Bears

Vikings game a test for Emery GM efforts

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Vikings game a test for Emery GM efforts

Besides its obvious playoff implications, the Bears-Minnesota Vikings game on Sunday becomes a spot referendum on the first year of general manager Phil Emery.
One of Emerys clear missions in his first stint as a GM was to muscle up the Bears depth chart from its level of 2011 that cost the Bears a playoff berth.
In addition to draft choices and a trade (Brandon Marshall):Quarterback: Jason Campbell for Caleb Hanie.

Running back: Michael Bush for Marion Barber.

Offensive line: Chilo Rachal for Frank Omiyale, Jonathan Scott for Chris Williams.

Linebacker: Geno Hayes for everybody.

Cornerback: Kelvin Hayden for D.J. Moore, Zackary Bowman (Bowman has since been brought back).

Not all of the moves have worked, for various reasons. But a key to the Bears regaining some momentum in a playoff direction now will depend on significant contributions from Hayes and Hayden in particular, and on Scott.

During the course of the year youre going to be playing without players for a brief period of time, said coach Lovie Smith. We thought we would get lucky being this late in the year but thats not the case.

Hayden will start for injured Tim Jennings. Hayes starts at strong-side linebacker with Nick Roach sliding into Brian Urlachers spot. Scott is tasked with controlling the rush of Minnesota Vikings end Brian Robison (5.5 sacks) in quarterback Jay Cutlers face.

Sharp corner

Hayden replaces a virtual Pro Bowl lock in Jennings, with his eight interceptions. The Vikings are without franchise wide receiver Percy Harvin and are the worst passing offense in the NFL (just ahead of the Bears).

More importantly, one reason Hayden already had replaced D.J. Moore at nickel back was because of more size and physicality, which becomes an added asset against an offense built around running back Adrian Peterson.

The situation thats at hand, you dont wish that upon anybody, said Hayden, who signed with the Bears for one year and is playing for his future. Its always good to be out there every play, out there having fun, making plays and enjoying the moment.

If a guy goes down on the second play of the game, you want to be prepared and ready to go. Thats my whole job is just to be ready when my number is called. Im going to try to continue to do the same.

Ironically, Hayden and Jennings were once teammates with the Indianapolis Colts. Jennings has 61 career starts, Hayden 47.

Hayes happening

Hayes started 42 games with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in a defensive system similar to the Bears. Like Hayden, he signed for one year and is getting his first Chicago start.

Its a great opportunity, Hayes said. Anytime you get the opportunity to step on the field and make plays, its always that chance youve got to go out there and take something. Its big.

I try not to think about his contract situation. I just want to go out there and play ball. Contract and that stuff is for after season. Right now, all Ive got to do is go out there and do my job. Thats all Im here to do.

Lack of flags another reason why the Bears’ defense is the NFL’s best

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USA Today Sports Images

Lack of flags another reason why the Bears’ defense is the NFL’s best

A thought here after watching Thursday night’s Chargers-Chiefs tilt, which featured eight flags for either defensive pass interference or defensive holding...

As the NFL makes it harder for defensive players to play defense (and as TV ratings go up), the Bears are one of the cleanest teams when it comes to their opponents’ passing game. They rank second among teams with only eight combined defensive holding and defensive pass interference penalties: 

1. Dallas (5)
2. Chicago (8)
3. Oakland (10)
4. Tennessee, Los Angeles Chargers (11)
6. Arizona, Indianapolis (12)
8. Carolina, Cleveland, Green Bay, Jacksonville, Houston, Philadelphia (13)
14. Cincinnati, New York Jets, Seattle, Tampa Bay (14)
18. Baltimore, Pittsburgh (15)
20. Los Angeles Rams (16)
21. Buffalo, Minnesota, New England (17)
24. Denver, Detroit, New York Giants, San Francisco (18)
29. Atlanta, Miami (20)
31. New Orleans (23)
32. Kansas City (36)

The Chargers entered Thursday night’s game tied with the Bears with eight holding/pass interference penalties, but where whistled for three during the game — and not all were clear fouls, either. And that kind of stuff can be annoying for defensive players around the league to see. 

