aren’t as precise as you’d like them to be he was still very visible on tape.
His pass blocking ability will get him drafted high. How high is the question. Some have him as a sure-fire first others have him in the 2nd. He also has the athleticism to ruin run defenses at the first and second level and you can do some pretty clever things with pulls and traps as well. His height may hurt him on leverage so it will be essential he learn proper pad level and timing of his punch to make use of his long arms, but he has the very best in the business in Heistand to get it done.
Running Backs Coach – Charles London: Running Back – Justin Jackson
Jackson being a nearby college product was undoubtedly heavily scouted by Pace and the Bears scouts. Being in the big 10 you know Northwestern’s opponents also drew scouts to have a look at their players too giving him even more exposure. So you know he will be on their board late in the draft. He could very well be there in the 6th and 7th and maybe even undrafted. Jackson would bring enormous value and be a pretty special talent for London to mentor along.
Jackson brings a lot of juice. very elusive and very fast. He can hit the home run anytime from anywhere on the field, and could be a threat out of the backfield as a pass catcher and maybe as a returner. The Bears do have Tarik Cohen but at his size, you do not want to run him too much. Especially if they continue to use him as a punt returner. Think Cohen could be a lot more valuable as a receiver than as a running back. Jackson could help split the carries with Cohen while the Bears feed the ball to Jordan Howard 18-22 times a game and keep them fresh.
Wide Receiver Coach – Mike Furrey: Wide Receiver – James Washington
Washington came into the Senior Bowl this past January the week before the Superbowl with a lot of questions regarding his route tree knowledge and route running ability. He left with answers to all of those questions and the answer was it won’t be an issue at the next level. He did measure in shorter and lighter than his team listed him in at. So that will likely drop him and give the Bears a shot at him in the second round. Word has it that he was uncoverable in practices and making fools of the Cornerbacks who dared try covering him all week long. He was Mason Rudolph’s top deep threat at Oklahoma State and was a highlight reel machine with deep passes being connected on at a high rate.
Furrey figures to love having an explosive young rookie to bring along. Especially one that can stretch the field like he can. It would be quite the feather in the cap of a coach trying to make a name for himself in this league as a newcomer on the scene. Given Mitch Trubisky’s deep ball accuracy, touch and timing along with Washington’s speed and ball tracking ability it’s a pretty good bet that they can be a combo that makes a big splash right off the bat. A match made in pigskin Heaven. If Furrey can refine Washington’s route running and his cerebral game this could be a roaring success for both teacher and pupil and give the Bears the big play threat they desperately have been looking for.
Tight Ends Coach – Kevin Gilbride Jr. Tight End – Jordan Akins
The first thing that stands out when reading Central Florida’s Akins bio is his age. He is 25 years old and will be 26 when he laces up the spikes this fall. However, if you can look past that and look at what you can have here this could be an excellent late value pick. Gilbride should have a field day developing Akins and Adam Shaheen. Akins is your prototypical move Tight End. Just top-notch athleticism. Lots of speed and wiggle to him. like a Split End running routes out there. His age has to do with the fact he tried to be a baseball player after getting drafted by the Texas Rangers.spent one year too many with that putmrsuit.
Akins had a very good Senior Bowl week by all reports so he passed the first phase of the draft offseason. Being a former outfielder he has excellent ball tracking skills. He also has the speed to win at the third level on go routes too. He’s also excellent as a runner and will get his fair share of YAC plays. Gilbride will have the challenge of schooling him on route concepts and work on his blocking, but this kid would make a very interesting project for Gilbride. Could be another explosive weapon for Trubisky to throw to.
Quarterbacks Coach – Dave Ragone: Quarterback – Nic Shimonek
Texas Tech’s Shimonek has all the tools you want in a QB. Seems to be very competitive as well. Has a big arm, good athleticism and nice accuracy especially on the run. Will go through his progressions without panicking and pulling it down. Stands in the pocket with poise and fearlessness. Looks for the big play downfield first and check-downs late in his reads as most good quarterbacks do. Scrambles more to extend plays rather than get run yardage.
Ragone’s task will be to get Shimonek to be better at reading zone coverages and working on his eye manipulation. He had a tendency to stare down guys once he locked on and might want to learn the skill of manipulating safeties with his eyes. Ball placement could stand to be better. His release could stand to be a tad quicker. These are all things that can be improved with coaching. Shimonek does have great size and talent. He could be a great value pick late or even as an Undrafted Free Agent.
