Cubs

Bears unveil "no huddle" offense

829167.png

Bears unveil "no huddle" offense

An offense is more dangerous when it is more versatile. The more personnel groupings, offensive sets, or more plays you make a defense prepare for, the harder their job becomes. The Bears unveiled a new offensive wrinkle Friday afternoon at training camp that had been sorely missing for quite some time. This style of play took the Buffalo Bills to four consecutive Super Bowls. The new wrinkle by the Bears is known as the "no huddle" offense.

Im not suggesting the Bears are going to be the Buffalo Bills, utilizing this style of play during all 16 games this season. Instead, it is important to know this is a tremendous weapon which can create difficulties for a defense when necessary.

Why is it great?

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have been jumping in and out of no huddle offense for years because it changes the tempo of a game and it creates better matchups. Here are a few examples of when Jay Cutler could utilize the "no huddle" offense during the season:

1. The Bears have 3 wide receivers on the field and just finished a pass play on the first down for seven yards. Cutler notices one of the cornerbacks got rolled up and is limping badly. Cutler immediately screams, attack, notifying all players on offense the Bears are going into no huddle offense. Cutler now goes to work calling plays to expose the injured player. The injured cornerback fights through it during a couple of plays, but the defense has to waste a timeout to regroup and replace him. The opponents fourth best cornerback now has to enter the game. The Bears then have the advantage because they made their opponent waste a timeout. Now, if Chicago elects to stay in no huddle," it may force their opponent to go into base defense without their top group.

2. The Bears transition to regular personnel on first and 10, which comes out to two wide receivers, one tight end and two running backs. But they elect to go with pony backfield. This term refers to when you substitute out the fullback with a halfback. So in this example, Matt Forte and Michael Bush are in the game. If the Bears call regular personnel, the defense is going to call regular personnel to match up. In our example, they would want three linebackers (4-3 defense so SLB, MLB, WLB) in the game to match up effectively. The Bears motion Matt Forte out of the backfield into the strong side slot position. The defense adjusts by walking the strong side linebacker out on Forte.

Ladies and gentleman, we have our matchups. Cutler announces attack again and changes the play to a 40 draw run play to Michael Bush, because the defense has just taken another defender out of the run box. It is now six on six in the run box without the strong side linebacker who is better suited to stop the run. Jay may elect to stay in no huddle, calling pass plays with Matt Forte who would destroy any SLB in the league now.

There are many more examples, but the no huddle offense is a nice weapon to have in your arsenal. Defenses normally panic and play base defense until they settle down, figuring out how to attack it. An offense can steal a series or two in a game if they jump in and out of no huddle.

Cubs' World Series expectations are no surprise, but they show how radical transformation from Lovable Losers has been

0218-tom-ricketts-joe-maddon.jpg
USA TODAY

Cubs' World Series expectations are no surprise, but they show how radical transformation from Lovable Losers has been

MESA, Ariz. — Tom Ricketts sure doesn’t sound like the guy who met his wife in the bleachers during the century-long tenure of the Lovable Losers.

“Everyone knows that this is a team that has the capability to win the World Series, and everyone will be disappointed if we don’t live up to that capability.”

Yeah, the Cubs have been among baseball’s best teams for three seasons now. That curse-smashing World Series win in 2016 was the high point of a three-year stretch of winning that’s seen three straight trips to the National League Championship Series and a combined 310 wins between the regular season and postseason.

But it’s still got to come as a strange sound to those who remember the Cubs as the longtime butt of so many baseball jokes. This team has one expectation, to win the World Series. The players have said it for a week leading up to Monday’s first full-squad workout. The front office said it when it introduced big-time free-agent signing Yu Darvish a week ago. And the chairman said it Monday.

“We very much expect to win,” Ricketts said. “We have the ability to win. Our division got a lot tougher, and the playoff opponents that we faced last year are likely to be there waiting for us again.

“I think at this point with this team, obviously that’s our goal. I won’t say a season’s a failure because you don’t win the World Series, but it is our goal.”

The confidence is not lacking. But more importantly, success drives expectations. And if the Cubs are going to be one of the best teams in baseball, they better keep winning, or they’ll fail to meet those expectations, expectations that can sometimes spin a little bit out of control.

During last year’s follow-up campaign to 2016’s championship run, a rocky start to the season that had the Cubs out of first place at the All-Star break was enough to make some fans feel like the sky was falling — as if one year without a World Series win would be unacceptable to a fan base that had just gone 108 without one.

After a grueling NLDS against the Washington Nationals, the Cubs looked well overmatched in the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and that sparked plenty of outside criticism, as well as plenty of offseason activity to upgrade the club in the midst of baseball’s never-ending arms race.

“I think people forget we’ve won more games over the last three years than any other team. We’ve won more playoff games than any other team the last three years. And we’ve been to the NLCS three years in a row,” Ricketts said. “I think fans understand that this is a team that if we stay healthy and play up to our capability can be in that position, be in the World Series. I don’t blame them. We should have high expectations, we have a great team.”

On paper, there are plenty of reasons for high expectations. Certainly the team’s stated goals don’t seem outlandish or anything but expected. The addition of Darvish to a rotation that already boasted Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana makes the Cubs’ starting staff the best in the NL, maybe the best in the game. There were additions to the bullpen, and the team’s fleet of young star position players went untouched despite fears it might be broken up to acquire pitching.

“I think this is, on paper, the strongest rotation that we’ve ever had,” Ricketts said. “I think that being able to bring in a player of (Darvish’s) caliber reminds everyone that we’re intending to win our division and go all the way.

“We’ve kept a good core of players together for several years, and this year I think our offseason moves have really set us up to be one of the best teams in baseball.

“Just coming out of our team meeting, the vibe feels a lot like two years ago. Everybody’s in a really good place. I think everyone’s really hungry and really wants to get this season off to a great start and make this a memorable year.”

There should be no surprise that the team and its players and its executives and its owners feel the way they do. The Cubs are now expected winners, even if that’s still yet to sink in for the longtime fans and observers of the team they once called the Lovable Losers.

Blackhawks deal Michael Kempny to Capitals for conditional third-round pick

michal-kempny-0420.jpg
USA TODAY

Blackhawks deal Michael Kempny to Capitals for conditional third-round pick

The Blackhawks dealt defenseman Michael Kempny to the Washington Capitals for a third-round pick. Kempny had seven points in 31 games this season.

Kempny, 27, recorded 15 points in 81 career games for the Blackhawks. He tallied an assist in Saturday's 7-1 victory over the Capitals.

Kempny signed a one-year extension through the end of this season back in May.