First-and-10: DeShone Kizer in the draft is good for the Bears
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A day after Matt Barkley kept his hat in the ring in a 20-17 loss to the Lions that dropped the Bears to 3-10, DeShone Kizer’s entry into the 2017 NFL draft Monday was another reminder that Ryan Pace’s decision on a quarterback will be the biggest issue for the Bears in the offseason.
It’s good news for the Bears in one respect — the more quality quarterbacks in next year’s draft the better for a team that could have a top-5 pick in the first round.
The 6-4, 230-pound Kizer was 12-11 in two seasons as a starter at Notre Dame but fits the athletic mold NFL teams are looking for. The junior from Toledo, Ohio is considered by some draft experts one of three first-round quarterbacks prospects in the draft at this point — with Clemson’s DeShaun Watson and North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky (a true junior who has not declared for the draft). Neither of ESPN’s draft experts, Mel Kiper and Todd McShay, have Kizer among their top 25 prospects.
Kizer is not on my draft board, because I don’t have a draft board. Analyzing college tape is fairly easy. It’s up to Ryan Pace and the Bears’ personnel department to figure out which quarterbacks have the “it” factor that many elite quarterbacks have. it takes for most to succeed in the NFL. That’s a key part of the draft process with quarterbacks and there’s a long way to go in that regard.
Pace knows what he wants, and it doesn’t have to be a 6-4, 230-pound prototype. He’s looking for his Drew Brees — a 6-0, 215-pound quarterback without the big arm but with great intangibles and a knack for competing who was drafted in the second round and has been even more prolific in the NFL than he was in a quarterback-friendly system in college.
After dabbling in quarterbacks in his first two off-seasons with the Bears — signing Brian Hoyer and Connor Shaw without drafting a quarterback — the timing is right for Pace to find his quarterback of the future. Is that DeShone Kizer? Mitch Trubisky? Deshaun Watson? Matt Barkley? Connor Shaw? Jimmy Garoppolo? Pace will have many options, and a little bit of pressure. It will only be the biggest personnel move of his career.
2. Of course, Pace still has Jay Cutler on his roster. But while neither Hoyer nor Barkley is as productive as Cutler, their efficiency in the same offense is yet another indication that the Bears can do better at quarterback.
In eight starts this season, Hoyer and (98.4) and Barkley (83.0) have combined for 10 touchdowns, two interceptions, five fumbles, three total turnovers and a 92.9 rating. In five starts, Cutler has thrown four touchdowns, five interceptions, six fumbles, seven total turnovers and a 78.1 rating.
Since the Bears revamped their offense under Marc Trestman in 2013, Barkley is the third consecutive quarterback starting multiple games that has had a better efficiency rating than Cutler under similar circumstances (and in Barkley’s case, worse). In 2013, Josh McCown had a 108.2 rating in five starts (nine touchdowns, one interception two turnovers); Cutler had an 89.2 rating in 11 starts (19 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 15 turnovers).
3. If Bill Polian can guarantee his teams will be as healthy as they were in Buffalo and Indianapolis, sign him up. The Bears would pay top dollar just for his luck.
In the Bills’ four consecutive Super Bowl seasons (1990-93 seasons), the core of their team — Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed, Bruce Smith, Cornelius Bennett and the entire offensive line — combined to play in 94.5 percent of the Bills’ regular-season games (605-of-640).
A decade later, Polian’s teams in Indianapolis weren’t quite as injury resistant, but still pretty good. Peyton Manning didn’t miss a game in his first 13 years in the league. Marvin Harrison missed six games in his first 11 years with the Colts. Reggie Wayne missed three games in his first 12 years in the league. In the heart of the Manning era, Dallas Clark missed eight games in six years. Offensive linemen Tarik Glenn, Jeff Saturday and Ryan Diem rarely missed a game.
Even if Polian hasn’t lost his touch, the attrition factor in the NFL another decade later would challenge even the great Polian as it does every other current general manager.
4. Getting healthy and staying healthy might be an even bigger chore for Pace than the quarterback in the offseason. Nose tackle Eddie Goldman became the latest player to aggravate an injury when he left Sunday’s game after 15 snaps because of a nagging ankle injury that has cost him seven games this season.
Coach John Fox indicated the Bears might be better off sitting Goldman the rest of the season to let his ankle heal completely.
“He’s battling and I respect and appreciate that,” Fox said. “At some point, we have to evaluate that.
5. Entering Week 14, the Bears (3-10) are fourth in the 2017 draft order, behind the Browns (0-13, .554 strength-of-schedule), 49ers (1-12, .502) and Jaguars (2-11, .541). The Jets (4-9, .505) and the Rams (4-9, .493) are behind the Bears — and both of them are likely to win strength-of-schedule tie-breakers with the Bears.
6. The Bears were a plus-2 in turnover differential for the third time this season, all with a back-up quarterback — vs. the Lions at Soldier Field (Hoyer), the Jaguars (Hoyer) and Lions at Ford Field (Barkley). They are 1-2 in those games.
In Cutler’s five starts, the Bears had turnover differentials of zero, minus-3, zero, -3 and minus-1 — a total of minus-7 (nine giveaways and two takeaways).
7. The Bears have made progress on defense, but safety continues to be a sore spot. Rookie Deon Bush replaced Harold Jones-Quartey against the Giants; Jones-Quartey replaced Adrian Amos against the Lions; and Amos replaced Jones-Quartey in the second half against the Lions. Bush’s whiff against Anquan Boldin on a 23-yard pass play on the Lions’ winning drive was another indication he has along way to go.
“We’ve made a few switches at safety throughout the season,” Fox said. “You try to build competition. We’ll continue to try to find the right lineup and the right mix. I always tell players they pick the lineup; we don’t.”
8. Rookie linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski looks like he belongs. Kwiatkoski led the Bears with eight tackles and was given a sack when he ran Matthew Stafford out of bounds for no gain in the second quarter. At Kwiatkoski’s current rate of progression, the Bears could have three inside linebackers for two positions next season — if Danny Trevathan recovers from a torn patellar tendon (which is no certainty).
Starting inside linebackers Jerrell Freeman (99.1) and Danny Trevathan (90.7) play most of the snaps when they’re healthy, but defensive coordinator Vic Fangio indicated he would make room for Kwiatkoski in the rotation if he deserves a spot in the lineup when Freeman and Trevathan are available.
9. Ex-Bears Player of the Week: Linebacker Mason Foster led the Redskins with 12 tackles and also had a sack and two other tackles-for-loss in the Redskins 27-22 victory over the Eagles.
The Bears signed Foster, who played his first four seasons in the NFL with the Buccaneers, to a minimum-level free-agent contract in 2015. But he was cut after the preseason in favor of undrafted rookies John Timu and Jonathan Anderson — both of whom are still with the Bears.
The Bears play the Redskins on Dec. 24 at Soldier Field.
9a. Patriots linebacker Shea McClellin, last week’s winner, made a big special-teams play when he jumped the center to block a Ravens field goal attempt Monday night. It was McClellin’s second blocked kick of his career. He also blocked an extra-point against the Seahawks last month.
10: Bear-ometer: 4-12 — vs. Packers (L); vs. Redskins (W); at Vikings (L).