Tag Archives: Jaylon Johnson

The NFL’s Worst Off-Seasons of 2020

We are officially in the dead zone in the NFL off-season. Free agency and the draft are both in the rearview as organizations, players, and fans anxiously await the 2020-21 season. Whether or not it starts on time remains to be seen, but the NFL has acted as if things would proceed as normal. As such, we can–no, we are obliged to pass judgment on all that has transpired.

This will be a two-part exercise focusing on the best and worst laid plans from this off-season. We will begin with the bad news first, so apologies to any fans of the teams that follow. It may have been overpaying in free agency or reaching in the draft. It could be the opposite where a team was too frugal or patient and missed out on a prospect.

However you slice it, it wasn’t good….

Worst Offseasons of the NFL in 2020

3. Chicago Bears

Our countdown begins with the Chicago Bears. Coming off of a rather disappointing 2019 where they went 8-8, this is not what fans want to hear. They peaked in 2018, going 12-4, but fell back to Earth and have been trying to piecemeal their way back to prominence. That’s what happens when your general manager goes all-in on a project quarterback.

Trying to remedy their mishandling of the quarterback position with journeyman Nick Foles is less than inspiring. But when you add in the draft capital it took to get him, the deal triggers something worse. Robert Quinn should boost the pass rush so his big payday may well be justified. Jimmy Graham did well for himself to get the deal he did. Let’s just leave it at that.

The draft was a chance to make it right but opinions on if the Bears accomplished that. Chicago landed the draft’s top tight end but did so at the expense of higher-rated players at bigger areas of need like safety, a hole they filled with Tashaun Gipson. Their second pick, cornerback Jaylon Johnson received better reviews, even if tempered by his shoulder issue. The rest of the picks were developmental.

Chicago, operating under financial constraints of their own making, came out of the offseason without being substantially better on paper. Aside, perhaps, from Foles though they are largely counting on 2018 being closer to who they really are than the debacle of 2019. Well, that and scrap-heap offensive linemen. Not exactly encouraging.

2. Green Bay Packers

Staying in the NFC North for this one, the Green Bay Packers have seemed to be working multiple angles heading into the 2020 season. They ended 2019 one game away from the Super Bowl. But everything since has been with an eye towards the future. They traded up to take quarterback, drafted a running back in the second round and spent big money on a middle linebacker and right tackle.

General manager Brian Gutekunst has been much more active than his predecessor but this off-season was reminiscent of days past. Two of Green Bay’s acquisitions were linebacker Christian Kirksey and wide receiver Devin Funchess. Kirksey has only played in nine games the past two seasons while Funchess appeared in just one game for the Colts last season.

Their draft wasn’t bad in a vacuum, especially taking Love with a 36-year-old Aaron Rodgers. Brett Favre can attest to that. But the pick of a running back in AJ Dillon that, barring an injury, is the third-stringer. The Packers took their second pass-catching tight end in as many seasons but ignored the receiver room, opting for experience and internal improvement.

Green Bay’s off-season is saved by Love’s talent (regardless of any other factors) and Ricky Wagner. That’s a far cry from the praise they rightfully received last off-season. Teams don’t spend big every year. That would actually be a bad thing. But for a team that was so close to playing for a championship, this off-season has left a lot to be desired.

1. Houston Texans

You probably know where this is going. Anytime a team trades away a player that is ranked at or near the top of his position, you better have a damn good reason for doing so. For the Houston Texans, that reason appears to be Bill O’Brien; the head coach slash de-facto general manager. Not only that, but it doesn’t appear he has done enough to replace that player.

Rumored to be displeased with DeAndre Hopkins’ influence in the locker room and desire for a new deal, B.O.B. went bold. He traded the stud wideout to Arizona. This is where it gets weird. O’Brien felt compelled to take back the bloated contract of running back David Johnson. And you’d be forgiven if you felt Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb combined didn’t make up for the loss of Hopkins.

Even weirder, usually following a move such as the Hopkins trade, teams try to draft the next guy to replace them. It’s true Cooks and Cobb were brought in, but this was a deep class at receiver. Instead, the Texans replaced a different key cog in D.J. Reader. It’s never a bad thing to build in the trenches. But that idiom is usually reserved for guys who get after the quarterback.

Houston also ignored the offensive line outside of a fourth-rounder. That’s not enough, even with last year’s trade of Laremy Tunsil, for a team that ranked eighth in sacks allowed in 2019. O’Brien might be trying too hard to channel his inner Bill Belichick, fielding an offense without a true number one receiver. The problem is, when the Patriots had a chance to get a true number one in Randy Moss, they did. O’Brien is hustling backward.

