5 Potential Bears OC Candidates To Replace Adam Gase

After winning 4 of their last 6 games, the hottest topic regarding the Chicago Bears this week seems to be “Can they keep Adam Gase?” It’s a fair conversation to have as Gase is presumed to be one of the top head coaching candidates to fill any of a number NFL openings for next season. In 9 games, Gase has the Bears offense looking as respectable as any with Jay Cutler playing his best football since coming to Chicago. He was also very close to being the 49ers head coach after last season, had San Francisco’s higher-ups not been so sold on this guy…

Daisy Tomsula

Vacancies across the league already include Tennessee and Miami, unless Dan Campbell continues to work wonders. Other teams that are expected or rumored to be looking for a new head coach include the Colts, Saints, Lions, Browns, Chargers, Rams, and the aforementioned 49ers. I wouldn’t anticipate this to be appealing to Gase, but there are several major conference openings in college football as well. The point is, there are plenty of options for Gase to move up in the football world and Bears fans shouldn’t be shocked to see Cutler working with yet another offensive coordinator next season.

Is it possible the Bears will do everything in their power to keep Gase? Sure. They could make Gase an offer similar to the Cowboys’ Jason Garrett deal, making him the highest paid coordinator in football with assurances he’ll be the next head coach after John Fox is done. In 2008, Garrett was making $3 million as an assistant waiting in the wings behind then Cowobys coach Wade Phillips. League rules prevented Jerry Jones to name Garrett as an heir to take over for Phillips, but it was the worst kept secret in football.

The likelihood of Gase staying in Chicago after this season isn’t particularly probable, but one could be confident Fox will have a strong candidate in place to fill the opening. After all, Fox did bring the best two available coordinators with him after taking the Bears job, Gase and Vic Fangio.

What do Fox’s OC options look like for the 2016 season?

 

Mike McCoy

Current Chargers Head Coach

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With the team’s likely move to Los Angeles and another underwhelming season, the Chargers organization could be looking for a fresh face and a new voice in the locker room. The Bears interviewed Mike McCoy in 2013 before he took the Chargers job. McCoy had just reshaped the Broncos offense from accommodating Tim Tebow in 2011 to Peyton Manning in 2012, with Fox as his boss and Gase as QB coach. Fox and McCoy are already very familiar with each other. Gase has also credited McCoy on multiple occasions for being one of the better influences on his coaching style.

 

Dowell Loggains

Current Bears Quarterbacks Coach

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The transition for Dowell Loggains to offensive coordinator, on paper, looks seamless. Loggains is already working closely with Cutler on a daily basis and would essential continue using Gase’s playbook. He isn’t inexperienced when it comes to play-calling either, as he served as Titans OC in 2012-2013 under Mike Munchak. The concern, however, is that Loggains could leave with Gase if he’s hired elsewhere.

 

Ken Whisenhunt

Former Titans Head Coach

Ken Whisenhunt

Ken Whisenhunt keeps getting head coaching jobs because he continuously gets it done as an offensive coordinator. Before his 1 and a half year Titans tenure, Whisenhunt called plays as McCoy’s OC in San Diego in 2013. The Chargers had improved from 31st in total offense to 5th with Whisenhunt on the sidelines. The Chargers also ranked 4th in touchdowns and 5th in passing yards that season as Ryan Matthews had his best year rushing with 1,255 yards.

 

Bill Lazor

Current Dolphins Offensive Coordinator

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This really depends on what the Miami Dolphins chooses to do about their head coaching situation. If Campbell drops the interim tag, I would expect Bill Lazor to either stay put or leave for a head coaching position (although unlikely). Lazor has said that he let down former Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin before his dismissal in October. Since then, the Dolphins have played like the high powered offensive team they were expected to be. Lazor runs a quick-hitting read offense works similarly to Gase’s current system. It operates best when the running backs are the central focus. Case in point, Lamar Miller: 124 total yards per game and and 9 touchdowns since Philbin’s firing with a 3-2 record.

