Tag Archives: Travis Bell

Bears Urged to Trade for ‘Stalwart’ D-Lineman With Ties to Coaching Staff

The Chicago Bears underwent a major facelift on both sides of the ball this offseason but some holes remain. It can be tough to fill most needs in on summer, let alone all the needs Chicago had.

Still, with a couple of months to go until training camps open up around the NFL, there is time for more tweaks to what should already be a vastly-improved group over last year’s 3-13 squad, and they could land one who is familiar with head coach Matt Eberflus.

Defensive ‘Stalwart’ Floated as Potential Bears Trade Target

“The Bears spent a ton of money to get new blood at inside linebacker…But they can only do so much if they don’t have tackles in front of them who hold up at the point of attack and keep them clean,” wrote Alex Ballentine of Bleacher Report on May 31. “Making a trade for Grover Stewart would reunite the veteran with Eberflus while giving the Bears a reliable interior defender.”

Stewart, 29, spent four seasons under Eberflus in Indianapolis. He is heading into the final year of a three-year, $30.7 million contract and, as Ballentine notes, will be taking the field for a coaching staff with zero ties to him.

It is not as though he is a non-factor, however.

He is a stalwart against the run, racking up nine tackles for a loss and 70 combined tackles with the Colts last season,” Ballentine writes, adding Stewart “would offer some help in the pass rush department, too. Last season, he had four sacks and 14 pressures, per Sports Info Solutions.”

What’s more, the 6-foot-4, 315-pound Steward has appeared in every game in each of the last four seasons including starting all 50 games over the past three seasons. Neither of the Bears’ projected starters – Justin Jones and Andrew Billings – have shown that kind of durability, though each offers something different than what Stewart brings.

While he could slot in alongside either Billing or Jones on the interior, their presence is just one reason why the Bears might hold off on pursuing the soon-to-be free agent.

Bears Rookies Have Impressed

The other big reason the Bears might be hesitant to fork over draft capital for a player who will turn 30 years old early in the season – which is already against the ethos of general manager Ryan Poles – is the work they did this year in the 2023 NFL Draft.

A class that included three interior linemen – Gervon Dexter Sr., Zacch Pickens, and Travis Bell – has seen that trio generate plenty of buzz. First, it was with their personalities and anecdotes during the pre and post-draft processes. Now, the youngsters have gotten a chance to show what they can do on the football field, albeit in sweats without pads.

Of course, a Bears defense that ranked 27th in yards per carry and 32nd in rushing touchdowns allowed needs all the help it can get.

Bears Need More Help at EDGE than DT

This roster was bereft of talent last season. But, despite their actions in the draft and free agency, Jones was one of the unit’s few bright spots. It will be interesting to see if he has another level to his game with better pieces around him at almost every level.

The Bears have not, however, added anyone of significance at EDGE rusher, a bit of a concern with the defense generating just 20 sacks last season.

They do have incumbents Trevis Gipson and Domonique Robinson, both of whom have a lot to prove. And they added Rasheem Greene and DeMarcus Walker in free agency but both of them are more tweeners than pure pass rushers, though Walker did record 7.0 sacks last season for the Tennessee Titans and Green notched 6.5 sacks for the Houston Texans in 2021.

Bears DC Sets Record Straight on Roster, Name-Drops Veteran

An otherwise innocuous comment from Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Alan Williams might have just cracked the code on the team’s strategy in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Bears DC Name-Drops Veteran: ‘We Have a 3-Technique’

“We have a 3-technique, right, so that’s Justin [Jones]” Williams told media after the first rookie minicamp practice on May 5 via the team’s official YouTube channel. “Justin will be in there. But…every great defensive line in the NFL, they have a wave of guys that go in and out. Every guy cannot play uh 60-65 plays. So we need a good rotation of defensive linemen. So Justin’s a 3, and then whoever’s next will come in and they’ll help Justin out. And then we’ll have a wave of guys that are in and out, and if we’re going to be great that’s what we’re going to need to have. And so we’re working towards that.”

The Bears signed Jones, 26, to a two-year, $12 million contract after their initial major free agent splash – defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi – failed his physical. Ogunjobi eventually landed with the Pittsburgh Steelers while Jones went on to finish second on the Bears in sacks and fifth in pass deflections.

A 6-foot-3, 309-pounder, Jones moves well and was often one of the few noticeable parts along a beleaguered front seven.

Rookies Ready to Rock

The Bears went into the 2023 NFL seemingly with a clear-cut need for a defensive tackle that could shoot the gaps and collapse the pocket. That led to speculation that they could select Georgia’s Jalen Carter – who went to the Philadelphia Eagles after they traded up with the Bears to get him – but it sounds like they were not as high on him as those projections thought.

They did take a pair of defensive tackles, using a second-round pick on Florida lineman Gervon Dexter Sr. and a third-rounder on Zacch Pickens out of South Carolina.

Dexter spoke about his role going from a gap-filler to an attacking defender with the Bears.

He attributed concerns about his potentially slow get-off to his responsibilities for the Gators before saying he relishes the opportunity to get vertical and into the offensive backfield.

Pickens’ introductory press conference almost went in the opposite direction.

After weighing in at the combine at 291 pounds, he said he plans to play closer to his college playing weight of 305 pounds. Pickens said he dropped the weight to test faster at the combine where he drew raves about his quickness.

The 6-foot-4 Pickens also shed some light on his and Davis’ budding bromance.

“When we was flying places, we was always together,” Pickens said. “So I was like, ‘I feel like we’re going to be together’. Then, wouldn’t you know it, the Bears draft him, then they draft me. And I was like, ‘Oh yeah, we’re gonna have fun with this. And I texted him, I was like, ‘We just got to take over, do our stuff right, and we could easily be the dynamic duo.”

A Favorite of Ryan Poles and Matt Eberflus

The Bears also drafted Kennesaw State’s Travis Bell – whom both general manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus are fond of – in the seventh round as they continued the roster overhaul that began last offseason.

 Eberflus did not wax as poetically as Poles. But he also name-dropped Bell among his early favorites from the class which featured plenty of athleticism and experience.