Colin Kaepernick

Focus on personnel issues in Bears-49ers matchup of NFL losers

Focus on personnel issues in Bears-49ers matchup of NFL losers

Once upon an NFL time a Bears-49ers game held some consequence, sometimes great import. Even last season the San Francisco game was the Bears’ chance to reach .500 in John Fox’s first year (it didn’t happen, with the Bears defense allowing a long Blaine Gabbert TD run and Robbie Gould missing a 36-yard field goal for the win, all in the last 1:42 of a game the Bears had dominated statistically).

Now the game becomes another in a string of ones in which the opponent and even the outcome matter less than some specific personnel issues for a team trying to avoid losing four straight games for the first time under Fox.

Several of those personnel questions warrant watching because of the positions involved:

Matt Barkley, quarterback   

The Barkley Era unofficially began last Sunday against the Tennessee Titans when the former USC quarterback got his first NFL start and nearly became the third Bears quarterback to win a game in an otherwise dismal season. That did happen once, in 2007 when Brian Griese, Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton also had W’s as starters.

Well, if not an actual “era,” at least the Barkley window opened, and will be open for the foreseeable 2016 future.

Barkley playing his way into a starting job in 2017 is not a front-burner thought — yet — although Kurt Warner once played his way from stocking supermarket shelves into Hall of Fame consideration.

Going against one of the only two teams with fewer wins than the Bears, Barkley’s chances are ostensibly better than they were facing the Titans, if only for “just being comfortable,” said Fox.

“Our opponent, Colin Kaepernick has been in for X amount of time. And like anything, the more you do it, the better you get. Hopefully. Just getting him more reps. More reps with the 1’s. I think there’s a drastic difference between him coming in as the back-up in Green Bay versus him being the starter last week against Tennessee. So hopefully he improves from his first start to his second start. That’s the plan and that’s what we’re working off.”

Quarterback is always a point of supreme interest and Barkley is playing for a shot somewhere in 2017. And the Bears want to know if some of the positives in the Tennessee game were real.

“With Matt, the biggest challenge was he wasn’t here in OTAs and training camp, so you don’t know him,” said offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. “He was out there running scout team, running ‘cards,’ so you know what kind of talent he has, but he never had gotten a two-minute — that was his first two-minute drill with the first group in a game situation.”

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Daniel Braverman, wide receiver

Braverman was a seventh-round draft choice who flashed in training camp but faded in games. He was elevated from the practice squad and is projected into a slot role with Eddie Royal injured again and the future unclear at that No. 3 wideout spot.

“There are not a lot of great slot receivers out there in the game,” Loggains said. “You’ve got to be able to move the chains, and you’ve got to be able to convert third downs and do those things and score in the red area. You have to understand coverages and leverages to be able to do that stuff. Those are the things that Braverman, coming into the NFL, his biggest challenge is.”

Daniel Brown, tight end

The season-ending foot injury to Zach Miller created another vacuum at a position the Bears have struggled to fill long-term: trading away the likes of Martellus Bennett, Greg Olsen and even Mike Ditka. Brown caught his first career TD pass in the Tennessee game. With Miller’s injury history and age (32), the Bears have a need at the position.

“We thought obviously he’s a guy that has a skill set probably closet to Zach at this point to plug in and play,” Loggains said. “But he did a nice job, helped up on third down, helped us in the red area. Just his ability to catch the football, he’s played receiver before and he’s more of a pass-catching tight end.”

Kyle Fuller, cornerback

Fuller, who led the Bears with two interceptions last year, has been a starter at a position that is a defensive priority. He is coming back from August knee surgery and into a secondary that is takeaway challenged. His goals are basic at this point.

“Just getting back on the field and just performing,” Fuller said.

49ers QB Colin Kaepernick: Anthem protest about 'change,' not just police violence

49ers QB Colin Kaepernick: Anthem protest about 'change,' not just police violence

President-elect Donald Trump tweeted this week that people burn the American flag should be subjected to some form of punishment, such as prison time or loss of citizenship. The Supreme Court has ruled that flag-burning was protected as a form of “symbolic speech.”

Colin Kaepernick, who comes to Soldier Field next Sunday to face the Bears, elected this season to express his concern about what he called “systematic oppression” by not standing for the national anthem before games. Is the San Francisco 49ers quarterback concerned that the incoming Administration may look to punish anthem-sitters?

“No, I’m not concerned about that at all,” Kaepernick said via conference call on Wednesday. “To me, if things go down that path, those are human-rights issues. Patriotism is earned; it’s not something you demand. For me, I don’t see those as issues. I’ll continue on my path as I have planned.”

