Bears

Bears' massive overhaul of 3-4 front seven to extend into draft

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Bears' massive overhaul of 3-4 front seven to extend into draft

BOCA RATON, Fla. – Like most NFL coaches and personnel decision-makers, Bears GM Ryan Pace gets a little squirmy when the conversation brushes up too close against who’s hot, who’s not and other subjects around what he and his team might be doing in the immediate future, as in the draft or ongoing free agency.

But action is character in theater and what Pace and the Bears have done in the areas of defensive line and linebackers have made clear statements of not only the priority going into 2016, but also the belief that dramatic improvement is within reach.

[RELATED - Bears have Kevin White '100 percent healthy' at this stage of '16]

That has come with the signings of inside linebackers Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan in addition to defensive lineman Akiem Hicks. And while Pace tried to stay away from draft talk, it was apparent that the third spot in the “3” portion of their 3-4 may be addressed from the talent pool in this year’s draft, rated one of the best ever for defensive linemen.

“There’s talent there but it’s also a deep position in the draft,” Pace said on Tuesday during the NFL owners meetings. “So it’s a spot when we talk about improving our defense, it’s an area where we can make quick improvement.”

That improvement will come in multiple areas besides the draft. Ego Ferguson, a spot starter and part of the defensive rotation before suffering a season-ending knee injury, is on pace to begin training camp on time.

At this point, there have been significant developments at all four linebacker spots. Besides the Freeman and Trevathan signings, rush linebacker Pernell McPhee is targeting a lower weight as a means of increasing his speed and decreasing strain on his injured left knee, repaired with a scope procedure this offseason.

And 2015 sack leader Lamarr Houston (eight sacks) is securely in place at the linebacker spot opposite McPhee. Houston’s $6 million contract for this season loomed as a sticking point, but the Bears have managed their salary cap effectively, exercised restraint in the face of some hysteria signings elsewhere in the early days of free agency, and now are not expected to be in a position of needing a pay cut or roster trim involving Houston.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

“We feel good about Lamarr,” Pace said. “He came on strong. Luckily we’re in a healthy cap situation so we can [stay with him]. Those guys are hard to find. I think the playoffs were an example of pass rush and having a strong pass rush, and the more we have of those guys, the better. So we’re comfortable with where he’s at.”

Fantasy Football: 15 players to target on your waiver wire

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Fantasy Football: 15 players to target on your waiver wire

We've crossed the halfway mark in the regular season for most Fantasy Football leagues, so it's officially crunch time.

As we get ready to make a push for the stretch run and with Bye Weeks in full gear, the waiver wire has never been more important in 2018.

If Nick Chubb is available in your league still, change that immediately. But considering he should've been scooped up in every league after Carlos Hyde was traded away from Cleveland Friday, we're more focused on guys who should be available and worth spending your free agent budget on.

Here are 15 guys worth targeting on the waiver wire:

1. Kenjon Barner, RB, NE

It appears Sony Michel has avoided serious injury, but he still will probably miss at least Week 8 and possibly longer. James White will see a larger role without Michel, but Barner suddenly goes from a guy not even worth sniffing at in Fantasy to a must-own. As soon as Michel left the game, Barner entered and tallied 10 rushes against the Bears defense. If you're desperate for a running back in Week 8, Barner might be a good add as he has a fantastic matchup against a Bills defense that just allowed 219 rushing yards to the Colts.

2. Chris Ivory, RB, BUF

LeSean McCoy was forced to leave the Week 7 contest with a concussion, opening the door for a decent game for Ivory (126 total yards on 19 touches). If McCoy continues to miss time, Ivory is the clear beneficiary, though it's not a great matchup in Week 8 against the Pats.

3. Danny Amendola, WR, MIA

It's been a while since Amendola was anything more than a tease in Fantasy Football, but the soon-to-be-33-year-old has had back-to-back good games while building a good rapport with Brock Osweiler. Amendola has hauled in 143 yards and a tuddie on 14 catches (18 targets) the last two weeks and while he is banged up, he practiced in a limited capacity Monday. If he can suit up Thursday, he should be the Dolphins' top target as both Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson are expected to miss that contest with their own injuries.

4. Raheem Mostert, RB, SF

Matt Breida and Alfred Morris owners must hate this guy, but Mostert has emerged from complete irrelevance to lead the Niners backfield the last two weeks. The 26-year-old has 23 touches the last two games while Morris has tallied just 9 touches (all in Week 7) and Breida has racked up 19 touches as he works through a bunch of injuries, including an ankle issue. It will be tough to predict how this situation will play out this week, but Mostert has been the only Niners back worth starting recently and this group of RBs now has the best matchup of the week against the woeful Cardinals defense. Mostert at least deserves to be owned, even if you're not comfortable starting him at the moment.

5/6. Jalen Richard/Doug Martin, RB, OAK

With Marshawn Lynch on IR, Richard and Martin should be owned in all formats just for the sheer possibility of a heavy workload. However, both are questionable Fantasy starts for Week 8 — even coming off a Bye. Richard should be the call in PPR leagues while Martin figures to eat up most of Lynch's carries. 

