Bears

Usain Bolt is not running like Usain Bolt

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Usain Bolt is not running like Usain Bolt

From Comcast SportsNet
KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) -- In the 100, it was the start. In the 200, it was the curve. Safe to say Usain Bolt has plenty to work on and not much time to do it -- and that's before he even starts thinking about the man who kept beating him at the Jamaican Olympic trials, Yohan Blake. When Bolt awoke Monday morning, there were 33 days until the start of the 100-meter sprints at the London Olympics, where the British sports books list him at 4-6 to win -- still a favorite to earn the "living legend" status he seeks at the upcoming games but a much less prohibitive one than he was before trials began. "I never train for one person," Bolt said. "Everyone is talking about Yohan Blake and he is proving himself as one of the greatest. But for me, it's going back to training, getting back to work to and getting done what I've got to get done." If Bolt does get things back on track, will that be enough? Great question. In the 200, the smart money would say yes, at least if Sunday's performances are any gauge. Blake won in 19.80 seconds into a slight headwind -- not all that impressive a time for a man who has run 19.26. Bolt, of course, holds the world record at 19.19. He ran 19.83. "They ran 19.8. That's the world-record holder who ran 19.1 and the second fastest man in history who ran 19.2," said Wallace Spearmon, who won U.S. trials Sunday in 19.82. "Honestly, I figured they'd run about 19.5 or 19.6 today. (That) caught me off guard a little. Not a bad thing, but I didn't know." In the 100, however, things appear less certain, even if Bolt does bring his game up a notch. Before Friday, Blake had never run faster than 9.82. On Friday, he finished in 9.75 -- the eighth-fastest time ever. He won by .11 seconds and there was a significant amount of daylight between Blake and Bolt at the finish line. The World's Fastest Man is no stranger to bad starts -- he was in the back of the field coming out of the blocks when he set the world record at the Olympics -- but he has almost always been able to make up the ground. The rare exceptions: a loss to Tyson Gay during a 2010 season in which Bolt was at less than 100 percent, and this latest setback against Blake. "We'll discover what the problem is," coach Glen Mills said. "At 6-5, he's not going to be the fastest starter in the world. He doesn't have to be the first one out of the blocks to win." Yet in an interview he was doing in a different corner of the stadium, Bolt was talking about how he'd actually been working more lately on the 100, which is why his curve in the 200 was so lackluster. "But I can't blame it on that," he said. The reason he became the greatest to ever run the longer race is because of the line he has learned to take on that curve. He negotiates it so well that Blake is known to stop what he's doing when they're practicing together just to take a look. On Sunday, Bolt wobbled around the bend, and by the time he hit the straightaway, he had ground to make up. He chipped away over the last 50 meters, but when he looked to his left as he approached the finish, he grimaced. Blake beat him to the line. Again. "I'm not surprised, because I was working real hard," Blake said of his back-to-back wins. "And I know Usain will work hard as ever. It's up to me to keep working hard and keep my form going into the Olympics." From what little the world knows about Blake, who is just emerging as a star, there's not much doubt that he'll keep his head low and stay with the work. Bolt is a better-known quantity. Since he burst onto the scene with his three world records and three gold medals in Beijing -- 100, 200, 400 relay -- one of the story lines surrounding Bolt is that he can do the hard work when necessary, but doesn't really embrace it. Two losses in three nights have shocked him out of that mode. While trying not to act panicky about the setbacks, he conceded that he now has something altogether new to prove: that he's as good a chaser as he was a front-runner. He'll have a warmup race of sorts at a Diamond League meet in Monaco on July 20, where he's scheduled to run in the 200. Then, it's London calling. "I'm the Olympic champion," Bolt said. "I have to show the world I'm the best. I can come back. It's not like I was blown away or anything. So now, I know what I need to do to get it right."

Bears could develop “twin towers” personnel package at WR with Robinson, White

Bears could develop “twin towers” personnel package at WR with Robinson, White

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – Coaches are loath to give away competitive information, which can cover just about anything from play design to flavor of Gatorade dispensed by the training staff. But Matt Nagy offered an intriguing what-if personnel grouping that his offense could confront defenses with in 2018. It’s one that has been overlooked so far, for a variety of reasons.


The what-if personnel pairing is Allen Robinson and Kevin White as the outside receivers, a tandem that would put two 6-foot-3 wide receivers at the disposal of quarterback Mitch Trubisky. The Bears have not had a tandem of effective big receivers since Alshon Jeffery (6-3) and Brandon Marshall (6-4) averaged a combined 159 catches per year from 2012-14.


White’s injury history has relegated him to found-money status in many evaluations, and he has typically been running at Robinson’s spot while the latter was rehabbing this offseason from season-ending knee injury.


But Nagy on Wednesday cited Robinson’s ability to play multiple positions and clearly raised the prospect of his two of his biggest receivers being on the field at the same time.


“The one thing you’ll see here in this offense is that we have guys all over the place in different spots,” said Nagy, who credited GM Ryan Pace with stocking the roster with options at wide receiver. “Ryan did a great job of looking at these certain free agents that we went after, some of these draft picks that we went after and getting guys that are football smart, they have a high football IQ and they’re able to play multiple positions.


“When you can do that, that helps you out as an offensive playcaller to be able to move guys around. Is it going to happen to every single receiver that comes into this offense? No. But we do a pretty job I feel like at balancing of where they’re at position wise, what they can and can’t handle, and then we try to fit them into the process.”


The organization and locker room can be excused for a collective breath-holding on White, who has gone through his third straight positive offseason but whose last two seasons ended abruptly with injuries in the fourth and first games of the 2016 and 2017 seasons.


White was leading the Bears in with 19 receptions through less than four full games in 2016, then was lost with a fractured fibula suffered against Detroit. The injury was all the crueler coming in a game in which White already had been targeted nine times in 41 snaps and had caught six of those Brian Hoyer passes.


White’s roster status has been open to some question with the signings of Robinson and Taylor Gabriel together with the drafting of Anthony Miller. All represent bigger deep threats in terms of average yards per catch than White (9.2 ypc.) at this point: Robinson, 14.1.; Gabriel, 15.1; and Miller, 13.8 (college stats).


But Trubisky’s budding chemistry with White was evident throughout the offseason. And the second-year quarterback has studied what Robinson has been and seen some of what he can be.


“We know he has great hands, he’ll go up and get it,” Trubisky said. “Explosive route-runner. The more reps we get, it’s all about repetitions for us, continue to build that chemistry. Just going against our great defense in practice is going to allow us to compete and get better.”


Folding in the expectations for an expanded presence at tight end (Trey Burton), “targets” will be spread around the offense. How often the Bears go with a Robinson-White “twin towers” look clearly depends in large measure on White’s improvement as well as his availability.


Opportunities will be there. The Kansas City Chiefs ran 51 percent of their 2018 snaps, with Nagy as offensive coordinator, in “11” personnel (one back, one tight end, three receivers, according to Pro Football Focus. Whether White earns his way into that core nickel-wideout package opposite Robinson is part of what training camp and preseason will determine.


“[White] has had a good offseason and just like our team, he needs to carry that momentum into camp,” Pace said. “He’s playing with a lot of confidence right now, he’s very focused. The real expectation, just be the best he can be. Focus on himself, which is what he’s been doing.”

Cubs bolster pitching staff with minor trade, foreshadow more moves coming

Cubs bolster pitching staff with minor trade, foreshadow more moves coming

The Cubs didn't wait long to make Joe Maddon's words come true.

Roughly 5 hours after Maddon said the Cubs are definitely in the market for more pitching, the front office went out and acquired Jesse Chavez, a journeyman jack-of-all-trades type.

It's a minor move, not in the realm of Zach Britton or any of the other top relievers on the market.

But the Cubs only had to part with pitcher Class-A pitcher Tyler Thomas, their 7th-round draft pick from last summer who was pitching out of the South Bend rotation as a 22-year-old.

Chavez — who turns 35 in a month — brings over a vast array of big-league experience, with 799 innings under his belt. He's made 70 starts, 313 appearances as a reliever and even has 3 saves, including one this season for the Texas Rangers.

Chavez is currently 3-1 with a 3.51 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 50 strikeouts in 56.1 innings. He has a career 4.61 ERA and 1.38 WHIP while pitching for the Pirates, Braves, Royals, Blue Jays, A's, Dodgers, Angels and Rangers before coming to Chicago.

Of his 30 appearances this season, Chavez has worked multiple innings 18 times and can serve as a perfect right-handed swingman in the Cubs bullpen, filling the role previously occupied by Luke Farrell and Eddie Butler earlier in the season.

Chavez had a pretty solid run as a swingman in Oakland from 2013-15, making 47 starts and 50 appearances as a reliever, pitching to a 3.85 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and 8.2 K/9 across 360.1 innings.

"Good arm, versatile, could start and relieve," Joe Maddon said Thursday after the trade. "I've watched him. I know he had some great runs with different teams. 

"The word that comes to mind is verstaility. You could either start him or put him in the bullpen and he's very good in both arenas."

It's not a flasy move, but a valuable piece to give the Cubs depth down the stretch.

There's no way the Cubs are done after this one trade with nearly two weeks left until the deadline. There are more moves coming from this front office, right?

"Oh yeah," Maddon said. "I don't think that's gonna be the end of it. They enjoy it too much."