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Chicago Bears 2018 Mock Draft

2018 Draft Picks held by the Chicago Bears:

  • Round 1: Pick 8
  • Round 2: Pick 39
  • Round 3: None
  • Round 4: Pick 101
  • Round 4: Pick 111
  • Round 5: Pick 136
  • Round 6: Pick 167
  • Round 7: Pick 198

There is quite the laundry list of “needs” for this Chicago Bears team but when you finish a season 5-11, there are obviously weak spots peppered throughout the depth chart.  Last season, the Bears were 10th in total defense, and 30th in total offense.  Although defensively they were top 10 in passing yards allowed,  they also allowed a completion percentage of 64.8% and only had eight total interceptions for the year, which basically put them in the bottom of the league for that category. Offensively, the Bears were completely one dimensional, which led them to having the worst passing offense in the NFL last year.  If that was due to the inability to go vertical or the lack of trust in last year’s coaching regime in rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky — that’ll be a debate for another time. . .

Here is my 2018 Chicago Bears Mock Draft:

Round 1, Pick 8:

Quenton Nelson, Guard, Notre Dame:

Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This has been the overall consensus pick among Bears fans and draft “gurus.”  The Bears would be filling a need with arguably one of the better players in this entire draft.  He’s everything you want in an NFL guard with the power, intellect, strength and equal over achieving ability in the run and pass blocking game.  A lot of folks like this match-up not only because of the huge need but because the Bears hired Notre Dame offensive line coach Harry Hiestand to do the same job in Chicago. Nelson is one of the highest rated players in this draft though, and the Bears may have to worry about teams ahead of them snatching up Nelson.  The New York Giants, Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts could all benefit from drafting Nelson in the top ten.

Round 2, Pick 39:

Lorenzo Carter, Line Backer, Georgia:

Carter showed off his freakish ability and build at this year’s combine as the  six-foot-five, two-hundred and fifty pound line-backer ran a forty-time of 4.5.  In his senior year at Georgia, Carter had 4.5 sacks, 62 total tackles, forced three fumbles and recovered three fumbles.  The Bears have had some luck with their other Bulldog linebacker, Leonard Floyd after they drafted him in the first round of the 2016 draft.  As talented as Floyd is though, the Bears need another presence on the other side of this defense.  Carter would fit perfectly there.  (As a side note, since he and I both had these first two picks identical, I wanted to share a link to Mike Brez’ mock draft on twitter )

 (Photo by Perry McIntyre Jr.)

Round 4, Pick 101:

Tegray Scales, Line Backer, Indiana

The only reason why Scales may slip to the fourth is because he is undersized as an inside middle line backer.  Even at 6’0″, 230lbs – he might  find himself pushed around in the NFL. . . at least at first.  Scales was the first Indiana player in 30 years to be All Big Ten First Team – and in the last two years has racked up over 200 tackles for the Hoosiers.  He’s a very instinctive and fluid line backer, who can be a starter in this league.  In the fourth round if you don’t get a “star” but a “starter” that’s a win – especially one with a high football I.Q.

Round 4, Pick 111:

Nyheim Hines, Running Back, N.C. State

In this off-season, the relationship between the Bears and running back Jordan Howard has been “shaky” to put it lightly.  Howard is a top 10 running back in the league and in some circles top 5. . . the Bears may not be looking to sign him to a long term deal though once the contract is up.  They might wait in later rounds to take a shot on a running back, but in this spot, N.C. State’s Nyheim Hines should be available.  This is a back that I watched a lot of last year and he is a well-tooled running back who – if he adds some more muscle, has three-down-back potential.  He has more of an upside than Tarik Cohen and can be a more valuable X-Factor type of player if he doesn’t end up being an every-down guy.

Round 5, Pick 136:

Tony Brown, Corner Back, Alabama

Tony is more of a physical corner than a ‘lock-down’ guy – but what do you expect in the fifth round?  He’s got size and speed, a good tackler in the open field, and exceptional in special teams.  He is a physical guy too, who isn’t afraid to take on running backs, no matter how big they are.

Round 6, Pick 167

Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Wide Receiver, South Florida

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

He might have more of a fifth round value than sixth, but for all that matters to Bears fans – he falls and the Bears get him.  He is a big target at  6’4″, 206 lbs and ran a forty time of 4.37.  He did nothing in college until blowing up in his senior year.  He is great at locating the ball in the air  – similar to former Bears wide-out Alshon Jeffrey.  He isn’t the most polished route runner, but is a big bodied guy who can be a red-zone target and who’s speed can help stretch the field.  If he is there in the sixth this is well worth the gamble.  If it doesn’t work out – the Bears are familiar with big, speedy wide outs who don’t contribute to the team. . .

Round 7: Pick 198

KJ Malone, Offensive Tackle, LSU or Bentley Spain, Offensive Tackle, UNC

Both of these players were put here because this isn’t a strong draft for offensive tackles, and these two guys have a possibility of going earlier than they should go.  Once again though, when speaking in “mock-draft” terms – they both could be available.  KJ Malone, is the son of NBA hall of famer Karl Malone (which does nothing for him in the NFL) who is a pretty solid, albeit at times overly-aggressive run blocker who falls somewhere between average and below average in pass blocking. . . Bentley Spain was once the left tackle for Bears quarterback Mitchel Trubisky, so there’s a relationship and trust there – but Spain may have to become stronger to be an every day starter instead of a rotation-type of player on an NFL roster.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Beardown

Green Bay Packers +5.5 at Chicago Bears

As a die hard Chicago Bears fan, I entered this season with very minimal hopes and realistic expectations.  At the mid-point of this season, all isn’t awful for the Bears, but they sure do have a lot more work to do.  Currently the Bears offense is – predictable, to say the least.  With rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky being handcuffed by play-calling and a lack of options to throw the ball to, the Bears are attacking via the rushing game. Running back Jordan Howard is third in the NFL in total carries (behind Zeke Elliot and LeVeon Bell) and is fifth in the NFL in rushing yards (662).  He is the bell cow for this offense and with Mitchell Trubisky throwing for less than 50% of his completions, expect this trend to continue.  The strength of this Bears team lies in their top ten defense.  This is a great thing for fans of the Bears to see as they know the key to any success this franchise has ever had – stems from a strong defense.  This week the Monsters of the Midway face their hated rival, the Green Bay Packers.  Quarterback Brett Hundley has been more underwhelming than Trubisky and although his completion percentage is 1.2 points below sixty-percent – don’t be fooled.  He’s averaging five yards a pass and has a touchdown/interception ratio of 1:4.  Yikes.  Defensively, the Packers are allowing 357 yards a game, which puts them in the bottom twenty-five percent of the NFL.  Both teams will run very vanilla offenses, the Bears may try to open things up more than the Packers actually.  Regardless, this is the first time since 2008 that the Bears are actually favored to win over the Packers.  Five and half points (with the trending arrow moving upwards) is just a weird number, but 38 as the over and under is a good one.  This game will see a lot of three and outs and a lot of kicks.  Bears may pull it off, modestly.

The Pick: The Under 38.5

Houston Texans +11 at Los Angeles Rams

One thing we all can agree on is this:  The Houston Texans are pathetic without Deshaun Watson under center.  The Texans options are quarterback are Tom Savage, who’s awful; Josh Johnson, who we vaguely remember as awful and TJ Yates, who is “eh.” It’s not even about the Texans losing their quarterback, the whole organization seems to have lost any inspiration, and that is not ALL on coach Bill O’ Brien.  O’Brien is in the middle of a firestorm that involves his players not being happy with remarks made by the team’s owner.  This is the total opposite of what’s going on in L.A. with the Rams.  For years, the Rams have pretty much been a door-mat in the NFL.  First year coach Sean McVay has transformed this team into the league’s number one scoring offense, averaging 32.9 points per contest.  Houston’s defense may struggle with the Rams’ aerial attack and their run defense will get their best challenge of the season going up against running back Todd Gurley.  Gurley has the fourth most rushing yards in the NFL with 686.  The total balance on offense will be too much for Houston to keep up with for four quarters especially because the Texans offense will most likely throw up uneventful three-and-out drives and turn over the ball at least twice.

The Pick: Rams -11

New Orleans Saints -3 at Buffalo Bills

Buffalo at home is always a tough sell on the sharpest of betters.  The weather is miserable and visiting teams are bored because there is nothing to do there.  This year’s Bills team is in the middle of the debate of “contenders or pretenders” especially after getting smacked up by the Jets on national television last week.  The Bills don’t run the ball exceptionally well but they also don’t throw the ball exceptionally well – but they force the issue with the run as their 250 attempts, with an average of 3.7 yards a carry, prove.  NFL pundits have been drooling over the defense of the New Orleans Saints, saying that this defense is the reason why they have a record of 6-2.  When you look at the numbers though, you ask yourself: Really?  A defense that gives up 4.7 yards a rush and a completion percentage of 60% sounds pretty average. . .even to some below-average. For the Saints though, it’s all about one defensive stat: Points Per Game.  This defense is only allowing teams to average 19 points per contest which goes really well when you have an offense that is constructed so perfectly.  Head coach Sean Payton has leaned on a two-running-back attack where Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram are relied on heavily throughout the game.  The Saints have an offense that is top ten in rushing and passing and going against the Bills defense on the road will be one of their tougher test this year.  A final score of 27-18 is totally believable in the favor of the Saints.

The Pick: Saints -3

Good Luck and Wager Wisely

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

 

Chicago Bears: Mid-Season Report Card

The “Monsters of the Midway” entered the 2017 season knowing it is in the middle of a rebuild.  This isn’t a team that was looking to “tank” though.  The Bears’ rebuild consist of trying to be competitive throughout the season.  It’s a way of “filtering out the excess fat” from their roster.

Quarterback:

Entering the season, the Bears faithful knew they’d be in for some nonsense.  Signing Mike Glennon in free agency and moving up in the first round to draft quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was a recipe for disaster from day one.  Glennon was never going to get a fair shake, as the fans wanted to see the younger player and the media made Glennon’s spot on the team seem useless.  Glennon’s play on the field didn’t help to quiet that noise either.   Mike Glennon had a completion percentage of 66.4% but that was because he seemed to scared to throw it downfield and basically dumped it off to running backs and tight ends all day.   Ultimately his 8 total turnovers did him in and got him benched, which of course led to the starting of rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky.  Things didn’t get much better.  Trubisky’s completion percentage is under 50% and in four games he has two touchdown passes and four turnovers.  Glennon and Trubisky don’t have a lot to work with in terms of coaching or talent (keep reading) but in just looking at production from the position a solid D minus even seems generous.

Running Back:

If it wasn’t for Jordan Howard, the Bears wouldn’t have much of an offense this season.  With that being said, it’s not as if he’s putting up “elite-RB” numbers.  His 83 yards a game coupled with his 4.1 yards per average is consistent work at least and you can’t knock him considering he’s being run into the ground.  In the eight games he’s played, he’s already carried the ball for 162 times.  Bears fans fell in love with Tarik Cohen and his 5’6″ frame in week one. Then after that, there hasn’t been much to applaud him for.  He seems to try to do too much when he has the ball now and the Bears just aren’t creative enough on offense to devise schemes for him.  The Bears should look passed Cohen on the depth chart and start handing the ball off to Benny Cunningham more.  Cunningham is more of the traditional back, who can take some of the pounding off of Jordan Howard.  Because of Howard’s toughness alone, and him alone in this backfield, you have to give it a grade of a B.

Wide Receiver/Tight End:

Nothing to see here folks.  Even if Kevin White and Cameron Merdith didn’t suffer season ending injuries, it’s hard to believe it would be a much better group of wide-outs than the one that’s currently presented.  Sometimes it’s hard to figure out if they aren’t getting opportunities because the play calling is so bad, or if they’re just not that good.  The loss of Zach Miller was not only horrific to watch but also took away the most reliable target on the team.  Rookie Adam Shaheen was supposed to be one of those “sleeper picks” in the draft, and so far he has one catch which was a two-yard touchdown reception. . .yay.  Hopefully the acquisition of Dontrelle Inman will help boast this group but it’s pretty pitiful.  Easy grade of an F.

Offensive Line:

Glennon and Trubisky have combined for 19 sacks this season but when watching the tape, the blame isn’t all on the offensive line.  This is a tough group led by Kyle Long and Josh Sitton.  Cody Whitehair slips up once in a while but all in all he’s continuing to be a solid contributor.  The Bears have the third most rushing yards in the league and the backs are averaging a respectable 4.3 yards a carry.  If healthy this is a good offensive line who’s grade is a B.

Defensive Line:

If there is a mid-season MVP for this Bears team, I’d have to go with Akiem Hicks.  Hicks leads the team with 7 sacks, demands attention and is the player on this defensive front who offensive coordinators must plan around.  His All-Pro-Like play has opened up more opportunities for Leonard Floyd and Eddie Goldman.  The Bears are allowing on 3.9 yards a rush this season and most of it is due to this defensive front that finds itself in the opposition’s back field more times than not. Grade A.

Linebackers/Secondary:

A healthy Danny Trevathan is a welcomed sight to this defense.  He leads the team with 52 total tackles and definitely has added that “aggressive nature” the Bears defense has been lacking in recent history.  Rookie safety Eddie Jackson came out of Alabama with a lot of talent but also a history including injuries so many were wary of him.  He could prove to be the safety the Bears have been needing for years if he keeps playing at the level he’s been playing at.  Even if you take away that game when he had two pick-sixes he’s still been playing like one of the steals of this year’s draft.  His pairing with Adrian Amos can be the building blocks for rebuilding a secondary.  Fans want Kyle Fuller to be “the guy” – but I don’t see it.  Ever.  Regardless, this is a physical group of players from the linebackers to the secondary who will get a grade of B plus.

Coaching:

First the good:

Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and defensive backs coach Ed Donatell both get an A for their efforts this year.  Donatell has really got the young guys in the secondary playing with confidence and as mentioned above they seem to be developing quickly into legit NFL talents.  Fangio has been one of the NFL’s best defensive coordinators for years and it’s his defense that has kept the Bears in games, even when the offense is trying to give them away.

Now the bad:

Head coach John Fox, quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains all get a D at the midpoint of the 2017 season. The offensive play calling is as predictable as a New Year’s hangover.   “Run, Run, Pass, Punt,” appears to be the offensive call to arms, especially since the team made the switch to Mitchell Trubisky.  Trubiksy has displayed some arm strength and the ability to throw on the run, but the Bears refuse to open the playbook for the struggling rookie.  This all falls on John Fox, and seriously nobody even knows if he’s mentally checked out already or not.  Rumors have been floating around since the draft that he’s a lame duck coach this season and they’ll be looking to change the culture next season.  Bears fans everywhere hope so.

After calculating the grades, the Bears get an overall mid-season grade of a C.  That is both a surprising and “not-so-bad” grade for a team with a 3-5 record who at the beginning of the season was looked at as an NFL “doormat.”  The last 2-3 years saw a Bears team that would quit, especially defensively.  The re-emergence of the Monster of the Midway can give the fan-base hope.  Just imagine if this team had a decent offense what they could look like. . . They’ll be lucky to finish the season with seven wins, but if they keep playing like they are, there is definitely a core here to build on.

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

 

 

Chicago Bears 2017 Mock Draft

When you finish 3-13 on the season, everyone on the roster and upper management is expendable.  Even though this is a situation where the Bears should have patience and let general manager Adam Pace have some time to do his job – the fan-base has just about had it.  And why not?  The Bears have seen the Packers dominate the division, and even seen the Vikings and Lions do things “the right way” to find themselves in a positive light.  The Bears do everything in a mediocre fashion – at best.

All is not lost though, they seem pretty formidable on both sides of the line of scrimmage and if last year wasn’t a hoax, running back Jordan Howard could be the back this franchise has been clamoring for, for decades. . .

Round 1: Pick 3:

Jamal Adams – Safety – LSU

Before the signing of Mike Glennon, many believed the Bears would take a quarterback here.  Namely Mitchell Trubisky or DeShone Kizer.  It’s apparent that management wasn’t comfortable with naming either of those guys the “future” of the franchise, so instead they outbid – well no one, really – and signed Mike Glennon.  The Bears secondary is one of the worst in the league – and has been for a few years now. Jamal Adams may be one of the best complete players in this year’s draft.  He can cover one on one, has great reaction to the ball and is a fearless tackler as well who can play in the box to combat the run.  He was the leader of one of the best defensive units in college and leadership is something this secondary needs.  He can change the tone of this defense from day-one.

Round 2:  Pick 36

Evan Engram – Tight End – Ole’ Miss

If the Bears get luck and Engram is there, they HAVE to snatch him up.  Besides being a great receiving tight end, this is a position (tight end) that the Bears need to rectify this off-season.  Engram is a game-changer at tight end – great receiving skills and route runner.  He’s not the most polished blocker, but at least he tries – that already makes him potentially better than, let’s say, a Jimmy Graham. . .

Round 3: Pick 67

Taylor Moton – Offensive Tackle – Western Michigan

Although offensive line isn’t a huge need, it’s a need none-the-less and it’s always good to gain versatile big men upfront.  The Bears caught lightning in a bottle last season with the versatility of Cody Whitehair, and Moton offers that versatility in a bigger package.  Moton is 6’5″ 330 and started at guard but then moved into right tackle for the Broncos.  It’s always a gamble when taking a lineman out of the MAC as they don’t see the defensive line talent seen at the Big 10 or SEC, but his versatility is key.

Round 4: Pick 111

K.D. Cannon – Wide Receiver – Baylor

His draft grades have been everywhere from the second round to the sixth round.  Draft expert Justin Higdon predicts that he’ll be available in the 5th or 6th round, but in terms of “wishful thinking” let’s just say he’s around in the fourth. . . the Bears have a need at receiver which is why they went and signed two in the off-season.  They lost Alshon Jeffrey to free agency (which will turn out being a blessing in disguise) and are relying on Kevin White to finally be healthy.  Cannon is explosive and loves the spotlight.  He hasn’t shown much of the route-running ability due to the way Baylor football is run, but he is definitely a gamer and has “big-play” ability, something the Bears desperately lack.

