Chicago Sun-Times

Four Down Territory, April 10: A closer look at Alabama's Rashad Johnson

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Here is our final edition of Four Down Territory for the week. We'll get back to the mailbag on Monday, so make sure you get your questions in over the weekend with two weeks until the draft. Here we go.

Q: What do you think the chances are that the Bears will select Rashad Johnson of Alabama in the second round to play strong safety and wait until later in the draft to get a receiver like Ramses Barden and let him learn under a veteran like Torry Holt? I think Johnson has the ability to be an Ed Reed type of safety who can play center field. I also see Barden having the ability to possibly develop into a Marcus Robinson type receiver. What are your thoughts?

Nick D., Orlando, Fla.

A: Johnson is an interesting guy who had a very successful college career, particularly after Nick Saban arrived at Alabama in 2007. A former walk-on, Johnson turned into one of the best defensive backs in the SEC. No one is going to be drafting him to play strong safety though. He's strictly a free safety and there are some questions as to whether or not he will be able to hold up at that spot as well, but more on that in a little bit. Johnson thrived under Saban and made 11 interceptions over the last two seasons to go with 19 passes broken up.

That means he got his hands on the ball 30 times and as we were told by one person, that's more than any other safety in the draft over the final two years of their college career since Sean Taylor and Reed came out of Miami. Johnson doesn't have the best speed but he has a knack for playing the game. Some consider him a possibility in the second round and others say he will be around into the fourth round. Here's why--he's small. One scout we spoke with said that Johnson played at 185 pounds last season. He was up about 10 pounds at the Senior Bowl and then checked in at the combine at 5-11, 203. It wasn't good weight, a lot of water weight, according to the BodPod, which measures body composition. The scout believes Johnson is a guy who will wind up playing at 185 in the NFL. That's probably too small and that would definitely give you concerns about durability, even for a guy who played in 50 games over the last four seasons for the Crimson Tide. Some teams are not going to want to have anything to do with Johnson. Others are going to see a smart, playmaking football player. His intangibles are terrific but his size makes me think there is a chance he is still around in the third round. Barden could be a mid-round possibility but in order for him to develop under Holt, the Bears would have to sign Holt, right? Barden has an intriguing size/speed ratio but he played at Cal Poly and gets knocked for his route running ability. Yes, that sounds like Robinson to me. I think Barden is a project and the Bears need something better than a project right now.

Q: What are your thoughts on drafting Clemson safety Chris Clemons in the third round?

Derrick G., Parts Unknown

A: Clemons has been somewhat overshadowed by his teammate Michael Hamlin but they're different players. Hamlin has good instincts and projects as a strong safety although there are questions about his durability as he broke both feet in school. Clemons, on the other hand, didn't miss a game in his college career. He does a good job of reading the quarterback and is considered adequate as an open-field tackler. He really helped himself at the combine when he ran under 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Clemons lacks ideal size at 6-foot, 208 pounds, but he had a productive career with the Tigers. He'll go somewhere on the second day of the draft and the third round isn't out of the question. There really are not a lot of top-caliber free safeties available in this draft.

Q: Do we have any idea of what happened with the visit of Ken Lucas to the Bears? Or are they stuck with the Josh Bullocks experiment at free safety for this year and development of a rookie?

Joe, Atlanta

A: The Bears brought in Lucas and Orlando Pace on the same day and while they moved quickly to get Pace signed, there's been no movement in regards to Lucas. It could be the club just wanted to check him out as a possibility. I don't know if Lucas would change the situation at safety if he was signed. He's a career cornerback so you're talking about signing a free agent and then switching his position. Yes, it looks like Bullocks will likely compete with a draft pick and perhaps Craig Steltz at free safety, but Steltz seems to be a better fit at strong safety. Sometimes you will find a mini-wave of free agency after the draft when teams get a better gauge on their roster. Right now, clubs don't want to pay players with holes in their games to fill needs when they can potentially draft help.

Q: I saw the Bills are shopping wide receiver Roscoe Parrish, a friend of Devin Hester. Any thoughts on if he would be a fit on the Bears, or significantly improve their wide receiver corps?

Paul, Parts Unknown

A: Parrish has 97 receptions in four seasons and is better known for his return abilities. The Bears have enough projects on their hands at receiver right now and they're not in need of trading for help in the return game. Parrish is 5-9. He's not going to be a big-play wideout. The Bears need to switch their focus from finding a franchise-caliber quarterback to a No. 1 receiver. Here's hoping Jerry Angelo can get that done in quicker order than the eight years it took to turn up the quarterback.

Thanks for all of the participation and thanks as always for reading. We'll check back with a Q&A on Monday.

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I would love to see either Holt, Boldin or Ocho Cinco with the Bears but only time will tell for that.

So how 'bout that classy Jared Allen?

Kevin Seifert:
Minnesota defensive end Jared Allen describing how he plans to celebrate the NFC North arrival of new Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler.

The key quote, which originally appeared on The Viking Age:

"Twice a year, I'm going to peel the back of his head off the turf. I love the guy, but business is business."

Wow. Now maybe he was joking or maybe not. I just personally cannot stand arrogance like his. I cannot tolerate any sort or arrogance or taunting to other players that don't deserve the taunt. So stay classy Jared Allen!

I pray to God that twice a year Orlando Pace and Cutler will be look down at Allen on the ground and asking him how he fell especially when he was supposed to hammer Cutler.

Regarding the free safety from 'Bama, Bob Sanders is 5'8" and 208. Yes, Sanders does get hurt but I don't think the Colts have ever regretted drafting him in the second round in '04.

Bob K you just pointed out that Bob Sanders playing weight of 208 is the same as Johnson being 185. He is 2in shorter and 23 pounds heavier, and that is all muscle, have ever seen Bob Sanders? He has bigger bones and is just a thicker build than Johnson. Think about that your talking about 23 pounds of Muscle, do you know how long and how hard it is to put on that kind of muscle. I hope Johnson does fall, so the Bears can take him in round 3 or 4. Good for us. I hope a ton of good players fall, the more that fall the better, drop baby, drop.

Well I hope Allens mouth motivates Pace. Last time they met in 06 Allen got a couple of sacks off of him, thats probably why he is running his mouth.

I agree Brad with the scout on Johnson's size and being able to hold up for a season, after what we've been through with Mike Brown the last thing we would want to do is to put another player in the position that may have injury problems, still with that said after Delmas-W. Michigan, he seems to be the best safety on the board, and Philly may beat us to Delmas since they also have a major need at the position. Where is Sean Smith-Utah on the boards right now he has size and playmaking ability and has been mentioned along with the guy from Clemson as a solid prospect at the position also. says another kid to keep an eye on is CJ Spillman-Marshall who has the intangibles to play the position and may be ready to step in after some seasoning watching Bullocks take some early season snaps.

If Alabama's Rashad Johnson falls to the third, take him, any guy that can breakup/defend 30 passes obviously can play the ball, and Chicago needs this type of safety.

I like Michael Hamlin of Clemson also, although most scouts say he projects as a strong safety at the next level, the guy set a Clemson record with 19 INT's. So Hamlin can play the ball also, and at 6-2 207lbs, runs a 4.5 40, so you got to like his size to speed ratio. And remeber, Chicago says their safeties are interchangeable. And most of the safeties Chicago has been looking at are strong safety types. Hamlin could be a possibility.

Myself, I'd go with Notre Dames David Bruton, maybe in the 3rd-4th round. Bruton has the size to hold up in the pros at 6-2 210lbs. Also, he runs a 4.5 40 at 210lbs. Some scouts say Bruton might be the most physical free safety on the board, you can't get enough of these guys on your roster, especially if you want to be known as the monsters of the midway. Bruton had 93 tackles last year for the Irish, so he can stop somebody. He had 3ints to go along with 6 pass breakups. At 6-2 he'd be nice to have vs the bigger receivers Chicago plays in the NFC north. Bruton has the height and speed to cover a lot of ground as the centerfielder of the defense. I can't believe more people aren't talking about him. Playing on a bad Notre Dame team might have caused a lot of people to overlook him, I hope Angelo doesn't GO BEARS!!


Im not 100% sure, but im about 90% sure that the game that Allen had 2 sacks against the Rams, Orlando Pace did not play. Remember before last year he missed 15 games between 06 and 07, and Im pretty sure he didnt play against Allen.

There's been a lot of talk about adding a high end WR, but after watching Tom Brady carve up defenses with below average WRs for several years, I think Cutler can do plenty with the guys we have. Anyone else tempted to push for a good RB to compliment Matt Forte? I would love to get a bruiser. I'm really surprised there isn't more talk of adding talent to the running game. If Cutler throws for another 4,000 yds this year, he might go to another Pro Bowl but we won't win in the playoffs.

Also, what do you guys think Holt and Harrison will end up making annually? Maybe $4-5mln/year? And by the way, you guys can forget about Boldin.

You have written much about the Cutler trade (sick of it yet?) but what the ST has yet to do is pull together the complete article on the implications of the import of Cutler. You're the best Bears writer and therefore this task falls on you.
Some thoughts.
- What does it do for the money situation at least over the term of his present deal including cap implications and what money is saved from then Orton trade and reduced draft picks? How, in your opinion should the money be spent to increase Cutler's impact?
- Explain the implications of the 10 year play with Cutler and win now over build for the next decade.
- WR. I know, you're sick of this subject but weave it into this piece. Are fans making WR too much of an issue with great TEs and RBs on the team already.
- What does Cutler do for the rest of the offense, be specific in respect to players who can open up the offense like Olsen and Forte?
- What does Cutler do for special teams and the defense?
These are just some of the subjects you have addressed well but piecemeal over the past few days. What's missing is a single piece 700-800 words (if the editors will let you) that weaves all the major threads together.
It would be a great piece and most welcome perhaps just prior to the draft.
Cheers, Rupert

So my dilemma is this: If Britt, Nicks, and Robiskie are all gone at 49, and Delmas is as well, who do we take? I don't think any of the other receivers are worth the 49 pick, and I am not as sold on Johnson as others. I would expect that has to weigh on Jerry at this point. 49 is not a great spot to be in.

To get one of the top wideouts, I think we need to get ahead of New York and Miami at 44 and 45. They will clear the plate if they don't in the first round. So who do we have that is trade-able? Dez Clark, Vasher, and not much else.

Do you risk current talent to move up (trade someone as a package to move up in the second round), or do you try and move down a few spots so you can take a player who fits the value of the pick? If you can convince our favorite trading partner in Buffalo that Dez Clark and the 49 pick is worth the 42 and a later round pick (hopefully a 4th or 5th), maybe we could still get a WR like Nicks, and they could still get Jared Cook or Shawn Nelson as well as Dez to serve as a veteran mentor for the youngster...

Do we risk the second rounder from next year and Vasher and try to entice New England to give up the 34 pick? They as usual will not use all their picks, and will look to stockpile for next year. That should get us a shot at a good WR, and then we can hope for Delmas at 49. Or we use the 49 and 119 and try to get to 43, ahead of the Giants and Fins.

Jerry has options, and none of them are spectacular. But at least we can consider the offseason a success prior to the draft. Pace, Cutler, Shaffer, Bullocks, Jones re-signed....Jerry has done well....

Rupert where have you been those questions have been answered several times. Joe F. you may not like my idea but I would see what the Bungles want for Ocho-Cinco I don't think much of Delmas at safety he is on the smallish side I believe the eventual safety is already in house I also believe the DE's are in house as well as the LB's. and I believe now Jerry believes he can justify his reaches into the unknown and injured. This team last year with it's massive holes still managed 7 wins which could have been 10 and after the draft there will be value released so it ain't over hopefully Jerry's daring move shows a change from the usual and he had a good one up his sleeve.

Joe F. - The BEST thing that could happen to the Bears is if those WR's are gone. WR's do not contribute very much their first year and this year there are a lot available that might help down the road that the Bears can find in the 3rd, 4th and maybe the 5th rds.

If the Bears are looking for a big possesion type (Britt, Nicks, Robiske) Kelly from Clemson or Ramses from Cal Poly should both be around after the 3rd rd.

The Bears have a shot at picking up a good DT, LB or even CB in the 2nd rd. I don't think they will go OL till after the 3rd. If there is a run on WR's there is a chance Hood or Marks at DT will be there. At LB we might see Sintim or Barwin both of whom rush the passer really well and should be on the strongside, or even middle someday. At CB look for Smith who can play FS/SS and CB.

A franchise QB will make avg WR's look like super stars. The Bears now have a franchise QB!

A run on WR's would actually be a good thing.


You were a little tough on JA about not addressing the QB issue for 8 years.

The good news is that he did address the issue that no one else has for more than 50 years and the Bears have a franchise QB. Maybe a statue of JA should be placed somewhere at Soldier Field?

Brad, as for Smith at Utah what are the possibilities of Smith being picked up as a Free Safety and converted from Corner to FS? He has size, speed and is a real play maker.

Earl Bennet proved rookies wont play much and any rookie we get will compete with Riddou and whatever wolk-ons we get for playing time. Bennet and hester will probably start and davis will rotate with a rookie for time. Hopefully all recievers will step up now that we have an O-line and Qb and a good running back threat. To put us in superbowl contention I'd add plaxico Burress here. Yeah,Yeah , I know I'll sell out for a ring but I finally have respect for our G.M. and continue to think big. DAAA BEARS!!!!

Josh Pace started and played the whole game, he did not go down till the middle of the Seahawk with a torn tricept the following week.

Deputy the Bears managed 9 wins not 7.

Guys the last 2nd round free safety the Bears drafted was Manning in 2006, he has almost found a spot on the team as a nickle. So people need to stop acting like a FS is a sure thing. No offense but this is considered a bad safety class.

Joe if you want to say Jerry has done well remove Jones and Bullocks from your list, they both suck. Cutler and Shaffer could be considered a 1st overall and a 2nd or 3rd, Omiyale can be considered a 3rd or 4th. If they were draft picks this year.

WMfights what makes Hood or Marks locks to be studs? What makes any of them sure things?

A stud NT would be nice, so would a lot of other things but unless the Bears sign a WR they actually don't have one. They don't need just 1 reciever they need 2.

Angelo has had a great offseason, but you better remind yourselves why we have a lot of holes. This is not a great drafting team and right now they really need to be.

People remember this is a WCO offense, name a great WCO that didn't have a great WR. It's a the recievers that make it go.

Larry Brady had decent recievers but there is a reason they went and got Randy Moss. Your also forgetting that the Pats run a spread offense. Many players have come and gone from the Pats, and most of them did not have there numbers jump while they played for them. Your talking about a team that regularly puts 4 wr sets out there.

Kevin you really like guys who names beging with B don't you? Britton, Britt, Bruton. As for being the Monsters of the Midway again, well I don't think a FS is the reason they got that nickname.It does not matter who is in the secondary if the Bears can't create pressure. Harris is not looking good right now, in fact he is being a lazy bum.

I still like the idea of going after Holt and drafting a "project" WR in a later round.

If the Bear's safetys are interchangable it makes sense to get someone that is a little bigger. Having a 200lb guy up in the "box" fending off 300lb linemen and 250lb tightends and fullbacks is a tremendous size mismatch and an invitation for an injury. That's why the Bears have so many injuries at safety. The Bears want them to play a linebacker position yet be quick enough to be a safety. They'll need at least five safetys on their roster to complete the season. If the Bears can get Holt they'll be free to get the best safety or other defensive player on the board with the 49th pick. I think the defense will play better this year but their window for greatness is closing fast due to age. It is time to start the rebuild of that unit. There isn't a position on defense that doesn't need attention.

The Bears need to draft a or a few receivers this year in order for them to go deep into the playoffs in 2 years. We need them now in order for them to develop to be ready in 2 years. Next year is too late foe a receiver unless he's ready to start immediately. That's wishful thinking.

Hey Creighton, I agree the receivers make the WCo go, but a lot of the guys who stepped into staring roles from these offenses were not high draft picks and did not possess all the intangibles everyone is looking for in the 1st and 2nd round at Receiver, John Taylor is one that comes to mind, I would be happy if Bennett could develop his skill set for the BEARS. I also think we are concntrating too much on speed, we need a guy with hands who can move the chains, if he has some speed, great, but most of the drops we saw last season came on key downs from our so-called possession guy, Hester will continue to be a threat deep for this season, but who can we count on to catch the ball 3rd and seven, or 3rd and nine other than Olsen. that why robiske has been mentioned by a lot of people lately he has good hands, his speed is adequate also, NICKS, same thing great hands supposedly, guys like heyward-Bey and Maclin are questionable in this area and may be taken before we get to pick thus saving us the opportunity to pick one and miss on them

Chi I agree and I am not saying they should go reciever with there first pick, I am just saying they need to find a starting WR in a bad way, draft or no draft. Personally I think if they really want to make a run at it this year they need to find a WR in FA. If they want to be considered a Super Bowl contender, then they need to go get Holt and I hate to say it, but they could really use Plaxico. Then they could go defense in the draft and we all know they need as much help their as possible. LDE to replace Goon, I think we are going to need a DT to replace Harris, we need a starting NT, We need a SAM, a CB, and a FS. Thats a lot of Starters between this year and next. Not to mention as much as I like Brown the Bears could really use more of a Pass Rush from that side. Harrison will probably replace Harris at some point this year, but he will never be what Harris was when healthy and at his best.

