Bears

Surfing to be official HS sport in Hawaii

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Surfing to be official HS sport in Hawaii

From Comcast SportsNet
HONOLULU (AP) -- Football wears the crown in Hawaii, but the real sport of kings is surfing. Hawaiian chiefs and royalty used to glide across the Pacific centuries ago as form of expression, to show courage and to compete. Today, it's big business and people ride waves across the world. "Hawaii is the birthplace of surfing," Gov. Neil Abercrombie said. "From Duke Kahanamoku to the thousands of residents and visitors who surf both recreationally and competitively, the sport is rooted in our culture and way of life." Abercrombie's comments come as Hawaii prepares to become the first state in the nation to make surfing an official high school sport, joining the likes of football, basketball, volleyball and swimming, starting as early as spring 2013. "It's quite clear, when you think of Hawaii, you think of surfing," said Abercrombie, with Waikiki beach behind him. The news conference was held near the statue of Kahanamoku, an island icon and Olympic gold medal swimmer known as the father of modern surfing. The Aloha State is known for its world-class surf breaks and competitions. It is home to many pro surfers and has produced several world champions including Hawaii's Carissa Moore, who this summer became the youngest world champion at 18. "I think it's awesome, and it will open doors for kids," said Moore, who welcomed the announcement. She said the sport taught her many life lessons growing up, such as hard work, perseverance, and time management. "Surfing and riding a wave is so much like life. You fall down over and over again, but you keep picking yourself back up until you ride one all the way to the beach," Moore said. "I know that's kind of cheesy, but I think surfing is definitely a really good outlet for a lot of teens and young kids. It's a way to channel a lot of energy into something positive. It's just really awesome." Hawaii has the only statewide public school district in the nation, which means surfing will be offered as a sanctioned prep sport in schools across the islands. Moore said it's "overdue." "I went through high school without it being a part the sports curriculum," she said. "It definitely was hard trying to find my own path and trying to convince my teachers that this is something that's really important to me and trying to find time and all that." The state Department of Education is working with the newly appointed Board of Education on developing a plan to implement surfing. Judging will be done similar to pro surf meets and there will be an individual boys and girls champions, as well as team champions, similar to golfing, said education board member Keith Amemiya, former head of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association. The board approved surfing in May 2004, but funding, safety concerns, liability and other challenges prevented the sport from becoming sanctioned. Amemiya said surfing often attracts athletes that may not be interested in traditional sports like football, baseball and soccer. "In our view, the more students that engage in athletics and other afterschool activities, the higher our student achievement rates will become," he said. With the addition of surfing, students in Hawaii public schools will have 19 different sports, believed to be the most of the nation -- from air riflery to bowling -- producing 44 state champions every year. Amemiya said the estimated cost of surfing in the first year about 150,000, with 50,000 already committed through private sources. "Because of these lean fiscal times, none of the DOE funding will be used to run the events," he said. "We're counting on the private sector and the public." The financially-strapped state is confident it will receive the necessary funding gauging from the interest from the community and corporate sponsors.

Bears' Nick Kwiatkoski was a top-5 inside linebacker in 2017

Bears' Nick Kwiatkoski was a top-5 inside linebacker in 2017

The Chicago Bears selected inside linebacker Roquan Smith in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft with the expectation that he'll become an immediate starter and impact player on defense. But, was there a need at inside linebacker?

According to Pro Football Focus, Nick Kwiatkoski, who Chicago selected in the fourth round of 2016's draft, was a standout performer last season. He ranked third in the NFL among inside linebackers in run-stop percentage and was fourth-best in pass-rush productivity.

Kwiatkoski also wasn’t tagged for a missed tackle against the run all season. He still has to share time on the field with Danny Trevathan and newly-drafted Roquan Smith, but should be able to capitalize on a great sophomore year after being drafted in the fourth round from West Virginia in 2016. Overall, Kwiatoski was graded as the NFL’s 12th best inside linebacker, higher than both Spaight and Hitchens.

His 21.0 pass-rush productivity ranked fourth and came on the heels of his rookie season in which he ranked 10th in the same category in 2016.

Kwiatkoski didn't receive much fanfare last season but the analytics speak for themselves. He started six games (appeared in 11) and registered career highs in tackles (34) and sacks (two). He's an ascending player but his growth is likely to be stunted by Smith's presence. 

Chicago could view Kwiatkoski as the heir to Danny Trevathan's starting job. The Bears can move on from Trevathan with little consequence at season's end. His dead cap number drops to just $1.25 million in 2019. Kwiatkoski will be in the final year of his contract that season (2019), and if he hasn't earned a starting job by then, he's a near lock to sign elsewhere when his rookie contract expires. 

Kwiatkoski has proven he can produce when given a chance to play, something 31 other teams have certainly taken notice of.

Pro Football Focus: Bears rank near bottom-third of NFL in pass protection

Pro Football Focus: Bears rank near bottom-third of NFL in pass protection

If the Chicago Bears want to make a real run at the playoffs in 2018, the offensive line will have to do its part by keeping QB Mitch Trubisky upright. The offense is expected to be more pass-heavy under coach Matt Nagy and will depend on Trubisky having time in the pocket to go through his progressions and find the open target.

New offensive line coach Harry Hiestand should help that cause. He's universally praised as one of the best offensive line coaches in the sport and will be charged with getting a better effort from a unit that ended last season ranked in the bottom-third of pass protection, according to Pro Football Focus.

19. CHICAGO BEARS

2017 pass-blocking efficiency: 77.9

Best individual PBE: Josh Sitton, 97.4

Because of several crippling injuries, nine different players saw at least 100 pass-block snaps for the Bears in 2017. They gave up 152 pressures on 536 passing plays. The top performance came from left tackle Charles Leno Jr., who enjoyed the best season of his career and allowed just 24 pressures all season. Heading into the 2018 campaign, rookie guard James Daniels is penciled in to fill the shoes of the recently departed pass-blocking star Josh Sitton. Daniels performed well in pass protection during his final college season, allowing just 10 pressures on 371 pass-blocking snaps at Iowa.

The Bears will be without last season's top pass-protector, Josh Sitton, who was let go by GM Ryan Pace this offseason and signed with the Dolphins. 

Pass protection was once all about the play of the offensive tackles, but with the NFL's interior defensive linemen evolving into disruptive forces up the middle, guard play will be nearly as important. A healthy Kyle Long is critical. Chicago can't afford growing pains from James Daniels, either. Cody Whitehair returns to full-time center duties, a role he excelled at during his rookie season. 

Charles Leno should provide reliable play at left tackle. Bobby Massie remains a wildcard, but with little depth behind him, the Bears can do nothing more than hope his bad reps are limited in 2018.

With Hiestand in the fold and a healthy Long ready to compete at a high level again, the Bears' offensive line should be much improved this season.