Bears

Rose a game-time decision vs. Trail Blazers

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Rose a game-time decision vs. Trail Blazers

If anything, one could never accuse Tom Thibodeau of being overly sentimental. When asked about the Bulls thrilling home win over the rival Heat, the teams head coach dismissed Wednesdays victory.

Thats gone, he said, following the teams Friday-morning shootaround at the Berto Center. Weve got to get ready for Portland.

You learn from every game, but that game is gone. Theres some things that we did well, some things that we can obviously do better, so you want to analyze the game, make your corrections, move forward and we have to be prepared for this game, he continued. Thats the challenge, to be looking at what youre facing that particular night. We have to make sure our focus is in the right area.

The Trail Blazers team that visits the United Center will be a shell of its former self, having fired head coach Nate McMillan and traded veteran mainstays Gerald Wallace and Marcus Camby at Thursdays NBA trade deadline.

They made the trade and theyll have different guys playing, and the guys they have, theyre tough, said Thibodeau, who will be reunited with the leagues oldest player, Kurt Thomas, the former Bulls big man. Its a team thats beaten Oklahoma City on the road. Theyve had some great wins. Theyve shown their capable of playing very well.

Very unfortunate. I thought he did an unbelievable job up there. Great guy, great coach and its one of the bad parts of the profession, he continued, when asked about McMillans dismissal. Ive watched him over the years. Hes a terrific coach.

Thibodeaus own squad will be short-handed Friday evening, as Derrick Rose is a game-time decision after missing Wednesdays win, C.J. Watson has the same status after returning to the lineup for the Heat game and Rip Hamilton remains out, though Luol Deng participated in Fridays shootaround and will play against Portland.

Rips out, Derrick is game-time, C.J.s game-time, said Thibodeau. Lus good, hes going.

Theyre getting better. Rips moving along. Hes doing more activity now. Hes running, hes gone on to the next phase, so thats encouraging, he continued. But again, were focusing in on the guys that are here and are playing right now, and were fortunate to have a deep team.

How the new kickoff rule may impact the Bears

How the new kickoff rule may impact the Bears

NFL owners voted for sweeping changes to the kickoff play Tuesday, a decision that presents a new challenge for Bears special teams coach Chris Tabor.

Player safety was the focus of the rule change. Collisions will be reduced and the play will look more like a punt than the traditional kickoff fans have become used to. Here's a breakdown of what's coming in 2018:

With less contact and physicality in the play, Tabor's game planning will be tested. Kickoffs won't require as many power players like the ones traditionally seen in the wedge block. Skill players like receivers, running backs and tight ends could be viewed as more valuable special teams pieces, as was suggested by NFL Network's Bucky Brooks.

Tarik Cohen could become even more lethal under the new rules. If kick returners end up with more space to navigate, Cohen will improve on the 583 return yards he managed as a rookie. He'll conjure memories of the recently retired Devin Hester.

The ability to contribute on special teams is critically important for players on the roster bubble. It'll be interesting to see if the Bears apply the approach suggested by Brooks. If they do, undrafted players like Matt Fleming and John Franklin III suddenly have more value and a better chance to make the team. 

For a complete breakdown of the new kickoff rule, click here.

Charles Leno dubbed Bears' best-kept secret

Charles Leno dubbed Bears' best-kept secret

Chicago Bears left tackle Charles Leno, Jr. deserves a lot of credit. After starting his career as a seventh-round pick and something of a longshot to ever earn a starting job, he's become an irreplaceable fixture at the most important position along the offensive line.

The four-year, $38 million contract extension he signed last offseason is evidence of that.

Despite his value to the Bears, Leno is still somewhat underrated across league circles. That may be about to change.

Leno was recently named Chicago's best-kept secret.

Leno has consistently improved as a pass protector since he was drafted in the seventh round in 2014 and is now one of the team's top 10 players. If he hit the open market, Leno might be a $60 million player with the way the offensive line market is exploding. Over the next four years, the Bears should save about $20 million on the market price for their starting-caliber left tackle.

Leno has enjoyed steady improvement since his rookie season. His grades from Pro Football Focus reflect that: 53.6 (2014), 56.3 (2015), 71.2 (2016) and 80.4 (2017). 

The Bears' offensive line is poised for a big season in 2018. Leno and Bobby Massie are back as starters at tackle. Rookie second-round pick James Daniels will pair with Kyle Long at guard and third-year pro, Cody Whitehair, will get back to focusing on being the team's starting center.

If Leno's trend of improved play continues, he's a great candidate to go from best-kept secret to league star in 2018.