Bears

Bears In-Foe: Blake Bortles, 'Allen Brothers' trying to help Jaguars gain traction

Bears In-Foe: Blake Bortles, 'Allen Brothers' trying to help Jaguars gain traction

Patience has been at a premium for head coach Gus Bradley with Jaguars owner Shad Khan, and the former Seahawks defensive coordinator should count himself a lucky man, considering a 12-36 record in his first three seasons. But that pressure for better results figures to be ramped up this season with a bumper crop of talent on both sides of the ball for the University of Illinois-schooled owner who made his fortune supplying auto manufacturers with...yes, bumpers.

Last year, Jacksonville was hanging in there at 4-6 before dropping five of its last six contests. They proceeded to drop their first three this season before beating the Colts, which the Bears just lost to, two Sundays ago in London. But despite Bradley's expertise, it was the offense that showed significant growth a year ago, jumping from 31st overall in 2014 to 18th under the direction of former Bears quarterbacks coach (2003) Greg Olson.

After a carousel of nine starting quarterbacks in ten years, 2014 third overall pick Blake Bortles settled in in his sophomore season to throw for over 4,400 yards, and 35 touchdowns opposite 18 interceptions. That sparked the scoring offense to spike by eight points per game, and the aerial attack to leap from 31st to 10th. Through the first four games this season, though, Bortles has plateaued. While his completion percentage has risen slightly to 61.4, his quarterback rating has slipped by nine points, with seven TDs and six picks. While the 6-foot-5, 240-pounder out of Central Florida had a league-leading 72 completions of 20-plus yards a year ago, there have been just seven games in his career he hasn't turned the ball over (most recently against the Colts).

A huge reason for his success? The "Allen Brothers" (duh...not related) - Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. Both are 6-foot-3. Both arrived, like Bortles, in 2014; Robinson a second-round pick out of Penn State, Hurns an undrafted free agent out of Miami (Fla). Last season, the two combined for 144 receptions for 2,431 yards and 24 touchdowns. Wow. Of Robinson's 80 catches, 31 went for 20 or more yards. So far, a quarter of the way through this season, each is at roughly the same pace as a year ago (Robinson: 21-238, 3 TDs; Hurns: 15-226, 1 TD), meaning the Bears' cornerbacks had better be ready Sunday on the lakefront. Overshadowed is the other wideout the Jags invested a 2014 second-round pick in, injury-probe Marquise Lee. Former Broncos tight end Julius Thomas got a rich deal two offseasons ago, but settled for 46 receptions last year, with 11 this so far this year, but he's never played a full season. He thinks he'll be ready for the Bears after sitting out the game in London with an elbow injury. The first-round pick from ten years ago, Marcedes Lewis, starts as well in two-tight end sets.

[RELATED: Bears In-Foe: Jags 'D' making small steps after big paydays]

2015 second-rounder T.J. Yeldon had groin and foot injuries his rookie year (740 yards rushing, 36 receptions) and is averaging only 3.2 yards a carry in a rushing offense averaging just 55 yards a game until he gained 97 yards on 18 carries against Indianapolis. Amidst all the Jags' defensive free agent investments, they also signed Pro Bowler and last year's sixth-leading rusher, Chris Ivory, away from a Jets team that had its eyes on Matt Forte. But Ivory was hospitalized suddenly the morning of the season opener, and the reason has been kept under wraps. That sidelined him the first two games, and as he's tried to get back to full strength, he's carried just 20 times for only 43 yards.

That's behind a rather ordinary offensive line that invested 2014 and 2015 third-round picks on the interior (center Brandon Lindner and guard A.J. Cann). But 2013 second overall pick Luke Joeckel had been a disappointment, being moved from tackle to guard. And after not being offered a fifth-year tender, sustained a season-ending left knee injury in London involving two ligaments and a meniscus. Former Bear Patrick Omameh could slide into that position. The tackles are offseason free agent signees the last two years: Kelvin Beachum (Steelers) and Jeremy Parnell (Cowboys). As a unit, the line has allowed 61 and 51 sacks the last two years, respectively, with a dozen so far this season.

