Bears training camp capsules: Running back


Bears training camp capsules: Running back

Seventh in a series

Forte-Bush blend gives Bears NFC Norths best run game

The last time the Bears had two running backs of the Matt Forte-Michael Bush caliber, they went to the 2005 playoffs and the 2006 Super Bowl with Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson. They didnt like each other but the Bears were a combined 24-8, getting 1,607 rushing yards and nine TDs in 2005 and 1,857 and 12 TDs plus some pass-receiving contributions.

Forte and Bush both have career averages of 4.2 yards per carry. Bush at 243 pounds has 15 rushing TDs the past two seasons, the same number as Forte for his career, and Forte caught 52 passes last season despite missing nearly five games with a knee injury. Forte also stands No. 2 in the NFL among running backs for sure-handedness, second-best in drop percentage behind on New Orleans Pierre Thomas among running backs, according to ProFootballFocus.com.

The Minnesota Vikings still have Adrian Peterson, pending his return from a season-ending torn ACL. But Petersons carries and yardage have declined each of the past three seasons and he is not the AP of three years ago. Peterson also ranks second-worst among running backs for dropped passes at 11.9 percent, per PFF.

It may indeed be a passing league but the Bears have positioned themselves to win with more than Jay Cutlers right arm.

I think you need to have two good backs, and we have two good backs, said offensive coordinator Mike Tice. Of course, we love Matt, and were excited about having Mike, and we like 25 Armando Allen, too. Were excited about our blend back there. We think that they all complement each other, and I think theyre all going to be able to find their niche and make big plays for us.

2011 in review

Forte was a disproportionate part of the offense before his injury early in the Kansas City game, earning his first selection to the NFC Pro Bowl squad and playing in the game (in case there were questions about the recovery status of his knee).

Forte finished with 997 yards and the best per-carry average (4.9 yards) of his career.

As they did with Kevin Jones and Chester Taylor in previous seasons, the Bears added what they thought was dependable depth in Marion Barber behind Forte. Barber did finish with six rushing TDs and 108 yards in the Denver game but his mental errors against the loss to the Broncos were so egregious that he played sparingly against Seattle and was inactive the final two games.

The wild card became Kalil Bell, himself a 100-yard rusher at Green Bay. But his fumbling remained a concern and Armando Allen was given a look in the Green Bay game when he average 3.6 yards per carry.

2012 training camp What to Watch

Depth charts
Running back: Matt Forte, Michael Bush, Kahlil Bell, Armando Allen, Harvey Unga, Lorenzo Booker
Fullback: Tyler Clutts

Fortes appearance in training camp will be a daily story but ultimately the franchise back will report and play. His franchise tag guarantees him 7.74 million, or about 484,000 per game. And the calendar is not the friend of 26-year-old running backs.

Coaches are not expected to use Forte heavily through camp regardless of when he appears. Bush has used the minicamp time in Fortes absence to gain experience in the revised offense, a net gain for the Bears overall.

I do feel like I still have to earn the respect of the guys yet, though, Bush said. I haven't done anything yet, and won't until we really start playing football when we get to camp. Which is expected. You know what I'm saying: it's expected. And I'll do it. I'll do just that.

The No. 3 spot is a question. Bell is vulnerable because of fumbling. Allen showed some promise, is undersized at 190 pounds, but is a different type of back from Forte (218 pounds) or Bush (243). Unga missed all of last year with personal issues and was a supplemental draft choice at 237 pounds.

The second question is whether the Bears will carry a fullback. Clutts was a factor as a lead blocker and will play special teams as a blocker and part of coverage units.

Next: Quarterbacks

Seven years ago today LeBron James slammed the Bulls' championship window shut


Seven years ago today LeBron James slammed the Bulls' championship window shut

The Bulls couldn't have known it at the time, but when LeBron James blocked a Derrick Rose 3-point attempt in the final seconds of Game 5 in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals, it was the closest those Bulls would ever get to the promised land.

It happened on May 26, 2011, seven long, long, long years ago today.

The game was an ugly one and certainly a fourth quarter the Bulls would love to have back. They took a 12-point lead on a Ronnie Brewer 3-pointer with 3:53 remaining. The Heat closed the game on a 19-4 run, with James' emphatic block on Rose the lasting image of the series.

James finished with a game-high 28 points and 11 rebounds, and added six assists, three steals and two blocks in 46 minutes.

Rose went just 9-for-29, finishing the series shooting 35 percent from the field after being named league MVP over James.

It's probably unfair to say James and James alone shut the Bulls' championship window. Rose's ACL tear the following postseason realistically was the biggest culprit. But these Bulls had won 62 games, had homecourt advantage, had the MVP, the Coach of the Year and all the momentum. And still they couldn't get it done against James.

That win also sent James to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2007. He's been there every year since, though that could change as he faces the Celtics on Sunday in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

90 Days to Kickoff: Warren


90 Days to Kickoff: Warren

NBCSportsChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting July 30, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

School: Warren Township

Head coach: Bryan McNulty

Assistant coaches: Jim Voutiritsas, Brandon Schild, Justin Van Schaik, Tayler Erbach and Mark Mika

How they fared in 2017: 7-4 (5-2 North Suburban Conference). Warren Township made the IHSA 8A playoff field. The Blue Devils defeated Bolingbrook then lost to Maine South in second round action.

2018 Regular Season Schedule

Aug. 24 vs Barrington

Aug. 31 @ Glenbard North

Sept. 7 vs Waukegan

Sept. 14 vs Libertyville

Sept. 21 @ Lake Forest

Sept. 28 @ Zion-Benton

Oct. 5 vs Lake Zurich

Oct. 12 vs Stevenson

Oct. 19 @ Mundelein

Biggest storyline: Can The Blue Devils make it back-to-back postseason appearances and challenge for the North Suburban Conference title?

Names to watch this season: DL Zack Pelland, DT Willis Singleton and RB Martin Walker

Biggest holes to fill: The Blue Devils will need to find a new pass/catch tandem to replace graduated QB Ian Schilling and a strong group in the skills department, led by WR Micah Jones (Notre Dame).  

EDGY's Early Take: The Blue Devils had a nice 2017 season. After starting seven sophomores on the varsity level a year ago, head coach Bryan McNulty has the rare combination of youth and experience this fall. The defense will be a definite strength going into the season. The offense will rely on the running game, which features four starting offensive linemen back in the fold along with senior RB Martin Walker. If the passing game can come along, this team can once again challenge in the North Suburban Conference race and also in the overall 8A picture.