Round 4: Pick 117

Damonte Kazee – Corner Back – San Diego State

Is this a reach?  Probably but the Bears are limited with draft picks and Kazee has an “upside” that is very promising.  He went back to college for his senior year because he wasn’t impressed with his draft grade after being the Mountain West defensive player of the year but even with all his stats, it seems he’s destined to be slotted in the 4th – 6th rounds. He’s  5’10” 180 and is a decent tackler, but a great cover guy, who also works his way to force some fumbles.

Round 5: Pick 147

Chad Kelly – Quarterback – Ole Miss

Not too many guys beat Alabama.  He did.  He can make all the passes, great arm strength and above average mobility.  Unfortunately character concerns and a leg injury last season have folks very wary of the gunslinger out of Ole Miss.  After the Johnny Manziel fiasco the NFL had to deal with, having a young headache at the quarterback position is something no team wants to deal with.  For a team like the Bears though, it’s worth the gamble.  Pound for pound, if given the chance he can surpass the likes of Mike Glennon – it’s all about how focused the young Rebel is. . .

Round 7: Pick 221

Krishawn Hogan – Wide Receiver – Marian University

One of my favorite prospects in the draft, Krishawn Hogan.  At 6’3″ 220 pounds, he brings the physicality corners fear to the position of wide out.  Not many people see football games played by Marian University, and he was the first player from his university to be invited to the NFL combine.  It was there where the naked eye revealed that he belonged.  Good hands, good speed for his size (4.6 at the 40) and showed  nice cutting ability.  He could be a steal if there ever was one in the NFL Draft.

It would be nice to see the Bears maybe trade for a few more late round picks, which may very well happen.  Maybe draft a running back to push Jeremy Langford at the two spot behind Jordan Howard. Maybe Baylor’s Shock Linwood or Utah’s Joe Williams deserve a look from Chicago.  Of course they can also look for a sleeper pass rusher like Steven Taylor of Houston or even Illinois product Hardy Nickerson, whose father of the same name,  played in the NFL.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

 

 

Where Does Cutler Go?

There have been very few players as polarizing as Jay Cutler in recent professional sports.  I wrote an article almost exactly two years ago “The Perception of Jay Cutler,” in which a defense of his character was made.  And quite well, may I add.

Jay Cutler’s run with the Chicago Bears looks like it may very well be at it’s end.  After eight years with the Bears, Cutler has cemented himself as the franchises most storied quarterback, holding fourteen team records (including passing yards, passing touchdowns and quarterback rating).  Even with that, Bears fans (and for some strange reason even non-Bears fans) have an issue with Cutler.  The whole “he” hasn’t won anything conversation is laughable for all those Millennials and lazy sports writers, have made “wins” an actual stat for quarterbacks – no matter what kind of condition a franchise is in.  Cutler played for a Bears team that actually had guys like Johnny Knox and Devin Hester running routes for him at one point.  Yikes.

But this isn’t a piece to further defend a guy who has been incorrectly vilified in his career, this is to predict possible landing spots for the 33 year old gunslinger.  Keeping in mind that the Bears will most likely cut him before finding a trading partner for him.

1- New York Jets – This is almost too obvious.  If the Jets decide to not part ways with wide receiver Brandon Marshall, reuniting these “bickering brothers” may be something to look into.  Marshall has referred to Cutler as his brother numerous times and even when they blow up at each publicly it’s really not a big deal.  With that being said, the Jets are usually in the business of lying to themselves and believing they have a chance to get into the playoffs.  Teams that believe that, bring in veterans who are looking for one more run, at a good price.  Cutler would get killed by the New York media, but it’s a good thing that he really doesn’t care what you say about him. . . like, ever.

2- Miami Dolphins – Yeah, Ryan Tannehill is still there.  So what?  Reports had come in Miami last season that head coach Adam Gase was growing increasingly frustrated with Tannehill as the season progressed.  Tannehill’s numbers are smoke in mirrors and he still looks like a guy learning how to play the position.  Gase is a “Cutler guy” and they worked great together in Chicago but this would be a touchy situation to get into and would involve the Dolphins giving up on the young guy to roll with the injury prone older guy. . .

3- Denver Broncos – This would be a best case scenario for Cutler.  He would go back to where his career started and would have a playoff contender right off the bat.  With the receiving talents there just being left out to dry, they would welcome a guy like Cutler who can sling the rock.  Cutler wouldn’t have to try to hard to beat out Trevor Siemian for the starting job but Elway definitely wouldn’t look to break the bank for Cutler either.

4- Retirement – Jay Cutler has taken a beating over his career.  Physically and mentally.  He has made a lot of money, has three kids and a beautiful wife and usually makes his way doing charity work (especially with youth diabetes).  Cutler has made it known that  he wanted to end his career as a Bear, which you’ve got to believe was his goal since getting traded to Chicago but money and opportunity can still be offered for this veteran.  Aside from personal opinions – Cutler is still a starting quarterback in this league – but at a certain point, a man has to consider his options and his health.  If he is satisfied with it all, nobody can judge him for that.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Analyzing the Bears Draft

Now that we’ve had time to let it all sink in maybe we can just be real.  Maybe now we can speak realistically in terms of expectations that come with the Chicago Bears’ 2016 rookie class.   Do we really have future stars?  Did we really come away with a steal in the draft?  Truth is, only time will tell.