Kaepernick began his sitting protest during San Francisco preseason games last August. It ignited a national firestorm because it was viewed as anti-police, a protest against police violence.

But for Kaepernick, it was never a police issue.

“I’ve been very clear from the beginning that I’m against systematic oppression,” Kaepernick said. “Police violence is just one of the symptoms of that oppression. For me that is something that needs to be addressed but it’s not the whole issue.”

Kaepernick said he has been in touch with groups and individuals in Chicago, which has been plagued with gun violence in general. The goal is to support those groups trying to effect change and that has been Kaepernick’s end game as well, he said.

“For me, I want to try help create change and also help empower other people, other organizations, that are doing the work to continue to do the work, and people that aren’t, to get involved to help create that change,” Kaepernick said. “Because this isn’t something that’s going to be changed by one person or a couple of people. It’s going to take communities coming together and creating the change that needs to be made, and the country coming together.”

Fantasy Football Start/Sit: Week 11

Fantasy Football Start/Sit: Week 11

This fantasy football season has gone by way too fast.

Can you believe that we only have a few regular-season matchups left?

We feel the same way, Eminem.

If you have any questions, hit us up on @CSNFantasy and tune in to our weekly Fantasy Fix Facebook Live show every Thursday.

Let's get right into the Week 11 Start/Sit and as always, Liam Neeson has a message for you:

START

Colin Kaepernick, QB, SF (vs. NE) - With Phillip Rivers and Matt Ryan out and other QBs facing tough matchups, Kaepernick is an under-the-radar guy you can get on the waiver wire or toss in your starting lineup from the bench. NE is capable of getting carved up by mobile QBs on the ground and Kaepernick is doing that better than anybody right now. Kap has only started four games and is already sixth among QBs in rushing, averaging 57 yards per game. Think he likes Chip Kelly's offense? No matter what, Kap gets you fantasy pts in rushing alone. (Tony Andracki)

Robert Kelley, RB, WSH (vs. GB) - The emergence of Kelley has made Week 1 starter Matt Jones, who was inactive last week, obsolete in Washington's offense. Kelley is entrenched as the Redskins No. 1 running back and has been given 20-plus carries in consecutive games. Look for Washington to feed Kelley once again this week in an attempt to control the clock and keep Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers offense off the field. (Scott Krinch)

Marcus Mariota, QB, TEN (@ IND) - Who would have predicted that Mariota would be a Top 5 fantasy quarterback going into Week 11? The second-year signal-caller has thrown for no less than 232 yards in his last five games and is averaging 3 touchdowns per game during thar span. Indy's defense presents another opportunity for Mariota to add to his torrid stretch as the Colts allow the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing QBs. (Krinch)

Theo Riddick, RB, DET (vs. JAX) - Jags are a middle of road defense, but Riddick has shown he is a factor as a rusher, too, with double digit carries in each of last 6 games he's played in. He had only one reception for 6 yards vs. MIN in Week 9, but had 14 catches for 110 yds and 3 TDs in last two games prior to that. He's an RB1 this week. (Andracki)

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SIT

Michael Crabtree, WR, OAK (vs. HOU) - The Texans are great against WRs (only the Broncos, and Vikings better). In five of nine games this season, opposing WRs have tallied less than 23 points vs. HOU, and that's for the entire group of WRs. We've seen Crabtree disappear this season at times and could be the case again this week coming out of the bye. (Andracki)

Stefon Diggs, WR, MIN (vs. ARI) - Cardinals have allowed only 1 TD to WRs over the last four games and though Diggs is incredible in PPR leagues, he has only 2 scores on the year. You've heard a lot about Diggs lately, but so have the Cardinals, and they're going to want to make sure somebody besides Diggs beats them in Week 11. (Andracki)

Todd Gurley, RB, STL (vs. MIA) - After being drafted Top 5 in the majority of fantasy leagues, Gurley has yet to rush for 100 yards in any game this season, and hasn't scored a touchdown in nearly a month and a half. Opposing defenses have stacked the box against Gurley, and forced an atrocious Rams passing attack to beat them. I can't see Gurley benefiting from Jared Goff's promotion to QB1 as the Dolphins front seven should wreck havoc on the St. Louis offense this weekend. (Krinch)

Carson Wentz, QB, PHI (@ SEA) - Wentz has hit the rookie wall. After setting the world on fire the first four weeks of the season, Wentz has notched single-digit fantasy totals in four of his last five games. Wentz' struggles will likely continue against a Seahawks pass defense that looks to have turned the corner after not allowing a passing touchdown to Tom Brady in last Sunday's victory over the Patriots in Foxborough. (Krinch)