Bears

Dolphins star plans to get ejected on MNF

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Dolphins star plans to get ejected on MNF

From Comcast SportsNet
DAVIE, Fla. (AP) -- Preparing for Monday Night Football, Brandon Marshall dropped a pass during drills Thursday, picked up the ball and gave it an angry boot. Not that emotional outbursts take practice, but Marshall said he's planning a prime-time doozy. The mercurial Miami Dolphins receiver complained Thursday that he has been playing with his emotions in check and will show more passion Monday against the New York Jets. "My goal is to get thrown out midway through the second quarter," Marshall said. He mentioned that objective four times during a 12-minute interview session. When asked if he was joking, Marshall said no. "I'm serious. They want to fine me, it'll probably be like a 50,000 fine. But I'm going to play. That quarter and half I'm out there, I'm going to play like a monster." In July, Marshall disclosed he was diagnosed earlier this year with borderline personality disorder, which stems from such things as a negative self-image and a fear of failure. On Thursday, he said efforts to keep his emotions on an even keel have hurt his play. The two-time Pro Bowl receiver has 22 catches this year but only one touchdown, and he's tied for third in the NFL with five drops, including three in the end zone. Any deficiencies have been magnified because the Dolphins are 0-4. "The past four games, it's been tough for me trying to control some things," he said. "I'm just going to let it out. I don't care if they have two, three cameras on me, I don't care if I have penalties. It doesn't matter. I'm going to let it all out. "I'm best when I play emotional, I'm best when I play with passion, and you guys are going to see that on Monday Night Football. I don't know if it's throwing a football 15 yards into the bleachers and getting a 15-yarder, or punting the ball and getting thrown out of the game, but something is going to happen." Marshall's pledge comes with the offense in transition because of quarterback Chad Henne's season-ending shoulder injury. Matt Moore, who will make his first start with the Dolphins, arched his eyebrows when told that Marshall said he hoped to get kicked out in the second quarter. Would a more emotional Marshall be a good thing? "Um, I don't know. Now it's like I'm a doctor," Moore said. "Brandon's got to be himself. Everybody's got to be themselves. He's going to be at the emotional level he needs to be at to be at his best. How about that answer?" Coach Tony Sparano said Marshall at his most fiery would help the Dolphins, and he wasn't concerned about penalties or an ejection. "Obviously Brandon is 50 percent kidding," Sparano said. "I know one thing about that guy -- he's not going to do anything to hurt this team. The people in that locker room are important to him. "But sometimes on the field he's bigger than life when he gets the ball and starts rolling. He can be that way. I think that's the part Brandon is talking about." Marshall had 86 catches for 1,014 yards last season, his first with the Dolphins. But his streak of three successive 100-catch seasons ended, he scored only three touchdowns, and he twice drew penalties for tossing the ball to the sideline after a play. Toward the end of last season, Marshall said he had been too boring, and he's again intent on stirring things up. A Dolphins official tried several times to end Thursday's interview session, but Marshall kept talking, saying he discussed criticism he receives with members of his support group. "When you go through the things we went through, it's like you feel like you've got to be perfect," Marshall said. "That puts you in this bubble, and it's kind of uncomfortable. You're not human if you don't have bad days. "I've been living in a bubble a little bit, trying to control myself instead of being me. You've got to be able to turn that switch on and off. On Monday Night Football, I'm going to turn that switch on and be a monster. When I catch a ball, I might bang my head with a football. I might get into a shoving match with somebody. I might get a penalty. But I'm going to play like I usually play."

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. 
 

Anthony Davis could be the lone torch-bearer for Chicago at All-Star weekend in 2020, and object of recruitment

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AP

Anthony Davis could be the lone torch-bearer for Chicago at All-Star weekend in 2020, and object of recruitment

There were no Lakers or Clippers in the 2018 All-Star Game, but Los Angeles was well-represented with plenty of homegrown talent, plenty of historians with Los Angeles ties and all the pageantry L.A. can provide.

Russell Westbrook, Paul George and James Harden are among the All-Stars who came home to put on the biggest show of entertainment the league has to offer, and the new format featuring captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry produced one of the most competitive finishes in recent All-Star history as the spectacle wasn’t lost on DeRozan, who plays for the conference-leading Toronto Raptors.

“It was a dream come true,” DeRozan said. “I’ll forever be a part of this, and to come out and be a starter in my hometown, it was a dream come true.”

With Chicago hosting the event in 2020, one wonders if the city or the Bulls will be as represented.

“What better time to do it than in Chicago?” Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen said about his aspirations of being an All-Star sooner rather than later.

New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, to this point, is the only Chicagoan carrying the torch as an All-Star. For years, Chicago could claim their homegrown talent rivaled the likes of Los Angeles and New York, the self-proclaimed “Mecca”.

But now they’ve fallen behind in the way of star power, as Derrick Rose has gone from MVP to one of the biggest “what if” stories in modern-day sports. Jabari Parker was expected to be next in line but his future as a star is murky due to the same dreaded injury bug.

“I didn’t know that. But there’s a lot of great players (from Chicago),” Davis said Saturday during media availability. “Jabari is just coming back, Derrick is going through what he’s going through. That’s fine. D-Wade is getting older. We have a lot of great guys. Guys have been hurt, in D-Wade’s case he’s just getting up there in age now (laughs).”

Davis is arguably the league’s most versatile big man, keeping the New Orleans Pelicans afloat while DeMarcus Cousins is out with an Achilles injury. He’s had to watch the likes of George deal with free agent questions about the prospect of coming home to L.A., even after he was traded from Indiana to Oklahoma City in the offseason.

It still hasn’t stopped the chants from Lakers fans, panting after George in the hope he’ll be a savior of sorts. And even though his contract isn’t up for another few seasons, teams are lining up in the hope they can acquire him through free agency or trade.

It could very well be him getting the chants when the All-Star party comes to Chicago and he could be joined by the likes of Markkanen and Zach LaVine in the big game.

LaVine was in Los Angeles for the weekend and Markkanen opened eyes around the league with his showing in the rising stars game as well as the skills challenge.

Davis could wind up being the object of everyone’s affection and could find himself being recruited by the likes of LaVine.

Even though 2021 is a long way away, a guy can dream, right?

“I mean, I’m cool with a lot of dudes in the NBA. I feel like I’m a likeable guy,” LaVine told NBCSportsChicago.com about recruiting star players to the Bulls franchise. “I can talk about situations like that, it would be my first time being put in a position. It would be a little bit different but I think I can handle it.”

LaVine has his own contract situation to take care of this summer, being a restricted free agent but understands the Bulls’ salary cap position and their long-term goals.

“Yeah I think once the offseason comes and everybody settles down, and I’m comfortable, and I know the position I’ll be in,” LaVine said to NBCSportsChicago.com.

“I think we’ll start having those conversations because we want to get the franchise back to where it was, on that high plateau. That’s what it’s supposed to be.”

“I’m trying to solidify myself in the league to a certain degree. Once you start reaching those points you can talk to anybody to get to where you want to get to.”

LaVine attended several events over the weekend and shared the same space as several All-Stars in non-media settings. It’s easy to see why he would think he could have that affect with his peers.

Being careful about the rules on tampering, he said about a potential sit-down with Davis, “I would bring some Harold’s chicken to the meeting and we’ll be all good.”