Preps Talk

Bears-Vikings preview: Vikings ball

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Bears-Vikings preview: Vikings ball

Stopping the 'new' AP = Bears familiar mission statement
Early on, the Bears defense was annihilated twice a year by Adrian Peterson when the All-World running back came into the NFL in 2007. Peterson rushed for more than 120 yards in three of his first gos against the Lovie Smith defense.
Since 1008, however, Peterson has failed to average 4 yards per carry in any of the four meetings with the Bears, with a high of 94 yards and an average of 67 per game against the Bears.
With all of that success, Peterson is still what causes lost sleep on the Chicago defense.
He is elite, said defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. He hits that cut and hes downhill, violently. And then hes got that second and third cut in the open field. Then he goes. Hes such a great competitor.
Two Peterson 'problems'
Receiverreturner Percy Harvins status and threat is unclear because of an ankle injury. But the AP issues are far greater.
Peterson is of particular note Sunday for two reasons:
1. He has returned from a catastrophic knee injury to lead the league in rushing. In a league committed to passing and points, Peterson through 10 games has 1,128 yards, a 5.8-yard average per carry and seven touchdowns.
By comparison, the NFLs leading yardage receiver, Detroits Calvin Johnson, had 1,117 yards and three touchdowns through 10 games.
2. The Bears avowed objective each week is to turn a team one-dimensional by taking away the opposing running game. But since ranking No. 1 with an NFL-best 77.9 yards allowed per game after the Carolina game, the Bears have given up an average of nearly 136 rushing yards per game. The result is a decline to No. 8 and giving up 92.
They have been found wanting against top backs -- 100-yard games to Chris Johnson in Tennessee, Arian Foster of Houston, and the San Francisco 49ers with Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter combining for 105 -- and no back is more top than Peterson.
And now the really scary part
Peterson had one 100-yard game in his first six outings. He has rushed for 153, 123, 182 and 171 in the last four. Meaning: He is getting stronger. He admits he did not feel himself earlier in the year, but now...
Each week Ive felt myself going through this transition of getting stronger and just really getting out there into some live football, Peterson said. Theres no way to duplicate that.
Im 100 percent. But with that being said, theres another level that Im trying to reach after 100 percent. I feel like Ive been better than I was last year. The past couple of weekends, I feel even stronger. Thats what Im excited about the most.
Why the Bears defense has worked -- mostly
The Bears have played with a safety up in run support frequently over the past several games, with only limited success. But their base scheme has generally succeeded against the Vikings because it does not over-pursue or leave itself vulnerable to cutbacks, a Peterson strength.
The concern now, however, is that Foster had 85 yards in the first half of the Houston game with the zone-blockingcutback scheme, and the San Francisco 49ers obliterated the edges of the defense with jumbo packages and wham blocking from fullbacks and tight ends.
Anytime we come off a game and something hurts us, we go in, install it, re-fit it, Marinelli said. Because well see it again down the line, somewhere, sometime, this week, next week. Well see some of that stuff again.
We see the corrections we can make. We go through it, re-teach it, fit it up and then weve got to go play fast with it. Beat blocks, get off blocks, all those basic things.
Pondering Ponder
If the Bears indeed can continue their mastery over Peterson, the Vikings become the hunted. Quarterback Christian Ponder was knocked out of the second Bears game last year with a hip injury and has been wildly inconsistent through significant portions of this season.
Ponder started the season with completion percentages of 60 percent or better in the Vikings first six games. Minnesota won four of those. Then came three straight with sub-55 percentages and passer ratings in the 30s in two of the three. Then he put away the Detroit Lions with 24-of-32 passing in his last outing.
A defensive key will be pressuring Ponder on third downs where he ranks 27th in the NFL with a rating of 69.6.
That means Julius Peppers in Ponders eye and mind, which will be easier said than done if he lines up over rookie left tackle Matt Kalil.
Kalil has allowed just one sack and two hits all season, according to ProFootballFocus.com.

67 Days to Kickoff: Hillcrest

67 Days to Kickoff: Hillcrest

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: Hillcrest

Head coach: Morgan Weaver

Assistant coaches:  Mike Young, Kyran Weaver, Rob Hancock, Ryan Keen, Nicholas Schultz, Tramaine Weaver, Phillip Burkett and Langdon Mattox

How they fared in 2017: 9-3 (5-1 South Suburban Blue Conference). Hillcrest made the Class 5A state football playoff field. The Hawks defeated Peoria and Glenwood then lost to Dunlap in the quarterfinal round.

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 vs Rich Central

Sept. 1 @ Rich South

Sept 7 @ Shepard

Sept. 14 vs Oak Forest

Sept. 21 vs Lemont

Sept. 28 @ Tinley Park

Oct. 5 @ T.F. South

Oct. 12 @ T.F. North

Oct. 19 vs Bremen

[MORE: 79 Days to Kickoff - Crete-Monee]

Biggest storyline: Consistency. After two straight postseason berths, can the Hawks reload and get back into the IHSA playoff field once again this fall?

Names to watch this season: WR Corey Crooms (Western Michigan) and DE Cam Mattox (NIU)

Biggest holes to fill: The Hawks welcome back 11 returning starters (six offense, five defense); hoewever, they will need to reload on the offensive line and at linebacker. 

EDGY's Early Take: Head coach Morgan Weaver was able to get the Hawks into the state playoffs in his first season. What can they do as an encore? Hillcrest has the potential to be a real threat in 5A. Keep an eye on a strong and experienced group of receivers and backs led by senior Corey Crooms (Western Michigan). They also boast a defense that features an experienced secondary and a ton of speed. 

Brotherly love: Justin and Jrue Holiday will walk NBA prospect Aaron cross stage at draft

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USA TODAY

Brotherly love: Justin and Jrue Holiday will walk NBA prospect Aaron cross stage at draft

Here's a cool story to get your week started off right.

Per Yahoo's Shams Charania, the NBA for the first time will have its green room invitees walk across the stage with two family members prior to the draft.

For UCLA guard Aaron Holiday, his brothers will accompany him.

Aaron, a 6-foot-1 guard, is projected to go off the board sometime late in the first round. It's pretty neat that his brothers will be in attendance, both Justin of the Bulls and Jrue of the Pelicans.

And there's a chance Aaron gets to play with Justin. The Bulls hold the 22nd pick in the first round (ironically from Jrue and the Pelicans) and Scott Phillips has Aaron as one of the five players the Bulls should look at with the 22nd pick.

Writes Phillips:

Aaron Holiday, G, UCLA: This potential pick would already have ties to the Bulls as Aaron's older brother, Justin, is currently on the roster. After three stellar seasons with the Bruins, Aaron is now hoping to become the third Holiday brother in the NBA (brother Jrue is with the Pelicans).

Smaller than his older brothers at 6-foot-1, Aaron makes up for his smaller size at the point with an absurd 6-foot-7.5 wingspan that enables him to play bigger on the defensive end. A talented perimeter shooter who never shot below 41 percent from 3-point range during his three years in Westwood, Holiday has shown that he can run a team on the ball or play as a shooter off of the ball. It should also be pointed out that Holiday was a selfless teammates at UCLA. Opting to come off the bench his sophomore season so Lonzo Ball could start, Holiday was great as both a starter and a sixth man during his college career.