6-Pack Thursday: Sleepers, Chirpers, and Hot Seats

Photo: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to 6-Pack Thursday, my weekly brain dump on six football-related things that involve the NFL, College Football or NFL Draft.

If we're being honest, right now is all about passing time and getting to the regular season. The preseason action is nice, but it's a tease and the fear of players getting injured is real.

Without further ado, let's crack this thing open!

Bears are on the rise, but it comes together in 2019

There's plenty of buzz right now surrounding the Chicago Bears and a playoff run this season. I really like the course Chicago is on, but I'm not counting on a playoff push until 2019.

General Manger Ryan Pace had a tremendous offseason upgrading the coaching situation with Matt Nagy while building the offense around quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. The offensive line has some question marks, but the additions of Allen Robinson, Trey Burton, Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller vastly improves Trubisky's weaponry. Mark Helfrich was brought in to be the offensive coordinator, pairing with Nagy to bring what should be a far more innovative approach from what we saw in 2017 from Dowell Loggains.

Vic Fangio returns as the defensive coordinator after coaching the unit to a top-10 ranking last season. Adding top-ten draft pick Roquan Smith to mix at linebacker should make the the group even better. But the defense only intercepted eight passes in 2017; the challenge ahead is making more plays on the ball.

With all that said, the NFC is ridiculously competitive and it's difficult to imagine a course for Chicago to reach the postseason. With the Vikings and Packers as the favorites to win the division, securing a wild card berth is the most likely path, but there are too many experienced teams that Chicago would have to place above.

The future is bright in Chicago, but I'm not convinced this is a playoff team this season given the growth needed and competition in the NFC. Next year is your year, Bears fans.

Make or break year for Kliff Kingsbury at Texas Tech?

Kliff may be the most handsome coach in football, but his run as head coach at his alma matter hasn't impressed me.

Kingsbury started his tenure with the Red Raiders by ripping off seven straight wins. Since then, Tech is 23-33. Kingsbury is 16-29 in Big 12 conference games, finishing no higher than fifth in the conference standings in any year. He's 1-2 in bowl games, and has missed bowls in two seasons on top of that.

Kingsbury's run as head coach comes on the heels of the Mike Leach-era, which was undoubtedly the best stretch in the history of Red Raiders' football. Leach compiled an 84-43 overall record (47-33 in Big 12 games), reached 10 consecutive bowl games, and hit a 6-2 record in bowl games over his final eight seasons. Tech never finished lower than fourth in the Big 12 under Leach's watch.

It begs the question: what is the standard at Texas Tech? As it stands, four to seven wins per season is the new norm.

Examining Texas Tech's schedule, things could get ugly in a hurry. The Red Raiders' first six games of the season are Mississippi (neutral site), Lamar, Houston, at Oklahoma State, West Virginia and at TCU. It wouldn't surprise me to see Texas Tech with a 1-5 record after that initial stretch and hear the rumblings for Kingsbury's dismissal heating up.

Texas Tech returns 10 starters on defense and six on offense with a first year starting quarterback. Offense has always been Kingsbury's strong suit and he'll need it more than ever in 2018.

Kingsbury is signed through the 2020 season but his days could be numbered if the results on the field don't improve.

Jalen Ramsey rips NFL QBs

King of #TeamChirp, Ramsey sounded off in a recent interview with GQ with his feelings on several topics, including his take on a number of NFL quarterbacks.

To summarize: Josh Allen is trash. Odell Beckham and Antonio Brown make Eli Manning and Big Ben respectively. Matt Ryan is overrated and Joe Flacco sucks. Andrew Luck isn't really that good. Jimmy G is the product of a system. Jared Goff is average to above average.

If only he would just be honest and say how he feels...

For real though, Ramsey's comments were met with so much enthusiasm on the timeline when the article dropped. His praises were sung loudly.

I personally don't see the need to voice these statements. It's no different than Kelvin Benjamin's remarks on Cam Newton. None of it is necessary or helpful, especially at this point in the season.

But this is Ramsey's brand. Do you, Jalen. You're one of the best five corners in football.

Only a matter of time until Todd Haley is the interim head coach of the Browns

Through two episodes of HBO's Hard Knocks, Browns' head coach Hue Jackson couldn't be less inspiring. It's not hard to identify some of the issues that led to the historically bad (1-31) results of late.

Two specific examples stand out to me that expose Hue's lack of control and direction of the football operations. The first: when offensive coordinator Todd Haley commented back on Hue's plans to rest players despite the obvious need for practice reps. Haley accused Jackson of living in fear, which prompted him to go on a rant about how it's his bus to drive. He asked for feedback and then diminished the input with the emphasis being that the Browns are going to do things his way.

Secondly, when an upset Corey Coleman entered his office to discuss why he was running with the second-string offense, Jackson deflected the question and told Coleman to "ask Todd." You read that correctly.

The coaching staff doesn't appear to be on the same page and Jackson simply lacks any sort of presence about him.

What's the over/under on when Haley takes over as interim coach? Week 10 during Cleveland's bye? At least Jackson will inevitably go down by doing things his way.

A sleeper TE prospect to watch for Syracuse

Like other positions in football, the tight end position is evolving. Traditional, in-line tight ends are important, but the NFL is valuing the flex options at an accelerated rate. One to keep an eye on in 2018 is Syracuse's Ravian Pierce, who I think has a chance to produce this season.

The Orange feature a volume passing offense and its top two targets from last year -- Steve Ishmael (105 rec., 1,347 yards) and Ervin Phillips (89 rec., 904 yards) -- were lost to graduation. The door is open for a portion of those targets to head in Pierce's direction.

Pierce's opportunities in the passing game have been limited to this point, but he has flashed an appealing skill set. While he hasn't run an expanded route tree, he is a fluid mover with enough burst to challenge the seam and separate from man coverage while also finding space in zones. He showcases good ball tracking skills and soft hands to haul in over-the-shoulder throws.

He may have only caught 29 passes for 263 yards in 2017, but those numbers could grow exponentially this year. Keep an eye on Pierce.

Cam Meets Cam

How cool was this? My friend Sarah Haight has a five-year-old son named Cam, who's a huge Cam Newton fan. Cam has ABS and wears a prosthetic hand that is made through Sarah's foundation "Different Heroes."

Since his name is Cam, he believes that Cam Newton is his twin brother and Cam made a large prosthetic hand for Newton in hopes of giving it to him one day.

I shared this tweet in hopes of helping that dream become a reality.

And it did!

To learn more about Different Heroes and ABS, please click here. 

Written By:

Joe Marino

Chief Administrative Officer

CAO & Senior NFL Draft Analyst for The Draft Network. Co-host of the Draft Dudes podcast. Member of the FWAA.