Bears

Final thoughts: Matt Nagy adds another wrinkle with Bradley Sowell at fullback

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USA Today

Final thoughts: Matt Nagy adds another wrinkle with Bradley Sowell at fullback

If 2018 has proven anything to the NFL, it’s that Matt Nagy isn’t shy about putting big dudes in places you usually don’t see big dudes in this sport.  
 
Case in point: During last weekend’s season finale against the Minnesota Vikings, 6-foot-7, 312 pound backup swing tackle Bradley Sowell played eight snaps lined up as a fullback.
 
“Hats off to Brad, that’s an odd position for a tall lineman to be in,” right tackle Bobby Massie said. “He stepped in there and he made some key blocks.”
 
Sowell was told the Wednesday prior to the Vikings game he’d get some work at fullback, and quickly became “obsessed,” he said, with learning everything he could about the position. He talked with Michael Burton, the Bears’ natural fullback, as well as inside linebacker Danny Trevathan to get a sense of what he needed to do, and what an opposing defensive player wouldn’t want to see from someone about 75 pounds heavier running at him downhill.
 
“Little stuff like that can help take your game to the next level,” Trevathan said.
 
Sowell’s athleticism has been on display in a few different ways this year, be it on catching a touchdown from Mitch Trubisky on “Santa’s Sleigh” against the Los Angeles Rams or running a route in the end zone, too, against the New England Patriots. He's also the guy who plays catch with Khalil Mack before games, showing off a decent arm.
 
But playing fullback was a different role, one the Bears came away pleased with how Sowell handled. Whether or not he gets some work in the backfield on Sunday remains to be seen, but what he did against the Vikings perhaps will give the Eagles something to think about.
 
“It’s my seventh year doing this, so I know that we’re trying to make a run and whatever’s asked of me each week by coach Nagy I trust him,” Sowell said. “And he wouldn’t put me there if he thought I couldn’t do it.”
 
Happy birthday, Howie
 
With NBC televising Sunday afternoon’s contest — and FOX not having a game broadcast — Howie Long will get to celebrate his 59th birthday in Chicago watching two of his sons square off in a playoff game.
 
Bears right guard Kyle Long is expected to play a full game Sunday after returning from injured reserve a week ago, while Eagles defensive end Chris Long remains an important piece of Philadelphia’s pass rush with 6 1/2 sacks and 20 quarterback hits in 2018.
 
Sunday won’t be the first time the two brothers have played against each other — it happened as recently as 2017, when the Eagles blew out the Bears in Philadelphia — but the stakes have never been this high.
 
“It’s probably going to be pretty crazy for them,” Kyle Long said. “… It’s gonna be a fun birthday for them. I don’t think my mom will be able to watch. She’ll be there, but she’ll probably have her eyes covered the whole time. Yeah, they love their kids. They’re going to be happy to be here. I think everybody’s just happy.”
 
An offensive mind...and a great defense
 
The Bears hired an offensive mind in Nagy a year ago to improve a unit that felt stuck in the 20th century under John Fox and flopped in the Jay Cutler era. Nagy certainly improved the Bears’ offense, but not to the point where it was the catalyst for a 12-4 season and NFC North championship.
 
So an amusing exchange happened on Friday when a reporter informed Nagy four of his players — cornerback Kyle Fuller, safety Eddie Jackson, outside linebacker Khalil Mack and punt returner Tarik Cohen — were tabbed as All-Pros.
 
“No offense?” Nagy chuckled.
 
The Bears enter the playoffs for the first time in eight years with a team that feels fitting in franchise history. Success, again in Chicago, is defined by great defense, not necessarily great offense.
 
Nagy, though, is hoping to eventually be the coach who levels those two sides of the ball out. But, in his first year, he’s not there yet.
 
“Growing up as a kid you just know about the tradition of the defense here,” Nagy said. “I could go on and on with that. So you feel that, you know it, and now for us to have that again, it’s just — it means too much to this city. Everybody relates with the defense.
 
“In the end, we’d like to be able to make it to where it’s offense and defense. But we get, right now, that where we’re at.”

Under Center Podcast: Checking in on the Lions with ESPN’s Mike Rothstein

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USA TODAY

Under Center Podcast: Checking in on the Lions with ESPN’s Mike Rothstein

JJ Stankevitz is joined by ESPN Lions reporter Mike Rothstein to dive into how close Detroit is to cleaning house (1:00), expectations for Matthew Stafford (5:50) and T.J. Hockenson (10:00), what new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell’s scheme looks like (13:45), where the Lions are strongest and weakest on defense (16:50) and if this team actually respects Matt Patricia (22:20).

Plus, Mike discusses the story he co-wrote on the rise and fall of the AAF and what it would take for a spring football league to succeed (26:10).

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

Under Center Podcast

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

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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.