Defensive Coordinator – Vic Fangio: Cornerback – Trumaine Johnson
What better present for Fangio than the best press man corner available. On the surface his stats have taken a hit. Part of it due to his chances being minimized because they don’t throw it his way very much anymore. Still, he managed to get 65 tackles, 14 passes defensed and had two picks one of which he took to the house. But underneath the stats he was even more impressive. Where he excelled in was press/man. Bleacher reports Ian Wharton who does a great job with these types of stats had Johnson as the best Cornerback against press and the numbers prove it out.
A little sneak peak of the Rams’ section of my coverage book. Trumaine Johnson finished #1 in press-man effectiveness with an 84% “in position” rate. He allowed just 43 yards all season in press.
As you can see he’s not bad in any other coverage scheme either. Ranked 15th overall and 23rd in off man. Of course, you have to take it all with a grain of salt as Johnson hardly got any chances at all. Only 46 total targets overall all season long. That’s an average of just under 3 targets a game (2.875). Johnson is a physical corner that will beat up your best Wide Receiver all game long and come in and support the run with pleasure. For the most part, he shuts down one side of the field. If the Bears want to truly vault themselves into the top 5 defenses in the NFL having two Dawgs at corner will certainly help do that. He’ll cost you, but as Pace showed last offseason when he was heavily in pursuit of Stephen Gilmore and then #2 choice AJ Bouye when that failed. The Bears clearly íhave no issue ponying up to strengthen one of the primary impact positions in football. I expect the same kind of effort to secure the Cornerback position this off season. In Fangio’s scheme Press Man is essential to it’s success and what better toy to give than the very best press man corner in the world.
Donatell won’t be inheriting the perfect corner for his scheme should the Bears decide to use a high pick on this talented corner who should blow up the combine. He has flaws in his technique and needs more work when in off man. Sometimes plays too fast and will overrun on comeback routes making him susceptible to double moves. Needs to play with more tempo. He has excellent makeup speed but in the NFL that will be exploited with the significant jump in competition. Also, needs to work on his frame to take the pounding of a bump and run corner which he will be in Fangio’s scheme.
So far Pierre-Louis’ career has been fairly ordinary, but he is a pretty electric athlete that can be used situationally as an all-purpose Linebacker and an excellent backup. He can also contribute on special teams. Pierre-Louis was a combine monster. His measureables are up there with just about any Linebacker that has ever participated at the combine. He’s a definite tweener but those are the type of guys that are impacting the modern game. Pierre-Louis has long arms and huge hands to go along with his 6’0″ 235 pound frame. Has the athleticism to play Safety and the strength to play Linebacker. A total hybrid player. He is best utilized on nickel downs where he can play a multitude of roles. He would fit in nicely with the Bears unit of Linebackers and the type of player Pires can have a blast developing. He’s also familiar to Nagy as he is Kansas Cities Free Agent.
- Outside Linebackers coach – Bbrandon Staley: Outside Linebacker – Jeremiah Attaochu Attaochu’s physical gifts would have any position coach drool at the possibilities of what they can mold out of the lump of clay they would inherit. Attaochu is a physical freak of nature. Runs like a running back on a 265 pound frame with long arms and big strong hands which help him to stack and shed blocks. He was well on his way to being a starter with the Chargers and a cornerstone at Outside Linebacker, but than had a season ending injury in 16′ and started the 17′ season with hamstring issues. By that time the Chargers seemed to be in the mindset they were going to move on from him and he found himself playing in only 4 games. Most of the 12 games he did not play in he was a healthy scratch and did not even dress in. So the Bears would be getting a guy who has a lot to prove and a huge chip on his shoulders and at likely a vet minimum prove it salary. He would be as talented an athlete the Bears have currently on their roster or anyone they could draft starting day 2. Would be an intriguing signing for the franchise and give Staley quite the player to bring along and further help reach his potential in his continued development. Defensive Lines Coach – Jay Rodgers: Defensive Lineman – Foley Fatukasi Rodgers already has himself a couple projects to develop in Roy Robertson-Harris and Jonathan Bullard but there’s always room for one more. Especially one as talented as Fatukasi. He is a little raw with his technique and has more to learn on block recognition but what a bundle to work with. On the hoof he is well defined and well proportioned on a muscular 6’4″ 315 lb. Frame. Think Vernon Butler or Muhammed Wilkerson. Very powerful with heavy hands. He does tend to hand fight a tad too much at times where he would do better to punch, stack and shed. That would be Rodgers task at hand. Refine this young mans game. He has positional versatility as well. While Nose Tackle is likely his best spot he has the athleticism to move around the line at 3 technique in an even front and also as a 5 technique in an odd one. Something that is welcome in a hybrid defense much like the one the Bears run. He’ll likely be there in the Mid to late Rounds should the Bears show interest and pull the trigger on this very intriguing prospect.