 

Rob Chudzinski

Current Colts Offensive Coordinator

Rob Chudzinski

Chuck Pagano’s fate in Indianapolis has felt all but sealed as his Colts team has gone from predicted Super Bowl contenders to a playoff battle with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Rob Chudzinski has run up and down the ranks of offensive coaching staffs since coming into the league in 2004. “Chud” is best known for innovating the original 2-TE system and helping Cam Newton breakout during his rookie season with the most passing yards of his career so far in 2011. Chudzinski has recently taken over as Colts OC following Pep Hamilton’s scapegoat dismissal in October. He’s a play-caller with head coaching chops but probably a little out-of-the-box in terms of schemes for the Bears and their current path. You can’t help but notice though, how good the Bears offense has looked when utilizing both Martellus Bennett and Zach Miller in recent weeks.

 

Have another potential Offensive Coordinator candidate in mind for the Bears? Let me know on Facebook or Twitter

 

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NFL Week 8 Fantasy Mailbag

What happens when you fire Joe Philbin, play the Titans and Texans in back-to-back weeks, and hand Lamar Miller the ball?

(The “Hard Knocks” Texans seem so long ago don’t they?)

In just two weeks, the Miami Dolphins look like the team their roster suggested they would be before the season even started. Miller had just 37 carries over the first 4 weeks of the season for 131 yards and no touchdowns. He has more than doubled that production in his last 2 games with 288 rush yards and 2 touchdowns on 33 carries (plus 61 yards and another touchdown receiving). The Dolphins also became the first team since at least 1940 to score 4 touchdowns of 50+ yards in the first half against Texans. Not a shabby start to the head coaching career for Dan Campbell.

The Dolphins head to New England tonight for what could be a shootout with Tom Brady and the Patriots. Don’t slow your roll yet on Miller as the Patriots are allowing 110 yards per game rushing. Now proceed to point and laugh at whoever dropped him in your fantasy league.

Quick Hits

  • The Cardinals running back situation seems pretty clear now with Zombie Chris Johnson ranked second in the league in rushing. Okay he’s more of a “Dawn of the Dead” zombie that runs. Fast…If you took my advice last week, you played Todd Gurley in DFS against the worst run defense in the league. The Browns have allowed more than 1,000 yards rushing on the season (132 more than the Chargers), and Zombie Chris Johnson should eat.

Chris Johnson

  • While the Chargers seem to have nearly given up on running the ball, the biggest benefactor of that trend has been Keenan Allen. Allen now leads the league in receptions with 62. Allen owners know that his point production is a little inconsistent, but he gets 12 targets per game. When Philip Rivers locks in on Allen, oh does he lock in…3 times this season, Allen has recorded 130+ yards and averages 13 catches in those games. His matchup against the Ravens smells like one of those games as Baltimore allows 214 yards and 1.6 to wide receivers each week.

Keenan Allen

  • While the sexiest tight end name in the game is Gronk, Greg Olsen is no slouch either. Olsen has 65+ yards and/or a touchdown in 5 of his 6 games this season. He’s gone for 130+ yards twice this season, and was targeted by Cam Newton 11 times in both of those games. I expect Newton to bounce back from a 3 interception game and to make Olsen a priority in order to do so. Olsen has already accounted for 21% of the targets each week and only trails Gronk for the most plays of 20+ yards this year.

Olsen

Mail Time!

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WR – I really like Jeremy Maclin this week against the Lions in London. Detroit is allowing 206 yards and 1 touchdown per game to wide receivers and Maclin is the only reliable receiver in Kansas City. In 3 of his last 4 games, Maclin averaged 7.5 catches and 106 yards.

RB – The guy I’m not picking of your group is James Starks. Ronnie Hillman is finally getting a majority of the first team reps in practice and THE DUKE is the back to have out of Cleveland. Johnson Jr. is the pass catching back and you have to expect the Browns to be playing from behind against Arizona…which means they’ll be passing. Starks is also banged up, a backup, and going against the best defense in football.

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A very close call. As much as I like Martavis Bryant with Ben Roethlisberger coming back, I like Stefon Diggs more against the Bears secondary. In 3 games played, Diggs has more targets, caches and twice as many yards as Mike Wallace. Go with the clear #1 WR the Vikings has as the Bears will be doing whatever they can to keep Adrian Peterson in check.

