Bears Bullets: Mandatory Mini-Camp Coming, Focal Points For Defense, WRs With Lots To Prove, More

Jerrell Freeman was a notable snub who was left off Pro Football Focus’ list of top 50 players for 2017, and you can see why here:

Freeman served a four-game suspension for PEDs in 2016, but the 93.8 grade that falls into PFF’s elite category speaks to his performance when he was on the field. Being listed above the likes of Luke Kuechly and Sean Lee means you’re doing something right. According to PFF, Freeman had the fifth-best tackling efficiency and his 94.9 coverage grade was the best among NFL linebackers.

As long as Freeman can stay on the field, his ability to replicate his career-best season would go a long way toward helping a linebacker corps that aims to dominate in 2017.

  • Staying on the defensive side of the ball, CSN Chicago’s Chris Boden writes that the Bears are really driving home an emphasis on creating takeways this offseason. One of the factors that could play a role in increasing production in that area is health, as Boden points out that the Bears’ last four first-round picks have combined to play a total of 24 games – with Leonard Floyd representing 50 percent of that output. One player whose presence would be a tremendous addition would be nose tackle Eddie Goldman, who told Boden he’s recovered from an ankle injury that caused him to miss all but six games in 2016. Goldman, who was limited to just 197 snaps last year, earned an 80.0 grade from PFF in limited action – which would have ranked him 26th among 127 players who qualified at interior defensive linemen.
  • Getting a healthy and productive season from the front seven is a top priority for the Bears, and free agent addition Jaye Howard could be helpful in this area. Over at the Chicago Tribune, Brad Biggs writes about a player who is a low-risk addition with obvious talent for a team piecing together a rebuilding roster. Howard is one of the handful of veterans the Bears signed to one-year “prove-it” deals, and is one of the younger players to snatch up the offer as he will play in his age 29 season. If Howard can re-establish himself with the kind of stats he posted in 2014 and 2015 – where he played 32 games, picked up 6.5 sacks, and made 62 tackles – both he and the Bears will benefit from the newfound relationship.
  • Over at Pro Football Focus, Bryson Vesnaver explains why 2017 is a make-or-break year for five players from the NFL Draft class of 2015. Among them is Bears wide receiver Kevin White, who has played in just four games in two seasons since being drafted with the seventh overall pick. Players drafted in 2015 will have their fifth-year options picked up or declined in the next offseason, so players like White enter this season with a bit of pressure to prove their long-term worth to the franchise. White earned some praise from quarterback Mike Glennon earlier during OTAs, but then ominously missed some time. If he’s healthy, White will have the first crack at being Glennon’s top target. For what it’s worth, he says he feels good and knows this year is a big one for him.
  • Speaking of receivers, the Bears will face three of PFF’s top-five during what might prove to be a very challenging 2017 schedule:
  • Also at PFF, Aaron Resnick wonders if college receivers are coming to the pros “league-ready.” Traditionally, receivers would break out in their third year after gaining familiarity with offensive schemes and defensive coverage packages, but an increasing number of receivers are becoming playmakers right away. This will be something to keep an eye on in 2017, especially if the aforementioned Kevin White can stay healthy and make positive strides.
  • With the Bears’ mandatory three-day mini-camp starting on Tuesday, Matt Eurich of 247 Sports reminds us what the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement rules say can happen at mini-camp, while also offering up some players to watch for over the next few days. Because after that, the Bears will step away for the next six weeks until training camp begins.
  • written by

    Luis C. Medina, who you can find on Twitter at lcm1986, has been covering the Chicago Bears at Bleacher Nation since 2017. Since then, he has written about 3 head coaches, 5 play-callers, and 11 starting quarterbacks. Previously, Luis wrote about the Cubs and MLB at BN (2015-16) and worked in the Chicago Tribune sports department (2011-16). He also co-hosted a Cubs postgame show, Outside the Ivy, in 2019.

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