Bears see Allen Robinson becoming a valuable weapon for playoff push

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Bears see Allen Robinson becoming a valuable weapon for playoff push

There was one play Allen Robinson made last weekend against the New York Giants that signaled to Bears wide receivers coach Mike Furrey the 25-year-old was, truly, “back” from the torn ACL that ended his 2017 season. 

It wasn’t the one you might be thinking of, if that’s the spectacular David Tyree impression that was a “Sportscenter” Top 10 play. It’s the gritty, tough route he ran on fourth-and-seven in overtime, catching a Chase Daniel pass to convert a game-saving first down, and giving perhaps his most emphatic celebration of the season afterwards (Robinson knowingly chuckled when presented with that thought). 

“(To) make that big fourth down catch — I would say he’s back to doing what he can do,” wide receivers coach Mike Furrey said. “And obviously he’s shown that over the last couple of weeks. 

“… I think he’s starting to get more comfortable in our offense, he’s starting to understand the why, how to get open, where to get open. And the quarterbacks are starting to really rely on him. Make plays like that, and the catch that he made on the sideline, that definitely set the tone of you can throw me the ball.”

As the Bears aim to secure their first NFC North title — and playoff appearance — in eight years over the season’s final four games, this team feels like Robinson is coming into his own at the right time. Coach Matt Nagy said he’s feeling more comfortable with what plays he can call for Robinson, and in turn, Robinson has been more demanding in certain situations. 

“There's been a couple times when he's said to me on the field, 'hey give me this.' And the very next play I give it to him, and so I love that,” Nagy said. “Give that to me. When players are feeling that way and they want something I want to know, and we weren't doing that the first couple of weeks. Now we're getting to that part." 

Since returning from a groin injury in Week 9, Robinson has been targeted 28 times, with 16 catches for 288 yards and two touchdowns — not necessarily standout numbers, but fitting with the Bears’ spread-the-ball-around approach on offense. 

But those numbers aren’t totally off what he averaged on a per-game basis while being the Jacksonville Jaguars’ No. 1 receiver in 2015 and 2016 (nine targets, five catches and 71 yards). While he’s not the Bears’ No. 1 receiver this year — so far, that’s Tarik Cohen — he hasn’t had an issue with how he’s been used. 

“It’s not tough at all,” Robinson said. “I came here to win games. That’s the biggest thing. I’m trying to do my part to be able to help us do it. We have a lot of selfless guys on this offense and winning takes a selfless effort from each and everybody. 

“A big thing for me wanting to come here, I knew this was an offensive scheme and it’s a real offense, not just float the ball to one person or whatever like that. But I knew I had the chance to make my plays so whenever my number is called, I try to do that. But again, it’s translating to wins and that’s the most important thing.”

Sunday night’s matchup against the Los Angeles Rams — who just got Pro Bowl cornerback Aqib Talib back last week — will be another test for Robinson. But this is also part of why Robinson signed with the Bears: His opportunity to play in a playoff race was taken away from him a year ago when he tore his ACL in Week 1 of the Jaguars’ eventual push to an AFC South title. 

While Robinson was around the Jaguars for that playoff run, this December represents the first time in his career he’ll be able to make big plays down the stretch for a team pushing for a postseason berth. And the Bears are confident the guy they gave a three-year, $42 million contract can deliver when it counts this month. 

“He’s always wanted to be in this role,” Furrey said. “He wants that role. When you want that role, you obviously have a great understanding of what that role is instead of just hoping that you have that role.”

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Bears rookie WR Riley Ridley motivated by older brother, family name

USA Today

Bears rookie WR Riley Ridley motivated by older brother, family name

Bears fourth-round pick Riley Ridley knew what to expect coming into the NFL thanks to his older brother Calvin, the Atlanta Falcons wide receiver.

Their family bond kept them close even as they played for rival colleges and now competing professional teams, and they both take a lot of motivation from the name on the back of their jerseys.

The two receivers came together on camera for the Bears’ “Meet the Rookies” series.

“We do what we do, not just for the family, but for our name, our brand,” Riley Ridley said. “We want to take that as far as it can go. That Ridley name is strong, and that’s how we view it.”

Ridley opened up about growing up with his mother raising him and his three brothers. He said he’s going to be his own biggest critic and do everything he can to help his teammates.

His brother Calvin added some color to the image of Riley that’s starting to take shape.

“Very funny, really cool, laid back,” Calvin Ridley said. “He’s a different person on the field. I would say he has a lot of anger on the field — very physical.”

Matt Nagy should find good use for that physicality in the Bears offense, plugging Ridley in a wide receiver group already deep with young talent.

Ridley doesn’t seem like the type of player who will allow himself to get buried on the depth chart.

Akiem Hicks reveals what makes him so good against the run

Akiem Hicks reveals what makes him so good against the run

Akiem Hicks finally earned the recognition he deserved in 2018 with his first trip to the Pro Bowl, and playing on the NFL’s No. 1 defense provided the national attention he should have received in his first two years with the Bears.

He’s a solid interior pass rusher, but where he dominates is in run defense, leading the NFL in run stops last season according to Pro Football Focus.

When Hicks beats an offensive lineman at the line of scrimmage to make a big tackle in the backfield, it’s a work of art, and he revealed the secret to those flashy plays on NFL Game Pass.

He broke down the film of a play against the Green Bay Packers where he beats center Corey Linsley because he knew right guard Jordan McCray was going to pull to the left.

“I read it before the snap happens. I know that McCray is going to pull just based off his stance,” Hicks said. “I know his stance for every play that he’s going to do. I’m going to be at least 75 percent right.”

Hicks looks at how much weight an offensive lineman is putting on his hand, how far apart his legs are and how much bend is in his hips.

“If you do your due-diligence as a defensive lineman and prepare like a professional during the week, you’re going to know,” Hicks said.

Any little deviation from a normal stance is an indicator to Hicks of what the play is going to be, and that pre-snap knowledge keeps him a step ahead of the blocker in front of him.

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