Bears

Bears GM search begins

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Bears GM search begins

When Ted Phillips was looking 11 years ago for Mark Hatleys replacement to head up Bears personnel, the team president employed a search firm experienced in pro sports executive recruitment.

The firm conducted preliminary interviews with prospects and narrowed the field to 10 candidates. Those were interviewed by Phillips and a list of three finalists developed. One of those was Angelo.

To find Angelos replacement, however, Phillips is running the search himself, with help from coach Lovie Smith.

My feeling is that over the last 10-11 years, my experience, my contacts in the league with other teams, talking to some folks internally, I think we'll be able to handle that search and come up with the right candidate ourselves, Phillips said Tuesday in the aftermath of Angelos exit.

This will be Phillips first solo foray into hiring for this area of NFL operations. He did not hire Hatley, a holdover from Michael McCaskeys time as Bears chairman.

But he was explicit in the first area for considering candidates to take over football operations for an NFL charter franchise.

I think it will be someone with an emphasis on talent evaluation, said Phillips, targeting the No. 1 stated reason for Angelos dismissal. I think well probably lean toward someone who has a talent evaluation background to at least some extent.

Lovie Smith rapport

It will be a hire with a condition: keeping Smith as head coach. The Bears have 11 million committed to Smith over the next two years and they have declared that they believe him to be the right one to stay the course of pursuing and overtaking the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions.

Talent evaluation is going to be key, Phillips underscored, in addition to, chemistry with Lovie; understanding of the coaches; solid character and work ethic and a clear strategy to get us to win a championship.

That will mean getting past Green Bay and Detroit, two teams in the postseason with their best players acquired through the draft.

It's not just the Packers, said Bears Chairman George McCaskey. The Lions finished ahead of us this year, so we need to target them. The Vikings have a good coach; they played us pretty tough just a couple of days ago.

I think we're the only division in the NFL that has had every team in the playoffs sometime in the last three years. So we're one of the toughest divisions in the NFL and we need to close the talent gap in order to compete in the division.

Playoff chase

The Bears are expected in particular to pursue candidates from currently successful programs, meaning ones already in the 2011 playoffs and especially ones with the best draft histories.

The blizzard of names will swirl until the Bears begin to settle on finalist. But sources told CSNChicago.com that Green Bay director of player personnel Reggie McKenzie and Baltimore director of player personnel Eric DeCosta were high on Phillips preliminary list, both with teams in the playoffs on the strength of their organizations draft performance.

The Bears are expected to make a strong play in free agency and with free agency beginning in mid-March it's going to depend on whether there are any candidates on playoff teams as to how long it'll drag out, Phillips said.

Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday with Tom Brady, Patriots looming

Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday with Tom Brady, Patriots looming

Khalil Mack appears in line to play Sunday with Tom Brady, Patriots looming

Khalil Mack participated in the Bears’ final practice of the week on Friday, clearing the way for the edge rusher to play Sunday against the New England Patriots. 

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported earlier Friday that the Bears expected Mack, who hasn’t missed a game in his career, to play after suffering an ankle injury early in Week 6’s 31-28 loss to the Miami Dolphins. Mack is officially questionable for Sunday’s game at Soldier Field. 

Mack had little interest in discussing his ankle with the media on Friday, passing on answering questions about his readiness for New England. Coach Matt Nagy, though, said he thought Mack “looked pretty good” during practice on Friday. 

Mack didn’t record a sack against Miami and was held to just one pressure, per Pro Football Focus. The Dolphins’ gameplan was to commit plenty of resources to stopping Mack, but he wasn’t effective even when he had one-on-one pass rushing opportunities as the game went on. 

“He was (affected),” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “I can't put a percentage on it, but he definitely was.”

Having Mack available — even if he’s not full strength — will be critical for the Bears’ defense to have a chance at keeping Tom Brady from lighting up the scoreboard. The key for the Bears will be to generate pressure on the 41-year-old quarterback without blitzing, which is something Fangio’s defense was successful at prior to Sunday’s wacky loss to the Dolphins. 

Brady’s passer rating is 138.4 when he’s blitzed, per Pro Football Focus, while when under pressure his rating is 87.2. That’s still pretty good, but it’s worth noting that all of the six interceptions he’s thrown this year have come when he hasn’t been blitzed. And only one of the eight sacks he’s taken has come when he’s been blitzed. 

The point being: If the Bears feel like they have to start blitzing to generate pressure, they can expect Brady to pick them apart.  

“You could say all of that but ultimately (Brady’s) a gamer,” Mack said. “He’s going to take those hits, and you gotta be able to deliver them but also have coverage over the top. It’s going to be real important for us.” 

The good news for the Bears, perhaps, is that New England’s tackles have struggled at times this year. Left tackle Trent Brown has allowed 17 pressures in 234 pass blocking snaps, per Pro Football Focus (about one in every 14 snaps). And starting right tackle Marcus Cannon is out with a concussion, giving way for backup La’Adrian Waddle, who’s allowed eight pressures in 78 pass blocking snaps (about one in every 10). 

So the opportunities will be there for Mack, Leonard Floyd, Akiem Hicks and the Bears’ pass rush to affect Brady on Sunday.

A bigger injury concern?

While cornerback Prince Amukamara (hamstring) was a full participant in Friday’s practice and will play Sunday, slot corner Bryce Callahan suffered an ankle injury during Thursday’s practice and did not participate Friday. He’s officially questionable for Sunday. 

Callahan “did his ankle,” Nagy said, toward the end of Thursday’s practice, and he felt worse as the day went on. Nagy characterized Callahan’s absence from Friday’s practice as “precautionary.”

Callahan’s availability may be more of a pressing concern than Mack’s, given how well the Patriots’ offense has played since slot receiver Julian Edelman returned from a four-game suspension to begin the season. While his numbers aren’t eye-popping (11 catches on 16 targets, 111 yards, 1 TD), New England’s offense has scored 38 and 43 points in his two games back. 

“Brady has always had a guy in the slot that he’s comfortable with; whether it be (Wes) Welker, (Danny) Amendola or Edelman,” Fangio said. “It’s a big part of their offense. They haven’t missed a beat, but I really think it’s helped their offense and played a big part in them basically averaging 40 points in the last three weeks. I really appreciate and respect how good of a player he is and has been.”

If Callahan isn’t available, Sherrick McManis could be the next man up at slot corner. 

The Way We Hear It: Khalil Mack will probably play after all

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USA Today

The Way We Hear It: Khalil Mack will probably play after all

The Bears are back in Chicago and Tom Brady and the Patriots are in town! With a week of practice wrapping up today, here's what's been happening in the lead up to Sunday's Bears-Pats matchup: