Bears

PFT: Will Martellus Bennett fit with Patriots Way?

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PFT: Will Martellus Bennett fit with Patriots Way?

The trade of tight end Martellus Bennett by the Bears to the New England Patriots answered one question, that of whether or not Bennett was going to be in Chicago after a bumpy Bears history following signing a four-year, $20 million contract in 2013.

For whatever reasons, Bennett did not entirely fit with the Bears, irrespective of his 90 receptions in 2013 and other positives. He wanted more money, didn’t buy in to the programs of coaches Marc Trestman and then John Fox, and the issues finally got him out of town.

[MORE BEARS: Bears trade Martellus Bennett to resolve another 'fit' problem]

But NBC Sports cousin Mike Florio over at ProFootballTalk raised an intriguing question when we chatted early Thursday morning. Florio, with an outstanding set of sensors on the pulses around the NFL, wondered how Bennett would fit in with what rightfully can be called “The Patriot Way” and the culture that has formed around coach Bill Belichick and in particular Tom Brady.

"I have zero idea. And anyone who pretends to have a clear take on how Bennett will behave in any situation is delusional."

As Florio noted, Bennett is now not even the best tight end on the roster (Rob Gronkowski) and becomes realistically just another target for Brady along with Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola. If he was cranky at a perceived if non-existent lack of targets in Chicago, how will he react when no one is the least bit interested in his complaints?

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Bennett was less than a consummate professional in his early days with the Dallas Cowboys, as Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin told CSNChicago.com a couple training camps ago. And the New York Giants thought so much of him that they were fine with him leaving after one season there.

The Patriots are about rings and winning. How well Bennett adapts to them, and not vice versa, because that is never going to happen, will be a story line to watch, particularly if Bennett does not get the contract bump he tried to pressure out of the Bears.

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: