Four things to know as Bears, new coaches scout Senior Bowl week

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UTSA defensive end Marcus Davenport picks up a Rice fumble. (AP)

MOBILE, Ala. — When the Bears coached in the Senior Bowl last year — a task typically bestowed upon the worst two teams that didn’t make a coaching change — they vowed it would be a one-time-only deal.

“We are never going to be in this position again,” general manager Ryan Pace said then.

They’re not. They have the eighth pick in the draft this year, but their 5-11 record was disturbing enough to prompt the firing of coach John Fox.

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With Pace, coach Matt Nagy and their staffs in town to interview prospects playing in the Senior Bowl, here’s a four-point primer for the week:

1. The Bears’ first-round pick probably isn’t here. Free agency might change the calculus, but the Bears have glaring needs at (in order) wide receiver, outside linebacker, cornerback and offensive line.

It’s hard to find someone at the Senior Bowl the Bears could take eighth, in part because the draft is so heavy on underclassmen. ESPN’s Mel Kiper had only eight seniors listed in his first-round mock draft.

Texas-San Antonio’s Marcus Davenport could be the closest a Senior Bowl player comes to fitting the bill. The 6-6 edge rusher can play his way into a top-10 pick with a good showing this week and at the NFL Scouting Combine next month.

Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage said Davenport could garner the most interest of any player this week. Davenport started his high school career as a wide receiver and weighed 198 pounds by graduation. He was up to 264 at UTSA.

Attention followed.

“It wasn’t that long ago that this wasn’t even a thought or on my radar,” Davenport said Monday.

2. In three drafts, Pace has selected six players who participated in the Senior Bowl — defensive backs Adrian Amos, Deiondre’ Hall and DeAndre Houston-Carson, center Cody Whitehair, running back Jeremy Langford and offensive lineman Jordan Morgan.

The Bears coached Morgan in the game last year. A shoulder injury landed him on injured reserve at the end of the preseason.

3. The Bears will be rooting for the quarterbacks. Four could be drafted in the top 10. Two — Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma and Wyoming’s Josh Allen — are at the Senior Bowl.

The Bears want them to make a good impression. Having traded up for their own quarterback last year, the Bears are undoubtedly intrigued by the possibility of gaining extra draft picks from teams looking to move up to No. 8.

Mayfield was delayed by a family matter and will arrive Tuesday. Allen spent last season preparing for this moment. Before deciding to return for his senior year, he spoke with Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, who ran a similar offense at North Dakota State.

“He said the offense we run translates extremely well to the NFL,” Allen said. “It’s a really cool parallel to understand I’m not in a spread system like most of these guys coming out of college.”

4. The Bears’ assistant coaches know the Senior Bowl players. Offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich coached offensive tackle Tyrell Cosby and long snapper Tanner Carew at Oregon. Former Notre Dame offensive line coach Harry Hiestand is familiar with former Irish tight end Durham Smythe.

In recruiting players out of high school, though, college coaches also have established relationships with players who landed at other schools.

“A lot of times you know these guys when they’re 13, 14 years old,” Helfrich, the Ducks’ coach for four years and offensive coordinator for four, said last week. “Some guys … maybe they had an issue in the past. Something you know about. Playing against someone, absolutely we’ll talk about that. We’ll talk about that as we get closer with the personnel people and get ready for the draft.”

Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley.


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