Chicago Bears' Most Under and Overrated Offseason Additions
It is common for fanbases to irrationally love all of the moves that a team makes during the offseason simply because it is the team they are rooting for executing all these transactions.
Each and every year, teams around the NFL make many additions but while some can appear to be underrated additions, many can also be viewed as overrated.
Many of Emery's unheralded acquisitions this offseason were players who may not of been viewed as viable options when they were first signed, but after strong OTAs and minicamps, they have a real shot of pushing for significant playing time.
Emery's overrated acquisitions are the players who were acquired this offseason and without warrant have been given the benefit of the doubt despite questions surrounding them heading into training camp.
Here are the Chicago Bears' most underrated and overrated offseason additions.
Overrated: M.D. Jennings
In an effort to add competition to the safety position this offseason, general manager Phil Emery added a pair of veterans early in free agency in Ryan Mundy and M.D. Jennings.
If you were to pull up Jennings' statistics on NFL.com, he appears, at first glance, to be a solid addition to the team's defensive backfield. In three seasons with the Packers, Jennings started 26 games, including all 16 last season. In those three seasons he recorded one sack, one interception and 133 total tackles.
On the surface he appears to be an upgrade over Chris Conte who struggled mightily in 2013, but the numbers at Pro Football Focus would tell a different story (subscription required).
While Conte did grade out with a minus-15.8 overall grade, the majority of his struggles were against the run as PFF gave him a grade as a run defender of minus-14.2. Jennings on the other hand finished with a minus-6.5 overall, but his struggles all came in pass coverage, finishing with a minus-6.4 grade in pass coverage.
Pro Football Focus is not the be-all, end-all in determining a player's performance but it is a good reference to take a deeper look at a player's abilities.
While many criticized the play of Conte in 2013, the injuries that occurred in front of him forced him to become more a run-stopper than someone who could use his athleticism in pass coverage.
Many may view Jennings as an upgrade solely because he is not Conte, but while Conte struggled coming up against the run, Jennings struggled just as equally against the pass.
According to PFF, Jennings was thrown at 18 times last season, allowing 16 receptions for 184 yards, five touchdowns and giving up a 148.8 quarterback rating when the football was thrown his direction.
The belief in Jennings has subdued a bit with the team's drafting of Brock Vereen and signing of veteran Adrian Wilson last week, via the Chicago Tribune, but for many believing he is an upgrade solely because he is not Chris Conte may end up being surprised if he doesn't make the roster heading into 2014.
Underrated: Willie Young
While free agent defensive ends Lamarr Houston and Jared Allen were getting all of the publicity this offseason by fans in Chicago, Willie Young has quietly been the forgotten man among fans along the defensive line.
A 15-game starter for the Detroit Lions in 2014, Young finished last season with 47 tackles, three sacks and five pass deflections.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Houston finished last season as the No. 11 overall 4-3 defensive end. His best work came against the run, where he finished as the league's fifth-best defensive end. He led all 4-3 defensive ends in overall stops (54) and run stops (40), and he created 63 quarterback disruptions.
The team likely would have been content going into the season with him lined up opposite of Houston, but the Bears felt they got tremendous value with Allen, making it appear that Young is the odd-man out as a starter.
While he may have viewed himself as an every-down contributor when he was signed, he appears ready to take on new challenges, saying “Adapt and overcome is the key to success right now,” Young told ChicagoFootball.com's Kevin Fishbain.
I’m the type of guy, it doesn’t matter what scheme you put me in, I’m going to make the best of my opportunities. Before I got to Detroit a couple years ago, I wasn’t used to getting off read and react so fast, but I was able to adapt and overcome and make a living for myself doing it. Same thing applies here. A new beginning, adapt and overcome and the rest of it will take care of itself.
Young is not the type of player that will come in a give the team 10 sacks, but he has the ability to set the edge in the running game and proved last season that he is one of the better defensive ends in the game at stopping the run.
Regardless of the role and the amount of playing time he receives in 2014, he knows he just needs to go out and do his job.
"Whenever they put me in the game, [my role is] to make plays,” Young said, via Fishbain. “Make plays all through the year, go home, go fishing, and then come on back and start all over again.”
If he can produce on a consistent basis early on, he may be able to push for more playing time as the season progresses.
Overrated: Jordan Lynch
Few player's this offseason have generated the sort of buzz that former Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch has.
Lynch went undrafted in May's draft and was quickly signed as an undrafted free agent and moved to running back.
Lynch is no stranger to running with the football in his hands, having finished last season rushing for 1,920 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Because he played at Northern Illinois, which is roughly 65 miles away from Chicago, and because he grew up in Chicago and played at Mt. Carmel High School, there has been added hype for Lynch this offseason.
He has already thrown out the first pitch at a Chicago White Sox game and special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis has claimed there is no other player he gets asked about more than Lynch.
“I had about three people come up to me and say ‘How’s Jordan Lynch doing? How’s Jordan Lynch doing?’” DeCamillis said to the media after OTAs earlier this month, via Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times.
While there is nothing wrong with Chicagoans being happy for Lynch, many are placing unrealistic expectations on him.
If you were to scour Twitter and Facebook, there are many fans who believe Lynch's abilities from college will quickly translate to the NFL. Unfortunately for Lynch, it typically does not work that way, and he knows he will have to work at it if he wants to make it.
Jordan Lynch: "Hard work pays off so I'm going to come out here every day and bust my tail off and just hope to move up the depth chart."— Zach Zaidman (@ZachZaidman) June 19, 2014
Lynch was a terrific collegiate player and has all of the tools to make it in the NFL, but he is guy who is learning a new position and will face stiff competition from guys like Ka'Deem Carey, Shaun Draughn, Michael Ford and Senorise Perry to make the roster.
