Smith Says Pre-Draft Roster is a Good One.................
Pre-draft roster strong, Smith says
By Brad Biggs, Chicago Tribune reporter 10:16 p.m. CDT, April 24, 2012
As the Bears do every year the week of the draft, the team handed out Piccolo Awards on Tuesday at Halas Hall.
Veteran linebacker Nick Roach was heartfelt in reflecting on the honor he received, noting that like the former Bears running back, he also was an undrafted free agent entering the NFL. Roach, 26, also pointed out that Piccolo was the same age when he died of cancer in 1970. But as usual, it was an upbeat affair and NFL Charities came through with a $50,000 check for the Brian Piccolo Cancer Research Fund, a worthy cause for money that is collected through the year from player fines.
"The sad thing is, this is my first football trophy," Roach said. "Need to work on the second one."
The Bears are looking to add help for the second one — the Lombardi Trophy — beginning Thursday night with the first round of the draft. Coach Lovie Smith is excited about the talent that can be added to the mix after a busy initial free-agent period.
"Going into the draft you want to have you roster as strong as it can be," Smith said. "We feel like we've done that. I can't see anything else we could have done to really improve our ballclub before the draft."
The Bears have added or re-signed a total of 15 players and one of the newcomers, wide receiver Brandon Marshall, is a sure starter. There are holes on the defensive line the Bears will look to fill with the draft before considering secondary free-agent options.
Defensive tackle Stephen Paea, the second-round pick a year ago, was the rookie recipient. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli praised the way he developed after being inactive for the first five games in 2011. Paea will be expected to play a much bigger role as Amobi Okoye has departed via free agency.
"Right now, we're really thin at defensive tackle," Paea said. "It would be an honor to step in and help the team to win. There are a lot of mistakes that I had last year ... from watching film from last year's season and to get better is just have that chemistry on the defensive line pressuring the quarterback and playing our keys right and everything will be good."
Roach figures to have some competition on the strong side now after Geno Hayes was signed to a one-year contract but he welcomes the newcomer. Roach cited how the team was fortunate to not have injuries at the position last year because there was a lack of experienced backups at the position.
"Whether you're competing against a guy that's in your room or competing against a guy that's on another team, they're watching the film (of him) in here," Roach said. "There's always somebody that's trying to make the grass greener. That's how you get better too is you're always trying to search for the next step."
The Bears are expected to attempt to make things greener on the defensive line where an end could be the first pick. General manager Phil Emery called the draft strong at end, defensive tackle and wide receiver. Marshall was one of three new wide receivers added, so that's another sign that points to defense.
"It's a strong draft at a lot of positions," Smith said. "We have a lot of good options. It's almost like the day before the big game, waiting for that time to come with a lot of excitement."