Cubs

CSN announces Blackhawks/2015 Stanley Cup Final on-air/online coverage details

CSN announces Blackhawks/2015 Stanley Cup Final on-air/online coverage details

“Blackhawks Pre/Postgame Live” coverage (hosted by Pat Boyle, Steve Konroyd & Jamal Mayers with featured coverage provided by

Blackhawks beat reporter Luke Stuckmeyer & CSNChicago.com Blackhawks “Insider” Tracey Myers) before & after EVERY Stanley Cup Final Game!

“2015 Stanley Cup Final Media Day” LIVE from Tampa Bay to air on Comcast SportsNet & CSNChicago.com (and via the NBC Sports Live Extra app) at 1:00 PM CT TOMORROW!

“Road to a Dynasty” segments to provide fans with extended highlights, interviews & expert analysis nightly within “SportsNet Central”;

expanded game preview coverage, interviews & discussion to air on “SportsTalk Live” weeknights at 5:00/5:30 PM!

CSNChicago.com to live stream every edition of “Blackhawks Pre/Post Game Live” (also available via the NBC Sports Live Extra app),

along with video highlights from every game, an interactive “Blackhawks Pulse” social media page, and extensive post-game reports from Myers and Stuckmeyer 

 

Chicago, IL (June 1, 2015) – Comcast SportsNet & CSNChicago.com, the television & digital homes for the most comprehensive local coverage of the 2015 NHL Western Conference champion Chicago Blackhawks, is ready to bring fans even more wall-to-wall coverage throughout the 2015 Stanley Cup Final with comprehensive editions of Chevy Blackhawks Pregame Live and Blackhawks Postgame Live presented by Hawk Fordbefore & after EVERY Blackhawks-Tampa Bay Lightning match-up, along with 24/7 multi-platform coverage and enhanced social media interaction throughout the championship series. 

Comcast SportsNet’s extensive coverage of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final begins TOMORROW (Tuesday, June 2) at 1:00 PM CT with LIVE coverage of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final Media Day from Tampa Bay, which will feature the official series kick-off press conference with Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville and numerous Blackhawks players, including Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane among others.  Stanley Cup Media Day coverage will also be streamed live on CSNChicago.com and will be made available via the NBC Sports Live Extra app.  Comcast SportsNet will also re-air Stanley Cup Media Day coverage tomorrow night at 11:00 PM immediately following GMC SportsNet Central.

Comcast SportsNet begins its Stanley Cup Final Game 1 coverage Wednesday at 5:00 PM with a special edition of SportsTalk Live presented by The Chevy Silverado, featuring host David Kaplan and a panel of local/national NHL experts, along with live talkback interviews with special guests who will be at Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay.  At 6:00 PM, Comcast SportsNet will continue its extensive Stanley Cup Final coverage with SportsNet Central presented by Comcast Business, which will lead into a thorough Game 1 preview on Chevy Blackhawks Pregame Live at 6:30 PM, showcasing hosts Pat Boyle, Steve Konroyd, and Jamal Mayers with the latest pre-game updates/analysis, plus detailed pre-game reports from CSN’s Blackhawks beat reporter Luke Stuckmeyer and CSNChicago.com Blackhawks “Insider” Tracey Myers.  Following Game 1 on Wednesday, fans can look forward to an expanded edition of Blackhawks Postgame Live presented by Hawk Fordhosted by Boyle/Konroyd/Mayers, along with in-depth post-game reports from Stuckmeyer & Myers. Every edition of Blackhawks Post Game Live presented by Hawk Fordwill feature the live post-game press conference featuring Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville, Lightning head coach Jon Cooper, plus - live locker room interviews with Blackhawks and Lightning players, and a thorough breakdown of every key goal, save and play.  NOTES: Following Game 1, Blackhawks Postgame Live will air on CSN+ beginning at approx. 9:45 PM and will be joined in progress on the main Comcast SportsNet channel location immediately following White Sox Postgame Live (exact channel locations available at CSNChicago.com)…plus, every edition of Blackhawks Pre/Post Game Live will also be streamed LIVE on CSNChicago.com and will be made available via the NBC Sports Live Extra app.

