Finding an offensive guard in free agency, when you have roughly nine of your own free agents that you’re trying to re-sign, isn’t an easy option. Making things even more difficult for the Chicago Bears the Bears lost promising right guard Lance Louis to the Miami Dolphins in free agency. Losing Louis means the Bears this year will not return either of their opening-day starting guards from 2012.
The Bears lost Lance Louis in free agency and to cushion the loss Phil Emery went out and signed former New York Jets guard Matt Slauson. Slauson is a fourth year guard who hit the open market and didn't generate much interest prior to the Bears going out and signing him. He started all 16 games at left guard for the Jets and graded out at a plus 2.4 overall on the 2012 season according to ProFootballFocus. His overall run blocking grade was a negative 4.2 while his pass blocking grade was a 5.1 on the season. Slauson allowed only one sack, four hits and nine QB hurries on the season by PFF's grades.
One of the most interesting stories of the 2013 NFL draft has been the one year rise and fall of Matt Barkley QB from USC. Barkley was considered a top prospect heading into the draft, the likely sure fire first overall pick after the 2011 season.
Barkley is a four-year starter for the USC Trojans and is one of the most prolific passers in school history.
He injured his shoulder in the second to last regular season game of the season which has help precipitate his fall down the draft charts.
Notre Dame held it's annual NFL Draft Pro Day on campus today inside the cozy confines of the Loftus Athletic Center. Among the participants were 13 former Notre Dame football players showing off their skills for NFL teams in attendance. The headliner of the event were first round prospects Tyler Eifert and Manti Te'o who both went through positional drills for NFL scouts.
Eifert did not run the 40-yard dash instead choosing to stand on his NFL combine time. Te'o ran the 40 and improved his time from the combine running a hand timed high time of 4.69. Among the compiled average Te'o ran around a 4.75 40-yard dash, the same hand timed unofficial time he ran the the NFL combine before the official laser tested result put him down at 4.81 in the 40. Essentially Te'o ran virtually an identical 40-yard dash on field turf that he ran at the NFL combine, without the laser test.
In positional drills Te'o was put through the ringer of coverage drills for a linebacker. As the coach forced him time and time again top backpedal open up his hips and makes plays on the football. Te'o was working hard in those drills, but it was clear he's far from a smooth athlete. Of all the linebackers rated as possible first round picks, Te'o seems to be the slowest and least athletic of the group.
Te'o talked a little about what aspect of his game he works to improve up on the most as he prepares for the NFL draft
"Getting off of blocks, using my hands I think that is one aspect of my game I work to improve upon." said Te'o. I was also able to ask Te'o and Eifert about attending the draft in New York added Te'o "No I don't plan to attend the NFL draft I'll be at home with my friends and family watching the draft. "
On the other side of the drills Tyler Eifert was put the the gamut of receiving drills. Eifert lined up in a three point stance or in the slot like a receiver and ran two routes at a time before getting a breather. Eifert's athleticism was evident in the drills as his speed and quick feet were evident in his route running. Eifert showed solid route running ability today, running routes like a receiver. He got in and out of his breaks quickly and snatched the football out of the air.
Eifert too I asked about what aspect of his game does he work to improve the most and he said "My blocking and getting better at that, my hands because I've dropped passes in the past so I try to work on catching the ball. I'm also trying to add weight so I can get better and improve on my blocking."
Te'o also will head out now to do personal visits with teams throughout the NFL but stated "I don't know any of the teams I will be seeing, my agent knows all that information but I do know I have visits lined up."
Whether the Bears are one of the teams Te'o is slated to visit remains to be seen, as well as whether Te'o is in play with the 20th overall selection in the first round.
On film the third best offensive guard prospect in this draft is Dallas Thomas left guard from Tennessee. Thomas also played left tackle and shows some ability at that position giving him added versatility as well. Whether or not Thomas is the third offensive guard taken off the board is probably unlikely due to his injury suffered during the Senior Bowl week.
Due to a shoulder injury Thomas didn’t participate in any of the workouts at the NFL combine so there is no real way to gauge his athleticism as compared to other offensive linemen who did. As an offensive guard prospect however Thomas looks like he could push to be the third overall guard taken in the NFL draft. He played left tackle during his first two years at Tennessee before moving inside to guard where he excelled. The complicated question with Thomas is he an offensive tackle or a guard? Based on his 2012 film if the Bears drafted him to be their starting left guard they could wind up with very good value.
Based on pass blocking snap and QB disruption statistics the Chicago Bears, cummulatively have the four worst pass blocking offensive tackles in the NFL on the roster from the 2012 season. Based on the All-22 tape evaluation the stats seem to match the lack of protection each offensive tackle provided for their respective QBs on the season. Despite the praises sung by Emery towards Jonathan Scott, despite the lofty draft status of Gabe Carimi, and the five-year $35-million contract given to Jermon Bushrod, the Bears have done absolutely nothing to upgrade their pass protection at the OT during the off-season.
With the recent additions of offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod and tight end Martellus Bennett the Chicago Bears front office can begin to narrow their focus on the NFL Draft. Both players shored up big positions of need by giving Jay Cutler a solid target to throw to down the middle of the field in Bennett. Bushrod meanwhile is a two-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle looking for a fresh start in Chicago. Bushrod’s arrival forces incumbent LT J’Marcus Webb over to RT where, if Webb plays at the level he did in 2012 will give the Bears stability on the edges.
If the Bears are stable on the edges, then the focus shifts to shoring up the interior of the offensive line.
As has previously been reported the Chicago Bears' salary cap situation is precarious and the Bears don't have a lot of room left to sign most of their own free agents. The Bears front office is now focusing its efforts on finding veteran minimum level players who are attempting to reclaim their careers in the NFL. The Bears have signed defensive end Turk McBride, tight end Steve Maneri linebacker DJ Williams and safety Tom Zbikowski to veteran minimum contracts. None of those players have been even remotely competent as players over the last two seasons and are the types of player the Bears will focus on moving forward.
In sticking with the need of the interior offensive linemen we come to the prospect rated as the second best offensive guard prospect in this draft. Jonathan Cooper was a four-year starter for the North Carolina Tar Heels, and when you watch him on tape it’s easy to see why. Like Lance Louis Cooper is an athletic guard prospect who is ideally suited for an outside zone scheme or a power man scheme ideally suited to Matt Forte’s abilities.
If the Bears are looking for a player to help get the most out of Matt Forte then they’d be wise to stock up their offensive line with athletic guards like Cooper. He is a player that fits the immediate needs of this team and as it so happens he could be available at the 20th overall spot in the draft.
The Brian Urlacher era has come to an end in the Windy City. The Monster of the Midway that has been the face of one the most successful defenses over the last 13 years has played his last game in Navy and Orange. We talk about #54's legacy in Chicago, what he has meant to the city, the fans, the franchise and what can the Bears do going forward without their defensive captain.