Nationals

Bears hire Tucker as defensive coordinator

Bears hire Tucker as defensive coordinator

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) The Chicago Bears hired Jacksonville's Mel Tucker as their defensive coordinator to replace Rod Marinelli on Friday.

Tucker spent the past four seasons as the Jaguars' defensive coordinator and was assistant head coach this season.

He interviewed to replace Mike Mularkey, who was fired after going 2-14 in his lone season as their head coach, but that job went to Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley on Thursday.

New Bears coach Marc Trestman wanted to retain Marinelli, but he chose not to return. Now, he's turning to Tucker, who has experience with the 4-3 as well as the 3-4 defensive formations.

The Jaguars last season also used Cover-2 defense, a staple in Chicago under the fired Lovie Smith.

With the Bears, Tucker will take over a defense that ranked among the best this season with stars such as Charles Tillman, Lance Briggs and Julius Peppers.

But Chicago also has a big question mark with Brian Urlacher's contract expiring after an injury-filled season.

The Jaguars were 30th in the league in total defense in 2012, but they were sixth the year before at 313 yards per game, with Tucker spending the final five games as interim head coach after Jack Del Rio was fired.

He was also reportedly considered for the head coaching job at his alma mater Wisconsin, which went with Gary Andersen to replace Bret Bielema.

Tucker was an assistant with Cleveland from 2005 to 2008, spending the first three years as defensive backs coach before being promoted to defensive coordinator.

He previously coached at Ohio State and spent time with Nick Saban at both LSU and Michigan State. He also spent a year at Miami of Ohio.

The Bears also hired Matt Cavanaugh as their quarterbacks coach and Skip Peete as their running backs coach on Friday along with two of Trestman's assistants with the CFL's Montreal Alouettes - tight ends coach Andy Bischoff and assistant defensive line coach Michael Sinclair.

Cavanaugh will try to get the most out of Jay Cutler after spending the past four seasons as the New York Jets' quarterbacks coach, working with Mark Sanchez. The Jets have gone 14-18 the past two years.

Cavanaugh served as the Bears' offensive coordinator from 1997 and 1998, and he was San Francisco's quarterbacks coach in 1996 when Trestman was the 49ers' offensive coordinator.

Peete was fired after six seasons in Dallas. The Cowboys finished next-to-last in the NFL with 1,265 yards rushing. Dallas never had a 1,000-yard rusher under Peete but did finish seventh in the league in rushing in 2007.

Sinclair was a three-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman with the Seahawks in the 1990s and played 11 seasons with Seattle and the Philadelphia Eagles. He was Montreal's defensive line coach from 2008 to 2012.

Bischoff spent the past five seasons as the Alouettes' running backs coach and was also their special teams coordinator from 2010 to 2012.

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Nats' offense needs to get going to maintain control in NL Wild Card race

Nats' offense needs to get going to maintain control in NL Wild Card race

Playoff prediction formulas have the Nationals at above 90 percent to qualify, but at the moment it doesn't exactly feel that way. 

With their 4-2 loss to the Cardinals on Monday night and the Brewers' win over the Padres, the Nats are now only 1 1/2 games up in the NL Wild Card race. Milwaukee erased two games in four days.

The Nats are just a half-game ahead of the Cubs for the first spot. They want that for home field advantage.

The schedule has been unforgiving with this series against St. Louis the Nats' fourth straight against a division-leading foe. The Cardinals are in the drivers seat in the NL Central with an 84-66 record overall and a 26-11 mark since Aug. 7.

Offense has been the Nats' most glaring issue of late. Their two runs on Monday gave them only 10 total in their last four games. The lone win came Sunday when the offense broke out for seven runs to avoid a sweep against the Braves.

The Nationals are going to need to get their bats going to close the deal on a postseason berth. They have only 13 games remaining and all but three are against clubs with winning records. They have two games to go against the Cardinals, who boast the NL's second-best ERA.

Several Nats players have stood out recently for their shortcomings at the plate. Trea Turner, who went 0-for-4 on Monday, is now 5-for-31 (.161) in his last eight games. He's sporting a .284 on-base percentage in his last 17 outings.

Adam Eaton also went 0-for-4 against the Cardinals and is currently 2-for-15 going back to the start of the Braves series on Friday night. He's batting .163 in his last 16 games with a .229 OBP.

That's just the top of the order. Ryan Zimmerman is now hitless in three straight games. Gerardo Parra, who for most of this season has been a plus off the bench, is 3-for-46 (.065) going back to Aug. 13.

Then there's Yan Gomes, who despite getting a hit on Monday is now 3-for-20 (.150) in his last six games. Gomes has done an admirable job by catching nine of the last 10 games, but Kurt Suzuki's bat has been missed. Suzuki, who has 16 homers and 58 RBI in only 81 games, has been sidelined due to right elbow inflammation. 

The lack of offense has put undue pressure on the pitching staff. Stephen Strasburg wasn't sharp on Monday, but managed to get through five innings with only two runs allowed. The Nats' bullpen then gave up a pair of runs split between Sean Doolittle and Hunter Strickland in the seventh.

It wasn't pretty, but allowing four runs is manageable. Scoring only two runs is a major problem. The Nats are now 5-24 this season when they score two or fewer runs.

Scoring is what got the Nationals to this point, currently holding a playoff spot. Since May 24, when they began their turnaround at 19-31, the Nats have scored more runs than any other NL team. 

They have to get back to that and soon. A lot can happen in the next 13 games.

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Steelers bolster secondary by trading for disgruntled Minkah Fitzpatrick

Steelers bolster secondary by trading for disgruntled Minkah Fitzpatrick

According to a report from Ian Rapoport, the Ravens will have to deal with Minkah Fitzpatrick two more times this season.

The Steelers boosted their secondary by adding Fitzpatrick in a trade with the Dolphins on Monday night. The Steelers sent their 2020 first-round pick to the Dolphins in exchange for the cornerback.

The Dolphins, after their opening week loss to the Ravens, gave permission for Fitzpatrick to seek a trade. Then the Steelers came calling. 

Fitzpatrick is a second-year defensive back who was a 2018 first-round pick out of Alabama. He expressed frustration in recent weeks about playing out of position and the team's lack of direction. 

Against the Ravens, Fitzpatrick was torched in the secondary that allowed Lamar Jackson to throw for five touchdowns in a 59-10 win. 

The Steelers will most likely have Fitzpatrick fully integrated to the lineup by the time they host the Ravens on Oct. 6. They'll head to Baltimore on Dec. 29 in Week 17.

At 0-2, the Steelers are making a big gamble on Fitzpatrick and his future in the league considering what their 2020 draft pick could be.

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