Bears coaches spending more time analyzing pr
Bears coaches spending more time analyzing prospects
No free agent recruiting or working with veterans leaves staff concentrating on draft
It has been business as usual for Lovie Smith this offseason, save for a few twists.
The Bears coach has yet to make any recruiting trips to lure a top free agent to Chicago. And Smith hasn't had to make any calls to his current players nudging them to join their teammates for voluntary workouts.
Yes, the NFL lockout and the no-contact rules associated with it have altered matters a bit. But the ongoing labor squabble between the players and owners — a battle that goes before a federal judge Wednesday in St. Paul, Minn., to determine if the lockout could be lifted — has had no effect on Smith's pre-draft preparation. If anything, it has helped him get a better feel for the prospects in this year's draft class.
"I know the players a lot better now than I did back when I talked to you last at the combine,'' Smith told the media at Maryville Academy in Des Plaines on Tuesday, where he attended the Ed Block Courage Award ceremony honoring nose tackle Anthony Adams.
"We've been out a few times watching guys work out and having personal workouts. And then just having a lot of time for video to see exactly what they look like on their tape from their season.''
It's no secret the Bears have done extensive homework on some of the top offensive and defensive line prospects in this draft. Smith himself recently was in North Carolina checking out defensive tackle Marvin Austin and others at the Tar Heels pro day, while defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli and offensive line coach Mike Tice have put players through drills at various pro days and during private workouts.
"We have had a little more time, but not more than in past years,'' general manager Jerry Angelo said about dissecting the draft prospects. "Everybody is basically doing what we usually do.''
But there's a big difference in this year's approach. Smith talked Tuesday about how excited he was to have a pick in each of the first two rounds, something the Bears didn't have the previous two seasons after trading for Jay Cutler and the late Gaines Adams and swapping picks with the Seahawks in '09. The key for the Bears will be selecting impact players with those two picks.
If an offensive linemen such as Florida's Mike Pouncey or Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi isn't available, the Bears figure to target a disruptive defensive tackle such as Austin, with Tommie Harris no longer in the picture.
Smith was asked for assessment of the defensive tackle prospects.
"Offensive line class, running backs, quarterbacks, wideouts, linebackers, DBs … it's a good solid draft,'' Smith said. "I can't say one group is a whole lot better than the other.''