So far on third down, the Jaguars rank last in the league (28.3 percent).

It sounds like Jay Cutler is bored in retirement

It sounds like Jay Cutler is bored in retirement

After a week off the air, “Very Cavallari” was back with a new episode, which meant more Jay Cutler in retirement.

This week we were treated to Cutler being as sarcastic as ever and sulking about having nothing to do. Cutler’s first scene involved him and his wife, Kristin Cavallari, talking about their relationship and spending time with each other. Cavallari is going to do another pop-up shop for her fashion store, which means more travel. Jay, your thoughts?

“Oh, great,” Cutler said with his trademark sarcasm.

Later in the conversation we get a bleak look into Jay Cutler post-football.

“I just hang out and clean up,” Cutler said.

Sounds like he may want to hit up the announcing gig he had lined up before coming out of retirement and heading to the Dolphins for the 2017 season.

Next, we got Cutler shopping for birthday presents for their 3-year-old daughter. If nothing else, this was amusing to see Cutler shopping for gifts for little girls.

Watch the video above to see all of the best of Cutty, which also features him designing jewelry for some reason.

Recalling Chet Coppock – snapshots of a character, who also had character

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NBC Sports Chicago

Recalling Chet Coppock – snapshots of a character, who also had character

The news that came out Thursday, that Chet Coppock had died from injuries suffered in an automobile accident earlier this month in Florida, was sad on so many levels. That you didn’t have a chance to say “good-bye,” that you didn’t have a chance to say “thank you,” that you won’t have more of “those” kinds of Chet moments.

But one of my favorite movie moments is at the end of “The Last Samurai” when Tom Cruise, the wounded ex-U.S. soldier who’d fought with the Samurai, is asked by the young Japanese emperor about the death of Ken Watanabe’s Samurai character Katsumoto, “Tell me how he died.” To which Cruise says, “I will tell you, how he lived.”

Somehow that’s the feeling thinking about Chet – little fun snapshots of how he lived.

Snapshots like listening to Coppock on Sports, and appreciating that Chet deserves a spot in the pantheon of those who created a genre.

Like how we in the media laughed imitating Chet’s questions, which routinely went on long enough for you to run out for a sandwich and be back before he was finished. But the chuckle was how Chet wouldn’t directly ask a guest, “So why did you make THAT idiotic play?” No, Chester had this tack of, “So, what would you say to those who would say, ‘You’re an idiot?’” Of course, it would take a minimum of two minutes for him to wend his way through the question, but the results were always worth waiting for.

Like “Your dime, your dance floor.” 

Like grabbing lunches with Chet while I was working on the ’85 Bears book, but in particular while I was writing “100 Greatest Chicago Sports Arguments.” The specific in the latter told me a lot about Chet, far beyond just the information he was sharing.

The “argument” was over who was the greatest Chicago play-by-play broadcaster. Now, Chet of course suggested tongue-in-cheek that he belonged in the discussion; after all, as he pointed out, a high school kid at New Trier games, sitting by himself in the stands, doing play-by-play into a “microphone” that was one of those cardboard rollers from bathroom tissue, oughta be worth something.

Chet’s nomination for the actual No. 1 was Jack Brickhouse, the WGN legend who Chet noted had done play-by for every conceivable sport.

But the reason for Chet’s vote for Brickhouse wasn’t about any of that. It was, Chet said, because Brickhouse beginning back in the mid-‘50s, when the Cubs were integrating with Gene Baker and Ernie Banks, had very intentionally made it clear with his broadcasting and behavior that Baker and Banks were “Cubs,” not “black Cubs.” Brickhouse’s principles had left an impression on a then-young Chet.

I hadn’t known any of that. But Chet did, and that he had taken a lasting impression from what he’d heard growing up said something about Chet as well as Jack. That impressed me, and frankly has always been my favorite Chet story.

So losing an institution like Chet is sad; Chet did say that, no, he wasn’t an institution, but rather that he belonged IN one. But at least he came our way.