Bears

Defensive end Mercilus or Jones for Bears at No. 19

740336.png

Defensive end Mercilus or Jones for Bears at No. 19

If the NFL would just listen to Mel Kiper, the Bears would be very happy.The ESPN draft analyst has Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus going to the Bears at No. 19 in both the mock draft published in his 2012 Draft Report and in his revised three-rounder on Wednesday.CSNChicago.coms View from the Moon first-round will be out after this weekend but you get an early peek at No. 19 now its Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones, who Mel has going to San Diego at No. 18.In the second round, Mel initially had the Bears landing LSU wide receiver Rueben Randle but has tweaked that in the direction of wideout Brian Quick,who had202 catches and 31 TDs in four seasons at Appalachian State.And in a third-round surprise, the Bears would absolutely love, Mel projects them selecting Penn State defensive tackle Devin Still. That would address a level-one need with a 6-foot-5 inside force that Pro Football Weekly and View from the Moon (theres another preview hint for you) see as a first-round selection.GM Phil Emery has positioned the Bears this offseason to have options on draft days, something they havent always had. Chris Williams (2008) and Gabe Carimi (2011) were picks in years when the Bears made no secret of their premium on getting an offensive tackle.Coach Lovie Smith has voiced the annual wish for more pressure rushing the passer and that is probably as close to a true need as the Bears have going into next weekend.Peter King over at Sports Illustrated adjusted his mock draft Friday to the Bears selecting Baylor wide receiver Kendall Wrightat No. 19 and Mercilus going 20 to Tennessee. I can see the Mercilus pick by the Titans but with the options available in round two (Quick, Randle, Alshon Jefferey), taking a wideout with the first-round pick seems more than a little unlikely.Draft boards are being put into more filled-out conditions around the NFL this weekend and mock drafts begun in earnest. Less than a week from now, no more mock to it.

Can the Bears make enough plays to beat the Carolina Panthers?

Can the Bears make enough plays to beat the Carolina Panthers?

Everything changed for the Bears after going up 17-3 last week against the Baltimore Ravens. Mitchell Trubisky’s 27-yard touchdown to Dion Sims was immediately followed by Bobby Rainey running a kickoff back 96 yards for a touchdown, then the offense was bogged down with three fumbles (two lost) on three consecutive possessions. 

But Adrian Amos seemed to seal the game with his 90-yard pick six — that is, until Michael Campanaro ran Pat O’Donnell’s punt back 77 yards for what wound up being a game-tying touchdown after a two-point conversion.

The point is the Bears should’ve cruised to a comfortable win last week; a few critical mistakes didn’t allow that to happen. The Bears haven’t led at the end of the fourth quarter this year, a pretty strong indicator they haven’t played a complete game yet despite having two wins. 

The Carolina Panthers have road wins over the Detroit Lions and New England Patriots this year, and only lost to the Philadelphia Eagles by five points last week (despite Cam Newton throwing three interceptions). The bet here is the Bears keep things close on the backs of a strong defense, but either can’t make enough plays or make too many mistakes to win. 

Prediction: Panthers 20, Bears 16

Offseason of change begins with Cubs firing pitching coach Chris Bosio

chrisbosiochanges.jpg
USA TODAY

Offseason of change begins with Cubs firing pitching coach Chris Bosio

"Of course," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said in the middle of the National League Championship — he would like his coaches back in 2018. Pitching coach Chris Bosio told the team's flagship radio station this week that the staff expected to return next year. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein didn't go that far during Friday afternoon's end-of-season news conference at Wrigley Field, but he did say: "Rest assured, Joe will have every coach back that he wants back."

That's Cub: USA Today columnist Bob Nightengale first reported Saturday morning that Bosio had been fired, the team declining a club contract option for next year and making a major influence on the Wrigleyville rebuild a free agent. Epstein and Bosio did not immediately respond to text messages and the club has not officially outlined the shape of the 2018 coaching staff.

Those exit meetings on Friday at Wrigley Field are just the beginning of an offseason that could lead to sweeping changes, with the Cubs looking to replace 40 percent of their rotation, identify an established closer (whether or not that's Wade Davis), find another leadoff option and maybe break up their World Series core of hitters to acquire pitching. 

The obvious candidate to replace Bosio is Jim Hickey, Maddon's longtime pitching coach with the Tampa Bay Rays who has Chicago roots and recently parted ways with the small-market franchise that stayed competitive by consistently developing young arms like David Price and Chris Archer.

Of course, Maddon denied that speculation during an NLCS where the Los Angeles Dodgers dominated the Cubs in every phase of the game and the manager's bullpen decisions kept getting second-guessed.

Bosio has a big personality and strong opinions that rocked the boat at times, but he brought instant credibility as an accomplished big-league pitcher who helped implement the team's sophisticated game-planning system.

Originally a Dale Sveum hire for the 2012 season/Epstein regime Year 1 where the Cubs lost 101 games, Bosio helped coach up and market short-term assets like Ryan Dempster, Scott Feldman, Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija. 

Those win-later trades combined with Bosio's expertise led to a 2016 major-league ERA leader (Kyle Hendricks) and a 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner (Jake Arrieta) plus setup guys Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. and All-Star shortstop Addison Russell.

Bosio helped set the foundation for the group that won last year's World Series and has made three consecutive trips to the NLCS. But as the Cubs are going to find out this winter, there is a shelf life to everything, even for those who made their mark during a golden age of baseball on the North Side.