Akiem Hicks held court for half an hour yesterday, and during those 30 minutes spoke eloquently about many issues far greater than football.
After talking about Colin Kaepernick, the Bears' recent emotional team meeting, and the current protests happening across the country, Hicks carved out a little time to talk about his own health. The Bears' star defensive lineman only appeared in five games last season, the product of an elbow injury that put him on injured reserve after the Bears' Week 5 loss to Oakland:
"I'm excited. I'm ready to play football again. This has been a ... it's been a long time. Remember I didn't really get to play this season right? So my season kind of it wrapped up in October and then I had one last hurrah right there in December and as far as ... I played four games. I miss football. So I'm ready. My body is doing as good as it can. But man, being back on that field will probably make it feel a whole lot better."
Hicks' reassurance has got to be music to the Bears' (and their fans) ears, who are eagerly awaiting the return of one of the NFL's premier defensive lineman for a full 16+ game season:
Maybe it's all the Quarantini's.
It's long been rumored, but on Wednesday things became a bit more official: the NFL will reportedly cut the 2020 preseason in half:
Shortening the preseason has been a topic of conversation around the league for a while now, but a new urgency has been attached to the idea because of the ongoing the COVID-19 pandemic. As states continue struggling with rising infection rates, beginning the season on time looks more and more unlikely. The NFL has already altered their season schedule to accomodate for a delayed start or early-season interruption.
It's especially bad news for the Bears, who were planning on using all four preseason games to determine whether Nick Foles or Mitch Trubisky would win the starting quarterback job. Without half their preseason games (they'd lose games against Cleveland and Tennessee), things obviously become much trickier.
In talking to various trusted football minds around the NFL recently, two common thoughts come up when discussing Bears rookie pass rusher Trevis Gipson:
1. He should have been drafted in the fourth round.
2. He was playing out of position at Tulsa.
It’s very possible that the latter impacted the former. The Bears traded up in the fifth round to draft Gipson at No. 155 overall and they’ve been very decisive with their plan for him – he’s going to be a 3-4 outside linebacker in Chicago.
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Many of the “tweener” pass rush prospects in the NFL Draft play in different fronts in college than they do when they transition to the NFL. In Gipson’s case, he played in a three-man front at Tulsa, but was used more as a five-technique on the line of scrimmage. With the Bears, he’ll be in a base 3-4 defense, but playing a different position on the edge.
You don’t have to watch a lot of tape to understand why Bears general manager Ryan Pace and defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano want to use Gipson on the edge. At 6’6 ⅜” and 261 pounds, he has an 81 ¼” wing span that can’t be taught and his lengthy frame doesn’t give him a lot of leverage when he lines up in tight spaces on the line. He’s better off using that length on the edge and, in my opinion, his best college tape came when he was lined up wide.
Realistic rookie expectations: Gipson is a bit of a project because he’s switching positions and he certainly hasn’t been helped by COVID-19 shutting down offseason practices. But the Bears aren’t asking him to start right away. They have Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn to rush the passer. Gipson has the talent to contribute as a rotational player and perhaps he can provide an occasional spark off the bench. His college production doesn’t lie. Gipson had 12 sacks and 24 tackles for loss in his final two seasons at Tulsa.
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