Bears

Moon's Notebook: Will Bears spy Michael Vick?

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Moon's Notebook: Will Bears spy Michael Vick?

Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2010
5:53 PM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Michael Vick isnt pointing fingers with respect to his problems, including the ones on football fields where he has been an underachiever based on being a No. 1-overall draft choice and one of the great all-around athletes of his era.

Hes pointing the thumb.

Not being more successful before this season didnt have anything to do with the coaches, Vick said. It was pretty much me.

You have to have the desire to want to be great. Your coaches can only talk to you about it, inform you of things you can and cant do. Its up to you, at the end of the day. And basically I didnt take advantage of the time that I had, and the opportunities that I had.

So I had to just start from Ground Zero.

Fort Knox

The Bears may not have a classic No. 1 wide receiver but Johnny Knox continues to do an awfully good impersonation of one.

The second-year wideout, an accidental starter as a rookie only because Devin Aromashodu was injured in training camp, has caught 37 passes through 10 games. The rate of reception (3.7 per game) is up slightly from the 3.0 he averaged in 15 games as a rookie, although he has only one TD vs. 5 last season.

But the real difference in Knox is showing up in big plays. Knox is averaging 18.2 yards per catch this year after a surprisingly modest 11.7 last year; surprising, because Knox is possessed of more speed than anyone else on the roster (Devin Hester and Danieal Manning may dispute that). And it is giving his quarterback a new level to which to throw.

Hes the kind of guy youve got to quietly account for him defensively, because if not, hell get going, said quarterback Jay Cutler. Hes got so much speed in that second level that hell get away from you in a hurry.

Knox came into the league from Abilene Christian (Tex.), the same school that gave the Bears Manning. When he arrived the Bears were deep into the Ron Turner version of the West Coast offense. Now he has switched to Mike Martzs program.

I think hes getting better and better with his routes, Cutler said. Hes getting better and better at learning the offense. Hes still a young player in the league, so to have to learn two different offenses as quickly as hes had to learn them is tough.

Spy games

Vick noted that teams seldom any more resort to the spy system, assigning one defensive player to be locked onto him at all times during a play. The Washington Redskins did that for several plays and Vick annihilated the Redskins in perhaps the greatest performance of his career, throwing for four touchdowns and running for two.

The Bears did some of that way back in the early years of Brian Urlachers career, and they limited Vicks Atlanta Falcons teams to one TD in three games. They certainly could use that approach again but their favored defense makes it almost redundant.

All of our players will know where he is most of the game, coach Lovie Smith said. We probably play more zone coverage than we do man. One of the benefits of playing zone coverage is you have everybody looking at the quarterback.

But whether we spy, well know where he is most of the time. Hes not really hard to know where he is.

Sack man

Defensive end Julius Peppers was named NFC defensive player of the week after recording 3 sacks and deflecting a pass that was intercepted by cornerback Charles Tillman in the Bears 16-0 shutout victory at Miami in Week 11. The three sacks by Peppers tied a career-high and marked the eighth time he has had a three-sack performance since entering the league in 2002, the most by any player over that span.

Peppers three sacks were the most by a Bears player since Adewale Ogunleye had three at Oakland in Week 10 of the 2007 season. The honor is the fourth of Peppers career and his first in a Bears uniform. It is the third Player of the Week award for the Bears this season: Matt Forte (offensive, week 1) and Hester (special teams, week 10).

Sick bay

The Bears and Eagles are headed into Sundays game as perhaps the two healthiest teams in the NFL. The Bears had only linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa limited in practice while the Eagles had only defensive end Juqua Parker (hip) and cornerback Asante Samuel (knee), the NFL leader in interceptions, held out of practice.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

Why 'Turbo' Taylor Gabriel fell in love with the slow-paced game of golf

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USA Today

Why 'Turbo' Taylor Gabriel fell in love with the slow-paced game of golf

Plenty of NFL players will use the league’s mandated five-week summer break to play a little golf as a way to relax and recharge for the grind of training camp and regular season. But you won’t find many players who take golf more seriously than Bears wide receiver Taylor Gabriel. 

Which is a little ironic on the surface, right? Gabriel’s nickname is “Turbo,” after all. 

“Yeah, that’s very weird when I think about it,” Gabriel laughed. “It’s not a sport to where you’re running and jumping, and I wouldn’t say not doing anything really athletic — it’s more mental than anything. 

“But I feel like it kind of helps me football-wise in the sense of kind of focus. Like dialing in on that swing, keeping that same swing rhythm pattern, not getting too frustrated after I just sliced a drive or go O.B. on the driver. So it’s helping me.”

Gabriel had played sporadically earlier in his life, and said his father golfs, but didn’t get hooked by the sport until last April while watching Tiger Woods win the Masters. He bought his first set of nice clubs after that remarkable weekend in Augusta and frequently posts videos of his swing to his Instagram account.  

So it’s become a serious hobby of his — “There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t practice,” he said. It’s also something he and his wife do together. 

Though he admitted his wife is a better golfer than he is. 

“She’s not trying to crush the ball, she’s not trying to do too much, but she keeps that consistent same rhythm, same swing, same follow-through every time,” Gabriel said. “Me, I might see the hole is probably 180 (yards) out, I mean, I just want to crush it on the green. And that’s when everything goes wrong.”

Still, for someone who’s only been seriously golfing for about two months, that Gabriel said he can consistently hit his drives 240 yards is rather impressive (being an exceptional athlete, certainly, has to help). But this isn’t some casual love affair with golf — it’s a legitimate way for Gabriel to take his mind off football while staying sharp mentally and doing something he’s quickly grown to genuinely enjoy doing. 

“It’s relaxing, just playing 18 holes — I’m a walker, I like walking,” Gabriel said. “Eighteen holes kind of figuring out your swing, what you did wrong, you know what I mean, just being on the golf course, relaxing, the atmosphere. But at the end of the day I’ve been doing pretty good. I’ve been hitting them pretty straight, I’ve been putting them pretty good, so I guess I’m catching on quick. 

“But every time I ask a golfer, I mean, how long did it take for you guys to get a consistent swing, they say 20 years. I mean, I got that to look forward to.”  

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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