The Big Three: Spotlights on Bears-Broncos


The Big Three: Spotlights on Bears-Broncos

First preseason games are hybrids they mean very little to established veterans, very much to the un-established young players and to others immersed in a serious competition for a starting job.

Three specific targets will hold the biggest interest on Thursday night when the Bears host the Denver Broncos:

1. The rookies:

Shea McClellin is a story; can he rush the passer? Alshon Jeffery is another; can he work with the passer? And so on.

The key here is more than one player. It is how the 2012 Bears draft performs in total. The draft is the reason Phil Emery was hired to replace Jerry Angelo as general manager.

Rookie classes can form franchise cores with multiple high-grade starters. The Bears hope they had one of those drafts in 2011 with Gabe Carimi, Stephen Paea and Chris Conte as their first three picks.

What Emery and his staff brought to the organization starts to become evident Thursday night. It is a rare chance to actually see into the future.

2. Defensive tackle:

Stephen Paea is a pivotal figure for the 2012 defense, a nose tackle with the speed of a three-technique, which he may be soon. Henry Melton is in a contract year, a streaky player in 2011 who cannot afford to be this year.

Julius Peppers is a set-it-and-forget-it force on the edge. But this defense, any defense, lives on the ability to rule the middle.

With the uncertainty surrounding Brian Urlacher and the middle linebacker situation, few positions are more crucial to the Bears than the two closest to the ball on defense.

3. Left tackle:

Even with all their injuries up front, the Bears didnt have an offensive line problem in 2011; they had a left-tackle problem. The Bears ran for more than 2,000 yards and had three different 100-yard rushers in 2011, and Jay Cutler was being sacked at a rate below the NFL average before his thumb injury.

But left tackle was the victim of poor play by JMarcus Webb and poor offenseing by Mike Martz. The latter excuse is no longer in place. If the former problem is still there, the Bears need to start finding out about it. Now.

Weve got to come out fast and make sure all our Is are dotted and Ts are crossed, said Webb, who has had to deal with Peppers in practice and now gets a test at the other end of the size spectrum with an edge rusher like Denvers Elvis Dumervil.

Definitely looking forward to blocking somebody else. Julius is a big dude. I get to put my hands on somebody smaller so it should be fun.

Akiem Hicks makes Pro Football Focus Team of the Week after strong game against Dolphins


Akiem Hicks makes Pro Football Focus Team of the Week after strong game against Dolphins

The Bears defense was not its usual self in their overtime loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. The pass rush was minimal and tackling looked optional, and Brock Osweiler threw for almost 400 yards.

There was plenty of blame to go around, but a few individual defenders had success while their teammates struggled.

Defensive lineman Akiem Hicks made the Pro Football Focus Team of the Week for Week 6 with a 92.2 overall grade.

He recorded seven tackles that resulted in a defensive “stop,” the most of any defensive lineman according to PFF.

Chicago’s next highest-graded player was cornerback Kyle Fuller (78.2), who intercepted Osweiler twice but also missed two tackles.

Offensively, wide receiver Taylor Gabriel led the way with a 76.9 mark. PFF credited four of his five catches coming against Dolphins cornerback Torry McTyer in coverage.

Meanwhile, outside linebacker Khalil Mack had the lowest-graded game of his career (47.8), while linebacker Danny Trevathan (29.9) and safety Adrian Amos Jr. (47.5) each had their second-worst games.

Some of the Bears’ best players were at their worst in Miami. They’re going to need to get their act together for the New England Patriots on Sunday.

2018-19 NBA Power Rankings: Opening Week edition


2018-19 NBA Power Rankings: Opening Week edition

The theme of the 2018-19 NBA season will be: “old faces in new places”. Like a season-long game of the NBA on TNT crew’s “Who he play for?” game, this year will be about fans trying to get used to the idea of LeBron James in purple (I won’t call it ‘Forum Blue’)-and-gold, DeMarcus Cousins being on a championship-contending franchise and Kawhi Leonard being the new face of Toronto.

The Warriors are still the easy favorite to make it four NBA championships in five years, but they will be tested perhaps more than any year before in a loaded Western Conference, where even the lowliest of teams (here’s to you Phoenix and Memphis!) made solid offseason moves geared towards winning games.

Over in the now-LeBron-less East, there is hope amongst at least four-to-five teams that they could actually have a shot to win the conference. The Pacers still have budding superstar Victor Oladipo, the Sixers still have Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, and the Raptors and Bucks made head coaching changes that could lead to deep playoff runs. But with the rest of the Eastern conference being stuck between lottery contention and middle of the pack, expect the half-experienced, half-youthful Celtics to takeover as East juggernaut.

But whether or not your favorite franchise is aiming for a high draft pick or a postseason berth, there is tons to be excited in a 2018-19 NBA season that will surely be an intriguing one. Check out Week 1 of our NBA Power Rankings right here.