Bears

GM candidates have solid draft history

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GM candidates have solid draft history

The interview process for Bears general manager candidates is ongoing this week, with Marc Ross from the New York Giants making it to Halas Hall Wednesday, after San Diegos Jimmy Raye and New Englands Jason Licht earlier. Tim Ruskell has his formal interview Thursday and Phil Emery from Kansas City will complete the first cycle.

Bears President Ted Phillips is the point man by his own account. And it is always difficult to get a complete fix on how good each individual has been to this point in their careers, because they have typically not been the top guy in their current organizations, as they will be in Chicago.

But it is interesting to pick a spot and compare apples and apples, more or less. So CSNChicago.com took the last five No. 1 picks for each candidates organization (with the exception of Ruskell) as a point of comparison (recognizing that Licht was not with the Patriots for all five). This was a problem area for the Jerry Angelo regime so how have others done:

Jimmy Raye: The Chargers have had decidedly mixed results with their top picks. They selected Craig Davis in 2007 and he was a bust, a wide receiver, a position of high need for the Bears. Antoine Cason (08) is a starting cornerback and Ryan Matthews (10) starts at running back. Corey Liuget (11) from Illinois was a starter at defensive end because Luis Castillo (05) was injured. Defensive end Larry English (09) has had injury problems.

Analysis: A solid record, with GM A.J. Smith the prime architect. But the Chargers have consistently secured talent that has stuck around. The focus in round one has been on defense in San Diego since Philip Rivers selection (04).

Phil Emery: The Chiefs over the past five years have twice selected wide receivers in the first round. Dwayne Bowe (07) was a major hit and is on the Bears radar this offseason in free agency. Jonathan Baldwin (11) had a serviceable first year primarily coming off the bench. Safety Eric Berry (10), defense end Tyson Jackson (09) and defensive tackle Glen Dorsey (08) have been starters, as has left tackle Brandon Albert (08).

Analysis: Again a solid record at core positions.

Jason Licht: The Patriots drafted very well in first rounds since Brandon Meriweather (07) and even he was a Pro Bowl safety, if not ultimately a fit with Bill Belichick. Jerod Mayo (08) was defensive rookie of the year and a Pro Bowl linebacker, and New England got quality at cornerback with Patrick Chung (09) and Devin McCourty (10). Nate Solder (11) is listed as a starter at tackle and was a pick for the future.
Analysis: Licht has been with the Patriots twice, returning in 2009 after stops in Philadelphia and Arizona. New England does personnel the right way.

Marc Ross: The Giants, like the Patriots, are still playing in January because of hits in the draft. Cornerback Prince Amukamara (11) isnt starting but thats mostly because Kenny Phillips (08) and Aaron Ross (07) are. Jason Pierre-Paul was a home run at defensive end (10), and wide receiver Hakeem Nicks (09) is a major reason why New York is in the NFC Championship game.

Analysis: The Giants have had fits and starts but they have not had a losing season since 2004 and have been to the playoffs five of the last seven years, and missed in 2010 in a tiebreaker with the Packers after going 10-6.

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.