Dalvin Cook

Depth check: How injuries and suspension will have a major impact on Bears-Vikings

10-7johntimu.jpg
USA TODAY

Depth check: How injuries and suspension will have a major impact on Bears-Vikings

A month ago, the Bears could reasonably describe their depth at inside linebacker as strong, and maybe as the strongest unit on the team. 

But on Monday, the Bears will be without the trio of players who comprised that depth: Jerrell Freeman is on injured reserve with a pectoral tear; Nick Kwiatkoski’s pec injury isn’t as serious but will keep him sidelined; and Danny Trevathan will serve his one-game suspension for the helmet-to-helmet hit he leveled on Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams last week. 

Trevathan will be back next week and Kwiatkoski appears to have avoided injured reserve, meaning he can be expected back at some point this season. But without them, the Bears will roll with Christian Jones, John Timu and Jonathan Anderson (the latter two began the season on the practice squad) against the Minnesota Vikings. 

“It's a concern, but at least we're playing with guys that were here that were in camp,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “That was the one position on defense, when we went to the 53 and practice squad where we did have guys, we had four active and two on practice squad and now all six of them have played, so (we) feel good about that in that we're not having somebody in off the street having to learn a new system and I think they'll all do fine.”

Jones and Timu have seen a decent amount of snaps alongside Trevathan this year: In the last three weeks, Jones’ defensive snap counts are 47, 36 and 28 while Timu played 17 snaps against Pittsburgh and 19 against Green Bay (Anderson has not played a defensive snap since Week 2). 

Timu, who’s played in 20 games over the last three years, will handle the defensive calls on Monday.

“We’re confident in John,” Fangio said. “John knows our defense. He’s been here for three years. The game’s not too big for him. He loves to play. He is instinctive and smart. So we think he’ll go in there and do fine.”

Added linebacker Pernell McPhee: “Timu’s a very good player, a very smart player, a very patient player. I think his play on the field shows how much he’s studying and how much he’s really locked in throughout the week.”

The Bears may be without two other starters, too: Saturday’s final injury report listed outside linebacker Willie Young (tricep) as doubtful, while cornerback Marcus Cooper is questionable with back spasms. Going back further, the Bears are also without veteran safety Quintin Demps, who handled a lot of the communication duties for this defense. 

But the Vikings will be without rookie Dalvin Cook (74 carries, 354 yards, 2 TDs), who tore his ACL last week. Backups Jerick McKinnon (2.6 yards/attempt) and Latavius Murray (2.7 yards/attempt) haven’t inspired much fear in 2017. And the expectation at Halas Hall is that quarterback Sam Bradford will start, though he’s listed as questionable on the Vikings’ final injury report. 

So in the matchup of the Bears' defense against the Vikings' offense, the group that gets the most out of its depth guys may be the one that swings that battle on Monday. 

“Any time you lose a starter — I think there's a reason they're the starter — but you know I feel good about our backups,” coach John Fox said. “I feel good about the replacement people we've had in there. We've got more depth this season than we've had in the past so I feel confident in the people we'll have out there and the options we have.”

Fantasy Football: 10 waiver wire targets for Week 5 and beyond

deshaunwatsontexans.jpg
USA TODAY

Fantasy Football: 10 waiver wire targets for Week 5 and beyond

Dalvin Cook, Chris Carson, Derek Carr, Marcus Mariota. The Grim Reaper came for some big names in Week 4.

And we're not really sure how Odell Beckham Jr. survived the Grim Reaper's scythe after looking at this picture.

I give this game everything I got. Ain't no way around it..

A post shared by Odell Beckham Jr (@obj) on

If your team went unscathed in Week 4, hats off to you. If it didn't, don't panic.

We've compiled a list of 10 players who should provide some help in Week 5 and beyond.