Worst NFL Offseasons of 2020

This is just one half of the coin. In our next installment, we’ll address the best off-seasons. But it’s hard to ignore the holes in the plans of these organizations. Of course, they could always prove the doubters wrong. But these teams’ decisions make it seem like they are fighting demons of their own creation. That rarely ends well for those involved.

2020 Chicago Bears NFL Draft Recap

The 2020 NFL Draft has come and gone, the most viewed televised draft in history. 55 million over the three days. I think it’s safe to attribute that to the nation’s quarantine policies and draft being completely virtual. Though it was an interesting outcome seeing commissioner Roger Goodell call out draft picks in his man cave from in front of his big-screen to his lounging chair by the third round. Another fun aspect was seeing the draftees and their families’ reactions when their names were called of new members of club NFL.

We even had comic relief, some of the best moments was seeing 17th pick wide receiver CeeDee Lamb showing off his hand-eye coordination by snatching his cellphone back from his girlfriend. How about defensive tackle, and 14th pick, Javon Kinlaw‘s father falling off the couch when his son was selected.

Lastly, and maybe the best one, was the 29th selection, offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson‘s mom yanking his girlfriend out the camera shot, (after she appeared to resist the first request).  This was one of the deepest drafts in recent memory, teams could find solid value through all seven rounds.  Only time will tell, let us not forget 20 years ago one of the greatest players in NFL history was found in the sixth round, Tom Brady.

2020 Bears Draft Recap

Mixed Emotions on Chicago Picks

Chicago’s draft was met with an array of feelings as the team decided for their first pick to opt for drafting the best of the worst, as far as depth, in this year’s crop.  That was at the tight end position, the 43rd-overall pick Cole Kmet from Notre Dame, the 6’5″ 250-pounder is expected to come in and contribute immediately.  Kmet did have an impressive junior year campaign amassing over 500 yards receiving and six touchdowns helping Notre Dame to an 11-2 record.  Fun fact: those six touchdowns were all he had for his college career.

The team’s second selection, 50th overall, was more of a relief, picking Utah cornerback Jaylon Johnson, another junior who finished with 7 career interceptions.  The one big question surrounding Johnson is not his play but his health, he played the entire season with a torn labrum.  Chicago then maneuvered to move up to the third round to grab EDGE Trevis Gipson out of Tulsa.  A solid addition to provide more edge rush depth.  Here are the rest of the new Chicago Bears as follows:

The Bears also signed undrafted free agent Ledarius Mack, younger brother of star Khalil Mack.

What to Grade Chicago’s Draft: C+

Grading the Bears 2020 draft can be debated but that’s my mark on it.  Hey at least it’s a passing grade even though it started out shaky, they brought it up though.  The immediate response was, “What are you doing??” Needs for the team are offensive line, wide receiver, and secondary; specifically safety.  The team circumvented what direction they should’ve gone (see my previous article) but recovered some.  As you’ll see, predictions were dead on as two of them went 44th & 46th.

Initially, it started out as a D, drafting a tight end to an already overcrowded position which brought the number to 10 (since down to nine) on the roster.  Not to mention signing free agents Demetrius Harris and Jimmy Graham.  With Kmet added unless the plan is to convert some of the many tight ends to offensive linemen, maybe Adam Shaheen, expect to see no more than four on the roster.

Speaking of offensive line it appears the staff is content with the unit as is and the free agents from the clearance rack they invested in.  Seeing that the offensive line wasn’t addressed until the end of the draft.  Possibly the addition of the new offensive line coach, 24-year vet Juan Castillo, will add improvement.

General manager Ryan Pace made strong moves thereafter adding substantial depth on the defensive side of the ball snatching up corner Jaylon Johnson and moving into the third round to bolster pass rush getting Trevis Gipson.  He was even able to get considerable value in the fifth at wide receiver with Darnell Mooney, fast, he will need time to develop though.

What to Expect in 2020

With the current state of the sports world, it’s hard to gauge what to expect.  Any team-related activities are virtual, there’s no timetable of when facilities will be open for players and coaches to meet.  It’s an unprecedented time in the league right now, so we all have to play it by ear.  At least the other teams in the division drafts were lackluster except for the Minnesota Vikings.

If there is a silver lining it’s the signing of Ledarius Mack, we can have the “Mack Attack” here on the defense.  This could end up being Pace’s best move of this draft.  Mack’s journey to the NFL can be compared to Vikings Hall of Fame defensive tackle John Randle, who was drafted 30 years ago.  Talk about history repeating itself, Randle also had an older brother in the NFL, Ervin Randle.

It doesn’t stop there, the similarities of both Mack and Randle are uncanny!  Both were considered undersized at their positions at 6’1, Mack weighing 240 lbs and Randle 244 lbs.  Think of the possibilities of playing with and learning from your brother who’s a defensive player of the year and considered one of the best if not the best at his position.  We could soon be witnessing history here in the Windy City but time will tell.