7. Tyrell Williams, WR, LAC

Williams is owned in hardly any league, but he's racked up 236 receiving yards and 3 TDs the last two weeks. He's not getting a heavy workload (only 8 targets in that span), but the Chargers love throwing deep to this guy and it's paid off in back-to-back weeks. Williams isn't close to being a safe bet as his value is completely contigent upon whether he catchs a deep bomb or not, but you could do a lot worse in your Fantasy lineups.

8. Martavis Bryant, WR, OAK

With Amari Cooper now in Dallas, somebody's gotta catch balls for Jon Gruden's Raiders. There's no guarantee that's Bryant, but he's slated to start Week 8 and he has the talent and resume to be at least a servicable Fantasy player the rest of the season.

9. Donte Moncrief, WR, JAC

The good: In 3 of the last 4 weeks, Moncrief has tallied at least 5 catches and 76 yards. The bad: In the other week during that stretch, he did not record a single catch on 3 targets. So there's clearly some risk here, especially considering the state of the Jags passing offense and QB situation. But Moncrief may be worth a pickup and start in Week 8 if you're desperate, as the Eagles have given up some of the most Fantasy points to opposing WRs. 

10. Kelvin Benjamin, WR, BUF

Benjamin was drafted in most leagues but was unable to post as many as 10 Fantasy points in even full-point PPR leagues until Week 7, and that was a modest 11-point total. Nobody blames you if you've given up on Benjamin, but he finally topped 3 catches and 50 yards in Week 7 and has a rapport with Derek Anderson from their time in Carolina. 

11. Trenton Cannon, RB, NYJ

Who? Cannon is owned in 0.0 percent of Fantasy leagues, which makes sense given he had a grand total of 2 Fantasy points entering Week 7. But when Bilal Powell left the game with a neck injury, it was Cannon that stepped up with 69 receiving yards on 4 catches while Isaiah Crowell still handled rushing duties. If Powell misses time in Week 8 or beyond (neck issues are no joke), Cannon is the main beneficiary in the passing game and should be rostered in all PPR leagues.

12. Chris Herndon, TE, NYJ

The Jets' fourth-round pick from this spring is another no-name in the Fantasy world, but that's quickly changing after back-to-back weeks with a TD. Herndon has clearly become the top tight end for fellow rookie Sam Darnold, seeing 7 targets last week and hauling in 4 of those catches for 42 yards. If you're desperate for a TE or you're in a dynasty league, target Herndon now. 

13. DeVante Parker, WR, MIA

Parker has been worth absolutely nothing in Fantasy this year, finding his way out of the lineup on a weekly basis. But he's worth a speculative add in case he's traded by next week — like he wants — and he also receives a boost for Week 8 by default, as the other Dolphins wideouts are all banged up and Parker essentially has to play.

14. Jakeem Grant, WR, MIA

Notice a trend here? We're all-in on South Beach receivers this week. Same logic applies because of injuries to Stills and Wilson, but obviously all of Parker, Grant and Amendola will not be worth a Fantasy start in Week 8. This is still Osweiler and the Dolphins we're talking about. But Grant is fun with his gamechanging speed and has at least contributed in every single week of the season so far even before he's become an increased part of the gameplan, so his floor isn't "0" like Parker's or some of the other WR options on the market.

15. Colts D/ST

We can't end this without a defense/special teams unit, right? The Colts gave up at least 31 points for 3 straight games from Week 4 through 6, but they absolutely dominated the Bills last week and now draw a Raiders team that just lost its two best offensive playmakers over the last 10 days. There is no better D/ST to stream out there than the Colts, and they're available in more than half of leagues.

Bonus: Rishard Matthews, WR, NYJ

Matthews is reportedly signing with the Jets, who need some WR help. Matthews quit on the Titans earlier this season after they completely went away from him in the gameplan, but this is a guy that racked up 1,740 yards and 13 TDs from 2016-17. He's worth an add in all leagues just for the potential.

Trey Burton, Adrian Amos earn Bears’ top grades from Pro Football Focus for Week 7

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Trey Burton, Adrian Amos earn Bears’ top grades from Pro Football Focus for Week 7

The Bears were not at their best against the New England Patriots on Sunday. They made plenty of mistakes on all three phases and gave Tom Brady too many opportunities to control the game.

It wasn’t all bad from Chicago, though. Trey Burton emerged as a new favorite weapon of Mitchell Trubisky, and the tight end was the Bears’ highest-graded player in the game by Pro Football Focus.

Burton had a career high 11 targets, nine catches and 126 yards with a touchdown, giving Trubisky a 144.7 passer rating when targeting his top tight end.

Seven of Burton’s targets and six of his catches traveled 10 or more yards in the air, according to PFF.

Defensively, safety Adrian Amos led the pack with a 74.6 overall grade. He did not miss a tackle after missing a career-high five last week, and he allowed only one catch for eight yards against the Patriots.

On the bottom of the scale, outside linebacker Leonard Floyd received the second-lowest grade of his career (38.9 overall) for his performance. He did not record any pressure on the quarterback in 13 pass rushing snaps, and he allowed two catches for 13 yards and a touchdown in coverage against running back James White.

Wide receiver Allen Robinson had a career-low grade as well at 44.9 overall. He was clearly limited by his groin injury, targeted five times with one catch for four yards and a dropped pass.

Overall, the Bears were able to stick with one of the top teams in the AFC while also leaving a lot of room for improvement. It’s a step in the right direction from where Chicago was in recent seasons.