I know the Harris fans are going to be mad about what I am saying, but he has really not been the same sense last year. Think about this. We all know Harris has a bad leg and struggles to make it through a mini camp. Well that means he is not in shape and it is probably hard for him to get in shape with a bum leg. Last year he did not spend the offseason training, in todays NFL for a guy like Harris that spells disaster. Players do not get stronger or faster during the season, it's actually hard for them to maintain there strength levels during the season because there is not as much weight training and they tend to loose weight and strength. Harris was so out of shape last year that by the end of the season he had actually gotten stronger. If he is doing the same thing this year with no offseason training then he will be in even worse shape this year than he was last year. Whats bad is Harris has been what makes that line go, with his decline we have seen it's decline.

W/ a new QB in place and possibly an expanded playbook, Is this Wolfe's make or break year? The kid was lights out in college, and us biased fans want so bad to label him as the next Warrick Dunn.But on a pro level...The jury is definetly out ,so far.

I keep hearing stuff that makes no sense again. The Cutler trade drowned it out for a little bit, but it has returned. Due to the expected overreaction because of paranoia of Chicago Sports fans, we now have no chance to succeed because of weakness at free safety and wide receiver. OMFG!!!! We are DOOMED!!

GET REAL. They went out and got a very good (bordering on great) QB, and signed an old future HOF left tackle who will be good enough this year at least.

Right now, they are better than last year. And last year they went 9-7 and missed the playoffs by one game. If you smoke, go have one before you write again. If you drink, go have a few before you write again. If you must exercise to simmer down, then go for a jog before you write again. In other words, settle yourself.

The Bears will be fine. Do you really think Green Bay or Minnesota is better right now? You know that Detroit is not better. Therefore, the Bears will win the division (mark my words, and remember I said this), and have a home playoff game at home in January. That sounds pretty darn good to me.

Nothing they do from here on out will make a huge difference this year. Torry Holt will not be a savior, and neither will any other free agent left. Rarely do 2nd round draft picks make a huge difference (except for say a MATT FORTE!!). They can find someone good in the 2nd round, and any round after that. They could also completely bomb the draft, but I am leaning towards the optomistic side right now.

There is not one team with out at least 2 glaring weaknesses. The margins for winning and losing are paper thin at best. If Toni Romo doesn't throw a moron pick 6 in Pittsburg in december, then Dallas is in the playoffs, and Pittsburg suddenly has to play 3 road games to get to the bowl. If Tennessee makes one more first down against Baltimore, then it hits a field goal and ties the game.

Pitt won the superbowl with suspect running backs, and a "suspect" Oline. They won because they have a great QB. That is what matters most. Arizona got runner up because Warner (a QB) had a tremendous year. That is what matters most. Philly had a great year. In fact, you could say that all the playoff teams that won playoff games had much better QB play that the other team. Delhomme had a bad game, and he lost. Tavaris Jackson had a bad game, and he lost. Kerry Collins had a bad game, and he lost. Peyton Manning played bad for one game, and he lost.

The QB matters so much more than the receivers.

Bears will go 11-5, get teh 3 seed, and win one playoff game. That is the par for this upcoming season.


"WMfights what makes Hood or Marks locks to be studs? What makes any of them sure things?"

Creighton there is no such thing as a "lock". A player can get hurt. A player can fail to adjust to the intensity of the NFL, etc.

Hood fits the system, he is very quick and is best suited for a 1 gap system. Marks is also very quick and should fit a 1 gap system as well. The Bears have a big need at DT. They need someone with great quickness to rotate with Harris. If there is a run on WR Hood may fall to them.

Why grab a WR you don't have graded out that high at 49? Get the highest rated player that can contribute this year. If there isn't a run on WR and a top player is there grab him, but don't lock on to one position. The Bears need players, especially on defense.

I do stand corrected on the amount of games won in 08 that just proves my point even more, The NFL have hit the mediocrity point now with not really a defined 2nd tier of teams the so-called elite are one injury away from falling back into the #2 tier. As teams evolve they mimic winning teams and mediocrity creeps back in again. So even though the Bears are flawed so are others so now the saying "any given Sunday" actually means something.

Ryan post of the offseason!

Great post could put it better myself. Well beside Hester made a huge impact in 06 as a 2nd round.

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on April 10, 2009 3:31 PM.

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