Chicago Bears rookie review: Part 1

Chicago Bears rookie review: Part 1

The Chicago Bears’ second draft class under general manager Phil Emery has finished its first season. The class was again headlined by what many considered to be a risky pick in Kyle Long, whose athleticism and potential outmatched any real production of note at the college level.

In addition to Long, Emery selected five more draft prospects in 2013. And while it’s probably not appropriate to grade a draft class after a single season, a look back at Emery’s first three selections and what they were able to accomplish, in addition to where they project for the coming season, might give us some insight into the mind of Phil Emery heading in to the coming draft.

First-round selection: Kyle Long, OG

Long had played just four career games coming out of Oregon and was an extremely raw prospect with tremendous upside. He had all the tools to become an elite guard in this league under the right tutelage and with more game experience under his belt. At pick No. 20 in round one, the Bears shocked a few people by taking the flyer on Long.

Long didn’t at first seem like a player who could come in right away and make an impact. He looked more like a project and subsequent long-term puzzle piece to rebuilding the Bears’ offensive line. But Long’s stock rose quickly with five offensive lineman going in the first 20 picks, and Emery pulled the trigger.

Now, with 16 games as a starter under his belt, in addition to a Pro Bowl nod, I can confidently say Emery hit a homerun. It definitely helped having an offensive line guru like Aaron Kromer helping him along the way, but even from that first pre-season game it was clear how special Kyle Long could be.

In one season, Long helped change the complexion of the Bears’ line and helped make it one of the more effective pass and run blocking units in the league. He still has areas of his game that need work, but having excelled so early in his development, he should only improve year-to-year. His drive and his talent should serve to make him perennially one of the top guards in pro football.

Second-round selection: Jon Bostic, MLB

Drafted as a potential future replacement for one of the best to have played the position in Chicago, Jon Bostic came out of Florida with Brian Urlacher-sized shoes to fill. But he certainly wasn’t expected by anyone to fill them immediately.

Bostic is another raw prospect with decent coverage abilities and a powerful punch to his tackles. He was never truly ready to start at the position in 2013, but due to the massive amount of injuries in the front seven he was forced into action. He played in 16 games (nine starts), with 57 total tackles, one sack and one interception.

It’s an unfair assessment to blame Bostic for the teams’ complete collapse against the run, but his play in the middle of the defense was a big reason teams were having success on the ground against the Bears. Bostic had trouble shedding blocks and would over-pursue on run plays. Teams were coming in and running right at the middle of the Chicago defense, and Bostic was helpless at times.

It was a historically bad front seven, riddled with inexperience and injuries, and Bostic was a product of that, but his potential hasn’t gone anywhere. The biggest question now is if he’s still best suited inside, or if he should make the move outside. His coverage abilities are there, it’s his reads that have thus far limited his production.

The Bears are most likely going to bring in another MLB, and it could end up being D.J. Williams, who played well at MLB for the team in 2013 before being sidelined with an injury. We’ll know by the end of training camp which position Bostic will end up playing and if he could somehow return as a starter in 2014.

Fourth-round selection: Khaseem Greene, OLB

With no third-round pick (thanks to the Brandon Marshall trade), the Bears selected Khaseem Greene out of Rutgers in the fourth. Greene was a force in the Big East at Rutgers, winning Defensive Player of the Year with staggering numbers. As a fourth-round pick, Greene was a great value.

He has the talent of a third- or even second-round player but found his way to the fourth due to his recovery from injury and average size. Greene was another player not ready to get real playing time in 2013, especially playing behind a player like Lance Briggs.

He was another long term prospect while adding depth to a depleted linebacking corps heading into 2013, and he could eventually develop into a weakside LB under Briggs. His contributions to special teams were helpful in a down year for the coverage unit.

Greene being the second linebacker selected by Emery in subsequent rounds shows an attempt at revamping and securing the future of the Bears’ linebacking depth chart. It’s unfortunate that Greene had to step in so early to fill a gap left by one of the most consistently dominant Will LBs in the league in Lance Briggs.

Greene, coupled with Bostic, left a huge knowledge gap in the middle of the Bears’ defense. Greene would heavily over pursue on the run and get caught out of position. He ended with 21 total tackles, a forced fumble and an interception. More game experience playing behind a more stable defensive line will go a long way toward his development, but he’s still a couple years away from becoming a full-time starter.

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