Throughout the Stanley Cup Final, fans are urged to tune into SportsNet Central’s “Road to a Dynasty” comprehensive Stanley Cup Final nightly segments at 6:30 PM, 10:00 PM, 10:30 PM and midnight on Comcast SportsNet showcasing numerous highlights, interviews, analysis, and comprehensive game reviews/previews.

Fans can get their Stanley Cup Final coverage underway starting at 9:00 AM each weekday morning on Comcast SportsNet with Kap & Haugh (hosted by CSN’s David Kaplan and Chicago Tribune columnist David Haugh).  Kap & Haugh will provide viewers with the latest Stanley Cup Final discussion, debate, special guests and much more.

Weekday afternoons during the Stanley Cup Final on Comcast SportsNet, fans can tune into SportsTalk Live presented by The Chevy Silverado.  Featuring host David Kaplan and a panel of local/national NHL experts and special guests, viewers can look forward to hearing the panel discuss/debate the hottest topics surrounding the Blackhawks third trip to the Stanley Cup Final in just six years.

From an online perspective, CSNChicago.com, will provide even more exclusive 24/7 Blackhawks-Lightning Stanley Cup Final content coverage including the following:

  • CSNChicago.com will stream EVERY edition of “Blackhawks Pre/Postgame Live” and EVERY Blackhawks postgame press conference (sponsored by Xfinity) LIVE providing insider access to coach Joel Quenneville and Blackhawks players addressing the media as it happens.
  • CSNChicago.com Blackhawks “Insider” Tracey Myers will be on-site for EVERY home and road Stanley Cup Final game filing stories and video for each game and team practices, plus Myers will provide up-to-the-second Tweets via @TramyersCSN throughout the series, as will CSNChicago.com digital producers Scott Krinch (@scottiekrinch) and Charlie Roumeliotis (@croumeliotis) for home games for the network’s @CSNBlackhawks Twitter handle.
  • Video highlights from every Stanley Cup Final game, including in-game highlights after each period.  Pre-game interviews from morning skates will also be provided, as well as extensive post-game reaction from the locker room and analysis from the “Blackhawks Postgame Live” presented by Hawk Ford team.
  • “Blackhawks Pulse presented by AT&T U-Verse,” a one-stop social media hub that reveals the latest trending topics and player buzz from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.  Plus, “Blackhawks Pulse” aggregates all Blackhawks player tweets, along with fan tweets that utilize the hashtag #HawksTalk. For additional 24/7 team updates on Twitter, fans are urged to follow @CSNBlackhawks.
  • BlackhawksTalk, CSNChicago.com’s high-velocity, real-time, comprehensive Blackhawks news and opinion section featuring original commentary, reporting and aggregation. BlackhawksTalk is under the banner of NBC SportsTalk, NBC’s successful digital franchise on NBCSports.com that includes ProFootballTalk, HardballTalk, ProBaskteballTalk, ProHockeyTalk, CollegeFootballTalk and GolfTalkCentral. SportsTalk was extended to CSNChicago.com through the creation of BlackhawksTalk, BullsTalk, CubsTalk, WhiteSoxTalk, BearsTalk, ChiFireTalk, PrepsTalk, IrishTalk and B1GTalk, which contains interactive content and continually updated insights from the network’s digital and on-air talent.
  • CSNChicago.com’s new state-of-the-art “AT&T U-Verse Lounge” to provide expanded Stanley Cup Final content through daily and weekly shows and segments.
  • CSNChicago.com’s Blackhawks content will also be distributed via its digital network of partnerships, including NBCSports.com, NBCNews.com, Yahoo! Sports and Xfinity.com.
  • Expanded coverage from Pat Boyle and Luke Stuckmeyer, CSN Chicago’s Blackhawks reporting team will provide pre-game and post-game coverage, along with digital content contribution and videos for CSNChicago.com throughout the playoffs.  Follow them on Twitter @CSNBoyle and @LukeStuckmeyer.
  • CSNChicago.com and ChicagoBlackhawks.com will collaborate in content creation and distribution throughout the playoffs to provide fans in-depth player interviews and features plus behind-the-scenes access to everything going on and off-the-ice within the Blackhawks organization. 