1.  Wayne Gallman, RB, NYG

Gallman was inactive for the first three games of 2017, but found himself suiting up for Week 4 and when Paul Perkins went down with injury, Gallman racked up 50 yards and a TD on 13 touches. Nobody has taken the Giants backfield and run with it yet and while it's possible this game was a flash-in-the-pan for the rookie Gallman, he's worth an add just in case. (Tony Andracki)

2. Deshaun Watson, QB, HOU

The rookie set the world on fire in Week 4 with a whopping 307 combined yards and 5 scores. Despite entering the season as the Texans backup to Tom Savage, Watson is already fantasy football's No. 6 quarterback. With his propensity to gain a large chunk of yards on the ground, Watson possesses one of the highest floors among QBs, and should easily be a weekly Top 10 fantasy signal-caller throughout the remainder of the 2017 season. (Scott Krinch)

3. Will Fuller, WR, HOU

Fuller is a big-play wide receiver who scored just 2 TDs in 14 games his rookie season. So of course he finally suits up in Week 4 after an injury and averages just 8.8 yards per catch and immediately finds the endzone twice. He should be up for more big plays in the future and with Watson taking the reins and running with it in the Houston offense, Fuller could be an excellent fantasy option in his sophomore campaign as opposing defense focus on not letting DeAndre Hopkins beat them. (Andracki)

4. Latavius Murray/Jerick McKinnon, RB, MIN

A season-ending ACL injury to star rookie running back Dalvin Cook has now vaulted the Vikings backfield situation to one that the fantasy football community will keep close tabs on going forward. Following Cook's injury in Week 4, Murray out-snapped McKinnon 19/6. While Murray is nowhere near the caliber of player Cook is, he'll still slot in as the Vikings' early-down running back with McKinnon remaining in his role as a third/passing down specialist. Both players should be added to all fantasy rosters, but owners should take a wait-and-see approach when making the decision to insert them into their lineups. (Krinch)

5. Alvin Kamara, RB, NO

Kamara's time is officially here. After seeing only 20 touches in the first three games of the season, the third-round rookie touched the ball 15 times in New Orleans' Week 4 win with five rushes and 10 receptions, totaling 96 yards and a TD. He's clearly ahead of Adrian Peterson in the NO pecking order, but Kamara is also clearly the best pass-catching back in an offense that airs it out. Kamara has improved on his PPR fantasy point totals each week and there's no way he should be owned in only 19.7 percent of leagues. (Andracki)

6. Devin Funchess, WR, CAR

It looks like it's about time to start buying stock in the third-year wide receiver. Funchess had the best game of his career against the New England Patriots on Sunday, hauling in 7 passes for 70 yards and two scores. Funchess has 19 targets in his last two games and is starting to surpass Kelvin Benjamin as Cam Newton's go-to target with Greg Olsen sidelined. Funchess is a must add in all formats. (Krinch)

7. Mitch Trubisky, QB, CHI

If you're looking for a potential game-changer at quarterback, Trubisky probably isn't your guy. Not in his first NFL start in Week 5 against a tough Vikings defense. And not with a shaky supporting cast. But Trubisky could be a matchup play moving forward and provides a new wrinkle in the Bears offense with his mobility. He currently resides outside the Top 20 in terms of fantasy QBs, but his rushing potential alone could make him worthy of a roster spot in deep leagues. (Andracki)

8. Jaron Brown, WR, ARI

We've been waiting for a wide receiver to emerge as Larry Fitzgerald's Robin in Arizona, and if last week was any indication it appears that guy is Jaron Brown. Carson Palmer targeted Brown 12 times against the San Francisco 49ers, which was tops among Cardinals wideouts. If the targets weren't enough proof, Brown played in 95 percent of the offensive snaps in Week 4. On a pass-heavy team like the Cardinals who are without their top offensive weapon in David Johnson, Brown is suddenly a must-own player. (Krinch)