Underrated: Jimmy Clausen
The Bears found success last season with a journeyman backup quarterback in Josh McCown and hope that lightning strikes twice with current backup Jimmy Clausen.
He missed all of last season due to an injury and after a workout with the team earlier this offseason, head coach Marc Trestman believed that Clausen has what it takes to come in and compete for the backup quarterback spot.
“We're going through the process today of trying to work a little bit with our roster,” Marc Trestman told the media after the team's final minicamp earlier this month, via ESPNChicago.com's Michael C. Wright. “I think that Jimmy has competed and done a good job for the time that he's been here.”
The team was impressed enough with Clausen's progress in just a few days that they released Jerrod Johnson at the conclusion of minicamp, via the Chicago Sun-Times.
The assumption earlier this month was that veteran Jordan Palmer was going to fill the shoes left by McCown, but a shoulder injury left him sidelined for a time earlier this month, opening up an opportunity for Clausen.
He knows that he is at a disadvantage because of his limited time in the system, but he plans on using his time off before training camp to better acquaint himself with the offense.
“It’s difficult learning the whole entire offense in a week-and-a-half to two weeks,” Clausen said to the media on the last day of minicamp, via Chris Emma of CBSChicago.com. “That’s what the off time is for — get back in the book, learn and get ready for training camp.”
One way for Clausen to stick with this team is if he is able to connect with starter Jay Cutler. Trestman has not been shy about the fact that it is important that the backup and Cutler get along well, telling the media, via Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com:
No. 1 is how he handled the room. That room is hugely important; the chemistry, the karma, whatever you want to call it. In that room, the communication’s got to be good. Jimmy’s done a very good job, very maturely fit in and taken the place of trying to learn and work to learn the offense. He’s grinded at it. He spent long hours here. He’s had help from the guys in the room to get him to the place he is today. So we’ll see. We’re going through the process of working with our roster. I think he’ll be one of the guys that we do bring back, and we’ll take it one day at a time when we get to training camp.
“He’s working hard, and I think he likes the opportunity he has here,” Cutler said of Clausen earlier this month, via Emma. “He was a little humbled going through the process of being on the streets and then getting picked up again. He’s got a great attitude.”
As long as Clausen can learn the playbook and show that he can be an asset in the quarterbacks room, he is a player that has all of the talent and ability to be a solid backup quarterback.
Overrated: Adrian Wilson
Despite the Bears appearing to be high on free agent signing Ryan Mundy and rookie Brock Vereen at safety, the team signed veteran Adrian Wilson to a one-year deal early last week.
Wilson went to the Pro Bowl five times and was named an All-Pro three times between 2006 and 2011 and is one of 13 players in NFL history to intercept 20 or more passes and record 20 or more sacks since the league began tracking sacks in 1982.
Wilson does bring experience to a position that lacks it, but considering that he will be turning 35 later this year and question marks surrounding his health, he likely will not be the player that many fans hope he can be.
At his best, Wilson was an inside-the-box run defender who excelled at tracking down ball carriers but also had the ability to match up well with tight ends and running backs out of the backfield in pass coverage.
After his signing, some wondered if it was more a product of the play of their current safeties than it was about what Wilson has left in the tank.
Interesting the #Bears signed Adrian Wilson after OTAs/minicamp. Not happy with early returns from new safeties?— Zach Kruse (@zachkruse2) June 23, 2014
Some praised the signing, but CBSSports.com's Dan Durkin was a bit confused by the signing.
confused a little by the #bears adrian wilson signing for a few reasons: plays SS (like mundy) and is coming off a major lower-body injury.— dan durkin (@djdurkin) June 24, 2014
While on paper the signing looks like a good one, I agree with Durkin's sentiments. Coming off of an Achilles injury is never easy, and considering the team already appears happy with Mundy's progress at strong safety, Wilson looks to be more of an insurance policy in training camp than anything else.
Underrated: Chris Williams
After not re-signing veteran wide receiver/kick returner Devin Hester this offseason, the need for a speedy returner jumped to the top of the team's needs list.
Enter Chris Williams.
Not to be confused with the former first-round pick of the Bears in the 2008, this Chris Williams went undrafted in the 2009 NFL draft before spending time with the Miami Dolphins and Cleveland Browns practice squads and eventually landing in the CFL.
In 2012, he set a CFL record with six return touchdowns to go along with 1,117 punt-return yards.
The team nabbed him off of the New Orleans Saints' practice squad in late December of last year and despite the team bringing in veteran returners Micheal Spurlock and Armanti Edwards, Williams still stands a great shot of making the roster in 2014.
While he has had the opportunity to show off his abilities to the staff during OTAs and minicamps, he knows his best opportunities will come against live competition during the preseason.
“We're much looking forward to the preseason and getting some live reps and getting some opportunities to showcase what I can do,” Williams told ChicagoFootball.com's Nate Atkins.
Best known for his abilities as a returner, Williams will need to prove in training camp that he can be a reliable receiver.
“I think thats something that's a little underrated in my game,” Williams told Atkins about his abilities as a receiver. “I'm definitely getting better. I have a long way to go, but I'm getting better every day.”
The Bears will likely keep five wide receivers this season, and while Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Marquess Wilson are all locks, Williams will have an opportunity to compete with Josh Morgan, Eric Weems, Josh Bellamy, Spurlock and Edwards for one of the remaining spots on the roster.
If he can prove that he has reliable hands and the ability to fully grasp the offense, Williams has a real shot to make an impact on the roster in 2014.