Chicago Bears first-round draft pick Leonard Floyd poses for a photo, after taking questions from reporters at Halas Hall, Friday April 29, 2016. He said he s very happy he landed with the bears, who have a great defensive history. (Tribune photo/Abel Uribe)

First Round Pick – Leonard Floyd OLB, Georiga

Personally, this is the guy I wanted the Bears to take and they jumped a spot ahead of the New York Giants to do it.  At 6’6″ and 244 pounds, Bears fans are hoping for something along the lines of Aldon Smith, without all the mental baggage.   In the Bears 3-4 scheme, it would be expected for defensive coordinator Vic Fangio to place Floyd, all over the field and exploit his athleticism as a straight-pass-rusher.  He gets a little lost when he drops back into zone coverage which might be a concern early, unless he picks up the NFL’s speed at a fast rate.  Regardless, he’s quick enough to recover and will be a disturbance to the oppositions outside rush attacks.  A lot of people are judging Floyd because of his size – or lack thereof – but in truth, that will either come in time, or his lack of bulk will actually become a positive in the long run.  The NFL has become a faster place, which is why Lloyd is a perfect hybrid-type of player for the Bears to have in this defense moving forward.

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Second Round – Cody Whitehair G, Kansas State

Let’s all be honest, although Whitehair is a need and will probably be a starter from day one, let’s not forget – he’s our consolation prize.  The Bears were hoping to land Indiana tackle, Jason Spriggs but the Green Bay Packers (like the snakes we know they are) jumped ahead of us and took him.  This action left us to go with the next best man on the offensive line list  which happened to be Cody Whitehair.  Whitehair is an instinctive linemen who was able to give his quarterback, Luke Falk, a lot of time in their pass heavy attack. With Grasu at center, Kyle Long at right guard and Whitehair at left guard (although he played tackle in Washington State) – the Bears might have the nucleus of their offensive line set for years to come.

Third Round – Jonathan Bullard DE, Florida

Another instinctive player, but this one is on the defensive side of the ball.   Lance Zierlin of NFL.com had him going in the second round of the draft, so right there shows value in this pick.  He’s another “lack of size” guy, but the Bears are getting what they want in this defense – athleticism and speed.  The Florida Gators have had one of the most blue-collar and grittier defenses over the last three years and it’s because of players like Bullard.  He was a sure tackler in college and should really find his way nicely.

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Fourth Round – Nick Kwiatkoski ILB,  West Virginia

Here is one of those “depth-guy” picks.  It’s not a knock on Kwiatkoski – just don’t expect him to be Mike Singletary out there. He’s a tough kid, with a nose for the ball.  He converted from safety to linebacker successfully in school and was a leader on the field.  The issue with Kwiatkoski is that he is used to just knocking guys down and not really wrapping them up and he’ll surely get gobbled up by offensive linemen more than we’ll ever see him run through them.

Fourth Round -Deiondre’ Hall, CB/FS, Northern Iowa

This was another one of those guys I really was glad to see the Bears get.  Hall has freakishly long arms at his position (34″ arms to go with his 9.5″ sized hands) and standing at 6’2″ it only adds to his full extension when he leaps.  He doesn’t have the speed or technique to become a number one or number two corner in the league and although his frame is a bit under what one would want a safety to be – his skill set is a better fit for the position.  He’s a physical player who will be a starter in this league.  To get him in the fourth round is a steal.  He’ll be the one to keep your eyes on this year.  . .

Fifth Round – Jordan Howard, RB, Indiana

He has a pretty boring name and comes from a pretty boring program, but Howard is a strong north-south rusher who you could argue – was one of the top five backs in this year’s draft.  Of course we all know running backs are not valued like they once were, but Bears coach John Fox is known to use the running game to open things up and he is also known for mix and matching his backs.  Howard was able to put up big numbers against stout competition, but he also ran behind a pretty good offensive line in college.

Sixth Round -Deiondre Houston-Carson, FS , William & Mary

I wont even pretend as if I know anything about anybody from William & Mary, but it looks like he converted from corner back to free safety and was a beast playing both positions at the FCS level.  When it comes to these small school athletes it’s just hard to gauge  how good they’ll become based on their level of competition in college.

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7th Round – Daniel Braverman, WR, Western Michigan

Last season, the Western Michigan Broncos  were  a program that put up points in bunches.  Braverman added to that with his 108 catches and over 1300 receiving yards.  The comparisons to Julian Edelman and Wes Welker have been made hundreds of times and it’s because at 5’10” and 175 pounds, the only thing he can be is a slot receiver.  Then again, Braverman proved while in college he’ll line up just about anywhere.  He has great hands, always looking to gain yards after the catch and has great footwork.  He will definitely push guys like Eddie Royal and Marquis Wilson when it comes to getting that slot position locked down – he’s also a pretty good special teams player – so Marc Mariani’s days in Chicago may be coming to an end soon.

Undrafted: Ben Braunecker, TE, Harvard

This was an intriguing signing after the draft.  Braunecker was rated by the Wall Street Journal as the best player at the NFL combine.  He destroyed the Ivy league, but that’s because he’s the biggest guy standing in a room with a  bunch of lawyers – let’s be honest.  Still though, he shows great abilities as a pass catching tight end and if we look at the tight end depth chart on the Bears it reads something like Zach Miller, Khari Lee and Rob Housler.  Although Miller showed flashes last year, to just think that’ll be him week in and week out is insanity.  Braunecker is obviously smart enough to understand an NFL playbook and it shouldn’t surprise anybody to see him make the 53 man roster this year.

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This Bears draft was intriguing.  They did away with the “traditionalist” way of football thinking and decided to go for athletes they could plug in their positions of need.  It’s clear that general manager Ryan Pace and head coach John Fox have a plan and they’re sticking to it.  This is a draft class  Bears fans should be excited about.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

 

Forte is Gone. Let Us Rejoice!

As a Bears fan, my loyalty cannot be questioned and it will never waver.  For better or worse, this is where my allegiance lies.  Although my loyalty to the “Monsters of the Midway” will last forever – my opinions are not to be forced.  There haven’t been many great times for this franchise and many will latch on to glimmers of what they see and hold on to it as truth.  Matt Forte, was one of those false ideals held in high regard by many of the Chicago faithful.
“Look at his numbers.”

That’s the argument you’ll get from Matt Forte supporters.

My response has always been “smoke and mirrors.”