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I’m going to let this slide this week, but this^ is too many questions. Try to limit it to 2 going forward. Love ya, Emmet. 

Trade: Hard to pick a winner without knowing the needs of each team involved, but I am going with whoever received Tannehill in the deal. Tannehill is trending way up with Philbin off his back, and Eddie Lacy is losing more and more touches to Starks. This weekend will be the most telling on what Lacy is this season with Starks hurting. If Starks gets more work than Lacy again, I feel bad for anyone who picked the former Bama back way too high this year.

Flex 1: The Duke for for the reasons I gave Bucy. Tavon is boom or bust regardless of the matchup as Gurley is now the entire offense and Nick Foles sucks.

Flex 2: Not a great week for Jeremy Hill going against the Steelers. Pacing will probably make Gio Bernard the better option for the Bengals, but at least you know Hill will get touches. He also has the most touchdowns from within the 5 yard line. Moncrief has a bad matchup against the Carolina secondary.

(See, I’ve already answered 3 questions for you and there are 2 left. I’ve got shit to do, homie)

QB: Roethlisberger. Ed Werder of ESPN has him going and so should you with ALL of his scoring options available.

Flex 3: Woodhead

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You’ve got a solid matchup for Delanie Walker this week against the Texans defense. Whether it’s Mariota or Mettenberger under center, he’s their favorite target regardless. Watson has had a nice couple weeks, but Drew Brees has way more options to keep up with a tough Giants receiving corps.

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Larry Donnell isn’t a great option, but at least he’s done something in the last 6 weeks. Jordan Cameron hasn’t recorded more than 30 yards since Week 2. I won’t trust him until I see him do better than that again.

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I think you answered your own question, Donald. Tyler Eifert is a big reason for Andy Dalton’s success this season and I don’t see him slowing down anytime soon. Eifert has as many red zone targets as AJ Green. Also, look at what Pittsburgh gave up to Gronk and Travis Kelce combined: 19 catches, 259 yards and 5 touchdowns.

Have more lineup questions? Feel free to ask on both Facebook and Twitter! Also, don’t hesitate to post any questions for next week’s Mailbag. Good luck this weekend! 

Fantasy Cheat Sheet 2015: Tight Ends

You have to love how the Tight End position has evolved over the years. Every since Tony Gonzalez hit the scene, former basketball players and big wide receivers have converted into heavy hitters in Fantasy Football. 

I wouldn’t take one in the first round, but here are my Top 20 and where you should look to take them.

1.Rob Gronkowski, NE

Gronk

2014: 1,124 rec yards, 82 catches, 12 TD

Regardless if it’s Brady throwing or if it’s Garoppolo, Gronk will smash. However, he’s not going to be 1st round worthy like he’s projected. Great player but he won’t carry your team enough to give up picking a high end point producing skilled player.

Pick 2nd Round

2. Jimmy Graham, SEA

Graham

2014: 889 rec yards, 85 catches, 10 TDs

Graham was a bit inconsistent last season, partially thanks to Drew Brees and being injured. He’s being downplayed in Seattle, but I think he’s a perfect fit with Russell Wilson. Could be a touchdown machine.

Pick 3rd Round

3. Martellus Bennett, CHI

Bears vs. Vikings

2014: 916 rec yards, 90 catches, 6 TDs

Martysaurus could do big things this season. “Denver-Julius Thomas” big things. He was spread out in the first preseason game like Thomas was in the Gase system, and that makes him dangerous around the end zone. He was targeted nearly as much as Gronk last season and that shouldn’t change.

Pick 4th or 5th Round

4. Greg Olsen, CAR

G-Reg

2014: 1008 rec yards, 84 catches, 6 TDs

Olsen and Benjamin are Cam’s best two offensive options again this year. Olsen seems to be more helpful in between the 20s and that helps for reception and yard points.

Pick 5th Round

5. Travis Kelce, KC

Kelce

2014: 862 rec yards, 67 catches, 5 TDs

Kelce is solid and seems more reliable for Alex Smith than his receivers are. The offense runs through Jamaal Charles but on 3rd down and in the red zone, Kelce is key.

