Bears

Bears roster adjustments continue; practice squad formed including QB Matt Barkley

Bears roster adjustments continue; practice squad formed including QB Matt Barkley

The cliché from NFL personnel and coaches is that their teams are constantly looking to improve. In the case of the Bears, they are walking the walk, and at a very brisk pace.

Besides making a strong play and planning the first visit with Josh Sitton after the three-time Pro Bowler was released Saturday by the Green Bay Packers, the Bears struck quickly to upgrade the depth chart at center, tight end and cornerback with waiver claims less than 24 hours after making their initial decisions on their own final 53-man roster.

The Bears went aggressively after an upgrade at tight end behind starter Zach Miller, signing veteran Logan Paulsen after the latter’s release from the Washington Redskins. Paulsen, considered a top special-teams contributor, missed all of last season after toe surgery but had rebounded to compete through training camp. But Washington had added veteran tight end Vernon Davis and jettisoned Paulsen, with 79 catches, six touchdowns and 801 yards in 42 career starts.

Added via claims were center Eric Kush, a 2013 draft pick of the Kansas City Chiefs, and cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc, whom the Bears practiced against in New England before the Patriots waived him this weekend.

But the clearest organizational statement lay in the ambitious push to land Sitton, another effort indicating that the Bears are treating 2016 as considerably more than a time for treading water while they wait for an influx of talent through drafts. Sitton, 30, has dealt with some back issues but started 16 games in six of his last seven seasons.

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The Bears will be Kush’s sixth team in less than four seasons, beginning with Kansas City from 2013-15, followed by very brief stops with Tampa Bay, Carolina, Houston and the St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams.

To make roster space for Kush the Bears waived center Cornelius Edison. Versatile DB Demontre Hurst was let go to clear space for LeBlanc.

Khari Lee, acquired last preseason in a trade with the Houston Texans, was waived to clear a spot for Paulsen.

Edison, Hurst and Lee all are eligible for the Bears’ 10-man practice squad if and when they clear waivers. In the meantime the Bears brought back to the developmental squad receiver Daniel Braverman, tight end Ben Braunecker, cornerback De’Vante Bausby, running back Senorise Perry, linebacker John Timu and offensive lineman Jason Weaver, all of whom were with the Bears through preseason.

ESPN reported that the Bears were signing former USC quarterback Matt Barkley to the practice squad. Barkley, once projected to be a top-10 pick in the 2012 draft, elected to stay in school an additional year. When he came out the following year, his draft stock had fallen because of a shoulder injury and he lasted until the fourth round (98th overall) when the Philadelphia Eagles selected him.

The Eagles traded him to the Arizona Cardinals in Sept. 2015 and released him this weekend.

Pro Football Focus: Khalil Mack is NFL’s most valuable edge rusher

Pro Football Focus: Khalil Mack is NFL’s most valuable edge rusher

It didn’t take the Bears long to see how valuable Khalil Mack is to their defense, elevating the group from the moment he first stepped on the field.

He’s been among the league’s best outside linebackers since he first broke out in 2015, and the analytics back up the eye test.

He was the highest edge defender on Pro Football Focus’ list of the top 50 players in the NFL, and their “wins above replacement” metric shows why.

It’s Mack and Von Miller, then everyone else.

“Foremost, Mack is a slightly more complete player than Miller when it comes to defending the run,” PFF’s Ben Linsey wrote. “Yes, run defense is significantly less important than an edge rusher’s ability to disrupt the quarterback, but with so little difference between the players, everything gets put under the magnifying glass.”

Over the past four seasons, both players have exactly 49 sacks, although Mack missed two games over that span. The Bears outside linebacker has the edge in interceptions, forced fumbles and tackles for loss, most coming with a lower quality defense around him than what Miller has had in Denver.

It’s no surprise Ryan Pace was willing to trade multiple first-round picks to make Mack the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history. He’s the best in the league.

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Projected lineups for Eddie Jackson’s charity softball game

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USA Today

Projected lineups for Eddie Jackson’s charity softball game

Eddie Jackson is hosting a charity softball game this Saturday, June 15th at Schamburg Boomers stadium at 5:05pm. It’ll be offense vs defense so let’s take an early look at what these lineups might look like for both teams.