I’ve seen every game Forte has played in.  Every single one.  I was sold in his rookie season, over 1700 total yards and 12 touchdowns.  I had to believe.  Bears fans long for the greatness at the running back position – and why shouldn’t we?  We’ve had Walter Payton and Gale Sayers – two of the all time greats at that position.  Since then we had three good years by Neal Anderson before his body gave up on him and Thomas Jones gave us three solid seasons but was never fully appreciated for what he brought to the table.

Forte was great for fantasy football fans.  He would get you the yards, get you the touchdowns – but those yards and touchdowns should’ve been more.  Forte had an innate ability to drop at the first sign of an oncoming tackler.  He was awful in short yardage situations, and although game-announcers would say he was a good pass blocker – I’m sure we’ve seen him miss more blocks than not.

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The Chicago Bears, for all our history and tradition – NFL fans see us as second fiddle to the Packers, and a long shot to win a Conference Championship.  Sure, we’ve popped up and caught the league off guard a few times, but it’s been in spurts – it’s never been consistent.  With that being said, fans around the league will look at numbers and not the actual in-game-performance of Forte and formulate the theory of “The Bears aren’t doing him any favors.”

The Bears did him the favor of not being that good, and making him look better than he was.   The real reason behind his reception and receiving yards:  Bears quarterbacks usually have to ‘check down’ to the backs because the offensive line can’t hold up  or receivers are running the wrong routes.

There is no doubt, Forte will get picked up by some other team and it’ll be worth it to them.  Dallas has an o-line that can cover up Forte’s softness and New England’s system makes everybody on offense look better than they are – these should be two possibilities for Forte and his camp.  He said he’s not about the money, he’s about getting to a championship so let’s see how that works out for him. . .

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Anyhow, in terms of the future of the running back position for the Bears, Jeremy Langford proved in Forte’s absence last year that he is more than capable of being a feature back.   Ka’Deem Carey would be the number two, and one would assume a free agent like the speedy Ronnie Hillman would be someone the Bears and John Fox would take a look at.   The Bears have a lot of work ahead of them but at least the future of the running back position seems good to go.

Getting over Matt Forte will be a lot easier than Bears fans think it will be.  BearDown and BearWitness. . .

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

5 Reasons Bears Fans Should Be Rooting for The Panthers

When your team doesn’t make it to the Super Bowl, you ultimately still have to take a side.  It’s the biggest sports event of the year, why would you just watch it emotionless or even not watch it at all?  As football fans we wait all year for the football season to start and whether or not your team made it to the big show or not, you put in a season’s worth of debates, views and emotion – you have to find a place and ultimately pick a side in the Super Bowl.

For Bears fans, the expectations were low entering this season.  It’s a rebuild.  You accept the team for what they are, hope they put up a fight week to week and pull off an upset or two.  We knew as Bears fans we wouldn’t be gearing up for a Super Bowl in February, but here are five reasons why Bears fans everywhere should be excited for and rooting for the Carolina Panthers to destroy the Denver Broncos on February 7th 2016 . . .

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  1. Ron Rivera – This one is the most obvious.  Rivera was part of the one Super Bowl winning team the Bears ever had.  He one that Super Bowl under the great Mike Ditka, who at the time is one of two players to have coached and played for a Super Bowl winning team (the other being Tony Dungy).  Rivera can join that group as only the third to accomplish that feat with a win against Denver.  During the season, Rivera compared this team to his ’85 Bears team and saw the similarities through and through in terms of character and playing style.  He even mentioned how going undefeated meant something to him because the Bears missed that opportunity in their Super Bowl year.  Although this Panthers team didn’t go undefeated, they do stand a chance to win the biggest game of the year.

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2 . Charles “Peanut” Tillman –     Very few Bears players in recent years have been more appreciated and adored than Tillman.  In his prime he was one of the NFL’s toughest and best cornerbacks, he terrorized defenses with his “Peanut Punch” tactic in forcing fumbles, his charity work is recognized year to year and he is a true leader on and off the field.  Due to an ACL injury in week 17, Tillman will not be playing in the Super Bowl, but he was definitely a reason why they’ve gotten to this point.  Bears fans everywhere should rejoice and be in the corner of Tillman to be on a Super Bowl winning team – even if it isn’t for the Bears.

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3. Greg Olsen – The Chicago Bears drafted Olsen in the first round of the 2007 draft (31st pick).  When Mike Martz became the offensive coordinator for the  Bears, he deemed that Olsen would not fit into the offensive scheme.  Fans of the Bears argued that when you have a talent like Olsen, you make sure you fit your system around his talent.   In an article for 247 Sports, Brian Jones writes about this and has an interesting quote from Olsen: “There’s no worse feeling then not being able to play up to your potential.”   Olsen, even after his departure with the Bears has appeared a class act and always recognizes that the Bears ultimately gave him his first shot in the league.  Much like Peanut Tillman, Olsen is one of the NFL’s “good guys” and it’s hard to root against him.  He has excelled in Carolina and become a Pro Bowl player working with his quarterback Cam Newton.  He’ll definitely be a key in the Panthers winning the Championship come Super Bowl Sunday.

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4. Jared Allen – Allen’s time with the Bears was short.  He signed with the Bears in 2014 after being a pain the Bears side for years as a division rival with Minnesota.  Allen signed on because he fell for the “okey doke” just like Bears loyalist did.  He felt that in 2014, he was signing with a team headed in the right direction for a Super Bowl run.  .  . Then the roof caved in on what was one of the most embarrassing seasons in Chicago Bears history.  Early this season, under new head coach John Fox, the Bears asked Allen to move to outside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme and Allen tried his best to fit in, but it just wasn’t working.  The Bears did Allen a solid and traded him to Carolina for a conditional sixth round pick.   Nobody was sure how his foot injury would hold up going into the Super Bowl, but in recent reports he has been a full participant in practices and will surely be seeing snaps as an edge rusher.  His time was short, but he believed in the Bears and he was with us to help bring himself and Chicago a championship.

