Bears

'Best available' has Bears leaning toward pass rusher or DB as draft approaches

'Best available' has Bears leaning toward pass rusher or DB as draft approaches

With the 2017 draft now one month off, decisions are firming and options considered. And the Bears have given themselves interesting options at the No. 3 pick.
 
Adding quarterbacks (Mike Glennon, Mark Sanchez), cornerbacks (Prince Amukamara, Marcus Cooper) and a safety (Quintin Demps) have the immediate effect of filling their most dire of the position needs and reducing the pressure to place need above quality, never a good situation.
 
Instead the Bears are positioned to stay with their preferred best-available philosophy, with strongest indicators pointing to a defensive player in a draft considered by many to be among the best-ever for defensive backs.
 
Which remains a need, two needs actually, even with free-agent additions.
 
The Bears do not have a proven elite-grade cornerback; Cooper is considered ascending, but Amukamara was signed to a one-year deal for a reason, Kyle Fuller missed all last season after ostensibly minor knee surgery, and Tracy Porter turns 31 in August and has just 3 total interceptions through two Bears seasons.

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The 2016 draft had five cornerbacks selected in the first 25 picks, led by Jalen Ramsey to Jacksonville at No. 5. Four went in the 2015 first round but none before Trae Waynes to Minnesota at No. 12. The 2014 class had five in the first 31 picks.
 
This draft is projected to have starter-quality corners as late as the fourth round but the Bears have those; they don’t have the definitive depth-chart-topper.
 
And they do not have a ball-hawking free safety, which GM Ryan Pace considers one of the most difficult positions to fill, and of which the 2017 has a couple.
 
"Obviously, the league has shifted toward passing quite a bit," coach John Fox said during this week’s owners meetings. "I think largely because a lot of the rules of the game for a long time there has been more yards per pass than more yards per rush.

"Because of that, you don’t need in many cases a big, banger box safety. When I was with the New York Giants in the late '90s, my safeties were 6-3, 220. Now [offensive] people are going to no-backs. Obviously, it’s not going to be a run. So you’re covering specialized backs, specialized tight ends. So you have to be more corner-like to play safety, as far as cover ability, range, defending passes way more than runs."
 
The Bears traded up to invest a Top 10 pick (and the fourth-round selection needed to move up from No. 11 to 9) in a pass rusher with Leonard Floyd. One could be available around No. 3 if edge rushers Myles Garrett and Solomon Thomas don't go 1-2.

"I’ve always been of the belief that the best pass defense is the pass rush," Fox said. "There are a lot of different coverages, a lot of different schemes. But at the end of the day, when you’re putting pressure on the quarterback – and not just sacks – but pressing the quarterback puts stress on him to make errors. I think we still need to improve in that area. I think we have improved. But we still need to improve."

ICYMI: The Bears lose in OT, the Bulls season nears, the Blackhawks make history

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USA TODAY

ICYMI: The Bears lose in OT, the Bulls season nears, the Blackhawks make history

The Bears suffered a heartbreaking defeat (that makes two of those), but the Bulls are days away from the start of a new season and the Blackhawks did something that has never happened before in sports history.

Bears

The Bears had a slow first half, failing to score against the shorthanded Dolphins, but picked things up in the third quarter. It all fell apart late in the fourth quarter and then again in overtime in a 31-28 defeat. Miami went up against the Bears without starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill, but Brock Osweiler threw for 380 yards and three touchdowns. What does that say about the Bears' defense?

Matt Nagy was a bit chippy with the media after the game, but there were still positive signs from the offense.

Plus, Dwyane Wade was there and repped the Bears on the road.

Bulls

The Bulls wrapped up the preseason Friday with a 98-93 loss to the Nuggets. Wendell Carter Jr. and Bobby Portis both showed well in the preseason finale and Jabari Parker flashed his potential as well.

With the preseason complete, Mark Strotman graded each player on the Bulls roster. You may not want to calculate the team GPA.

The roster is being finalized as well, with Ryan Arcidiacono making the team and local product Tyler Ulis getting picked up off waivers.

Blackhawks

Saturday was an eventful day for the Blackhawks. First, it marked the 1,000th career game for Duncan Keith. Keith talked about the emotional night after the game.

As for the game itself, the Blackhawks beat the Blues 4-3 in overtime. That was the second time the Hawks beat the Blues in OT this season, adding to a 5-4 OT win in St. Louis on Oct. 6.

Unbelievably, that was the fifth straight OT game for the Blackhawks. Every game has gone to overtime this season, and not one of those has even gone to a shootout. No NHL team has done that since the league introduced a regular-season overtime period in 1983-84, per the Elias Sports Bureau. Overtimes are more rare in other sports, but that also holds true for the NBA, NFL and MLB.

The Hawks don't play against until Thursday, when the host Arizona.

Bears notes: Was Trey Burton’s penalty justified?

Bears notes: Was Trey Burton’s penalty justified?

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — In a game full of pivotal moments, one seemed to irk the Bears in particular following Sunday’s 31-28 overtime loss to the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium.

Driving on the Dolphins three-yard line, the Bears lined up in a T formation with Jordan Howard, Trey Burton and Tarik Cohen lined up left to right in the backfield behind Mitch Trubisky, who was under center. Burton motioned out of the backfield and to the right, and ran his route into linebacker Kiko Alonso.

Trubisky threw a short pass to a wide open Cohen for a touchdown, with Alonso late getting to the running back after being hit by Burton. But that score was taken off the board for offensive pass interference, with officials ruling what Burton did amounted to an illegal pick play.

“Trey did everything I asked him to do,” Matt Nagy said, sharply.

On the next play, Trubisky forced a pass into double coverage in the end zone, which was easily picked off by Dolphins safety T.J. McDonald. Miami turned that interception into eight points on Albert Wilson’s 43-yard touchdown and an ensuing two-point conversion.

The way Burton understood the rule was that offensive pass interference was only assessed on a pick play if he intentionally ran into a defender without running a true route. That’s what Burton felt he did; the officiating crew disagreed.

“I thought I ran a route and the guy ran into me,” Burton said. “I thought they changed the rule this year or last year — if you run the route, it doesn’t matter if you pick the guy or not, you’re good. Obviously they called it.”

A Rough Return

The conversations surrounding the Bears Sunday into Monday would be awfully different had a number of things happened — Trubisky doesn’t throw that interception, the Bears’ defense gets a stop, Tarik Cohen doesn’t fumble near midfield, etc. In that same group: If Cody Parkey hits what would’ve been a game-winning 53-yard field goal in overtime.

Parkey, instead, missed that kick wide right. His career long is 54 yards, which he hit last year while with the Miami Dolphins (and that was a game-winner with about a minute left against the Los Angeles Chargers).

“I had the distance, I just didn’t kick it straight enough, bottom line,” Parkey said. “But you’ve got to move on. I’ve made game winners, I’ve missed game winners. As long as I keep playing, I’m just going to keep trying to kick my best.

“… I control what I can control, and unfortunately I missed a field goal. I’d like to have that one back, but it is what it is and I’m just going to focus on the next game. That’s all I can do.”