Pick 5th or 6th Round

6. Jason Witten, DAL

Witten

2014: 704 rec yards, 64 catches, 5 TDs

The more unsure we get about the Cowboys running backs, the better I feel about Tony Romo throwing more to Bryant and Witten. Witten isn’t as athletic as he used to be, but he is gets the job done.

Pick 7th Round

7. Jordan Cameron, MIA

Cameron

2014: 424 rec yards, 24 catches, 2 TDs

Cameron dealt with a mess last year in Cleveland. I would expect him to bounce back pretty well with Tannehill at quarterback, who will benefit from having a bigger target in the red zone.

Pick 7th Round

8. Zach Ertz, PHI

Ertz

2014: 702 rec yards, 58 catches, 3 TDs

If the Eagles quarterbacks are going to be any good, they’re going to have to rely heavily on Ertz, who is the best pass catcher they have. He’ll also be valuable as a compliment to pounding the rock with Murray.

Pick 7th Round

9. Delanie Walker, TEN

Delanie

2014: 890 rec yards, 63 catches 4 TDs

A rookie quarterback’s best friend is his tight end, and Delanie Walker is a fast one. Walker missed the first preseason game because he was coming back from a thumb injury, but I expect him to help calm Mariota’s nerves in no time.

Pick 8th Round

10. Kyle Rudolph, MIN

Denver Broncos v Minnesota Vikings

2014: 231 rec yards, 24 catches, 2 TDs

I think Rudolph will be a steal in mid to late rounds because Vikings OC Norv Turner LOVES his tight ends. Rudolph was banged up a bit last season but should play well with a further developed Bridgewater at quarterback.

Has 8th Round Value but you’ll find him available 10th round

11. Julius Thomas, JAX

Julius

2014: 489 rec yards, 43 catches, 12 TDs

Thomas was successful because of Peyton Manning and the Adam Gase offense. Now he’s in Jacksonville where star players can’t stay healthy and longtime Jaguars TE Marcedes Lewis is also there. Thomas won’t get as many looks but has a chance to prove that he’s better than just a system receiver.

Pick 8th Round

12. Dwayne Allen, IND

Dwayne

2014: 395 rec yards, 29 catches, 8 TDs

Coby Fleener is also in Indy, but Dwayne Allen is the better receiver in the end zone. Luck targeted Allen 50 times last season, and I expect that to go up with Gore established in the run game.

Pick 10th Round

13. Owen Daniels, DEN

Daniels

2014: 527 rec yards, 48 catches, 4 TDs

Broncos HC Gary Kubiak always brings his favorite TE along, “old reliable” Owen Daniels. Sometimes Daniels looked very good as a TD threat, and a lot of times he was nowhere to be found. Decent late round backup

Pick 11th Round

14. Larry Donnell, NYG

Donnell

2014: 623 rec yards, 64 catches, 6 TDs

Larry Donnell is dealing with tendonitis in his Achilles but the Giants don’t seem worried about him missing Week 1. He put together some of the best games for tight ends, and sometimes didn’t do much at all. Expect him to be much more consistent in year 2 of the new offensive system.

Pick 11th Round

15. Jordan Reed, WAS

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2014: 465 rec yards, 50 catches

With Niles Paul out for the season, Jordan Reed is the man for Washington. RG-III plays well with TEs, especially in the red zone, and Reed is an excellent weapon when healthy.

Pick 12th Round

16. Antonio Gates, SD

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2014: 821 rec yards, 69 catches, 12 TDs

Even though Gates is missing 4 games for suspension, you aren’t drafting to use him that early in the season anyway. Although Ladarius Green will be getting an audition to start the season, Gates is still one of the best ever at the position and will be an excellent weapon to have in your pocket

Pick Late Rounds

Tyler Eifert, CIN

Eifert

2014: 37 rec yards, 3 catches

Eifert didn’t do anything last year, literally. But now Jermaine Gresham is gone and Eifert is the #1 TE in Cincy, so you have to think production will only go up from here.

