The Chicago Bears have made it clear this offseason that improving the pass rush is a priority. Since no progress was made in free agency, beyond re-signing Israel Idonije to a one-year deal, the source of said upgrades will be the upcoming NFL Draft.
The club has needs at both defensive end and defensive tackle. It's almost a lock that one of those two positions, if not both, will be addressed in the first two rounds of the draft.
The Bears recently met with Syracuse DE Chandler Jones (6-5, 266) at Halas Hall. Jones, a potential first-round draft pick, left college after a junior season in which he missed five games due to a knee injury, yet still earned first-team All-Big East honors.
Chicago likely brought him in to make sure he's fully recovered from the knee injury. But the visit indicates interest.
Let's go to the tape and see if Chandler might be a good fit for the Bears.
DE Chandler Jones
Andrew Weber/US Presswire
-Tall player with long arms that he uses to create and keep separation from blockers.
-Anticipates snap counts well. Comes off the ball quickly.
-Good quickness and agility. Light on his feet.
-Shows good diagnostic skills versus the run.
-Strong, active hands. Easily disengages from offensive linemen.
-Smart player. Good football instincts.
-High-motor lineman that plays through the whistle.
-Active arms in trying to knock down passes.
-When he gains leverage, he has the strength to drive offensive linemen backward.
-Decent speed (4.87 40-yard dash at the combine)
-Projects best as a 4-3 DE.
-At 266 pounds, he's a bit undersized for the position.
-Lacks pure power. His 22 bench-press reps at the combine is very low.
-Does not possess much of a pass-rush arsenal. Better offensive tackles in the NFL will give him trouble.
-Often comes off the ball too high.
-Tries too hard to guess the snap count, leading to painful offsides penalties.
-Not much in pursuit.
-Lacks ideal collegiate production. Just 10 sacks in 33 games.
Jones does mixed martial arts training with his brother, UFC fighter Jon "Bones" Jones. His other brother, Art, is a defensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens. That football pedigree, combined with his strong athletic bloodline, has many teams interested in Jones as a late first- or early second-round selection.
On film, Jones is very impressive. His on-field awareness is at the top of the class. He's able to read and react to plays at a very high level. Combined with very good athleticism, Jones is easily one of the top five defensive ends in this class.
His lack of size is going to hurt him though, and he still needs to develop more pass rush moves. He's strong against the run, which will translate immediately at the next level, but it will take him a while before he ever turns into a productive pass rusher.
The Bears would like to pair Idonije with a speed rusher than can come in on passing downs and pressure the quarterback. Jones does not possess that skill set. He'll be a very good player in the NFL and a starter down the line but he doesn't fill Chicago's short-term needs. Other early round edge rushers in this class, like Nick Perry and Whitney Mercilus, are better fits for this club.
It's highly doubtful the organization will select Jones in the first round but his overall skill set could tempt GM Phil Emery to call his name in the second round, assuming he falls that far, which appears unlikely.
As far as all-around potential, Jones is near the top of the heap in this year's class. But the Bears are a team with Super Bowl aspirations this season and Jones is unlikely to help them reach that short-term goal.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of Bear Report magazine and BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.