“100 percent,” Bears safety Eddie Jackson said. “.. .I’ve seen some things, I’m like come on, man. But there’s some things you can’t control. Control what you can control, and that’s go out there and play ball and to the best of your ability try not to hold or get a flag for pass interference called on you.”

Jackson credited four members of the coaching staff with the Bears’ ability to avoid holding/interference penalties: Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, defensive backs coach Ed Donatell, assistant defensive backs coach Roy Anderson and quality control assistant Sean Desai. From teaching proper technique for being told what to watch out for, this is a well-coached group. Only cornerback Prince Amukamara — who’s usually in press coverage, subjecting him to the most contact — has been whistled for multiple interference or holding flags this year (he actually has half the Bears’ total, with four). 

“It’s a combination of both (coaching and technique) I would say,” coach Matt Nagy said. “The players, technique-wise is a big part of it. You’ve got to be really disciplined in that area. And then I think the other part of it is with the coaching is making sure that they’re watching to make sure to see where they’re at with it. So far, to have that, you want that overall as a team to be the least penalized, specifically in that area, that’s always a good thing.”

Consider it another feather in the cap of the league’s best defense: Even when passing-oriented rule changes and tweaks supposedly make it harder to play defense, the Bears largely haven’t suffered for it. 

“It’s more difficult for the referees, too,” Nagy said. “It’s difficult for them. It’s difficult for the players. There’s some subjectiveness to it. But you gotta try to not be too grabby.”  

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Bulls engaging in Jabari Parker trade talks, according to a report

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USA TODAY

Bulls engaging in Jabari Parker trade talks, according to a report

Jabari Parker's time in a Bulls uniform could be coming to a close.

According to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, the Bulls are engaging in trade talks regarding Parker with several teams.

It should be no surprise if and when the Bulls ultimately move on from Parker. Following a report that the 23-year-old Chicago-native will be dropped from the Bulls' rotation, Parker played just four minutes Thursday against the Magic. In fact, he played just 19 minutes in the Bulls' previous game, Monday against the Kings.

"I think it's a matchup thing," coach Jim Boylen said after the game. "I also think that it's hard to play three fours. It's very difficult to do that. We played him some minutes at three and I didn't think that was the way to go the rest of the game."

However, Boylen's comments backup the fact that Parker was always a curious fit for the Bulls. At 6-foot-8, 245 pounds, Parker is best-suited to play power forward, though the Bulls tried to play him at small forward to start the season. 

Overall, Parker is ranked 414th out 451 NBA players on ESPN's Defensive Real Plus-Minus rankings. According to ESPN, RPM demonstrates the "net change in score (plus or minus) while each player is on the court." If his ranking did not make it obvious enough, Parker's DRPM of -1.65 leaves a lot to be desired. 

When it became apparent that Parker struggles to guard other small forwards, the Bulls moved him to the bench. At that point, Parker, the Bulls' highest-paid player, became a $20 million bench player. He returned to the starting lineup following injuries to Lauri Markkanen and Bobby Portis, but both players have since returned to game action for the Bulls. 

Even with Chandler Hutchinson (sick) out for the Bulls on Thursday, Parker did not see much action. Following the game, Boylen said that he likes Hutchinson, but there might be a chance to get Parker minutes at small forward.

"Him (Parker) playing four is difficult right now. Him playing three, there may be an opportunity there," Boylen said. "I like Hutch. Hutch was sick tonight so Jabari got some of those minutes at three in that situation."

Saturday is the first day that Parker is eligible to be traded. Defensive struggles aside, Parker could provide a team with an offensive boost. This season, he is averaging 18.2 points and 8.3 rebounds per 36 minutes, shooting 45.5 percent from the field.

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