Bears

Emery-Smith relationship could be difficult...or not

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Emery-Smith relationship could be difficult...or not

INDIANAPOLIS -- The working relationship between new GM Phil Emery and incumbent coach Lovie Smith will be among the most closely watched, most difficult to determine and most important in the immediate direction of the franchise.

Smith was announced as staying in place by President Ted Phillips on the day of Jerry Angelos firing. Emery took the GM job knowing he has Smith at minimum for 2012.

Mike Lombardi, veteran NFL front-office executive and currently with NFL Network, said Thursday on WSCR-AM 670 The Scores Mully and Hanley Show that their relationship could be difficult.

I think its going to be difficult, especially if they dont share the philosophical understanding of players, Lombardi said. When you look at the Tampa way and what Lovie is accustomed to, I think its a bit different. Theyre going to have to see eye to eye.

If theres anything more obvious, Im not sure what it would be. Lombardi even says that as soon as the two get in synch, everything could fall in place.

Obviously.

There could and probably will be differences. Probably should be, for that matter. Indeed, for a possible point of difference, you needed look no further than Emerys introductory press conference in which he stressed that the NFL is a big-mans game.

Smith has long been of a mind that, forced to choose between size and speed, he takes speed.

Yet, as one veteran NFL personnel exec told CSNChicago.com here this week, Lovie also has one of the NFLs biggest middle linebackers (Brian Urlacher) and biggest defensive ends in a 4-3 scheme (Julius Peppers).

And do you think Smith is going to object if Emery holds to his pattern of drafting bigger wide receivers (Michael Jenkins, Roddy White, Jonathan Baldwin)? Not likely.

GMs inheriting head coaches under contract can indeed be very difficult situations. Angelo arrived with Dick Jauron in place and it was a bad situation when Jauron posted a strong (13-3) 2001 and Angelo was forced to keep him with a new contract.

But Jauron had had two dismal seasons in his first two years. Smith may have made the playoffs just once in the past five seasons but he also has had just two losing seasons in his last seven, and both of those 7-9s (2007, 2009), not the 6-10 and 5-11 that Jauron had before Angelo.

Nothing is assured whenever there is major change at the top. But neither is it a given that the Emery-Smith arrangement will be difficult.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Can the Bears pull off an upset at home against Tom Brady and the Patriots?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Can the Bears pull off an upset at home against Tom Brady and the Patriots?

Chris Emma, Matt Zahn and Gabe Ramirez join David Kaplan on the panel.

0:00- NBC Sports National NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh joins the panel to discuss the Bulls’ terrible defensive performance as well as Zach LaVine’s impressive season debut.

11:35- Khalil Mack is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Patriots. Can the Bears pull off the upset against Tom Brady?

23:50- NBC Sports Boston Patriots insider Tom E. Curran joins Kap to talk about how New England views the Bears and discuss how Matt Nagy’s team can exploit the Patriots’ weaknesses.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below.

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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.