Behind the new looks in Bears D

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Behind the new looks in Bears D

Major Wright smiled thinking about what a difference a year makes.
 
The strong safety and deep-coverage partner Chris Conte both were sent on blitzes during last Mondays win over the Detroit Lions. Each was credited with a quarterback hurry by Pro Football Focus for their efforts.
 
This time a year ago he and Conte were starting their first game together, mostly because Chris Harris and Brandon Meriweather had effectively played their ways out of the lineup, not particularly because of how well Conte and Wright were doing.
 
The blitz calls, along with new rotations along the defense line, serve as hood ornaments for a key element growing inside the dominating Bears defense this season.
 
Trust.
 
Coaches know that both of us know what were doing, and theres no doubt in our minds that our coaches trust in us, Wright said. For them to call a blitz for me or Chris, they know well both be there, right time, right place.
 
He paused, then laughed. Last year, they probably werent always sure.
 
Earning trust
 
They werent, and not necessarily of every other member of the defense the way they are in 2012. But this is not the 2011 defense.
 
The more you put a player in positions and you see him making plays, said coach Lovie Smith, youll continue to add more things for them.
 
Against the Lions, the Bears were using a dizzying blizzard of rotations on the front four. Despite a game in which the Bears were never able to shake comfortably free of their division rivals, front-four packages that only occasionally was limited of the starting four of Israel Idonije-Henry Melton-Stephen Paea-Julius Peppers.
 
It was not the first time. Against the Dallas Cowboys, no lineman played more than 43 snaps (Melton, Paea) or fewer than 36 (Corey Wootton).
 
Peppers, the Bears best defensive lineman, played 87.6 percent of opponents snaps last season. This year he has been on the field for just 73.6 percent, according to Pro Football Focus.
 
Coach really, really trusts the guys, Wootton said. In the past I dont know that theyve felt they could trust us as much but weve earned their trust. So now we can give them different looks.
 
The McClellin Model
 
Different, indeed. Rookie Shea McClellin was used in some pass coverages as well as at his usual end spot and occasionally dropping in at defensive tackle. He has earned coaches respect and, as important, that of the on-field coach of the defense.
 
He doesnt screw up, said linebacker Brian Urlacher. As a rookie you dont want guys screwing up and he hasnt done that. I think hes very versatile.
 
We have different packages with him in there than weve had in the past. We do some third-down blitzes, some other stuff that we havent done in the past.

SportsTalk Live: David DeJesus discusses time spent with Joe Maddon, World Series criticism

SportsTalk Live: David DeJesus discusses time spent with Joe Maddon, World Series criticism

"Be sexy."

That was one of two rules manager Joe Maddon told David DeJesus when the Tampa Bay Rays acquired him in 2013.

DeJesus appeared on SportsTalk Live on Wednesday to discuss his time spent with Maddon in Tampa Bay.

"Just be yourself out there," DeJesus said of Maddon when the Rays traded for him. "I want you to have fun and I want you to just have that ora of 'just don't worry, just go out there and play.' It kept the whole team loose."

DeJesus also shared his thoughts on Maddon's questionable managerial decisions in the World Series.

Hear that, and more, in the video above.

Between Cubs' victory lap and Hall of Fame vote, Sammy Sosa barely staying in the picture

Between Cubs' victory lap and Hall of Fame vote, Sammy Sosa barely staying in the picture

Sammy Sosa has stayed so far off the radar that his long-running absence from Cubs Convention didn't even come up during last weekend's Q&A session with ownership.

And the Cubs can't go viral all the time and dominate every offseason news cycle, with the National Baseball Hall of Fame revealing the election results on Wednesday and welcoming Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez as part of its 2017 class.

But it's become out of sight, out of mind for Sosa, who barely crossed the 5-percent threshold (8.6) needed to remain on the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot for another year.

Sosa — a seven-time All Star, 1998 National League MVP and the franchise's all-time leader with 545 home runs (and 609 overall) — hadn't gained any traction at all during his first four years under BBWAA consideration, hovering between 12.5 and 6.6 percent.

It's complicated with Sosa, a diva personality who experienced a dramatic late-career renaissance and got named in a New York Times report that exposed him as one of the players who tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug in 2003 (during what was supposed to be an anonymous survey).

The Cubs have undergone a complete makeover since Sosa walked out in 2004, leaving him without many allies in the organization. It's nothing personal, but in the past the Ricketts family has hinted that Sosa could mend certain fences and fill in some of the blanks he once left open during an unconvincing performance in front of Congress.

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The Cubs brought Hall of Famers Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins and Ryne Sandberg to meet President Barack Obama during their Martin Luther King Jr. Day visit to the White House and keep adding former players to the front office. It's awkward after a World Series run where so many alumni showed up to do TV work, throw first pitches, spray champagne or simply watch a rare playoff game at Wrigley Field.

— If Sosa's looking for a roadmap, Manny Ramirez did his penance and cooperated with Major League Baseball to the point where Cubs president Theo Epstein shockingly hired him as a Triple-A Iowa player/coach in the middle of the 2014 season, something that would have been unthinkable during their clashes with the Boston Red Sox.

As a hitting consultant, Ramirez took a come-and-go-as-you-please arrangement, becoming a national story during the 2015 playoffs but largely staying away from the 2016 championship team, perhaps gearing up for his independent-ball comeback in Japan this year. Even after failing multiple drug tests, one of the greatest right-handed hitters of his generation still finished at 23.8 percent in his first year on the BBWAA ballot.

— Lee Smith (34.2 percent) — a drafted-and-developed Cub and the franchise's all-time leader with 180 saves — didn't come close in his 15th and final time on the BBWAA ballot. Smith had been grandfathered when the Hall of Fame narrowed the eligibility window to 10 years, possibly trying to squeeze Steroid Era symbols like Roger Clemens (54.1 percent) and Barry Bonds (53.8 percent).

— This will make Cub fans feel old: Kerry Wood and Carlos Zambrano are Hall of Fame-eligible for the first time in 2018, when based off this year's returns Trevor Hoffman (74) and Vladimir Guerrero (71.7) should be building momentum toward the 75 percent needed for induction into Cooperstown.