Bears

Lamarr Houston: 'I don't see what (Bears') need would be' for OLB

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Lamarr Houston: 'I don't see what (Bears') need would be' for OLB

Don’t tell Lamarr Houston that the Bears’ No. 1 need is for a rush linebacker in free agency or the draft.

His exact future as a Bear is yet to become fully apparent, but the veteran outside linebacker, who led the Bears with eight sacks in part-time duty during 2015, doesn’t share the prevailing sentiment that the Bears’ primary need is for an edge pass rusher.

Given that he delivered eight sacks, Pernell McPhee six and Willie Young 6.5, all playing less than full time in 2015, “I think that Pernell, Willie and myself are all great guys and great pass rushers, and we brought a lot to the team last year,” Houston said on Wednesday during an appearance on Sports Talk Live.

“I couldn’t say that they wouldn’t go draft an outside linebacker or bring somebody else in. But as of right now I don’t see what the need would be for one because we’re very productive guys.”

Whether productive enough in the mind’s eye of general manager Ryan Pace, coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio will be reflected in the Bears’ moves beginning with free agency March 9 and on into the draft April 28 through April 30.

Houston rebounded from an injury-shortened 2014 to lead the rush-challenged Bears with his career-high eight sacks. He has played 16 games in five of his six NFL seasons.

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The problem is that Houston is due a total of $6 million for 2016, the second year of the five-year contract for $35 million he signed after four years as an Oakland Raider.

Houston was part of a defensive makeover by then-GM Phil Emery in 2014 when he signed defensive ends Houston, Jared Allen and Willie Young to replace Julius Peppers, released and then signed by Green Bay, and Shea McClellin, miscast as a defensive end for two years and then shifted to linebacker.

The 2014 season was a disaster for Houston, who started the first eight games. He went seven without a sack and then tore knee ligaments when he landed awkwardly doing a celebratory leap after a garbage-time sack of quarterback Jimmy Garappolo late in a blowout loss to the New England Patriots.

“I was able to make a lot of progress (in 2015),” Houston said. “Unfortunately my first season I didn’t get to finish, and I don’t think fans got a feeling for what kind of player I am. This year being able to play a full season, I wanted to make sure fans knew what type of player I am and what I bring to the game, the passion I have for the game.”

Houston underwent surgery and went through an intensive rehab process that left him sidelined through most of the Bears’ offseason pre-camp practice sessions. He began his comeback with 21 snaps played in the second preseason game and worked into the lineup as a situational linebacker as the season progressed, ultimately starting the final two games.

Houston collected seven sacks over the Bears’ final nine games.

Brian Baldinger: 'I'm not so sure anybody could've seen the jump that Mitch Trubisky is making right now'

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USA TODAY

Brian Baldinger: 'I'm not so sure anybody could've seen the jump that Mitch Trubisky is making right now'

On Thursday, Brian Baldinger released another video clip on Twitter for his #BaldysBreakdowns series, this one praising the recent play from Bears QB Mitch Trubisky.

Baldinger states that Trubisky is "making some kind of jump", referring to how impressed he was with Trubisky's play when compared to his rookie season. 

In the video Baldinger explains in the video how you expect franchise QBs to make a big leap from year one to year two, and a big part of that leap for Trubisky is being unafraid to make aggressive throws downfield.

Baldinger highlighted a play where Trubisky hit Taylor Gabriel 47-yards down the field, choosing to trust his wideout after he hit him with perfect ball placement despite tight coverage. He continued this theme later on in the video, showing Trubisky's TD strike to Allen Robinson, which was whipped right past a Dolphins defender. 

But Baldinger's video wasn't exclusively compliments for Trubisky. He discussed Tarik Cohen's effectiveness as a pass-catcher, saying that you "can't cover him" and comparing him to a Ferrari with his ability to go from first to fifth gear "about as fast as anybody."

He ended his video by showing Trubisky punishing the Dolphins for a blown coverage, hitting rookie Anthony Miller in stride for a 29-yard TD. Baldinger's point in including this clip was to show Trubisky's improved recognition, as he may not have spotted the blown coverage last year. Noticing when and how to take advantage of defensive sloppiness is one of the many things that seperate a "franchise QB" from a stopgap, and Trubisky is trending in the right direction. 

If Baldinger's breakdown is any indication, we should expect Trubisky to keep his incredible momentum rolling when the Bears take on the New England Patriots on Sunday. New England is 3rd worst in the league in passing TDs allowed, giving up 15 scores through the air in six games. 

NFC North standings: Bears’ division lead on life support after loss to Dolphins

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USA TODAY

NFC North standings: Bears’ division lead on life support after loss to Dolphins

A tie is all that separates the Bears from the rest of the NFC North division. Chicago’s Week 6 loss to the Miami Dolphins dropped the team to 3-2, which just barely leaves them in first place.

Because the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings tied in Week 2, they sit just behind the Bears at 3-2-1 in the division. The Week 5 bye week also kept Chicago a little bit ahead, but they’re only a game away from dropping down to third.

They still control their own destiny, but Matt Nagy will need an upset win over the New England Patriots on Sunday to maintain their leading position. The Packers are on a bye week, so they would assume first place if the Bears lose.

The Vikings take on the New York Jets for a chance to take sole possession of the NFC North crown, but Chicago is guaranteed to stay ahead of the Detroit Lions, who also have a bye week.

These early season losses are tough on a Bears team trying to grow a division lead before they take on their NFC North foes midseason. The bigger cushion they can build now, the more wiggle room they’ll have when they face the Lions, Vikings and Lions back-to-back-to-back in November.