Bulls

Bears training camp preview

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Bears training camp preview

Training camp 2012 will unfold in stages for the Bears beginning later this month. Like a satellite launch, the stages are intended to ramp up a team that considered itself a playoff team last year into one that views itself as a Super Bowl one this season.

Id say were a better football team, Im talking about the 53-man roster; even the 61-man roster with the practice squad, said resident optimist Lovie Smith. We have some pretty good training camp battles too going on. Feel like we have an idea of what direction were going.

The Bears of Summer convene for training camp on July 24. Pretty much. They arrive on Tuesday, do some closed conditioning work the next day and then have a pair of afternoon practices without pads Thursday the 26th and Friday the 27th, which means a level above minicamp because offense and defense will be allowed to work against each other.

That level will ratchet up even more when pads come on for a 7 p.m. practice on Saturday July 28.

As far as some of the roster spots, its hard to evaluate, Smith said. You cant really evaluate linemen until you get the pads on. Thats why training camp is important for them.

Camp is important to virtually every member of the football side of the operation, for different reasons. Three individuals and positions will be under particular scrutiny:

Phil Emery

The Bears made a change at general manager chiefly because of lackluster results in the draft. Emery scored big with the trade to acquire wide receiver Brandon Marshall and executed a plan to significantly upgrade the reserves at multiple positions with veterans (quarterback, running back, offensive line, cornerback).

But Emery himself set the bar for needing to see impact from his top draft choices, and sooner rather than later.

You need contributions out of those drafted players right away, especially the higher end of the players, Emery said. They need to come in and at least contribute to your squad in a role of some type.

It was apparent from the outset of camp in 2007 that defensive end Dan Bazuin was a mistake with the second-round pick. Same with first-rounder Michael Haynes in 2003, and second-round wideout Mark Bradley in 2005.

More than just defensive end and No. 1 pick Shea McClellin and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery will be closely watched come late July.

The O-line and its tackle triad

The Bears have three No. 1 draft choices and a No. 2 among their offensive linemen. Tackles Gabe Carimi and Chris Williams were Bears No. 1s and guard Chris Spencer was a Seattle No. 1. Guard Chilo Rachal was a second-round pick of San Francisco.

All could be starters by the end of training camp.

The group collectively has been the subject of constant doubts and criticism since the nine-sack horror show against the New York Giants early in 2009.

Coaches and personnel staff gave the group a vote of confidence by going elsewhere in the draft and free agency.

The time for settling things is at hand.

The secondary

Only the wide receivers of 2010 received a stronger no-confidence vote than the cornerback and safety positions this offseason. The secondary could be the scene of two 2011 starters losing jobs in the course of camp and preseason.

The Bears gave cornerback Tim Jennings a new contract. They also gave one to veteran Kelvin Hayden, however, as well as Jonathan Wilhite. Jennings is back after a serviceable 2011 that included a game-15 benching for since-departed Zackary Bowman. If Jennings is benched for Hayden, it will not be for one game.

Major Wright was in and out of the lineup with injuries last year and in two seasons has failed to firmly secure the strong-safety position alongside Chris Conte.

The Bears invested a third third-round pick in as many years at safety, with Oregon States Brandon Hardin. Wright did not start any games as a rookie. Conte started nine straight before finishing the season on IR. If Wright does not play to what the Bears expect from their deep coverage, they believe they have an alternative in former-cornerback Hardin.

Because the pads will be on and offense and defense can square off with unpleasant intent, even the seven-on-seven sessions will be worth getting a good seat for.

There are certain routes that the offense has advantages with just because we cant make any contact, so its kind of like a gimme play for the offense, said cornerback Charles Tillman. I definitely think once we have pads, and for sure once we have a pass rush, I think that kind of evens everything out.

Next: Defensive Line

Zion Williamson's injury is devastating news for NBA fans of every allegiance, but there is a silver lining for Bulls fans

Zion Williamson's injury is devastating news for NBA fans of every allegiance, but there is a silver lining for Bulls fans

Monday afternoon, news broke that Pelicans rookie, awe-inspiring phenom and the subject of numerous long-forgotten basketball prophecies, Zion Williamson, will miss the first 6-8 weeks of the NBA season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn right meniscus. No reaction to this news is complete or legitimate without first acknowledging that this is devastating news for anyone who loves this league and, of course, for Zion himself (human to human, injuries are brutal and we wish him the best). On a basketball note, Williamson looked every bit as exceptional as advertised this preseason, and the Pelicans are primed to be one of the most fun young teams the NBA has seen in a long while — a League Pass must-watch of the highest caliber.

But, unfortunately, the show will have to go on in New Orleans without their No. 1 overall pick, at least for the time being. In the wake of the initial report, NBA Twitter was ablaze with reactions, as one might expect. Among the highlights…

Historical comparisons were pondered:

 

 

 

Meniscuses (menisci?) were offered up:

 

Odds swung:

 

(Hi, Coby) 

Bandwagons tipped:

 

There is a silver lining for Bulls fans in all of this, though. Right now, barring a highly improbable (to put it lightly) NBA Finals matchup, the Bulls and Pelicans are slated to face off twice in the regular season, the first meeting of which will be on January 8 in New Orleans. According to the reported 6-8 week recovery timetable for Williamson, he should be set to return some time in between late November and mid-December. That means there’s a good chance Williamson will suit up for both games against the Bulls this season — unless, of course, nagging injuries plague his rookie campaign (please no). 

The city of Chicago got a taste of the legend of Zion this preseason, when the Pelicans visited the United Center on October 9. Williamson was exquisite in that contest, tallying 29 points on 12-of-13 shooting in 27 minutes of game action, accumulating a number of highlight-reel plays along the way:

Now, let us all come together and pray to the basketball gods for a speedy recovery and a long and healthy career for the Duke product. No matter your allegiances, there’s no doubt the NBA is better and more exciting league with him in it.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device. 

With running game, Nagy makes plea for patience: "I know we need to run the ball more. I’m not an idiot"

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USA Today

With running game, Nagy makes plea for patience: "I know we need to run the ball more. I’m not an idiot"

Matt Nagy brought a whoooole bunch of positive energy to his Monday morning press conference at Halas Hall. 

"First of all, you will never pull me down," he said. "That's number one. Never. You won't do it. Second of all, you'll never pull our team down. It doesn't matter what we're going through. It'll never happen. Not under my watch. That's just not how we roll."

The coach's trademark brand of endless, enthusiastic optimism took a hit after Sunday's humiliating loss to New Orleans. The Bears were outclassed by a short-handed team, at home, coming off the bye week. They set the record for fewest run attempts in Bears' history. After the game Nagy said they were going to "sit in it" that night, and from the sound of his answers on Monday morning, that hadn't ended yet. 

"I know we need to run the ball more. I’m not an idiot," he said. "I realize that. Seven rushes and the minimum amount of times, I totally understand that."

"You need to do it. I never go into a game saying I want to throw the ball 54 times. I would love to go into a game and say I want to run the ball 54 times. But that hasn’t happened. This is what I have to answer to.”

You've read it all already; things are bleak. They're the 30th ranked team in every rushing category except for the ones they're ranked 29th in. Against the Saints, the Bears handed the ball off to wide recievers the same amount of times (2) they gave it to David Montgomery. No one got more rushes than Tarik Cohen (3), who said after the game that he doesn't really even consider himself a running back – and is often scouted as a reciever by opposing coaches, according to Nagy. 

"... nine catches for 19 yards, you know, that’s not where we want to be," he said. "And it’s unacceptable for all of us. We’re definitely searching right now. There’s no doubt about it. But as I said, so last night you deal with the emotions, you watch the tape last night, you see where you’re at and now for us we can’t hang on to what just happened.  We’ve got to fix it and we’ve got to understand and be aware that offensively we’ve had some bad performances now." 

Nagy knows he and the Bears are out of excuses, and having to say the same thing every Monday morning for the last month is clearly eating at him. And while there may be some more reliance on Trubisky or Mike Davis' legs (from the sounds of it, mainly the former), there's probably still an element of patience involved. (I know, I'm sorry. Please lower your voice.) 

"Right now we’re not having productive plays in the run game any way you look at it," Nagy said. "But I want positive plays. I want plays — and part of the patience is that as well. There’s no doubt about it, there’s gotta be more patience.

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