Note the following game-by-game breakdown of Comcast SportsNet’s coverage of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final:

BLACKHAWKS vs. LIGHTNING 2015 STANLEY CUP FINAL COVERAGE ON COMCAST SPORTSNET 

Game 1: Wednesday, June 3 (Blackhawks at Lightning)

5:00 PM – SportsTalk Live presented by The Chevy Silverado– Pre-game discussion & analysis with special guests and host David Kaplan featuring live reports and special guests from Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay

6:00 PM – SportsNet Central presented by Comcast Business – Expanded Blackhawks-Lightning Game 1 preview, along with a White Sox-Rangers game preview (airing at 7:00 PM on CSN) and much more from the day in sports.

6:30 PM – Chevy Blackhawks Pregame Live – Special edition pre-game show hosted by Pat Boyle, Steve Konroyd, and Jamal Mayers with special reports from Tampa Bay provided by Blackhawks “Insider” Tracey Myers & Blackhawks beat reporter Luke Stuckmeyer (NOTE: also streaming live on CSNChicago.com and available via the NBC Sports Live Extra app)

9:45 PM – Blackhawks Post Game Live presented by Hawk Ford (time approx.) - Complete Game 1 post-game recap/analysis, plus live post-game press conferences and player interviews featuring hosts Pat Boyle, Steve Konroyd, and Jamal Mayers with live reports from Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay (NOTES: to air live on CSN+HD, viewers are urged to visit CSNChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER for complete channel location details…to be joined in progress on the main Comcast SportsNet channel location immediately following White Sox baseball coverage…also streaming live on CSNChicago.com and available via the NBC Sports Live Extra app)

10:30 PM – GMC SportsNet CentralFull Game 1 recap/analysis, along with the latest news/highlights from the day in sports

(NOTES: BLACKHAWKS at LIGHTNING GAME 1 AIRS EXCLUSIVELY ON NBC AT 7:00 PM…GAME 1 REPLAY TO AIR ON COMCAST SPORTSNET THURSDAY, JUNE 3 AT 3:00 PM)

Game 2: Saturday, June 6 (Blackhawks at Lightning)

5:30 PM – Chevy Blackhawks Pregame Live – Special edition pre-game show hosted by Pat Boyle, Steve Konroyd, and Jamal Mayers with special reports from Tampa Bay provided by Blackhawks “Insider” Tracey Myers & Blackhawks beat reporter Luke Stuckmeyer (NOTE: also streaming live on CSNChicago.com and available via the NBC Sports Live Extra app)

9:00 PM – Blackhawks Post Game Live presented by Hawk Ford (time approx.) - Complete Game 2 post-game recap/analysis, plus live post-game press conferences and player interviews featuring hosts Pat Boyle, Steve Konroyd, and Jamal Mayers with live reports from Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay (NOTES: to air live on CSN+HD, viewers are urged to visit CSNChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER for complete channel location details…to be joined in progress on the main Comcast SportsNet channel location immediately following Chicago Fire soccer coverage at 9:30 PM…also streaming live on CSNChicago.com and available via the NBC Sports Live Extra app)

10:00 PM – GMC SportsNet CentralFull Game 2 recap/analysis, along with the latest news/highlights from the day in sports

(NOTES: BLACKHAWKS at LIGHTNING GAME 2 AIRS EXCLUSIVELY ON NBC AT 6:15 PM…GAME 2 REPLAY TO AIR ON COMCAST SPORTSNET SUNDAY, JUNE 7 at 7:00 PM & MONDAY, JUNE 8 at 2:30 PM)

Game 3: Monday, June 8 (Blackhawks vs. Lightning)

5:00 PM – SportsTalk Live presented by The Chevy Silverado– Pre-game discussion & analysis with special guests and host David Kaplan LIVE from the United Center

6:00 PM – SportsNet Central presented by Comcast Business – Expanded Blackhawks-Lightning Game 3 preview, along with a White Sox-Astros game preview (airing at 7:00 PM on CSN) and much more from the day in sports.

6:30 PM – Chevy Blackhawks Pregame Live – Special edition pre-game show LIVE from the United Center hosted by Pat Boyle, Steve Konroyd, and Jamal Mayers with special reports provided by Blackhawks “Insider” Tracey Myers & Blackhawks beat reporter Luke Stuckmeyer (NOTE: also streaming live on CSNChicago.com and available via the NBC Sports Live Extra app)

9:45 PM – Blackhawks Post Game Live presented by Hawk Ford (time approx.) - Complete Game 3 post-game recap/analysis, plus live post-game press conferences and player interviews featuring hosts Pat Boyle, Steve Konroyd, and Jamal Mayers LIVE from the United Center (NOTES: to air live on CSN+HD, viewers are urged to visit CSNChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER for complete channel location details…to be joined in progress on the main Comcast SportsNet channel location immediately following White Sox baseball coverage…also streaming live on CSNChicago.com and available via the NBC Sports Live Extra app)

10:30 PM – GMC SportsNet CentralFull Game 3 recap/analysis, along with the latest news/highlights from the day in sports

(NOTES: BLACKHAWKS vs. LIGHTNING GAME 3 AIRS EXCLUSIVELY ON NBCSN AT 7:00 PM…GAME 3 REPLAY TO AIR ON COMCAST SPORTSNET TUESDAY, JUNE 9 AT 2:30 PM)

Game 4: Wednesday, June 10 (Blackhawks vs. Lightning)

5:00 PM – SportsTalk Live presented by The Chevy Silverado– Pre-game discussion & analysis with special guests and host David Kaplan LIVE from the United Center

6:30 PM – Chevy Blackhawks Pregame Live – Special edition pre-game show LIVE from the United Center hosted by Pat Boyle, Steve Konroyd, and Jamal Mayers with special reports provided by Blackhawks “Insider” Tracey Myers & Blackhawks beat reporter Luke Stuckmeyer (NOTES: to air live on CSN+HD, viewers are urged to visit CSNChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER for complete channel location details…also streaming live on CSNChicago.com and available via the NBC Sports Live Extra app)

9:45 PM – Blackhawks Post Game Live presented by Hawk Ford (time approx.) - Complete Game 4 post-game recap/analysis, plus live post-game press conferences and player interviews featuring hosts Pat Boyle, Steve Konroyd, and Jamal Mayers LIVE from the United Center (NOTE: also streaming live on CSNChicago.com and available via the NBC Sports Live Extra app)

10:30 PM – GMC SportsNet CentralFull Game 3 recap/analysis, along with the latest news/highlights from the day in sports

(NOTES: BLACKHAWKS vs. LIGHTNING GAME 4 AIRS EXCLUSIVELY ON NBCSN AT 7:00 PM…GAME 4 REPLAY TO AIR ON COMCAST SPORTSNET THURSDAY, JUNE 11 AT 3:00 PM)

IF NECESSARY -- Game 5: Saturday, June 13 (Blackhawks at Lightning)

6:30 PM – Chevy Blackhawks Pregame Live – Special edition pre-game show LIVE from Tampa Bay hosted by Pat Boyle, Steve Konroyd, and Jamal Mayers with special reports provided by Blackhawks “Insider” Tracey Myers & Blackhawks beat reporter Luke Stuckmeyer (NOTES: to air live on CSN+HD, viewers are urged to visit CSNChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER for complete channel location details…also streaming live on CSNChicago.com and available via the NBC Sports Live Extra app)

9:45 PM – Blackhawks Post Game Live presented by Hawk Ford (time approx.) - Complete Game 5 post-game recap/analysis, plus live post-game press conferences and player interviews featuring hosts Pat Boyle, Steve Konroyd, and Jamal Mayers LIVE from Tampa Bay (NOTE: also streaming live on CSNChicago.com and available via the NBC Sports Live Extra app)

10:30 PM – GMC SportsNet CentralFull Game 5 recap/analysis, along with the latest news/highlights from the day in sports

(NOTES: BLACKHAWKS at LIGHTNING GAME 5 AIRS EXCLUSIVELY ON NBC AT 7:00 PM…GAME 5 REPLAY AIR/DATE TIME ON COMCAST SPORTSNET TBA)

IF NECESSARY -- Game 6: Monday, June 15 (Blackhawks vs. Lightning)

5:00 PM – SportsTalk Live presented by The Chevy Silverado– Pre-game discussion & analysis with special guests and host David Kaplan LIVE from the United Center

6:00 PM – Chevy Blackhawks Pregame Live – Special, one-hour expanded pre-game show LIVE from the United Center hosted by Pat Boyle, Steve Konroyd, and Jamal Mayers with special reports provided by Blackhawks “Insider” Tracey Myers & Blackhawks beat reporter Luke Stuckmeyer (NOTES: to air live on CSN+HD, viewers are urged to visit CSNChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER for complete channel location details…also streaming live on CSNChicago.com and available via the NBC Sports Live Extra app)

9:45 PM – Blackhawks Post Game Live presented by Hawk Ford (time approx.) - Complete Game 6 post-game recap/analysis, plus live post-game press conferences and player interviews featuring hosts Pat Boyle, Steve Konroyd, and Jamal Mayers LIVE from the United Center (NOTE: also streaming live on CSNChicago.com and available via the NBC Sports Live Extra app)

10:30 PM – GMC SportsNet CentralFull Game 6 recap/analysis, along with the latest news/highlights from the day in sports

(NOTES: BLACKHAWKS vs. LIGHTNING GAME 6 AIRS EXCLUSIVELY ON NBC AT 7:00 PM…GAME 6 REPLAY AIR/DATE TIME ON COMCAST SPORTSNET TBA)

IF NECESSARY -- Game 7: Wednesday, June 17 (Blackhawks at Lightning)

5:00 PM – SportsTalk Live presented by The Chevy Silverado– Pre-game discussion & analysis with special guests and host David Kaplan featuring live reports and special guests from Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay

6:00 PM – Chevy Blackhawks Pregame Live – Special, one-hour edition pre-game show LIVE from Tampa Bay hosted by Pat Boyle, Steve Konroyd, and Jamal Mayers with special reports provided by Blackhawks “Insider” Tracey Myers & Blackhawks beat reporter Luke Stuckmeyer (NOTES: to air live on CSN+HD, viewers are urged to visit CSNChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER for complete channel location details…also streaming live on CSNChicago.com and available via the NBC Sports Live Extra app)

9:45 PM – Blackhawks Post Game Live presented by Hawk Ford (time approx.) - Complete Game 7 post-game recap/analysis, plus live post-game press conferences and player interviews featuring hosts Pat Boyle, Steve Konroyd, and Jamal Mayers LIVE from Tampa Bay (NOTE: also streaming live on CSNChicago.com and available via the NBC Sports Live Extra app)

10:30 PM – GMC SportsNet CentralFull Game 7 recap/analysis, along with the latest news/highlights from the day in sports

(NOTES: BLACKHAWKS at LIGHTNING GAME 7 AIRS EXCLUSIVELY ON NBC AT 7:00 PM…GAME 7 REPLAY AIR/DATE TIME ON COMCAST SPORTSNET TBA)

(NOTE: Additional on-air/online Stanley Cup Final coverage details will be made available on CSNChicago.com over the course of the next two weeks.)

Anthony Rizzo declines role as an activist, says trip to Florida 'was the hardest thing I've ever had to do'

Anthony Rizzo declines role as an activist, says trip to Florida 'was the hardest thing I've ever had to do'

MESA, Ariz. — Anthony Rizzo’s gone above and beyond for his community in the wake of one of the worst mass shootings in United States history, when 17 people lost their lives last week at Marjory Douglas Stoneman High School in Parkland, Florida, Rizzo’s alma mater.

His actions and words have carried plenty of weight in the last week, but Rizzo’s comments upon returning to Arizona were more focused on the general need for change rather than specific actions related to the issue of gun violence in America.

The Cubs’ first baseman, who returned to spring training on Monday after spending several days being with his community in Florida, repeatedly voiced the opinion — though it’s ridiculous to think there’s a counter argument that could actually qualify as someone’s opinion — that these mass shootings need to stop happening with such an incomprehensible amount of frequency.

But he stopped short of taking a full step into the national debate on the issue, clarifying that his comments made on Twitter the day of the shooting were not referencing gun control or that specific debate at all.

“Obviously, there needs to be change,” Rizzo said. “I don’t know what that is, I don’t get paid to make those decisions. I can sit back and give opinions, but you just hope somewhere up the line of command, people are thinking are thinking the same things that a lot of innocent kids are thinking: ‘Why? Why am I scared to go to school? Why am I scared to say goodbye to my son or daughter?’ God forbid someone was in an argument with someone they loved that day, how bad — it’s a bad time right now in the country with what’s going on with all these shootings.

“My opinion is my opinion. I don’t think it’s fair to my teammates and everyone else if I come out and start going one way or the other. I think, my focus is on baseball. My focus is definitely on Parkland and the community there and supporting them and whatever direction that they go. But for me it’s hard enough to hit a baseball, and it’s definitely going to be hard enough to try to be a baseball player and a politician at the same time.”

Rizzo has no more of an obligation to be a spokesman on this issue than any other American does, and his presence at his old school last week, his words at a vigil for the victims of this tragedy were powerful. Rizzo has established himself as a remarkable member of his community in Chicago, and he won the Roberto Clemente Award last season for his charitable efforts off the field. His willingness to leave Arizona and be with members of his community was reflective of the type of person Cubs fans and Chicagoans have gotten to know.

“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Just going back, you don’t what to say. There’s nothing you can say,” Rizzo said. “When people get shot, you’re grateful that they’re alive. When they pass away, you’re grateful that you knew them, to look at the bright side of things if you can. But just to see how real it is, it’s sad.

“The more I just sat and thought about it, I felt helpless here. That’s where I grew up, in Parkland. I got in trouble there, I succeeded there, I learned how to be who I am because of Parkland, because of Stoneman Douglas. So to be across the country and not be there and then to find out some very close people have lost loved ones, to be there to help them and support them was very important to me.”

Rizzo repeatedly said how proud he is of the students of Stoneman Douglas, who have been outspoken on social media, directing their comments toward the president and other members of the government and sharing their opinions that gun control is necessary for the violence to stop.

But Rizzo refrained from wading into that debate and even chastised those who mischaracterized his Twitter comments as a call for gun regulation.

“To be very clear I did not say the word ‘gun’ one time,” he said. “Anyone out there who wrote gun control, saying I called for gun control, I think is very irresponsible and I did not say that once.

“I don’t know what needs to be done, I don’t know. I don’t know enough about it. I know there are a lot of shootings. I know they are done with a specific make, but I don’t know what needs to be done. But something, some type of change needs to happen for the better because I’m sure people in here have kids. No one right now feels very comfortable on a daily basis sending their kid to school and not knowing if they’re going to see them again.”

That kind of message might not be as declarative as some would have hoped. But it remained a powerful one, showing that even if he wasn’t ready or willing to declare himself an activist, Rizzo shares the feelings of many Americans who are simultaneously numb to the news of these shootings and completely and entirely fed up with their frequency and the lack of action taken to stop them.

“As a human being, probably everyone in here when they first the initial (reports of a) shooter, I took my next golf swing, because that’s how numb this country is to it,” Rizzo said. “Until something crazy happens, when you hear ‘open shooter’ nowadays, it’s like, ‘OK,’ take your next breath and keep going. Then I found out it was at Douglas, you get a little more concerned, ‘OK, what’s going on.’ At first it’s a few people injured, then you found out it was what it was, and it’s just — it’s gut-wrenching. You just go numb.

“I stand behind my community, and I’m really proud of how everyone’s coming together. Obviously I said there needs to be change, I don’t know what the change needs to be. I’m just really proud of those kids and how they’re coming together and becoming one in Parkland. It’s really inspiring to see, and it makes me proud.”

2017 Bears position grades: Defensive Line

2017 Bears position grades: Defensive Line

2017 grade: B+

Level of need: Medium

Decisions to be made on: Mitch Unrein (free agent), John Jenkins (free agent)

Possible free agent targets: Jared Crick, Frostee Rucker, Dominique Easley

This unit was consistently the Bears’ best in 2017, with Akiem Hicks playing at a Pro Bowl level (don’t let his exclusion from the game fool you on that) and Eddie Goldman putting together a rock-solid, healthy year. 

Hicks signed a four-year contract extension just before the season began and rewarded the Bears with a dominant year, racking up 8 ½ sacks and 15 tackles for a loss. Goldman played in and started 15 games and was a key reason why the Bears limited opposing rushers to four yards per carry, tied for the 10th-best average in the league. 

But while the Bears’ defensive line was certainly good, it wasn’t as good as it could’ve been. These words from Vic Fangio ring true for Hicks and Goldman:

“I think they all have a lot more to give to us than we’ve seen,” Fangio said. “And it’s our job to get them to improve and become even better players. That will be more important to us than anybody we can acquire between now and whenever our first game is. So, and I know it’s always sexy to talk between now and the first game, you know, who are you going to draft, who’s in free agency, etc., but we’ve got to get our so-called good players playing even better. And that will be critical.”

Hicks will enter Year 3 in Fangio’s scheme, while 2018 will be Goldman’s fourth. It’ll also be a critical year for Jonathan Bullard and Roy Robertson-Harris, who’ve flashed potential at times but haven’t been able to turn that into consistent success on the field. 

And that’s where we begin to look ahead to free agency and the draft. Is the Bears’ evaluation of Bullard -- their 2016 third-round pick -- positive enough to hand him a bigger role in 2018? That’s question No. 1 to answer, with No. 2 then being if the team should try to re-sign Mitch Unrein. 

It may be a bit risky to move forward with Bullard, given how popular Unrein was among the Bears’ defensive coaching staff. 

“He’s one of the glue guys on the defense and the team,” Fangio said last November. “Every team needs a few of those guys who are going to do everything right, full speed, hard and tough all the time, and that’s Mitch.”

Defensive line coach Jay Rodgers offered this up about Unrein back in October: “He allows those guys to play fast,” with “those guys” being Hicks and Goldman. 

Statistically, the 30-year-old Unrein doesn’t  jump off the page, but he did record a career high 2 ½ sacks in 2017. Perhaps there would be some benefits to continuity in the Bears’ base 3-4 defensive line.

Worth noting too is this position isn’t a huge need, given Unrein usually played between 40 and 55 percent of the Bears’ defensive snaps on a per-game basis last year. Keeping Unrein for a relatively low cap hit would make some sense, as opposed to testing free agency to replace him.

Jared Crick is coming off back surgery and an ineffective 2016; Dominique Easley is coming off his third torn ACL this decade; Frostee Rucker is in his mid-30’s. The Bears could look to pick a 3-4 defensive end in April, but that would be a pretty quick re-draft of the position and would be an indication they don’t think much of Bullard. This seems like a position where keeping the status quo is likely, save maybe for replacing John Jenkins with a different backup behind Goldman.