Defense

1. Eddie Jackson

Has home run hitting ability in the leadoff spot and a flair for the dramatic. This rising star puts the pressure on the opposing pitcher from the very first pitch. Plus it’s his game, so of course he’s batting first.

2. Kyle Fuller

Tied for the NFL interception lead in 2018, Fuller’s combination of speed, instincts and film study  at the top of the lineup helps set the table for the big bats.

3. Akiem Hicks

As Ed O’Bradovich said at the 100 year celebration this past weekend, Khalil Mack “is a man-eater, but (Akiem Hicks) is the man who makes it happen.” It’s long been said you put your most important hitter in the 3-hole.

4. Khalil Mack

The quintessential cleanup hitter. Who else would you want in this spot?

5. Danny Trevathan

Provides world champion protection behind Mack in the likely event that the opponent tries to pitch around #52.

6. Roquan Smith

Just when an opponent think they’ve gotten thru the heart of the lineup, the 2018 rookie who came up just shy of Brian Urlacher’s franchise tackling mark is there to “break a man,” as he said right after his Bears intro press conference.

7. Ha-Ha Clinton Dix

Sliding this new addition into the 7-hole takes some of the pressure off of him to make an immediate impact, while also trapping pitchers into thinking they might get a break against a guy who has shown big play ability in the past.

8. Bilal Nichols

One of the most underrated players in the entire league is perfectly fine lurking at the bottom of the order. A second cleanup hitter, he’s happy consistently performing and making his teammates better. Everyone in this lineup knows how valuable he is.

9. Leonard Floyd

Still in a bit of a prove it spot, but if he consistently plays the way he’s shown shown flashes of, he could not only be dangerous in this spot, but he could climb up the lineup pretty quickly.

10. Prince Amukamara

Veteran who knows he’s there to do a job and turn the lineup over. His speed and ball skills make him a threat.

11. Buster Skrine

Another newcomer, let’s see what he’s got at the bottom of the order.

Offense

1. Taylor Gabriel   *Anthony Miller

We can all agree there’s no reason for Miller, a guy who dislocated his shoulder multiple times to be swinging a bat amiright?? Miller has the Willie Mayes Hayes swag you want from the leadoff man when healthy tho.

As for ‘Turbo’ Taylor Gabriel, of course you’re putting a guy who’s been clocked at 23 mph at the top of the lineup.

2. Tarik Cohen

Perfect spot for the swiss army knife of the offense. Could lay down a bunt and beat it out, move the runner, or even hit one to the gap and clear the bases.

3. Mitch Trubisky

The obvious spot for the leader of the offense and Akiem Hicks’ pick (outside himself) to win the home run derby part of this event. Let’s just hope he breaks out the punky QB headband and sunglasses look again this weekend.

4. Kyle Long

The most veteran member of the offensive line is there to protect the QB. Whether or not he’s even in the lineup, if anyone goes high and tight on # 10, better believe they’ll answer to #75.

5. Cody Whitehair

Some more muscle in the middle of the order. Has made it clear he’s good with moving around the lineup if the coaches think it’s best for the team.

6. Allen Robinson

Based on what we saw in the playoff game, he could be on his way to putting up big numbers anywhere in the batting order. Definitely a guy you want up late with the game on the line.

7. Charles Leno

Flies under the radar at one of the most important positions in football. If a pitcher thinks he’s in the clear after getting past Robinson, Leno will be there to throw a big block into that thinking.

8. Trey Burton / Adam Shaheen

When healthy, they provide some pop towards the bottom of the lineup. Let’s have Anthony Miller ready as the designated runner if these guys can get on base.

9. Bobby Massie

The ultimate team guy as he showed by signing a team friendly deal to stay in Chicago much earlier in the offseason than he had to.

10. James Daniels

As the new man in the middle on the offensive line, the burden falls on him to turn the lineup over and set the table for the speedy top of the order.

11. Mike Davis

Good spot to start for this new addition. Could easily see him towards the top of the lineup if he produces the way Matt Nagy & company thinks he can.

The defense has been ahead of the offense for pretty much the entire Pace/Nagy regime. But if Matt Nagy is involved, there’s sure to be no shortage of hidden ball tricks, squeezes and other trick plays with awesome names, so I might have to give a slight edge to the offense in this game.