Bears

Players bond over memories of .... childhood pets?

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Players bond over memories of .... childhood pets?

From Comcast SportsNet
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Jeff Fisher took an offbeat approach for breaking the ice when St. Louis Rams veterans and rookies met for the first time. Besides standing and reciting their names, schools, favorite movies, etc., during introductions, the new players were asked to recall the name of their first pet along with how it died. Fisher said several mentioned hamsters and turtles, while some remembered the family dog or cat getting squashed by trains or buses. "We had one whose parents just put him down that morning," Fisher said Wednesday. "You know, it was sad. No, it was good. Good introduction." Cornerback Cortland Finnegan recalled lighthearted goings on when he was a rookie playing for Fisher in Tennessee. There, he got saddled with the nickname Fido. "It's something coach Fisher always throws in there for giggles," Finnegan said. "I played the nickel and I would always run after the wrong guy." Rams rookies got hung with nicknames, too. Finnegan said one looked like Greg Oden, and another resembled Gonzo, the Muppet. There are limits to the frivolity. Players won't be asked to sing and Fisher went out of his way to emphasize there will be no hazing, no rookies taped to goal posts or the like. "They're here to help us win," he said after the team completed a second day of organized team activities. There is fresh optimism surrounding a franchise that's a sorry 15-65 the last five years. Defensive end Chris Long, the second overall pick of the 2008 draft, is playing for his fourth coach entering his fifth season and can't recall a vibe quite like this. "There's been a lot of changes since I've been here. This is by far the one I'm most excited about," Long said. "I think we're all very excited about it. It's a new beginning for a lot of people and, in the same sense, you have to re-prove yourself." Fisher does not seem worried about all those lean seasons in the recent past. "We've completely forgotten about last year," the coach said. "This is a team that's going out there to win, period. There's players that are emerging that were here. There's players that are improving. We've got an influx of talent through free agency and the draft and we're going to play hard and win games." Fisher said much of the base offense and defense have been installed. The Rams worked on situational play and the red zone Wednesday and might delve into the two-minute offense on Friday. A handful of rookies have been unable to attend. Running back Isaiah Pead, a second-round draft pick, was among four who attend schools on the quarter system and can't participate until the end of exams. Plus, Pead and two wide receivers who could get plugged into the offense immediately, second-rounder Brian Quick and fourth-rounder Chris Givens, are attending an NFL rookie premiere event in California. "It's mandated by the league that they come out there, so unfortunately they're missing some quality work," Fisher said. "It's a photo thing, and (trading) cards and those kinds of things. Really great timing." The Rams added a pair of veterans for depth, signing free agent linebacker Mario Haggan and offensive tackle Barry Richardson, and both were on the field Wednesday. Richardson started every game the last two seasons for the Kansas City Chiefs and the 32-year-old Haggan also has been strong on special teams.

Expectations continue to be high for Bears running back David Montgomery

Expectations continue to be high for Bears running back David Montgomery

The importance of second-year running back David Montgomery's development in 2020 will be overshadowed (rightfully so) by the Chicago Bears' quarterback competition this summer, but regardless of who opens the season as the starter, they'll need a reliable and steady running game to bring Matt Nagy's offense to Level 202, albeit a year late.

Montgomery flashed a lot to get excited about as a rookie. His 'want to' was undeniable, even when running lanes were few and far between. He was relentless in his effort, even on short gains, which suggests he has the potential to be one of the league's most productive running backs if he gets even a little bit of help from his offensive line.

And that's why he was one of the players identified as a Year 2 breakout candidate by NFL.com.

"[Montgomery] had a solid rookie season (889 rushing yards and seven total touchdowns)," Jeffery Chahida wrote, "but he's capable of so much more with a better offense. The Bears ranked 29th in the NFL in total offense last year, largely because embattled quarterback Mitch Trubisky struggled so mightily. That all could change if Nick Foles wins the job or simply pushes Trubisky to play at a higher level.

"Montgomery now enters this season as the only back on this roster who attempted more than 64 rushes last year, and the Bears didn't add another ball carrier in this draft. In other words, it's time for him to shine."

The Bears are taking a calculated risk betting on Montgomery as much as they have. Ryan Pace has gone all-in on the former third-round pick. If Montgomery fails, there are no realistic options on the roster to replace him. Tarik Cohen is who he is at this point — an offensive weapon who needs touches more than just carries. 

Ryan Nall? Artavis Pierce? Napoleon Maxwell?

Chicago's running back depth reads more like a practice squad roster than a group of players who can legitimately contribute on Sundays.

Assuming Montgomery stays healthy and Chicago doesn't add another running back over the next couple of months, he'll challenge to lead the league in carries in 2020. Last year's league-leader, Derrick Henry, carried the ball 303 times (an average of 19 times per game). Montgomery should easily hit that mark if the Bears are at least competitive this season.

If these numbers come to fruition, Montgomery will be more than just a Year 2 breakout player. He'll be a legitimate candidate to be the NFL's leading rusher.

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Bears' quarterback depth chart ranked near bottom of NFL

Bears' quarterback depth chart ranked near bottom of NFL

The Chicago Bears' fast approaching quarterback competition between Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles will be the headline story throughout training camp, but does it matter all that much who wins the job?  Whether it's Foles or Trubisky, there isn't much excitement for the Bears around the league regardless of who lines up behind center.

This sentiment is painfully obvious in a recent ranking of every team's quarterback depth chart. The combination of Trubisky and Foles ranked near the bottom of the NFL at No. 28.

The Chicago Bears seemed to finally admit their Mitchell Trubisky mistake, though they did so in a roundabout way, by acquiring Nick Foles from the Jacksonville Jaguars.

But Chicago smartly couldn't go with Trubisky and nothing else again. Last year, Trubisky completed 63.2 percent of his passes with just 17 touchdowns over 15 games as the Bears regressed from 12 wins to 8-8. He also posted a bottom-three QBR at 39.5.

The oddity is Foles as the solution. While he has past experience with quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo and some obvious postseason success, he's only completed 61.9 percent of his passes in his career, hasn't handled a full-time starting gig since 2015 and played in just four games last year.

The stats confirm a painful reality: aside from one miraculous Super Bowl season in Philadelphia, Foles, for the most part, has been Trubisky-like as a starting quarterback. Furthermore, Trubisky offers a more exciting skill set than Foles as a runner, which means if all things are equal as passers and game managers, shouldn't Trubiusky get the nod?

The winner of the Bears' quarterback competition won't have a long leash, no matter who it is. If Trubisky or Foles gets off to a slow start, it's conceivable they can be benched by Week 2. And then the worst-case-scenario unfolds in Chicago: a weekly quarterback controversy centered around two players who aren't good enough to lead the Bears to the promised land.

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