Cubs

Marshall: Look past black-white stereotypes on Bears new starting QB vs. 49ers

941165.png

Marshall: Look past black-white stereotypes on Bears new starting QB vs. 49ers

Jason Campbell is not Jay Cutler. That much is pretty obvious.

Jason's black and Jay's white, veteran sociologist Brandon Marshall pointed out on Friday. Then he urged looking past stereotypes when thinking of the Bears starting quarterback next Monday Campbell vs. the one who is down for at least the next game with a concussion.

You know what, it's the opposite, said Marshall, who moonlights as a Pro Bowl wide receiver. You would think Campbell would be like Michael Vick.

But J-Cut is like Vick, and Jason is more of a pocket guy, I would say. Cut likes to run around a little bit, so that's a little opposite. But because of the picture we paint on black quarterbacks, it's supposed to be a guy who runs around a lot, but Jason does a good job in the pocket, really reading coverage, really taking control of the offense.

Campbell in fact might like to think he has a little Vick in him, however.

We both have big arms, we both move around a little bit, he said, comparing himself to Cutler. We have differences in certain things we do and how we see things but were both pretty athletic.

But it is in the control of the offense that Campbells key lies.

Check-downs = avoiding sacks

Campbell had the nickname Captain Check-down with the Raiders, not totally framed as criticism. The moniker derived from his quick decisions to check down to secondary, safety valve receivers rather than take sacks, not an altogether negative tendency.

He has been sacked once every 15.5 pass plays for his career, compared with Cutlers once every 16.6. The latters numbers increased dramatically since coming to the Bears, whether for reasons of poor protection, poor decision-making, holding the ball too long, poor receivers or whatever.

Against a Houston defense that Campbell told CSNChicago.com was clearly stacking to take away deep balls in a one-score game, Campbell presented two different personas, mixing Captain Check-down with Air Cutler.

Cutler went to five different receivers in the first half vs. Houston. Campbell distributed the ball to seven in the second, his first action regular-season action since breaking his collarbone Oct. 16, 2011.

The Marshall Ratio

Ironically, Cutler has been questioned on his excessive targeting of Marshall. That occurred four times of 14 first-half attempts.

Campbell went to Marshall nearly twice as often, nine of 19 throws in the second half (47 percent), including once for 45 yards.

But where Cutler has made less use of backs and tight ends this season, and just five of 14 targets last Sunday, Campbell went to tight ends and backs nine times.

Cutler was intercepted twice inside the Houston 40; Campbell was not picked off and finished with a 70.9 passer rating, respectable for coming in rep-less in practice, in the rain, against the best defense in the AFC.

Campbell already is installing control as a guide.

I cant put so much pressure on myself to feel like, Ive got to make every play or Ive got to do this or do that, because you cant play the game that way, Campbell said. I cant be putting pressure on myself to feel like, This is your one game to dictate what youve got to do.

In latest twist to Cubs-Nationals, Dave Martinez will interview for Dusty Baker's old job

davemartinezcubs.png
AP

In latest twist to Cubs-Nationals, Dave Martinez will interview for Dusty Baker's old job

Dave Martinez – Joe Maddon’s bench coach during unprecedented runs of success with the Cubs and Tampa Bay Rays – is ready to step outside of the star manager’s shadow and run his own big-league team.

A Washington Nationals franchise coming off back-to-back division titles – while having some big personalities in the clubhouse and obvious internal issues – could still be that ideal opportunity.

The Nationals have reached out to set up an interview with Martinez, a source said Monday, confirming a Washington Post report in the wake of Dusty Baker’s messy exit, eight days after a massively disappointing playoff loss to the Cubs.

Martinez had been an X-factor in Washington’s search two years ago, when negotiations broke down with Bud Black and the Nationals eventually circled back to Baker, the former Cubs manager.

Martinez has the built-in credibility that comes from playing 16 seasons in the big leagues, which would be an asset for a team that has Bryce Harper entering his final season before free agency and Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg at the top of the rotation.    

Martinez, who is fluent in Spanish and analytics, spent the last 10 years working as the bench coach for two data-driven organizations, putting him at the cutting edge of defensive shifts, bullpen management and game-planning systems.    

While Maddon thrives in the front-facing aspects of the job, dealing with the media before and after every game and selling a vision to the public, Martinez handles a lot of the behind-the-scenes issues, putting out clubhouse fires and interacting with the players in one-on-one settings.

