Preps Talk

Chicago must Bear Down, not letdown, against Carolina

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Chicago must Bear Down, not letdown, against Carolina

On paper, there's no way Carolina beats the Bears Sunday. But when it comes to judging a game just by the numbers, maybe we should think about those words of wisdom from one of my all-time favorite sportscasters, Brian Fantana, as he referenced, another type of...um... Panther:"Sixty percent of the time, it works every time."A 1-5 record creates a formidable scent. Quite pungent. It leaves young quarterbacks verbally fumbling in postgame press conferences, and costs general managers their job after ten years of service.But as my co-host on "Bears Blitz," Dan Jiggetts, duly noted on Thursday's show on Comcast SportsNet, take a closer look at four of those five losses (excluding the 36-7 Can of Thursday Night whooping they were handed by the Giants in Week 3):They dropped their opener by just six points in Tampa Bay against a Buccaneers team that's now piling up as many points as anyone the last three weeks. They led the still-unbeaten Falcons in Atlanta 28-24 in the 4th quarter before losing 30-28 on a game-ending field goal. Their real back-breakers have come the last two weeks at home, with another pair of close defeats: 16-12 to Seattle and 19-14 to Dallas (after leading 14-13 in the 4th). So they've been "in" every game but one.The problems have been on offense, scoring more than 14 points just twice. With the way the Bears defense is playing, that looks encouraging for Sunday on the lakefront.
But Carolina has more than 20 million in salary cap space on injured reserve, and still has Bears-killer Steve Smith, one of two players the defense has to prove it can contain. The other is Cam Newton, who embarrassed them a year ago. Opponents this year have generally slowed the sophomore quarterback's learning curve. The Bears need to add themselves to that list as they come off this short week before a suddenly tougher-looking date next Sunday in Tennessee precedes the Houston-San Francisco-Minnesota stretch. The signs say "blowout," but Ron Rivera's teams have found a way to hang around opponents.Speaking of the Vikings, perhaps they underestimated Tampa Bay Thursday night. Lovie Smith's teams have rarely wound up getting burned if and whenever they may have done that. The Buccaneers came in 2-4 and losers of nine straight road games. The Vikings were probably penciling in a 6-2 record. Instead, they're 5-3, and now hoping the Panthers can do the same thing to the 5-1 Bears Sunday.

90 Days to Kickoff: Warren

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NBC

90 Days to Kickoff: Warren

NBCSportsChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting July 30, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

School: Warren Township

Head coach: Bryan McNulty

Assistant coaches: Jim Voutiritsas, Brandon Schild, Justin Van Schaik, Tayler Erbach and Mark Mika

How they fared in 2017: 7-4 (5-2 North Suburban Conference). Warren Township made the IHSA 8A playoff field. The Blue Devils defeated Bolingbrook then lost to Maine South in second round action.

2018 Regular Season Schedule

Aug. 24 vs Barrington

Aug. 31 @ Glenbard North

Sept. 7 vs Waukegan

Sept. 14 vs Libertyville

Sept. 21 @ Lake Forest

Sept. 28 @ Zion-Benton

Oct. 5 vs Lake Zurich

Oct. 12 vs Stevenson

Oct. 19 @ Mundelein

Biggest storyline: Can The Blue Devils make it back-to-back postseason appearances and challenge for the North Suburban Conference title?

Names to watch this season: DL Zack Pelland, DT Willis Singleton and RB Martin Walker

Biggest holes to fill: The Blue Devils will need to find a new pass/catch tandem to replace graduated QB Ian Schilling and a strong group in the skills department, led by WR Micah Jones (Notre Dame).  

EDGY's Early Take: The Blue Devils had a nice 2017 season. After starting seven sophomores on the varsity level a year ago, head coach Bryan McNulty has the rare combination of youth and experience this fall. The defense will be a definite strength going into the season. The offense will rely on the running game, which features four starting offensive linemen back in the fold along with senior RB Martin Walker. If the passing game can come along, this team can once again challenge in the North Suburban Conference race and also in the overall 8A picture. 

Why Mitch Trubisky's biggest weakness won't preclude him from success in 2018

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USA Today Sports Images

Why Mitch Trubisky's biggest weakness won't preclude him from success in 2018

As the Bears set their foundation for training camp during OTAs this month, one part of that is beginning to identify each player’s strengths and weaknesses on which to build in Bourbonnais. 

Designing an offense to Mitch Trubisky’s strengths was one of the reasons why Ryan Pace hired Matt Nagy, who then hired Mark Helfrich to be his offensive coordinator. Easy is the wrong word — but it wouldn’t have made sense for the Bears to not build an offense around their second-picked quarterback. 

But as Nagy and Helfrich are installing that offense during OTAs and, next month, veteran minicamp, they’re also learning what Trubisky’s weaknesses are. And the one Helfrich pointed to, in a way, is a positive. 

“Experience,” Helfrich said. “I think it’s 100 percent experience and just reps, and that’s kind of what I was talking about was knowing why something happened. As a quarterback, he might take the perfect drop and be looking at the right guy in your progression, and that guy runs the wrong route or the left guard busts or something. The defense does something different or wrong, even. And trusting that is just a matter of putting rep on top of rep on top of rep and being confident.”

It'd be a concern if the Bears thought Trubisky lacked the necessary talent to be great, or had a lacking work ethic or bad attitude. Experience isn't something he can control, in a way. 

This isn’t anything new for Trubisky. His lack of experience at North Carolina — he only started 13 games there — was the biggest ding to his draft stock a year ago; while he started a dozen games for the Bears in 2017, the offense was simple and conservative, designed to minimize risk for Trubisky (and, to be fair, a sub-optimal group of weapons around him). 

But even if Trubisky started all 16 games in an innovative, aggressive offense last year, he’d still be experiencing plenty of things for the first time. Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger made this point back in September that still resonates now with regard to Trubisky:

“I think it takes a few years until you can really get that title of understanding being great or even good, because you see so many looks,” Roethlisberger said. “In Year 2 and 3, you’re still seeing looks and can act like a rookie.”

So the challenge for Nagy and Helfrich is to build an offense that accentuates Trubisky’s strengths while managing his lack of experience. For what it’s worth, the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles succeeded in those efforts last year with Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, respectively. 

For Helfrich, though, one of Trubisky’s strengths — his leadership qualities — are already helping mitigate his need for more experience. 

“He’s still in the mode of learning and doing things out here,” Helfrich said. “We might have run one play 10 times against 10 different defenses, you know? And so his response to every one of those 10 things is brand new. And so, you see his reaction to some of those is good. Some of those things you want to improve upon and then keep your chest up and lead because we need that.”