Bears offense still wrestling with identity crisis

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Bears offense still wrestling with identity crisis

The 2012 Bears overall is excellent, as good as could be expected: 6-1. But as coordinator Mike Tice said on Wednesday, the performance against the Panthers obviously was not resume material.

It wouldnt be a whole heck of a lot of clinic coming out of that performance in the first half last week, Tice said.

Why that matters is that where some wins or losses provide positives to build on, that game didnt. A team that has stated it wants to build from a base of balance and running the ball did neither very well.

Indeed, the offensive coordinator is likening the Bears' offense to one in another sport that no one really should be aspiring to be like.

Forte analyzed

The questions have focused on whether or not Matt Forte is getting the ball enough of Brandon Marshall is getting it too much, or rather other receivers too little.

Fortes problem is actually simple. The franchise back missed one game, vs. St. Louis. In three of the six games he played, the Bears ran 57, 54 and 53 plays. Not enough enough to go around.

For purposes of loose comparison: Through the first six games last season, Forte handled the ball on 139 of the Bears 354 snaps (38.1 percent). Of those, 99 were runs.

Through the six games hes played this season, the Bears have run 376 snaps. Of those, the ball has gone to Forte on 113 (30 percent).

One difference is that through the first six last season, other backs (Marion Barber, Kalil Bell) had 28 total carries. Michael Bush has 49 carries in the 2012 Forte games, plus 18 vs. St. Louis.

The falloff in receiving for Forte also is no surprise, to him above all.

Im not the only one out there catching balls, Forte told CSNChicago.com. It just so happens we havent had to use me as much in the passing game.

Passing thoughts

The personality of the passing is incomplete. Marshall is in place but the loss of Alshon Jeffery cannot be ignored. The rookie had moved into the starting lineup and was second on the team with 14 catches when he broke his hand three games ago.

He is still No. 2 among wide receivers in catches. Losing speed receiver Johnny Knox, who had 37 catches all last season, was a setback but Jay Cutlers confidence level in Knox was nowhere near what it was becoming with the 6-foot-3 Jeffery.

But while the Bears spoke throughout the offseason, training camp and preseason about the multiple weapons on offense, the deployment of those weapons still has a tilt.

Marshall was acquired to catch a lot of passes. He is on pace to catch 110-112. That would be more than the top three Bears wide receivers combined last season.

Bad model

If that happens, what does that suggest about the effectiveness of those other so-called weapons.

Were like the NBA Minnesota Timberwolves when I was there and Kevin Garnett was playing, Tice said. All their offensive plays went through Kevin Garnett. In our passing game, were going to obviously go through Brandon, so hes going to be the first read or an early read a lot of the times.

Tice may want to find another template to use. In Garnetts years with the Timberwolves (1995-2007), Minnesota finished first in the Midwest Division and reached the Western Conference finals once.

With Garnett they never finished higher than third in the division, and they lost in the first round all six other times they managed to make the playoffs.

Kris Bryant blasts Cubs to 6-4 win over Dodgers

Kris Bryant blasts Cubs to 6-4 win over Dodgers

LOS ANGELES – The “MVP! MVP! MVP!” chants started at Dodger Stadium late Friday night, Cubs fans celebrating Kris Bryant’s two-run homer in the 10th inning of a wild comeback win.

Until Clayton Kershaw returns to full strength and stares down hitters from 60 feet, six inches and unleashes his entire arsenal, it’s impossible to know how the Cubs would stack up against Los Angeles in October. But it’s still safe to say this would be an epic playoff matchup between two big-market, star-studded franchises, with two iconic ballparks becoming the backdrop, celebrity row after celebrity row.

As a quiet, humble homebody who sometimes sounds boring on purpose, Bryant doesn’t have a Hollywood personality. But this is also someone who loves the big stage and wants to be the best. The Cubs won this round with Bryant, who launched his 34th and 35th home runs in a 6-4 victory, an MVP-worthy season becoming the sequel to his Rookie of the Year campaign.

When a crowd of 48,609 got loud in the seventh after Dodgers cleanup hitter Adrian Gonzalez drove Justin Grimm’s 94-mph fastball over the right-center field wall for a 4-2 lead, Bryant responded the next inning with a home run off Joe Blanton that landed in the center-field seats blacked out for the batter’s eye. 

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Here’s how Bryant could win it in the 10th inning, and why manager Joe Maddon will want Gold Glove outfielder Jason Heyward in a playoff lineup:

In the middle of a frustrating offensive season where he’s felt the weight of a $184 million contract, Heyward led off the ninth inning by ripping a double into the right-field corner off Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen. Heyward hustled to third base when new Dodgers catcher Carlos Ruiz couldn’t handle strike three against Jorge Soler. Heyward ran home to score the game-tying run when a Jansen wild pitch sailed toward the backstop.

But a $250 million team is extremely resourceful, even with Kershaw (back) not pitching for two months, one of 27 players the Dodgers have stashed on the disabled list, tying a major-league record. The Dodgers have cycled through 14 different starting pitchers, relying on depth and a strong lineup and an imposing back end of the bullpen to surge into first place in the National League West. 

“How about last year?” Maddon said. “We beat up on the Mets during the season, we go (into the playoffs) and we can’t even touch them. It’s such a different animal. People get hot or people get cold and actually the weather gets cold and everything does change.

“I know what we’re talking about. I’m not going to diminish the fact I’m going to be paying attention. But things change. Trends can be so trendy, to quote Yogi. So I don’t get too far ahead, because things can change very quickly.”   

In the Gym at EFT: Wide receiver skill development

In the Gym at EFT: Wide receiver skill development

In the first edition of EFT Football Academy, TF North graduate Landon Cox, who was a star wide receiver at Northern Illinois and later in the NFL, shares some tips on how to become a better receiver and be more efficient on the field.

Cox is a Performance Specialist and wide receiver coach at EFT. In this segment Cox works on a few different techniques with Warren Township junior wide receiver Micah Jones.

EFT has evolved into the premier elite performance training facility in the Midwest, where every EFT football coach has NFL experience and the dedication to helping each player reach their potential. The EFT Football Academy is designed to assist in the development of grade school, high school, and collegiate football players.

Some of their off-season training experience includes 70+ active NFL athletes, six Super Bowl Champions, six Olympics, and more.

In addition, performance includes explosive power development, positional movement pattern development, proper spring and change of direction mechanics, and more. Every EFT workout focuses on improving each athlete's overall abilities like speed development, agility and mobility, acceleration and deceleration, and strength and condition — just to name a few.

Former Bears wide receiver Devin Hester called it "the best workout in the world."

Watch Cox's tips in the video above, and be sure to look out for next week's edition on CSNChicago.com.

How Mike Montgomery fits into big-picture plans for Cubs

How Mike Montgomery fits into big-picture plans for Cubs

LOS ANGELES – In their never-ending search for young pitching, the Cubs discussed a Matt Moore deal with the Tampa Bay Rays, but wouldn’t consider trading Kyle Schwarber. To get Moore at the Aug. 1 deadline, the San Francisco Giants had to surrender the runner-up to Kris Bryant in last season’s National League Rookie of the Year race (Matt Duffy), plus two more prospects.

Moore finished one out short of a no-hitter on Thursday night at Dodger Stadium, throwing 133 pitches against a deep Los Angeles lineup, two-plus years after having Tommy John surgery on his left elbow. Whether or not that helps shift the balance of power in the National League West, the Cubs should still have enough pitching.

To get through October. As long as John Lackey (shoulder) comes off the disabled list in early September and the rest of the rotation stays healthy. Surviving next season and beyond could be a different story, if Jake Arrieta becomes another team’s 2018 Opening Day starter, if Jon Lester breaks down in the middle of that $155 million megadeal and Lackey retires around the 3,000-inning mark.

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]          

All that makes Mike Montgomery an interesting lefty swingman if the Cubs are going to maintain The Foundation for Sustained Success.

“I think he is a major-league starter, regardless of what happens tonight,” manager Joe Maddon said before Friday’s 6-4 win at Dodger Stadium. “This guy has the ability to be a solid major-league starter based on his strength level, his delivery, the variety of pitches that he throws. The strike-throwing ability is exceptional. He’s got all those different things going on.

“Just be a little bit patient with (him) and let him get his feet on the ground somewhere, because he’s the kind of guy that can take off if he gets comfortable in his environment.”   

If Montgomery didn’t ace this audition, he didn’t bomb against a first-place team in front of a big crowd (48,609), either, showing the potential the Cubs saw in making last month’s trade with the Seattle Mariners.

Montgomery kept the Cubs in the game, allowing three runs in five innings and minimizing the damage on a night where he didn’t have pinpoint control (four walks, hit batter, wild pitch, 49 strikes across 91 pitches).   

The Cubs are in trouble if Montgomery somehow winds up in this year’s playoff rotation, but he checks a lot of boxes for the future as someone with youth (27), size (6-foot-5), first-round/top-prospect pedigree, a high groundball rate and a service-time clock that won’t make him a free agent until after the 2021 season.