Pick Late Rounds

18. Ladarius Green, SD

Ladarius

2014: 226 rec yards, 19 catches

Green is getting a crack at showing he can take over when Antonio Gates is done or hurt (or suspended longer). If Philip Rivers can’t make him worth your while, nobody can.

Pick Late Rounds

19. Josh Hill, NO

Josh Hill

2014: 176 rec yards, 14 catches, 5 TDs

Jimmy Graham’s replacement caught a decent number of touchdowns last year, but is taking reps with the 2nd team so far this preseason. Decent fill in for a back up spot, or an easy drop when you want to add someone better.

Pick Late

20. Heath Miller, PIT

Green Bay Packers v Pittsburgh Steelers

2014: 761 rec yards, 66 catches, 3 TDs

Heath is usually a fill in guy when you need a spot start at TE or someone gets injured. Really it just helps to have him already because Roethlisberger will always have him as a security blanket when he needs one.

Pick Late

Do your rankings look different? Let me know on Facebook and Twitter

Also…

Quarterbacks Cheat Sheet

Running Backs Cheat Sheet

Wide Receivers Cheat Sheet

Defenses & Kickers Cheat Sheet

Fantasy Cheat Sheet 2015: Quarterbacks

If you haven’t already, now would be a good time to start preparing for your upcoming Fantasy Football Draft. 

Whether you’re playing in Yahoo!, ESPN, CBS, or some other website, you don’t necessarily want to base your picks off of their pre-draft rankings. That’s why I write up a CHEAT SHEET with players I prefer, based on their production last season, their team’s recent acquisitions, schemes/sytems, and injuries. 

Here are my Top-20 quarterbacks and where I would prioritize drafting them round-by-round. 

1. Andrew Luck, IND

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Indianapolis Colts

2014: 40 TD/ 16 INT, 4,761 yards

Throws the ball A LOT. Just added Andre Johnson and a legit running back in Frank Gore to keep defensive backs honest. 5 Good WRs, 2 decent TEs…Yeah. The Beard’s ceiling has been raised.

Pick: Late 1st, Early 2nd round

2. Aaron Rodgers, GB

Rodgers

2014: 38 TD / 5 INT, 4,381 yards

Doesn’t turn it over often and plays better down the stretch. Rodgers is missing his #1 receiver, but could make someone else into a star very quickly. Also scary in the red zone on the ground.

Pick: Late 1st, Early 2nd

3. Drew Brees, NO

Buffalo Bills v New Orleans Saints

2014: 33 TD / 17 INT, 4,952 yards

Brees can be great or he can kill you. If Brandin Cooks stays healthy, he’ll bounce back and tear it up. May not throw as many TDs but he’ll pick up plenty of yardage and completions. Led the league in both last year.

Pick: 3rd or 4th round

4. Tony Romo, DAL

Sports Day

2014: 34 TD / 9 INT, 3,705 yards

Expect Romo to throw it more with DeMarco Murray gone. Cowboys have the best offensive line in the league and give him plenty of time to find an open man, and has sure hands in Dez Bryant and Jason Witten.

Pick 4th Round

5. Peyton Manning, DEN

P Manning

2014: 39 TD / 15, 4,761 yards

I don’t believe Manning would have come back if he wasn’t healthy. He will still throw a ton. Plus Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are great after the catch.

Pick: 4th Round

6. Russell Wilson, SEA

NFC Championship - San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks

2014: 20 TD/7 INT, 3,475 yards

Doesn’t get a ton of passing points but makes up for it with rushing yards and TDs on the ground. Also just added Jimmy Graham, so passing points should go up.

Pick 4th Round

7. Ben Roethlisberger, PIT

Roethlisberger

2014: 32 TD / 9 INT, 4,952 yards

Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell definitely help Ben get his points. He’ll throw 5 TDs one day, but none another. 

Pick 5th Round

8. Matt Ryan, ATL

Ryan

2014: 28 TD / 14 INT, 4,694 yards

New coach and OC, super young RBs, and healthy Julio Jones and Roddy White…Matty Ice is going to let it fly. 

Pick: 5th Round

9. Eli Manning, NYG

New York Giants

2014: 30 TD / 14 INT, 4,410 yards

Eli doesn’t have an excuse not to produce big time in year two of Odell Beckham Jr and having a healthy Victror Cruz back. Rashad Jennings provides solid relief in the run game when he isn’t sidelined, and Tom Brady could tell Manning how good Shane Vereen is on passing downs. 

Pick 6th Round

10. Tom Brady, NE

AP PATRIOTS RAVENS FOOTBALL S FBN USA MD

2014: 33 TD / 9 INT, 4,109 yards

This obviously can change if his suspension goes away, but Brady can be your first pick after most of the Top 10 go. Next couple QBs can bridge you to after he returns and he’ll be a boss when he does.

Pick 6th Round or a few after you pick your first QB

11. Phillip Rivers, SD

NFL: New York Giants at San Diego Chargers

2014: 31 TD / 18 INT, 4,286 yards

First half of last year, was Top 3 among QBS. Rivers just got paid too, which should motivate him to earn his keep. He also gets Danny Woodhead back to throw to and Keenan Allen should be better as well.

Pick 7th Round and beyond

12. Matthew Stafford, DET

Stafford

2014: 22 TD / 12 INT, 4,247 yards

This really depends on how healthy Calvin Johnson is. Megatron at his best is devastating and would make Stafford an awesome backup or even starter. Golden Tate proved to help him out too in Johnson’s absence. Theo Riddick and Joique Bell are proven to be solid pass catchers out of the backfield too.

Pick 7th Round

13. Jay Cutler, CHI

Green Bay Packers v Chicago Bears

2014: 28 TD / 18 INT, 3,812 yards

Jay is poised for a bounce back year and not just because #CuttyDoesIt. Former Peyton Manning OC Adam Gase has emphasized utilizing Cutler’s strengths throwing on the run and play-action. He’ll be missing Kevin White for at least the first half of the season, but finally has a true slot receiver in Eddie Royal. Also expect Martellus Bennett to be big when spread out, like Julius Thomas in past years. 

Pick 8th Round and beyond

14. Ryan Tannehill, MIA

Ryan Tannehill

2014: 27 TD / 12 INT, 4,045 yards

Gets better every year. Added proven veteran receivers, Kenny Stills and Greg Jennings, who can also play in uptempo offenses. Jarvis Landry will be Tannehill’s best weapon to stretch the field though.

Pick 8th Round and beyond

15. Cam Newton, CAR

Newton

2014: 18 TD / 12 INT, 3,127 yards

Newton is sliding in most drafts after losing Kelvin Benjamin for the season to injury. Rookie Devin Funchess isn’t as depended on as advertised with veterans like Jericho Cotchery and Ted Gin Jr. in the mix, but can put up Benjamin-like production. Ability to run for TDs makes up for lack of passing points too. 

Pick 8th Round

16. Joe Flacco, BAL

Flacco

2014: 27 TD / 12 INT, 3,986 yards

Lost Torrey Smith and his replacement, Breshad Perriman, is questionable. Flacco will be throwing a lot though with Marc Trestman as OC. Could be either really good or really meh.

Pick 9th round and beyond

17. Teddy Bridgewater, MIN

Bridgewater

2014: 14 TD / 12 INT 2,919 yards

The Vikings are a run heavy team, without question. Teddy has looked excellent in preseason though, and he has Mike Wallace and Charles Johnson to throw to. The training wheels are off in year two and you can expect Kyle Rudolph to provide a nice security blanket in the Norv Turner system

Pick 10th Round and beyond

18. Andy Dalton, CIN

Dalton

2014: 19 TD / 17 INT, 3,398 yards

Dalton’s last season was thrown off with AJ Green getting injured. The Bengals added Denarius Moore to go with Marvin Jones and Sanu. Don’t bank on him but he’s a nice backup with nice options.

Pick 11th Round and beyond

Colin Kaepernick, SF

Kaepernick

2014: 19 TD / 10 INT, 2,369 yards

The 49ers could potentially be the worst team in the NFL, but Kaepernick can still take over a game in desperate times. He still has Anquan Boldin, plus Torrey Smith and Reggie Bush who are both helpful in the passing. Kaepernick does run better than anyone on the team too. The defense will be awful so he’ll have to score plenty to stay in games.

Pick 11th Round and beyond

20. Derek Carr, OAK

Carr

2014: 21 TD / 12 INT, 3,270 yards

Carr showed flashes of the quarterback the Raiders need him to be last season. Drafting Amari Cooper helps along with a receiving group that also includes Michael Crabtree, Kenbrell Thompkins and Andre Holmes

Pick 12th Round and beyond

Do your rankings look different? Let me know on Facebook and Twitter

Also…

Running Backs Cheat Sheet

Wide Receivers Cheat Sheet 

Tight Ends Cheat Sheet

Defenses & Kickers Cheat Sheet

Your Chicago Bears: Preseason Week 1 vs. Miami

The Chicago Bears kickoff the John Fox/Ryan Pace era tonight at 7 PM CT off Lakeshore Drive with an exhibition matchup against the Miami Dolphins. For those who haven’t had an opportunity to make the trek down Route 55 to Boubonnais, this is will be your first look at the run-heavy Adam Gase offense and the Vic Fangio 3-4 defense…Albeit watered down, but still a first look.

The expectations for each year’s first preseason game are usually as follows. Maybe a series or 2 for the offensive starters. The first team defense may get a little bit more time as they are adjusting to a whole new scheme with players in new positions. Then it becomes time for backups and fringe players to show what they’ve got. Regardless, the players on both sides of the ball are going to carryout game plans from their respective coordinators for the first time, and that should be exciting for Bears fans.

Wednesday afternoon, the Bears released their first unofficial depth chart on the team’s website. Here are the different phases for the 2015 Bears squad, and what to look for while they get to hit someone else for the first time this summer.

The Offense

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Quarterbacks

Jay Cutler will start under center, as expected, with zero interceptions thrown all training camp. Gase has focused on running the ball in camp and playing to Cutler’s strengths which include rolling out of the box and throwing on the run. Cutler’s “see it, throw it” mentality works better when he can extend the play, and play-action should suit that better.

After Cutler exits, it will be his backup from a year ago Jimmy Clausen and undrafted rookie free agent Shane Carden from East Carolina. Clausen saw time in 4 games last season and 1 start before being concussed. The preseason is like the backup’s regular season with an opportunity to instill some confidence that he’s right for the job…or the general manager will look elsewhere.

Running Backs

As mentioned before, the emphasis of the Bears’ new offense will be on running the ball and Matt Fortesounds more than welcoming of that.

“When you run the ball, it’s more like an attack feeling,” Forte told the Chicago Sun-Times. “They like smash-mouth football, where you can bloody somebody’s nose and run and hit people.”

In contract year, Forte would much prefer that mentality as opposed to the RB-record 102 passes he caught last season. No surprise that veteran Jacquizz Rodgers is the second string back, but Jeremy Langford will have a chance to showcase his speed, pass catching, and third down strength. Daniel Thomas is the only other proven back and has out-shined both Ka’Deem Carey and Senorise Perry in camp.

Receivers

The Bears seem set at the position for the time being, despite 1st round pick Kevin White trying to return from a shin injury. Alshon Jeffery is the clear #1 receiver with Brandon Marshall gone, and Eddie Royal fills a need that has been missing for year as the slot receiver. Anticipate Royal to see a lot of targets during the season if Jeffery commands double teams.

With White on the sidelines, the stage is set for Marquess Wilson to try proving he can be a playmaker and also stay healthy. Josh Bellamy is a familiar name who will get plenty of snaps tonight, and return specialist Marc Mariani has impressed everyone in camp when he gets his reps with the first team.

Tight Ends

The Bears don’t have any fullbacks on their roster, so the tight end position gets two different slots on the depth chart. Martellus Bennett is the clear #1 while Dante Rosario gets listed first on the second line. Rosario will be in competition for second TE time against newcomer Bear Pascoe and 2014 preseason hero Zach Miller. Miller needs to prove he can make it out of the preseason in one piece, but could be an excellent red zone option if he can.

