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Across the Middle with Andrew Dannehy (Featuring a Q & A With Jeff Risdon)

| February 3rd, 2016

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• The fact that John Fox had a large say in drafting the roster and that he and his staff were responsible for developing the defensive talent on the Broncos should make you feel good. A lot has been written about them signing free agents from the Broncos, but they’re just as likely to try to draft the next Danny Trevathan, Brandon Marshall or Malik Jackson.

• The one thing to take from the playoffs as it pertains to the Bears is they just need more great players. Look at the big plays that have been made throughout the playoffs, they’ve typically come from each team’s best player. The Bears don’t have those guys. Getting them is the first step. The next step is getting them to play their best on the big stage.

• It’s too early to get overly excited about what the Bears “need” when it comes to the draft. A lot will change between now and then. As of this time last year, you wouldn’t have guessed the Bears would be taking Kevin White with the seventh pick with the duo of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Hell, you maybe didn’t even know who Kevin White was.

• Draft hype is too crazy right now. Noah Spence went from being a fringe first-round pick at best to being mocked in the top 10. He’s a talented player but he was going against a bunch of untalented offensive tackles at the Senior Bowl. That doesn’t tell us anything.

After the jump is a Q&A I did with Jeff Risdon. Risdon is an NFL and NFL Draft Writer at RealGM, an analyst for Draft Breakdown, works on air at ESPN 961 and is the editor for SideLionReport. He spent last week in Mobile for the Senior Bowl. He’s also Lions fan, but at least he’s not a Packers fan.

Q: When the Lions hired Bob Quinn as their new GM, I thought it was too late to fire Jim Caldwell and replace him and his staff. Did you agree with the decision to keep him? And do you feel like, by doing so, they’re going to be stuck in a lame duck year?

A: I think Jim Caldwell was the best available choice to coach the Lions in 2016. That’s a pretty low bar though. It’s definitely a one-year prove it sort of deal and I like that concept given the talent in place and how vociferous so many of the key players spoke up for Caldwell both privately and publicly.

Q: I’m not as high on the Vikings’ future as most. I don’t think Bridgewater is a franchise quarterback and Adrian Peterson is at or very near the end of the line. Their defense is going to be very good for the foreseeable future, but I feel like they’re always going to struggle to score. Am I crazy?

A: Teddy is the key. Can he take the proverbial next step? And he is tasked with doing so with the aging Peterson and uncertainty at wideout. Your skepticism is certainly justifiable. For me, I think they do have upside offensively with guys like McKinnon and Diggs and even Mycole Pruitt. 2016 is a big year for Teddy to show he’s the right guy to be able to attack all sorts of defenses.

Q: Are the Packers in trouble? Last week I noted their quarterback doesn’t seem to like their coach and their coach doesn’t seem to like his GM. Seems like a problem going forward.

A: I don’t know about the Rodgers/McCarthy relationship but the rift between McCarthy and Ted Thompson is very real, according to several people I’ve talked to in and around the team. There is a lot of frustration that they keep inferior in-house talent instead of reaching outside the organization for upgrades, notably at linebacker and tight end.

As long as they’ve got Rodgers they’re going to be good. Getting Jordy Nelson back helps a lot, I think. The defense has some holes but also has a lot of impressive talent. Thompson needs to deliver big this offseason though. Minnesota and Detroit are so close to passing them.

Q: When you look at the Bears, what do you see as their biggest needs?

A: Offensive skill position, namely wideout but also a speedy RB who can thrive outside and on screens and wheel routes. Right now the passing game is too easy to defend schematically because the talent doesn’t threaten enough of the defense. Some of that has to do with the incomplete OL. Any team that is forced to play Vlad Ducasse, let alone keep him on the roster, clearly needs significant help up front. For my money he’s the worst guard in the league. Fixing RG and RT would probably help the offense as much as adding another wideout.

Defensively it’s got to be cornerback. I know I’m in the minority but I don’t see Fuller as a legit No. 1 CB. If Tracy Porter doesn’t come back that’s an even bigger issue; then the Bears need CB2 and CB3. Adding a third safety and a run-oriented ILB are up there too. John Timu might be that guy, we’ll see. I like the young DL and the edges quite a bit.

Q: What players did you find to be most impressive during Senior Bowl week?

A: Offense: Carson Wentz, Kenneth Dixon, Cody Whitehair, Jason Spriggs, Nick Vannett, Jay Lee (perfect for the Bears), Nick Martin, Braxton Miller (also perfect for the Bears…and Packers)

Defense: Vernon Butler, Jihad Ward, Javon Hargrave, Deiondre Hall, Darian Thompson, Harlan Miller, Carl Nassib, Eric Murray, Jake Ganus, Tyvis Powell

Q: Did it seem like the Bears were interested in any particular player or position?

A: I saw a couple of Bears guys in the film room checking out the interior offensive line, notably rewinding and queuing up Christian Westerman and Sebastian Tretola (both of them were impressive too). I know they had a formal interview with Braxton Miller. One of their scouts was standing two people away from me watching the North CBs vs. WRs on Wednesday scribbling a lot of notes and that was the day Miller went off. Keep an eye on corners like Eric Murray, Deiondre Hall, Maurice Canady who all played well in that drill.

Q: I know you’re a fan of Reggie Ragland, are you at all concerned about the lack of success of Alabama defenders in the NFL? What do you consider to be his best attributes?

A: I do worry some about the Alabama issue. The thing that helps for Ragland is he’s never been hurt and didn’t get over-played over the years. I love his ability to make a big impact in the run game both inside and outside the tackle box. He’s fantastic at exploding to the ball and getting it to the ground. In Mobile I saw him quickly and organically emerge as the leader of the South defense and that’s something I definitely covet in a middle linebacker.

Q: As a Lions fan, is there any one player, outside of Ragland, who you really don’t want to see wearing a Bears jersey next year?

A: I’ll give you two who are realistic picks in the Bears range: Noah Spence and Andrew Billings. Please please please take Mackensie Alexander or Vernon Hargreaves!

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