Bears

Minicamp to mark last Bears stop before training camp

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Minicamp to mark last Bears stop before training camp

The linemen still won’t be in pads and meaningfully hitting each other, and any position battles will still be many weeks away from resolution. But the Bears will finish off the third phase of their offseason this week with a three-day minicamp Tuesday-Thursday before adjourning completely until July 29.

This camp is mandatory, meaning another decision point for Martellus Bennett. The tight end has skipped the offseason program so far but would face more than $70,000 in fines if he turns an absence from voluntary workouts into a full-fledged holdout.

[MORE: Bears rookies being forced to prove they belong]

Beyond that, meaningful decisions on the lines and myriad other situations will remain in abeyance, particularly since the padded, full-contact work in downstate Illinois August heat is when the first traces of injuries and durability issues typically first surface.

“I think [minicamp sessions are] really just opportunities to practice,” said coach John Fox. “Phase 3, pretty much the same kind of thing. In minicamp, you actually have two practices, they say, but it’s really only one practice. The other’s a walk-through. But other than that, it’s pretty much the same schedule.”

Whether Kyle Long is still at right tackle rather than back right guard, and whether it means anything if he is, or isn’t, will be under study again. Whether Christian Jones and Shea McClellin are the starting inside linebackers won’t really matter until pads come on in Bourbonnais; same with whether Will Sutton or rookie Eddie Goldman is the No. 1 nose tackle.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bears fans]

What actually does matter is whether or not an internal cohesion and comfort level in all three phases are forming, particularly given a nearly all-new coaching staff and so many new faces from the draft, veteran free agency and undrafteds.

“Everything is coming together, for sure,” said veteran safety Antrel Rolle, signed away from the New York Giants. “There's still a lot of work left to be done, which is expected, but things are coming together. The feeling is good and the tempo is great.

“We're just getting to know each other, and that definitely takes time. We're just waiting for it to all click.”

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. 

The Way We Hear It: Khalil Mack will probably play after all

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USA Today

The Way We Hear It: Khalil Mack will probably play after all

The Bears are back in Chicago and Tom Brady and the Patriots are in town! With a week of practice wrapping up today, here's what's been happening in the lead up to Sunday's Bears-Pats matchup: