Bears

Eifert feels he made right call in returning to Notre Dame

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Eifert feels he made right call in returning to Notre Dame

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Tyler Eifert has heard it from all angles, the incessant questions about why he's only caught 34 passes a year after reeling in 63, tops among FBS tight ends in 2011. The soft-spoken senior from Fort Wayne, Ind., didn't seem too bothered by those questions, though, since he feels he's actually improved his draft stock in his senior year.

"I control what I can control, and thats making plays when I the opportunity, being a good teammate, blocking, playing my best when Im out there to help us win," Eifert said. "It hasnt been annoying, but what people dont really understand is theres a lot of people that are watching other things than how many catches you have."

Many see Eifert's outstanding stats from 2011 -- he also led FBS tight ends in yards -- and the subsequent dropoff in 2012 as a problem, one that could make him regret returning for his senior season. But Eifert has developed into more than just a pass-catcher in 2012, becoming a guy coach Brian Kelly frequently refers to as the real deal at tight end.

"This isn't about numbers this year," Kelly said. "This is about a guy that's developing himself as a complete tight end."

Eifert said he came close to declaring for the NFL Draft last winter, following Notre Dame's Champs Sports Bowl loss to Florida State. He weighed both options, and ultimately decided to return to South Bend, where he felt he could make himself into a first-round pick.

Most scouts loved Eifert's pass-catching ability, but had plenty of doubts about his ability to handle the other half of being a tight end.

"My knock has always been Im not a good blocker, so thats something I focused on and tried to get better at, and I think thats helped me," Eifert said.

But the decision to return wasn't just about improving for the NFL. While few could've predicted the success Notre Dame has seen in 2012, looking back, Eifert's glad he doesn't have to watch the team's title bid from afar.

"Id be kicking myself if I couldnt be a part of this team," Eifert said. "Im just really happy that I get to be a part of this team."

Eifert and quarterback Tommy Rees have a fantastic rapport, with Rees looking Eifert's way seemingly every time he enters a game for Everett Golson. Had Rees quarterbacked the Irish this year, perhaps Eifert's stats would be near where they were last year.

But as Golson worked through his development, Eifert has been left out of the box score. In Notre Dame's wins over Michigan State and Michigan, Eifert only caught one pass, and the tight end didn't record more than five catches until Nov. 3 against Pittsburgh.

"Id like to be catching more balls, as many balls as I did last year, but at the end of the day were winning football games and were winning football games the way that were playing this year, not the way were playing last year," Eifert explained. "Ive said it before, you cant really be frustrated with winning."

The Golson-Eifert connection has improved in the last two weeks, with Eifert catching 12 passes for 129 yards. After Notre Dame's win over Boston College, Golson spoke about how he's learned to let Eifert use his size to reel in passes, something Rees was adept at doing last year.

That's because Eifert is, with the right throws, a matchup nightmare. Few can keep the athletic 6-foot-6, 251-pound tight end from catching a well-thrown pass.

But Eifert's pass-catching ability was a known factor. The rest of his game wasn't, although his coach feels that's changed in 2012.

"If you asked the guys at the next level about Tyler Eifert, they really don't care about how many balls he caught because they know he can catch the football," Kelly said. "They're looking at other things that he's developed. He's going to find himself in a pretty good position in April."

If shoulder sidelines Trubisky, Bears postseason hope could turn on defense, capable No. 2 QB -- again

If shoulder sidelines Trubisky, Bears postseason hope could turn on defense, capable No. 2 QB -- again

The Bears defeat of the Minnesota Vikings produced two dominant story lines: that the Chicago defense is quite possibly even better than early indications, and that Mitchell Trubisky has a throwing-shoulder issue, severity unknown.
 
With the 2018 playoffs within reach, those two narratives are closely connected.
 
Because very good Bears teams have survived and even flourished in situations where an injury to the starting quarterback propelled a backup into his stead, with postseason results. Those results were sometimes less under the No. 2’s but the regular seasons did not automatically crumble. The overarching reason lay with the defenses at the other end of the locker room and that No. 2 being serviceable.
 