The partnership worked to the point where the Rays captured the 2008 American League pennant and the Cubs won last year’s World Series. While the Cubs have advanced to the National League Championship Series for three straight seasons, the Nationals have been knocked out of the first round of the playoffs four times since 2012.

In the middle of the grueling five-game playoff series where the Cubs outlasted the Nationals – which may have been a tipping point against Baker for Washington executives – Maddon lobbied for Martinez to be in the manager mix during baseball’s hiring-and-firing season.

“He belongs in the group,” Maddon said. “I know all these people being considered, and I promise you our guy matches up with every one of them.

“He was such a heady, aggressive, gritty kind of player. Bilingual. All that matters. He's not afraid to have the tough conversations (that) people in that position may shy away from.

“Believe me, I see all the names. There are a lot of good names, and I like a lot of these dudes. But I’m just telling you: To not include his name with those other people baffles me.”

Zach LaVine not sweating contract extension, anxious to get back in uniform

zachlavinebulls.png
USA TODAY

Zach LaVine not sweating contract extension, anxious to get back in uniform

The Zach LaVine timeline for a Bulls debut remains the same, although he’s ahead of schedule in every metric of his return from ACL surgery this past February.

It doesn’t mean he isn’t angling for more work and pushing his limits to learn the offense he’ll be featured in, along with taking contact “here and there,” in his words. He’s supposed to wait nine months from the day of his February 14 surgery before taking contact, which would put him at a November 14 practice before the Bulls go to Oklahoma City.

“I should be doing contact really soon. It all depends on them,” LaVine said in his first public words since media day several weeks ago. “I’m pushing them as hard as I can, but at the end of the day we still gotta be careful. I feel great. I’m doing everything I was doing before. I’m pretty sure I can do contact, but we’ve got to stick to that schedule. But every day I’m just getting back, trying to as close to 100 percent as I can before I come back.”

LaVine was at Air Canada Centre getting a workout in before the Bulls opener against the Raptors and has gotten in heavy workouts on the off days with the assistant coaches in the meantime.

Sticking to the schedule will be on both LaVine and the Bulls, although both sides could be tempted to cut corners a bit. It would be human nature for the Bulls to show the NBA world their centerpiece from the Jimmy Butler trade on draft night, as well as LaVine to want to be the frontline player he feels he deserves to be.

“Yeah, it’s definitely hard. I don’t like missing games,” LaVine said. “Before the injury I didn’t really miss any games. I think I missed one or two in my career, so it really sucks just sitting there, not being able to help. I try to help as much as I can from the sideline. You know, give a little advice here and there, but yeah it hurts.”

He’s also in line for a big-time extension, having passed the deadline for extensions for players in his 2014 draft class. He’ll have to wait until the summer, especially since it didn’t make sense for him to extend unless it was a max deal.

“Obviously, I want to be here for a long time,” LaVine said. “And I feel the deal is going to get done, either then or next summer. I don’t have any fear in that. I think I know I’ll be in black and red for a little bit longer. I’m very happy and looking forward to that day as well. The main concern is just getting back on the court, get my legs ready and try to help the team as much as possible until then.”

LaVine was averaging a career-high 18.9 points as a third option behind Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, but will be featured in Fred Hoiberg’s offense as a first and maybe even second option, too—especially seeing how anemic the Bulls offense has looked in the first two games.

“With the team that we have and the system that (Fred Hoiberg) put in, we’re going to get up a lot of threes,” LaVine said. “When we’re on we’re going to blow some teams out with those threes. When we’re off, as the last couple games have shown, it’s going to be a struggle to score sometimes, but I think that’s where I can come in and help, and I can’t wait to get out there and start playing.”

Never lacking for confidence, LaVine hasn’t been deterred by the losing or even the unfortunate Bobby Portis-Nikola Mirotic incident from last week.

“We’re building something here. People understand we’re going through a little bit of that process,” LaVine said. “But we’re going to play and win. When I’m on the court, I’m trying to win. Wins and losses do happen. We can always take positives from both of those. That’s how you grow.”

As for Mirotic, LaVine hasn’t spoken to him but has sent texts—as it seems many of the Bulls have reached out to their teammate over the last several days.

“It was unfortunate. That’s what happens when two players are battling I guess,” LaVine said. “I don’t think either of them were in the wrong. It was just something that happened, an altercation. Men are men sometimes. We never should have that happen. But I think we’ve moved past it. Bobby’s in a good spot. We’ve all tried to contact Niko. I think we’ll all be able to move forward.”