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5. Peyton Manning – Obviously, never was a Chicago Bear BUT — it was his Indianapolis Colts team that beat us in Super Bowl XLI.   If Manning wins this Super Bowl against Carolina, he becomes the only quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl for two different teams.  That means the Bears will be tied to this for eternity.  The MVP of that game was Manning and for all things considered when looking at his stats (25-38, 247, 1td 1int) it wasn’t as if he killed the Bears defense.  The Bears had a 100 yard effort by running back Thomas Jones, and an opening kick off by Devin Hester – but we all know that ultimately that game was decided by arguably the worst quarterback to ever start in a Super Bowl – our man, Rex Grossman.  Peyton already has a Hall of Fame career, and when his playing days are done, he’ll be on TV for the rest of our lives – he ultimately already won at the game of life – no need for us to cheer on the guy, who beat us when we last had a chance to win it all. . . .

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Chicago Bears 2015 Preview

To call last year’s 5-11 finish “disappointing” would be one of the more obvious understatements of the year.  The Bears were supposed to have a high-flying, unique, high-scoring offense led by head coach Marc Trestman.  Instead, the Chicago faithful saw a coach that looked over-whelmed, a team that didn’t look interested in playing and a franchise that became an embarrassment to itself.  Ownership called for the heads of head coach Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery and replaced them with veteran coach John Fox and hired Ryan Pace, who is now the NFL’s youngest general manager.   It is up to Fox and Pace to rebuild a broken franchise and rebuild the trust between the team and it’s fans.

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A lot of people are surprised to see that Jay Cutler is still the quarterback of the Chicago Bears, but the truth is – his price tag is too much to move him or cut him.   Despite all the negativity spewed in Cutler’s direction he still managed to throw for over 3,800 yards and 28 touchdowns, while finishing with the best completion percentage of his career at 66%.   Cutler’s eighteen interceptions are a combination of carelessness, poor route running and usually playing from behind last season.  It’s been said before and it will be said again – this is Cutler’s “make it or break it” year.  The organization doesn’t seem to be one-hundred percent behind the gun-slinger QB, so it’s up to Cutler to cut down on his mistakes and surprise some folks.  He still has the arm strength and athletic ability at the quarterback position that many of the league’s so called “elite” do not.

Most see Matt Forte as a hardcore, do it all back.  It’s true – if we’re talking about fantasy football standards.  Forte finished with 1,038 yards rushing and an incredible 808 yards receiving last year but at 3.9 yard a rush, it’s apparent he isn’t the back he once was.  Forte, of late has been average at best as a pass blocker and his ability to break tackles has gotten worse over the years.  There is a lot of wear and tear on Forte so expect coach John Fox to use three backs often.  The new coaching staff seems to like sophomore back Ka’Deem Carey who is more of the bruiser back, while rookie Jeremy Langford out of Michigan State is the speedster back.  Langford ran a forty time of 4.4. and like Forte, doesn’t break many tackles, but unlike Forte – has youthful legs that haven’t been ran into the ground yet.

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The Bears traded Brandon Marshall to the NY Jets, which leaves a void in the Bears wide receiver depth chart.  Physically, Marshall provided a great blocking receiver and one of the more difficult wide outs to cover “one on one.”  Marshall’s attitude and “out spoken” nature made him dispensable to the Bears’ eyes so that leaves it up to Alshon Jeffrey to take over as the number one guy.  Jeffrey locates the ball in the air better than most, but his route running is still a question.  He has a ‘lazy’ approach to football, which will eventually land him in Fox’s doghouse; and without Brandon Marshall on the other side of Jeffrey, who knows how effective he’ll be all season long.  At the present time, it looks like the Bears will be without their first round draft pick, wide receiver Kevin White out of West Virginia.  White has everything it takes to be a top receiver in this league, but because of a shin injury, the Bears will be lucky to see him anytime after week seven (if at all).   Eddie Royal was acquired free agency and was dealing with a hip injury in the pre-season, the hope is, to rekindle the chemistry he had with Cutler back in their Denver Broncos days.  Tight End Martellus Bennett was amazing last year, but his off-season rumblings about the organization and some comments aimed directly at quarterback Jay Cutler show that he isn’t too happy with his current situation.  The Bears patience with Marquess Wilson may be running thin as he was battling a hamstring injury most of pre-season.

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The offensive line is a unit seemingly headed in the right direction but Jordan Mills needs to tighten up at right tackle.  Mills’ head just doesn’t seem to be in the game sometimes and gets beat out by quicker defensive ends pretty quickly.  Most Bears fans expect guard Kyle Long to be moved to tackle one day, but Long is arguably the best player on the roster, so there is no real reason to move him out of the guard position.  Long has two Pro Bowl appearances to match his two years he’s been in the league – there is no reason to doubt his ability to be a pro-bowler for the next 7-8 years.  The Bears drafted Oregon Duck Hroniss Grasu in the third-round of this year’s draft and although it appears he won’t be starting right away, the Bears love his quickness and awareness at the position, so if veteran Will Montgomery slips up, Grasu will be put in with no hesitation.  Jermon Bushrod has been a slight disappointment since his arrival to Chicago but is still a top-ten left tackle in the league.

Defensively the Bears are shifting to a 3-4 scheme, orchestrated by one of the more aggressive defensive coordinators in football Vic Fangio.  While with the 49ers, Fangio 3-4 attack was one of the best in the league, unfortunately for Fangio, he does not have anywhere near the talent on this Bears team as he did in San Fran.  The Bears acquired linebacker Mason Foster in March of 2015 and he did not even make the final 53 man roster in Chicago.  Surprisingly enough, veteran Jared Allen who is converting from defensive lineman to linebacker did as well as Willie Young who is recovering from an Achilles injury he suffered last season.  If Young is able to use his athleticism to his advantage he may be able to get back to racking up another ten sacks as he did last year.  Jon Bostic was the team leader with 127 tackles last season.  The Bears have a lot of depth at linebacker with Pernell McPhee and Lamaar Houston, who is looking to impress after a disappointing season last year.  For some reason Shea McClellin stays on this Bears roster. . .

Rookie Eddie Goldman will man the nose-tackle position in the Bears’ 3-4 attack.  He looks the role of a prototypical nose-tackle and was a good run-stopper while at Florida State.  Last year the Bears drafted Ego Ferguson in the second-round and it looks like they will move him from the tackle spot over to the defensive end spot.  Ferguson is a good athlete but there has to be patience with his learning curve at the position.