Irrespective of how Trubisky’s shoulder injury occurred – whether Vikings safety Harrison Smith is in fact a direct descendant of Charles Martin or Hugh Douglas – a scenario is in the offing that could require Chase Daniel to step in for Trubisky, if not as early as this Thursday in Detroit, then likely at some point of this or next season. The odds and elementary analytics of quarterback durability say so.
 
Which is where the matter of the defense and a capable No. 2 come in, as they sometimes have been able to on occasion in Bears history:

1985 -- Steve Fuller for Jim McMahon

McMahon was injured in a game-nine win and Fuller started the following week – against the Detroit Lions. The 24-3 win was followed by shutouts of Dallas and Atlanta, a three-game span in which the Bears’ defense scored more points (14) than the three opposing offenses (3).
 
 
1986 -- Mike Tomczak/Doug Flutie for McMahon

Green Bay defensive lineman Charles Martin was suspended for pile-driving McMahon into the turf, resulting in a season-ending shoulder injury for McMahon, who missed 10 total games in the season. The Bears fashioned the NFL’s best record (14-2) but did lose those two games behind backup Mike Tomczak, then lost in the first round of the playoffs under Doug Flutie.

2001 -- Jim Miller for Shane Matthews

Matthews started but was injured in game one at Baltimore. Miller replaced him and the Bears finished 13-3. But in the first round of the playoffs, Philadelphia defensive end Hugh Douglas body-slammed Miller after an interception, Miller left with a shoulder injury, the Bears lost and Miller was never the same.

2004 -- Hutchinson/Krenzel/Quinn for Rex Grossman

Lovie Smith installed Grossman as the starter. But Grossman injured knee ligaments and was replaced – unsuccessfully – by Chad Hutchinson, Craig Krenzel and Jonathan Quinn. The defense, building under Smith’s design, slumped with Brian Urlacher plagued by hamstring issues.

2005 -- Kyle Orton for Grossman

Grossman suffered a broken ankle in preseason. Rookie Kyle Orton went 10-5 as his replacement and with one of the great defenses in franchise history. But the Bears lost in round one of the playoffs with Grossman returned to starter.


2011-- Caleb Hanie for Jay Cutler

A 7-3 start dissolved when Cutler broke his right thumb and Hanie foundered despite a defense that still had Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman and Brian Urlacher. Josh McCown won a by-then-meaningless game 16.
 
 
2012 -- Jason Campbell for Cutler

When Cutler suffered a concussion against Houston, Jason Campbell stepped in against the Texans and the following week against the 49ers and their Vic Fangio defense. The Bears lost both those games, missed the playoffs at 10-6 and Smith was fired.
 
2013  -- Josh McCown for Cutler
 
Cutler was in and out of the lineup with injuries. McCown resurrected his career with his relief work, going 3-2 as interim starter and becoming the first Bears quarterback to pass for 300 yards in three straight games. Cutler returned from injury and was ordered back in as the starter by GM Phil Emery. With a historically bad Bears defense throughout the season, Cutler started the final three games, the Bears lost the last two to finish 8-8 and lose the division to 8-7-1 Green Bay.

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White Sox Talk Podcast: The White Sox prospect you may not know but you should

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Jody Stewart/Winston-Salem Dash

White Sox Talk Podcast: The White Sox prospect you may not know but you should

Zach Thompson might be off your radar, but the White Sox prospect is someone to watch in the White Sox organization, not just for what he's doing on the field, but for what he says off of it.

Chuck Garfien spoke with Thompson who had a 1.55 ERA last season with Winston-Salem and Birmingham. Thompson talks about the message he received from God that helped turn his career around (2:30), why he becomes a different person when he's on the mound (6:00), the talent he sees in the White Sox farm system, playing for Omar Vizquel (8:42), why he watches videos of open heart surgeries in the clubhouse (12:20) and more.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

White Sox Talk Podcast

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