Offensive Line

The current starting offensive is the same as it was to break camp the past two seasons, with the addition of former Bronco Will Montgomery at center. Keep an eye on rookie Hroniss Grasu from Oregon, who ranked 2nd among centers in the draft and should get a lot of time with the twos. Jordan Mills is looking to bounce back from a bad sophomore season that was also plagued by injuries, but the massive Charles Leno will look to provide insurance to the tackle position. More than likely, Kyle Long will be mixing it up with somebody…because that’s what he does.

The Defense

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Defensive Line

It will be very different from what Bears fans have seen for the last decade and a half. There are no longer “defensive tackles” and defensive ends fill the 5 technique on the line. Slated as the #1 nose tackle is Jeremiah Ratlif, who is one of the few D-Linemen with 3-4 experience. While he is penciled in at the nose, he can also play DE. Eddie Goldman was highly regarded coming out of the draft from Florida State and was expected to make a run for a starting spot at either nose or DE. He should get plenty of snaps tonight, but will have to prove he’s in shape enough to handle it. Previously, he left the field early in both camp and OTAs because he wasn’t.

I’m looking forward to how the two DL rookies from last year transition to end. Early reviews say Ego Ferguson was one of the most improved players from offseason workouts while Will Sutton  seems to be struggling with the move. Jarvis Jenkins is slated as the other #1 defensive end opposite of Ferguson. Jenkins is the only other DE with 3-4 experience besides backend defender David Carter. He’s a better run defender but hopes to prove he can get upfield quicker to prove he can rush the passer in Fangio’s system. Cornelius Washington will be one of the most interesting watches tonight as he has hung around the roster for the past few years without seeing much regular season playing time.

Outside Linebackers

It’s funny seeing the two biggest defensive signees from last season not only in different positions now, but one slated ahead of the more expensive one. Jared Allen is currently the starter ahead of Lamarr Houston and both are trying to prove they can learn a new position. I have a hard time seeing either one drop back in coverage which is why I anticipate they are going to get more pass rushing snaps than anything.

Purnell McPhee is this season’s big free agent signing and he describes himself as “violent”. Tonight we get our first look at how violent he can be for the Bears and how much chaos he can cause for opposing offenses. Sam Acho is set behind Purnell in the depth chart, but he’s probably a better OLB than both Allen and Houston. Willie Young will have the most to prove as he has had the toughest time changing positions. He’s always played a wide DE position and it has to be awkward playing without your hand on the ground when you haven’t done it for your entire career.

Inside Linebackers

No, you read that correctly. Shea McClellin the Bears starting inside linebacker alongside last year’s undrafted rookie free agent signee Christian Jones. Jones has always looked like a player who deserved to be drafted and given more respect, but McClellin is auditioning for his 3rd different position. This is the Shea-Train’s last chance to prove he isn’t a draft bust and so far he has shown Fangio this may be his natural position. If not, Mason Foster has plenty of experience and skill to fit in better. Jon Bostic has missed most of the offseason due to injury and is still catching up to learn the scheme and his position.

Cornerbacks

The Bears secondary is currently their weakest position in terms of depth, and maybe talent as well. Kyle Fuller has a full year under his belt, one that saw a lot of success in the first month and disaster the rest of the way. The Bears hope he can emulate that first month for an entire season. Tim Jennings is a former Pro Bowler, but is also coming off a rough 2014 campaign. Jennings has always been best in man coverage though, so the scheme change should be helpful. Alan Ball was priority signing for Pace in the offseason and will get plenty of time to show why next to Tracy Porter. 

Safeties

Many were surprised to see 2nd year safety Brock Vereen as one of the starting safeties, not so much of a surprise with Antrel Rolle. Ryan Mundy was expected to be one of the starters and will have to earn that spot beginning tonight. Keep an eye on the rookie out of Penn State, Adrian Amos, who was one of the best coverage safeties in the Big Ten a year ago.

Special Teams

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There’s not much to say about the Special Teams units other than the fact that they can’t be worse than last year’s. And on the cover of tonight’s program at Soldier Field is punter Pat O’Donnell. 

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