Bears

Hype and Money

Hype and Money

Friday, July 2, 2010
1:09 AM

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

Just in time for the most American of holidays, those of us who follow sports with unbridled passion are getting a heaping dose of the dynamic duo of the American sporting world. Can you venture into any form of media these days without avoiding the LeBron saga? The amount of attention that hes getting is making Brett Favre blush. The funny thing about this is, Im being asked more questions about NBA free agency than I was about the ENTIRE NBA season! And why not? It combines two of our favorite things: speculation and big time bucks.

The beauty of the constant speculation and opinions being offered is that until LeBron decides, nobodys wrong (operative word being YET!). Who wants to debate the misery that is the Cubs when the pipe dream of LeBrons eminent arrival can dance like sugar plums in the heads of the Chicago sports fan, still intoxicated from the Blackhawks run of a lifetime? (Has anyone else been traded in the last 5 minutes?) Ive always joked, when asked which was my favorite of the teams that I rooted for, that it was always the one that was in their off-season because they at least had hope. Same way here. As long as we dont know, and no one does know, its fun to dream of what can be, like when you waste your money, again, on a Mega-Millions ticket. For now, the LeBron saga has no escape hatch. On radio, TV, or the internet, its 24-7 on whos going where and why, and whos not going anywhere, and why. And also for now, unlike with Favre, Im not fed up with it (YET!).

Like I said before, this past NBA season had a decided lack of interest. People are still fans, but I just dont think that they care as much. I think that one of the reasons is because of the restrictive NBA salary cap, the lack of movement of some top players deprives the NBA of a shot in the arm in cities with struggling teams or teams that are close and need that final piece. It seems that when teams are bad that they stay bad for a long time, until the weight of a bad contract can be lifted. Can you say Ben Wallace? While especially in baseball and football there are ways to deal with a bad contract, theres not a lot of wiggle room in the NBA. Before the season starts, we already know who the major players are, so just like with any NBA game, you just have to tune in at the end. So the prospect of a half-dozen marquis players changing teams, with the possibility of some of them pairing up together is very enticing. Then you have my favorite part of this whole drama: the wild-card. While everything I listen to is pretty straight forward, Chicago and Cleveland are his probable destinations, I would like to think, that with so many moving parts in this game of musical chairs, that something strange could happen, something that no one expected. Thats why one of my favorite things to do while discussing this at the bar is to bring up the crazy Russian theory. That would be the owner of the New Jersey Nets, billionaire Mikhail Prokorov.

This dude is worth BIG-TIME money. Im just thinking out loud here, but I dont think he became the 39th richest person in the world, according to Forbes, by finishing in second place a lot. Hes taking on some risk buying into the league, but is he just another Donald Sterling, content to be the joke second team of a major media market? Do you think co-owner, rap mogul Jay-Z, would buy into that? For both of these guys, everything they touch turns into gold, LITERALLY, would they settle for less here? Doesnt every athlete want to be a musician and every musician an athlete? If you wanted to get into music, wouldnt you want to have Jay-Z close by? And despite the 70 loss season of last year, there are some nice pieces in New Jersey in Brook Lopez, (The Big man in the post every winning team needs.) Devin Harris and Courtney Lee. First round draft picks Derrick Favors and Damion James are extremely talented and well thought of. These guys are better than anything the Knicks have, plus playing in Newark or Brooklyn would still mean that youre a player in the largest media market in the world. Also as an aside, I love the hiring of Avery Johnson as head coach. Hes a great motivator and a winner. So does LeBron to New Jersey seem that far fetched? And thats the beauty of playing this game for us fans, until its over, almost anything can make sense. Come into the bar over the weekend and on Saturday Ill tell you why he definitely is staying in Cleveland and on Sunday why hes going to the Knicks. Im just doing my best to keep the hype machine going and the beer taps flowing!

Three questions for Bears pass rush: What is Leonard Floyd's ceiling?

Three questions for Bears pass rush: What is Leonard Floyd's ceiling?

 

Pre-camp depth chart

1. Leonard Floyd
2. Isaiah Irving
3. Kylie Fitts
4. Elijah Norris
5. Josh Woods

1. Sam Acho
2. Aaron Lynch
3. Kasim Edebali
4. Andrew Trumbetti

1. What is Leonard Floyd’s ceiling?

Floyd’s career to this point has been limited by injuries, but in the 22 games in which he’s played he’s only averaged one sack every 97 snaps. That’s essentially what Pernell McPhee provided last year (one sack ever 96 snaps), for comparison’s sake. The point being: Not only do we not know if Floyd can stay healthy for a full year, we might not know if he can live up to the expectations for a top-10-picked pass rusher.

Coaches and Floyd felt like they fixed the reason for Floyd’s concussion issues from his rookie year, which they believed was the product of poor tackling form. Floyd’s season-ending knee injury last year was a freak, unavoidable one, to be fair — but he’s still missed a total of 10 games in his two-year career.

The Bears haven’t lost confidence in Floyd’s potential, though — if that were the case, Ryan Pace likely would’ve added more to his team’s outside linebacking corps. In the short term, Floyd is a key player to watch in Bourbonnais — impactful practices are important for building up his mental confidence in his knee. In the long term, the Bears’ bet on Floyd needs to pay off, otherwise this pass rush may not be good enough in a quarterback-centric division.

2. Can Aaron Lynch be a diamond in the rough?

Lynch had a productive rookie year under Vic Fangio in 2014, recording six sacks and looking like a nice fifth-round find for the San Francisco 49ers. After Fangio was passed over for the 49ers’ head coaching job and left for the Bears, Lynch still notched 6 1/2 sacks in 2015.

But he only appeared in 14 games in 2016 and 2017 due to conditioning and injury issues, as well as a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on substances of abuse. When Lynch did play, he wasn’t effective, with only 2 1/2 sacks in those 14 games covering 379 snaps.

So that’s why Lynch signed for only one year and $4 million, with only $1.25 million of his salary guaranteed, according to Spotrac. The Bears hope a fresh start and reunion with Fangio will benefit Lynch, but the prove-it nature of his contract doesn’t guarantee him anything more than a chance.

“It’s exciting getting back with Vic, you know, he drafted me,” Lynch said. “I know his defense. So being it's something I'm used to and the fresh start like I mean, I've had my ups and downs in this league and it's just nice to come here to people with open arms that believe in me so now I've just got to come here and play football so it feels amazing.”

Getting six or so sacks out of Lynch would be huge for the Bears’ defense, but those efforts begin with the 25-year-old staying healthy. That Lynch suffered hamstring and ankle injuries during the offseason program was a little concerning, even if they weren’t characterized as anything but minor knocks.

3. What are fair expectations for Kylie Fitts?

The 6-foot-4, 265 pound Fitts is an intriguing prospect in that he tested well at the NFL Combine and, before injuries limited his junior and senior years, posted an eye-popping 2015 (seven TFLs, seven sacks, 10 pass break-ups, four forced fumbles). Fitts doesn’t believe the injuries he suffered at Utah (Lisfranc/foot, ankle sprain, shoulder sprain) will linger or pop back up in his pro career, though.

“I think I got all my injuries over with,” Fitts said. “I think it’s just a run of bad luck and it’s over now. I’m healthy, feeling good now, and I’m banking on remaining healthy and playing good.”

Still, every team in the NFL passed on Fitts until the Bears used the 181st pick to draft him in April. That doesn’t mean he won’t have success — Jordan Howard was the 150th pick in the 2016 draft, after all — but he’ll head to Bourbonnais with plenty of work to do to earn a role in Fangio’s defense. The Bears’ outside linebacking depth chart may not look strong, but that doesn’t mean Fitts will waltz into a prominent role. What he does in practices and preseason games will go a long way toward determining his outlook for 2018.

Bears' pass rush is one of NFL's worst, says PFF

Bears' pass rush is one of NFL's worst, says PFF

The Chicago Bears play in a division with Aaron Rodgers, Kirk Cousins and Matthew Stafford, so it's pretty obvious that a key to this season will be the defense's pass rush.

Unfortunately, getting after the quarterback doesn't appear to be a strength of defensive coordinator Vic Fangio's unit. According to Pro Football Focus, the Bears have one of the worst group of pass rushers in the NFL.

Right now, expectations for what the Bears can expect off the edge pass-rush wise should be very low. Injuries have slowed Floyd’s development after he was drafted with the ninth overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, leading to just 72 total pressures through three seasons. Starting opposite him will likely be Acho, with Lynch in on nickel pass-rushing packages. Lynch has averaged four sacks, and just over six hits and 21 hurries per season in his four-year career. The Bears top pass-rusher right now is Hicks on the defensive interior, and after producing 49 total pressures in 2017, he will likely need to be their top pass-rusher again in 2018.

If Sam Acho ends up starting opposite Leonard Floyd, then Aaron Lynch will go down as a free-agent bust. He was signed to start, not to be a rotational pass rusher. In fact, it's Acho who's better equipped to rotate into the lineup and provide a burst of energy when needed. 

Sixth-round pick Kylie Fitts is another candidate to bring pressure off the edge for the Bears, but he too is a great unknown. His college resume is littered with injuries and more potential than production. Chicago is high on him, however, and he could be another day-three steal to add to Ryan Pace's draft catalog.

Ultimately, the Bears' pass rush will come down to Floyd and whether he can become the elite sack artist he was drafted to be. In fact, he's entering something of a make-or-break year. If he doesn't prove he can stay healthy enough to register 10 or more sacks this season, Chicago may have to re-think its plan at edge rusher.