Rookies McClellin, Jeffery show why they were high picks


Rookies McClellin, Jeffery show why they were high picks

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. The top of the 2012 Bears rookie class flashed on Thursday with the kinds of performances that made Shea McClellin and Alshon Jeffery Chicagos first two picks in the April draft.

McClellin, for the first time showing up repeatedly with impact plays, brought a roar from the crowd when he leaped and intercepted a Jason Campbell pass at the line. That was followed later by a sack in the full-team session, another near-sack on which he pulled up before impact, and several plays into the backfield that produced simulated tackles for loss.

The interception in particular was impressive, said coach Lovie Smith. But hes capable of making plays like that. When youre a first-round draft pick, theres a lot of pressure on you to be All-Pro right away. It takes time.

But he has great quickness and speed. He works hard. Good athletic ability. Nothing should stop him from being a real good football player.

Jeffery was elevated to the starting lineup opposite Brandon Marshall as coaches held out Devin Hester, who suffered an ankle strain last Saturday and has not rested it. He caught several mid-range throws from Jay Cutler and showed more of his ability to win strength battles against defensive backs for balls.

Hes got unbelievable hands, said receivers coach Darryl Drake. He has an unbelievable ability to catch the football. Thats one thing that he does have. He has size. His ability to catch the football. Hes a much better route runner than people realize. His route-running style is different so people dont see it. But he takes great angles.

Hes a little herky-jerky at times. Hes big. Hes long. His running style is a little different than some guys. But I really, really like what he does.

McClellins play was notable for reasons beyond just the playmaking. He was left on the field with second and third units and ended up taking more reps than any other defensive lineman.

But the more he was on the field, the more he was involved in plays. He beat tiring linemen with combination moves and clearly gaining confidence even as he works to change from a predominantly stand-up player to having his hand on the ground and engaging offensive tackles and tight ends right off the snap.

I would say Ive got pretty good stamina, Im a grinder and always try to go 100 percent, McClellin said. I think the heavy workload helps a little bit, yeah.

Bulls turn to Cam Payne as they take on Sixers


Bulls turn to Cam Payne as they take on Sixers

PHILADELPHIA -- The Bulls’ starting point guard missing the team’s season opener is less than ideal, but that is the dilemma Fred Hoiberg and company are faced with.

Hoiberg made the announcement during shoot around that Kris Dunn would miss the first game of his third NBA season for personal reasons, but noted that his absence is “excused.”

The Bulls will turn to Cameron Payne as they get set to play the Sixers in Philadelphia Thursday night. The 24-year-old guard out of Murray State will be tasked with running the offense against one of the better defensive teams in the league.

Because of injuries and the numbers game at guard, Payne hasn’t had a chance to show Bulls fans much since he came over from Oklahoma City in a trade that sent Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott to the Thunder.

“I feel like I can be way better,” Payne said when asked about the opportunity to show what he can do. “I know I didn’t make a lot of shots but it’s really not about that. It’s about getting my team involved and make sure everyone gets the ball in their spots to contribute.”

Payne showed flashes over the last 22 games of the 2017-18 season (14 starts), shooting 42 percent from three and averaging 4.6 assists per game in that stretch. The shooting stroke didn’t show up early in the preseason for Payne.

He was better in the team’s final exhibition against Denver and has shown enough to Hoiberg to earn the starting nod. He’ll have his work cut out for him tonight.

“Obviously we’ve been working on different coverages based on having a full roster, but things like this happen,” Hoiberg said when asked what this does to his game prep. “It’s going to be electric in here. They’re going to come out and play extremely hard and extremely physical. That’s who they are and we have to be ready for that. It’s a little bit of shock and awe with (the Sixers). You have to weather that first storm and hopefully give ourselves a chance with great effort.”

After Payne, the Bulls will have Ryan Arcidiacono as the first point guard off the bench. They’ll also have the services of newcomer Tyler Ulis, who will be in uniform tonight. Hoiberg mentioned that he feels comfortable with Zach Lavine bringing the ball up as well. He also mentioned that Jabari Parker will have his hands on the ball an awful lot with the team’s second unit.

The season hasn’t even started yet and the Bulls are already missing several key players. After an impressive rookie season, Lauri Markkanen will start the season on the shelf with a high grade lateral elbow sprain. Denzel Valentine will also miss tonight’s game with an ankle injury. The team may have Cristiano Felicio, also dealing with an ankle injury, depending on his pregame workout goes.

“It’s not ideal but it is what it is,” Hoiberg said. “It happens at this level. You just have to go out and do the best job you can. It’s an opportunity for our guys to step up with two of our better players out of the lineup – really three with Denzel as a guy that can make plays in that second unit.”   

Bears return to Soldier Field as home underdogs against the Patriots

Bears return to Soldier Field as home underdogs against the Patriots

The Bears were getting used to life in the big chair. Chicago was favored in each of their last four games, but it all came crashing down at the hands of Brock Osweiler in overtime last week.

The Miami Dolphins pulled off the upset, and now the Bears return home to take on one of the best teams in the league.

Even if they had won in Miami, Chicago likely still would have been underdogs to the New England Patriots on Sunday, but as it stands, Bill Belichick and company are favored by three on most major sportsbooks, according to Vegas Insider.

The line initially opened at Patriots by 2.5, but it would seem that money placed on New England pushed the spread a little more in the Bears’ favor.

Vegas is expecting another higher-scoring game for both teams, with the over/under sitting at 49. Given that the Patriots have scored at least 38 points in each of their last three games, the Bears’ defense may have some trouble keeping this game low on the scoreboard.

In Week 6, home underdogs went 4-1 against the spread and 3-2 straight up. According to Bet America, home underdogs have covered in 20 of their 30 games this season, which bodes well for a Bears team facing a tough task at Soldier Field.