Behind the new looks in Bears D

924717.png

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.

57 Days to Kickoff: Coal City

57 Days to Kickoff: Coal City

CSNChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Aug. 1, we’ll unveil the @CSNPreps Top 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 26.

School: Coal City

Head coach: Lenny Onsen

Assistant coaches: Jim Mikula, Francis Loughran, Jim Looper, Ryan Bunton, Mark Masters, Ryan Vanduyne

How they fared in 2015: 5-5 (3-2) Interstate 8 Large Conference. Coal City made the 4A state playoffs and lost to Marengo in opening round action.

Biggest storyline in 2016: Can the Coalers run the football effectively this season? 

Names to watch this season: RB Nick Hayden, OL Virgil Geers

Biggest holes to fill: Who steps up to replace graduated QB Nick Micetich this season?

EDGY's Early Take: With three starting offensive linemen back along with RB Nick Hayden in the fold, look for the Coalers to challenge for the top spot in the I-8 and beyond.

White Sox: Nearly three years later, Matt Davidson is back in The Show

White Sox: Nearly three years later, Matt Davidson is back in The Show

It’s been 1,006 days since Matt Davidson last played in a major league baseball game. 

In between, the former top-100 prospect endured a two-year flirtation with the Mendoza Line while being passed over time after time for a return to the big leagues, even as a September call-up. But after hitting .268/.349/.444 with 10 home runs in 75 games with Triple-A Charlotte this year, the 25-year-old Davidson was called up to the major leagues on Thursday and is hitting eighth as the White Sox designated hitter. 

“It’s been a long ride, but I’m glad to be here,” Davidson said. 

The White Sox acquired Davidson for closer Addison Reed from the Arizona Diamondbacks on Dec. 16, 2013, with the hope he could be a staple at third base and the middle of the team’s lineup for years. But after not making the White Sox out of spring training two years ago, he struggled in back-to-back seasons in Triple-A. 

Davidson hit 43 home runs in that span, but had strikeout rates north of 30 percent both years and saw his OPS plummet to .644 in 2014 and .668 in 2015. During that offensive malaise, Davidson didn’t have any illusions of returning to the major leagues for the first time since the Diamondbacks brought him in in August and September of 2013. 

“The past couple years I haven’t really had a good reason to be impatient,” Davidson said. “I’ve struggled, so I kind of knew I wasn’t getting called up. You’ve got to take it day by day, one step at a time and focus on what you need to do to get here.”

The White Sox liked what they saw from Davidson during spring training in March, but needed to see him translate that positivity into regular-season success. Davidson’s .792 OPS was the best he’s had since 2013, and his strikeout rate dropped to about 26 percent. 

With the White Sox having an off day next Thursday and the All-Star break approaching quickly, there wasn’t a need for an extra arm in the bullpen, so Matt Purke was optioned to Triple-A and Davidson was brought up. 

“I think when you hit rock bottom and you try to work your way back up and build yourself back up, something happens there,” manager Robin Ventura said. “Not only doing that in spring training, but doing what he’s doing in Triple-A is the stuff that you build off of.”

With left-hander Tommy Milone — who’s given the White Sox offense plenty of headaches in the past — starting for the Minnesota Twins on Thursday, Davidson will get an immediate opportunity to make an impact, albeit from the back of the lineup. 

Ventura said he’s not worried about Davidson trying to do too much in an effort to make an immediate positive impression in his first major league game since Sept. 28, 2013. Davidson and the White Sox feel like his 2014 and 2015 issues are behind him, and the focus is on getting him to contribute for a team that expects to be in contention for a playoff spot throughout the summer. 

“I think he’s in a better spot than he’s ever been and understands himself better,” Ventura said. “I think he’s gotten over trying to impress and trying to do too much and the pressures that come with that. Even in spring training he was in a great spot. So I think that whole experience has helped him for right now. Seeing him today, he still seems to be pretty level headed about who he is and what he can do.” 

Report: Brian Campbell likely to rejoin Blackhawks

Report: Brian Campbell likely to rejoin Blackhawks

Free agency officially begins Friday at 11 a.m. CT, but all signs point to Brian Campbell rejoining the Blackhawks for the 2016-17 season.

It's been widely rumored that the 37-year-old defenseman has been open to a return to Chicago, where he helped bring a Stanley Cup to in 2010 and still resides in the offseason. 

The latest report comes from Andy Strickland of Fox Sports Midwest, saying Campbell is likely to sign a one-year deal with the Blackhawks. 

This comes less than a day after Campbell told the Chicago Tribune that he's willing to take a hometown discount if it meant playing for the Blackhawks, a team that ranks No. 1 on his list.

If reports turn out to be true, Campbell immediately gives the Blackhawks a top-four defenseman and alleviates some of the pressure off the bottom pairing, such as Trevor van Riemsdyk, who was asked to take on a larger role last season.