Is Phil Emery going to surprise us all and go offense in the first round? -- @fronczak68 from Twitter
You need to learn to never say never in the NFL but I don’t know how the Bears will accomplish remaining work needed for the defense by going on the offensive side of the ball in the first round. A best-case scenario for Emery might be an abundance of offensive players to pick from at No. 14 that could create a trade-down scenario.
I would doubt general manager Phil Emery consulted with Cutler before the team made the decision to terminate Bennett’s contract. GM’s run the business in the front office, coaches coach and players play. I received a few other questions about this and Cutler has been at it far too long to not understand the business of the sport – the business that netted him a contract that will pay him $22.5 million this season. Sure, Cutler would prefer Bennett to be in the locker room and huddle but those choices aren’t up to him and it will not affect the way he goes about his job.
Will the Bears look to the draft to pick up another wide receiver now that Earl Bennett left? -- @jake_powers1 from Twitter
I would say the chances for this went up. It is a deep draft for the position this year too so that bodes well for every team in need of help, even the Carolina Panthers. But we’re talking about a pick in the middle to later rounds of the draft for the Bears, I think. A draft pick would likely be behind Marquess Wilson from the start of things too as the team works to replace Bennett.
What was the percentage of snaps the Bears third wide receiver had in 2013? -- @tekster420 from Twitter
Good question. The Bears used a three-receiver set more than any other formation last season and Earl Bennett was on the field for 542 snaps – 51.2 percent of the time. That is why his departure and replacement are significant. Marquess Wilson had 75 snaps (7.1), Eric Weems had 24 snaps (2.3) and Joe Anderson had 13 snaps (1.2).
How exactly are the Bears getting younger on defense? They have to be drafting defense with the first three rounds at least? -- @mrbuster60 from Twitter
It’s hard if not impossible to get younger via free agency. Top-tier players in their 20’s are rarely available on the open market. The Bears made a nice addition with Lamarr Houston and have high hopes for Willie Young. But to get younger and build a future, they need building blocks via the draft. I don’t know if the first three picks will be used on defense but that would not be a surprise. One mistake Phil Emery will not make is to get so locked into a position that he ignores superior value at another position. That played a role in the trade up to draft Alshon Jeffery in 2012 when many were clamoring for the Bears to draft an offensive lineman.
With additions of Lamarr Houston and Willie Young as starting ends who will be sacking the quarterback? Do the Bears care only about pressures? -- @tylermbrunson from Twitter
The Bears are certainly hoping Houston and Young provide healthy sack numbers. The plan is for Shea McClellin to rush the quarterback as an end in pass-rushing situations and the club is banking on a change of position and adjustments to the defense bringing out his strengths. I don’t know if the light will go on for McClellin but I do know Phil Emery places a high value on sacks over pressures. He views sacks as negative plays that can alter the course of the game. Sack differential is an important statistic and one all clubs keep a close eye on. Emery has referenced this statistic in the past.
Do you think the Bears will attempt to make any trades whether it be in the draft or a trade similar to when they acquired Brandon Marshall? -- @slickrob10 from Twitter
There isn’t a general manager in the NFL that turns his phone off. But the calls and chatter don’t always generate deals. The Bears would like to acquire more draft picks but that would require a trade down in the draft and typically those moves don’t materialize until the team is on the clock. As far as finding a special player like Marshall via a trade, that was an aberration. The Dolphins had a change in head coaches and wanted to move a player that had created issues for the previous coaching staff. You’re going to have to wait a while to see a player of Marshall’s caliber flipped for two third-round picks again. The Bears picked up linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo from the Dolphins in 2005 for tight end John Owens and a seventh-round draft pick. Like Marshall, Ayanbadejo was caught in a coaching change and Nick Saban wanted bigger linebackers. Ayanbadejo turned into a Pro Bowl performer on special teams for the Bears. So, you do see good players get traded by teams undergoing change. Players with Marshall’s ability, though, are rarely moved and his past issues appear to be just that – part of the past.
Who will be the middle linebacker and what upgrades on defense are you looking at? -- @RoRuckus from Twitter
I would expect D.J. Williams to get the first crack at the starting middle linebacker job based on his performance last season when he was healthy. Williams last played in 16 games in 2010 so hopefully Jon Bostic makes strides from his rookie season. Upgrades beyond the recent signings need to come via the draft and the safety position remains a legitimate concern.
The past two drafts Phil Emery took players no one predicted in the first round. Any idea if he will continue the trend? Maybe NIU safety Jimmie Ward? -- @jackbearmiller from Twitter
Ward had a terrific career at Northern Illinois and NFL scouts are impressed by his playmaking instinct. His size remains a concern for teams. Ward bulked up a little for his pro day and measured 5-10 ¾ and 197 pounds but it might be a stretch for him to get into the first round. One college scouting director I spoke to drew a comparison to former Colts safety Bob Sanders and said when you get safeties that size there are durability concerns. Ward is a good player and it will be interesting to see how his career tracks. If he’s anything like Sanders, some team is going to get an impactful draft pick.
Given the relatively small sample size, how do the Bears feel about defensive end David Bass moving forward? -- @Kieran_murphy92 from Twitter
Bass got good experience as a rookie after the Bears claimed him off waivers from the Raiders. He was on the field for 311 snaps (29.9 percent) and showed some upside. He’s long at 6-4, 256 and strong but remains raw as a pass rusher. I think the team would like to see him develop and become better with his hands. He could also use some secondary moves. He’s definitely in the mix and will challenge some of the newcomers like Israel Idonije.