9. J.D. McKissic, RB, SEA

McKissic came from out of nowhere to score 2 TDs on five touches in Week 4 and is owned in just 0.2 percent of ESPN leagues. While that could be enough to warrant a roster spot, we wouldn't recommend wasting a waiver on him, even with Chris Carson nursing a broken ankle. McKissic was filling in for the injured C.J. Prosise and with the latter expected to suit up for Week 5, McKissic could wind back in the lands of fantasy obscurity. Thomas Rawls and Eddie Lacy figure to handle Carson's workload until the rookie returns. (Andracki)

10. Evan Engram, TE, NYG

Engram is debunking the myth that rookie tight ends need time to adjust to the NFL. The Giants' 2017 first-round pick currently ranks first in targets (30) and receptions (19) and third in yards (200) among rookie tight ends through the first four weeks of the season since 2000. Engram has totaled 18 targets while registering 11 receptions for 107 yards throughout the last two weeks. Obviously he doesn't have the upside of somebody like Rob Gronkowski or Travis Kelce, but Engram is starting to show he's a viable TE1 in a year where finding a serviceable tight end is like somebody at the White House convincing President Trump to delete the Twitter app from his phone. (Krinch)

Tarik Cohen and the NFL's rookie running backs had quite the Week 1

rbs.png
USA TODAY

Tarik Cohen and the NFL's rookie running backs had quite the Week 1

Last year the NFL's two leading rushers, Dallas' Ezekiel Elliott and the Bears' Jordan Howard, were rookies.

That may not happen in 2017, but this year's crop of rookie running backs sure got off to a hot start.

That included Howard's backup, as Tarik Cohen made quite the debut in the Bears' 23-17 loss to the Falcons. The 5-foot-6 Cohen caught eight passes for 47 yards and a touchdown and rushed five times for 66 yards. It was quite the coming out party for Cohen and gives the Bears a solid young 1-2 punch in the backfield.

Here's how Cohen stacked up against some other rookie running backs who had stellar debuts (listed by round selected):

Leonard Fournette, Jaguars (1st round): The Texans knew the Jaguars had little to offer in the passing game, yet Fournette still ran with ease. The No. 4 pick rushed 26 times for 100 yards and a touchdown, while also catching three passes for 24 yards.

Christan McCaffrey, Panthers (1st round): Jonathan Stewart actually had a better Sunday afternoon, but McCaffrey still showed flashes. The No. 8 pick had 13 rushes for 47 yards and added five receptions fo 38 yards. He did lose a fumble but it didn't mean much in a 23-3 Panthers victory.

Dalvin Cook, Vikings (2nd round): Cook made Vikings history on Monday night, rushing for 127 yards on 22 rushes and adding three receptions. The rushing yards were the most for a Vikings running back in his debut, topping Adrian Peterson's 103 yards in 2007.

Alvin Kamara, Saints (3rd round): Kamara's numbers weren't great (seven rushes for 18 yards, 4 receptions for 20 yards) but he led the Saints in carries, rushing yards and snaps played (41). That includes Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram. The three-headed monster didn't mean much in their Monday Night Football thumping in Minnesota, but Kamara looked solid and Sean Payton clearly trusts him.

Kareem Hunt, Chiefs (3rd round): Whoa. The NFL regular season began with Hunt putting together one of the best debuts in NFL history. Hunt ran 17 times for 148 yards and a touchdown, and added five receptions for 98 yards and two scores. He lost a fumble on his first carry (after never doing so in college) but more than made up for it in perhaps the top performance of the week.

Marlon Mack, Colts (4th round): The Colts looked abysmal in their Week 1 loss to the Rams. Mack had an up-and-down afternoon, scoring on a 3-yard run but also committing a fumble that resulted in a safety. We'll throw him in here because he accounted for the Colts' only score in a 46-9 loss.

Chris Carson, Seahawks (7th round): In a backfield touting Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls (inactive) and C.J. Prosise, the rookie Carson looked the best in a loss to the Packers. he rushed six times for 39 yards, playing more snaps (26) than Prosise and Lacy combined (23). A terrible performance from Seattle's offensive line prevented Carson from doing much else.