Bulls

Behind the new looks in Bears D

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Behind the new looks in Bears D

Major Wright smiled thinking about what a difference a year makes.
 
The strong safety and deep-coverage partner Chris Conte both were sent on blitzes during last Mondays win over the Detroit Lions. Each was credited with a quarterback hurry by Pro Football Focus for their efforts.
 
This time a year ago he and Conte were starting their first game together, mostly because Chris Harris and Brandon Meriweather had effectively played their ways out of the lineup, not particularly because of how well Conte and Wright were doing.
 
The blitz calls, along with new rotations along the defense line, serve as hood ornaments for a key element growing inside the dominating Bears defense this season.
 
Trust.
 
Coaches know that both of us know what were doing, and theres no doubt in our minds that our coaches trust in us, Wright said. For them to call a blitz for me or Chris, they know well both be there, right time, right place.
 
He paused, then laughed. Last year, they probably werent always sure.
 
Earning trust
 
They werent, and not necessarily of every other member of the defense the way they are in 2012. But this is not the 2011 defense.
 
The more you put a player in positions and you see him making plays, said coach Lovie Smith, youll continue to add more things for them.
 
Against the Lions, the Bears were using a dizzying blizzard of rotations on the front four. Despite a game in which the Bears were never able to shake comfortably free of their division rivals, front-four packages that only occasionally was limited of the starting four of Israel Idonije-Henry Melton-Stephen Paea-Julius Peppers.
 
It was not the first time. Against the Dallas Cowboys, no lineman played more than 43 snaps (Melton, Paea) or fewer than 36 (Corey Wootton).
 
Peppers, the Bears best defensive lineman, played 87.6 percent of opponents snaps last season. This year he has been on the field for just 73.6 percent, according to Pro Football Focus.
 
Coach really, really trusts the guys, Wootton said. In the past I dont know that theyve felt they could trust us as much but weve earned their trust. So now we can give them different looks.
 
The McClellin Model
 
Different, indeed. Rookie Shea McClellin was used in some pass coverages as well as at his usual end spot and occasionally dropping in at defensive tackle. He has earned coaches respect and, as important, that of the on-field coach of the defense.
 
He doesnt screw up, said linebacker Brian Urlacher. As a rookie you dont want guys screwing up and he hasnt done that. I think hes very versatile.
 
We have different packages with him in there than weve had in the past. We do some third-down blitzes, some other stuff that we havent done in the past.

Potential top pick in 2018 NBA Draft Michael Porter Jr. will likely miss entire freshman season

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USA TODAY

Potential top pick in 2018 NBA Draft Michael Porter Jr. will likely miss entire freshman season

The Bulls will be keeping a close eye on the best young talent the loaded 2018 NBA Draft will have to offer. But they likely won't be seeing much of Missouri's Michael Porter Jr.

The school announced Tuesday that their freshman forward, the top recruit in the country, will miss the remainder of his freshman season.

Porter played all of 100 minutes for the Tigers, amassing 2 pioints and 2 rebounds in the Tigers' win over Iowa State.

The injury isn't to say Porter won't declare for the 2018 NBA Draft, or that it will affect his stock at all. He's still considered a legitimate franchise player and certainly someone all teams drafting in the top 5 will have their eye on.

But there will be competition. Players like Luka Doncic, Marvin Bagley, DeAndre Ayton and Mo Bamba make up what could be one of the best draft classes in recent memory.

For now the Bulls will have to wait until the spring or summer to see Porter Jr. work out, while doing due diligence on the rest of the class.

Bears film breakdown: Mitch Trubisky's amazing scramble, Marcus Cooper's soft coverage mistake

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Bears film breakdown: Mitch Trubisky's amazing scramble, Marcus Cooper's soft coverage mistake

Had Connor Barth not missed a 46-yard field goal that would've sent Sunday's Bears-Lions game into overtime, Mitchell Trubisky's 19-yard scramble on fourth-and-13 would've gone down as the biggest play the rookie quarterback made in 2017. Instead, Barth missed the kick, and the Bears couldn't force an opportunity for Trubisky to win the game in overtime.

But that scramble was incredible in its own right, even if it didn't lead to a tie ballgame and/or eventual victory. Here's how it happened:

The Lions rush three, with linebacker Tahir Whitehead (labeled No. 3 here) defending Benny Cunningham, who initially sticks in the backfield in pass protection. Detroit has four defenders playing man coverage against the Bears' four pass-catchers -- wide receiver Markus Wheaton and tight end Daniel Brown are at the top of the image, while wide receivers Kendall Wright and Dontrelle Inman are at the bottom. The Lions have three safeties playing deep with the Bears needing 13 yards to gain a first down. 

Trubisky drops back and doesn't spy anyone open. The yellow line is where the Bears have to get to for a first down, and instead of forcing a throw, Trubisky opts for a scramble drill. 

It doesn't start very well. Trubisky is pursued by defensive linemen Anthony Zettel and A'Shawn Robinson (blue arrows) and has no chance to scramble outside. There's a window created by Wheaton at the top of the screen (purple arrow) but there's no chance Trubisky could set and make that throw across his body now. Scramble it is. 

Trubisky stops on a dime and is able to avoid Zettel and Robinson, and cuts back to the middle of the field. Defensive end Cornelius Washington (red arrow) identifies where Trubisky is going and begins pursuing him. 

A hole opens up! But Washington is now quickly closing on Trubisky, who at this point still has to run about 17 yards to get the first down. It's not looking good. 

Somehow, Trubisky sheds Washington's tackle around the 42-yard line. He still has 10 yards to go, and now safety Miles Killebrew (red arrow) is closing on him. 

Killebrew overpursues to the boundary, and Trubisky is able to cut back to the middle of the field.

"He ran to my side and cut back and then made another guy miss, and I was like, oh s***, he’s really about to get this," Inman said. 

Killebrew whiffs, and Trubisky picks up the first down. 

"That’s his mentality," running back Tarik Cohen said. "Y’all got to see his mentality. That situation, fourth and 13, he’s not going down, not taking a sack, not throwing the ball away — he’s going to find a way to make a play, and he’s going to lead us to where we need to be." 

***

One of the game's most critical plays for the Bears' defense came midway through the second quarter. The Lions were backed up near their own goal line, and Leonard Floyd had just forced a Matthew Stafford incompletion with an excellent speed rush to the quarterback's blind side. The Bears defense seemed to be locking down on Detroit, and with a 10-point lead, forcing a punt here could've turned into more points by an offense that was having success in the first half. 

The Bears rush Floyd, Eddie Goldman, Akiem Hicks and Pernell McPhee (red circle), and have cornerback Marcus Cooper playing off Lions wide receiver T.J. Jones (orange line). Linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski (blue arrow) is going to sit in the flat. 

Jones gets to the sticks and sits down (orange circle), with Cooper still backpedaling. Kwiatkoski, perhaps, could've been a little deeper, but it doesn't appear that he's in the wrong spot. Also, tight end Eric Ebron has some open space just before the first-down line with safeties Adrian Amos and Eddie Jackson (purple arrows) keying on him. 

The ball is in the air, and Cooper is about six yards off Jones, who's right at the first down marker. Kwiatkoski can't get to the ball, and Jones and Stafford easily converts the first down. Credit needs to be given to Jones for a savvy route and knowing exactly where he needed to go to pick up the first down. 

And this was a heck of a throw by Stafford, who in this frame is about to get hit by Goldman while Floyd is leaping to try to disrupt the throw. A good route, a great throw and poor coverage led to the Lions picking up a first down. This throw sparked something in the Lions' offense, too: Including it, Stafford had a run of nine completions in 10 attempts for 153 yards and two touchdowns before halftime. For the Bears' defense, this play was the beginning of one of the "siestas" coach John Fox said have plagued his team this year. 

***

One of the Bears' best designed and executed offensive plays on Sunday came midway through the fourth quarter in the red zone down by a touchdown.

Tre McBride was motioned to the hashmarks from the outside, and the Bears have fullback Michael Burton and tight end Adam Shaheen lined up to the field side (red circles). Zettel (yellow circle) is lined up well off left tackle Charles Leno's left shoulder. 

Trubisky sold this play well, planting his right foot and sort of turning his body toward the field. Zettel (orange arrow) bites hard on that fake and loses contain, while Shaheen, Burton and McBride (red arrows) all disguise the play as a stretch/toss to the field. Cohen (purple arrow) now has some open space to the boundary. 

In the top left corner, another player does his job to set up the play: Inman carries cornerback D.J. Hayden (blue circle) into the end zone, freeing up plenty of green grass for Cohen. Safety Quin Glover (gray arrow) now has to pursue Cohen toward the pylon. 

"(Inman) ran the DB off, so I knew I had to get to the pylon or if he’s going to meet me there first, I had to stop his feet," Cohen said. "So I gave him a hesitation move." 

That hesitation froze Glover just enough for Cohen to tee up this:

Wheeee! "I felt like I had a 44-inch vert," Cohen said. He's able to dive in the end zone and tie the game up in a critical spot.