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With the departure of long-time Bear and fan-favorite Charles Tillman, the Bears went to free agency to find a veteran to help lead this secondary.  They found one in former New York Giants safety Antrel Rolle.  Rolle has lost a step and isn’t as effective as he once was, but the formal all-pro will bring a much needed voice into this Bears’ locker room.  Rolle’s patience will be tested as there is a lot of youth around him.  Opposite of Rolle is Brock Vereen who struggled a lot last year and if the sophomore struggles early the Bears will plug in former Penn State Lion Adrian Amos.  Amos is a good ball hawking safety but isn’t the best tackler at the position.  The wild card in this Bears secondary is second-year man Kyle Fuller.  In his rookie season Fuller quickly saw how things can turn in this league.  For the first half of the season he looked like a stud out there but then he quickly found himself out of position and even picked on by other teams.  Fuller has the support of the locker room and this organization still feels he can be a top corner in the league.

The Bears are in an up-hill battle.  With a new philosophy on both sides of the ball and new faces just about everywhere, the Bears will be learning as they go.  All eyes will be on Jay Cutler this season – but then again, they always are and it doesn’t seem to bother him either way.  The Bears start out the season in rough fashion against Green Bay, Arizona and then Seattle – things can get ugly quick in Chicago if they start out 0-3.

Predicted Record: 7-9

Predicted Pro Bowlers: Kyle Long, Jay Cutler, Martellus Bennett

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Panthers Packing A Peanut Punch in 2015

Charles Tillman was born, not raised in Chicago, but one could never tell by the way her wore that city’s name.  Tillman was the personification of the term class act.  He played the game with the class, was a leader on the field and was also known for his charity work in and around the city of Chicago.  Tillman, a Walter Payton Man of the Year award recipient,  was known for his “Peanut Punch” technique in Chicago, in which he would create turnovers by literally punching the football out of an opposing ball carrier’s hands.   Now at 34 years of age, and with his last two seasons being cut short due to triceps injuries, Tillman now finds himself out of Chicago and now in Carolina.

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Some thought that if Tillman was not to return to Chicago, it would be to play in Tampa Bay with his former head coach Lovie Smith, but Tillman opted to play for his former defensive coach, Ron Rivera who is now the head coach of the Carolina Panthers.

Defensively, Tillman finds himself in a position  better than that of Chicago’s.  Although they weren’t as dominant a defense as they were in 2013, the 2014 Panthers defense kept them close in games where their offense sputtered.  They are led by the best linebacker in the league in Luke Kuechly and a defensive line anchored by the likes of Star Lotulelei and  Charles Johnson.  The Panthers decided to part ways with Greg Hardy leaving a huge hole to fill in their pass rush efforts which they really didn’t address in free agency.  What they did address was their secondary by signing Teddy Williams, Kurt Coleman and Thomas DeCoud.  Okay they addressed it – they didn’t necessarily drop the world on it’s head with those signings. . .

Their latest addition was that of Charles Tillman, who brings an understanding of Ron Rivera’s schemes and the savvy of a veteran, who may not be the athlete he was 10 years ago, but is still a very serviceable piece when healthy.  Look at how good Bears rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller looked when Tillman was playing and compare that to when Tillman was out with injury.  Things became harder for the rookie because he lacked the instinct, “know-how” and physicality that Tillman brings on every snap.

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ProFootballTalk.Com reported that Tillman’s arrival to Carolina had more to do than just Ron Rivera: “Tillman said that defensive backs coach Steve Wilks was one of his closest confidantes when his daughter Tiana was having heart problems which led to a transplant. .. that’s similar to the role Till holds with Panthers tight end Greg Olsen, whose young son had to undergo multiple heart surgeries as well.”

The NFC South was a laughing stock last season.  The Panthers finished the season as the NFC South champions with a record of 7-8-1.   Considering who he’d line up against in this division, Tillman, even at 34, can be a valuable asset to this Panthers team.

Considering each team, let’s start with the Saints:  After last season, it’s apparent that Drew Brees’ reputation far exceeds his actual ability to play at an elite level anymore and as far as receivers, Tillman can keep the likes of Colston bottled up quite easily.  The Buccaneers will have a rookie quarterback under the very conservative watch of head coach Lovie Smith, so he won’t ask his rookie to do much and no matter the receiver lined up against Tillman – if it’s Vincent Jackson or Mike Evans – it will be more of a physical battle than a battle of speed, which plays right into Tillman’s hands.  Let’s not forget that while the whole world was scared of Detroit’s Calvin Johnson, Tillman frustrated Megatron more than any other corner did in the league – and it was because Tillman loves physical play – even against the likes of Calvin Johnson.  The team that may pose the biggest threat to Tillman and this Panthers secondary are the Atlanta Falcons, who come equipped with a quarterback in Matt Ryan who may very well be approaching that next level of quarterback.  Their wideout tandem of Julio Jones and Roddy White , when healthy, can still be the most difficult duo in the league.  Julio Jones proves time and time again that he is un-coverable while Roddy White, doesn’t mind physical play or going over the middle.

The truth about Charles Tillman going to the Panthers is this:  He is more a loss to the Bears than he is a gain for the Panthers.  The Bears needed Tillman to help in the growth of their young corner Kyle Fuller – and now with new faces up and down the organization there is nobody there for the fans to relate to anymore.  Tillman was the last true piece of that NFC Champion Bears team, Tillman was the reminder of what this Bears team is years from becoming.   It was tough enough for Bears fans when they realized that the end had come for Brian Urlacher to be wearing a Bears jersey – and now, not once – but twice this year – the fan base was hit with the departures of two fan favorites : Brandon Marshall and Charles Tillman.

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Tough times lay ahead for the Bears and in truth, Charles Tillman doesn’t deserve to have to sit through it.  He’s done his time in Chicago and gave 100% every time out on the field.  He deserves to go out with the familiarity and comfort that he now has in Carolina – and he deserves to at least play on a team with playoff hopes – not one in the middle of rebuilding.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio