Lessons beyond Bears own Pro Bowlers: Draft very, very well

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Lessons beyond Bears own Pro Bowlers: Draft very, very well

Ruminating on conclusions from the Pro Bowl results

Lovie Smith may in the end take the fall for the Bears failed 2012 and the failure will lie in his failure to solve the riddle of an offense in Chicago despite four different coordinators.

But at some point a measure of accountability (as you say, Brandon Marshall) falls on performance and talent. The Bears go into the final, pivotal playoff weekend with a quarterback (Jay Cutler) ranked 22nd (80.2) and significantly below Aaron Rodgers, Robert Griffin III, Alex Smith, Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson, Tony Romo and Eli Manning among NFC quarterbacks.

And those are just quarterbacks in the NFC playoff push and dont include Drew Brees

If the Bears want to find Pro Bowl talent for their offensive line, theyll have to spend big for it in the draft. And be right.

MORE Bears Pro Bowl choices a testament to perseverance

All six of the Pro Bowl tackles were first-round draft selections by their original teams: Russell Okung (Seattle), Joe Staley (San Francisco), Trent Williams (Washington) for the NFC; Duane Brown (Houston), Ryan Clady (Denver), Joe Thomas (Cleveland).

Only one Pro Bowl guard was lower than a third-round pick. Guards Logan Mankins (New England) and Mike Iupati (San Francisco) were No. 1s. Chris Snee (New York Giants) was a No. 2. Marshall Yanda (Baltimore) and Wade Smith (Houston) were No. 3s. Jahri Evans (New Orleans) was a No. 4.

WATCH Lance Briggs explains his Pro Bowl snub

Phil Emery was brought in as Bears general manager in large part to remedy problems with Bears drafts. How did he to on Pro Bowl Day?

No Bears rookies are going across the water; Emery and the Bears probably would settle for them just being healthy at this point. A couple of draft choices with Emery fingerprints on them are going, however: Falcons' Ryan and Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry.

The catch is that Ryan was the No. 3-overall pick of the 2008 draft and Berry was the No. 6 pick of the 2010 draft. If the Bears are drafting that high anytime soon, unless it is the result of a roster obliteration after firing Smith after this season, the likelihood of Emery being the one making the final call on that pick at that point is problematic

Not enough injury woes? Bears now losing players to rampant stomach virus

Not enough injury woes? Bears now losing players to rampant stomach virus

John Fox could be excused for wondering if someone somewhere is sticking voodoo pins in a Bears doll. If it weren’t for bad luck, the 2016 Bears might have no luck at all. And now things have gotten worse, not better.

The Bears coach has overseen the M*A*S*H unit working to look like an NFL team while dealing with a sick bay situation that some days has made it seem easier to list the Bears who ARE practicing rather than the ones who aren’t.

Besides the injury tsunami that has beset them, the Bears this week are dealing with a flu/stomach virus that has hit as many as a dozen players, some more severely than others, and had one Bears higher-up facetiously (or maybe not) reaching for the Walter Payton Center door handle with his hand covered.

“We've got about six illnesses,” Fox said Wednesday, a list that included rookie cornerback Deiondre’ Hall, right tackle Bobby Massie and fullback Darrel Young for the first time.

Not all of practice was a study of absenteeism. Kicker Robbie Gould capped off Wednesday’s indoor session with a 57-yard field goal, consistent with his standing as one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history.

Gould has converted a respectable 83.2 percent of attempts in the wind tunnel known as Soldier Field. He has converted 90 percent of his kicks in NFL stadiums with either a dome or retractable roof.

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Tight end Zach Miller and wide receiver Eddie Royal practiced again on Wednesday wearing don’t-hit-me red jerseys throughout practice, emblematic of their return from preseason concussions. They represent critical elements in the Bears’ passing offense, with Royal signed to put in place a steady veteran for three-receiver packages.

“We’re at a point now where we’re like, 'hey, we’ve got some time here with you guys; let’s get you guys back to 100 percent,’” said quarterback Jay Cutler. “We know what they can do on the field. It’s just a matter of us getting into game week and getting them back in the flow.”

How did Royal look coming back from his missed time? “Fresh,” Cutler said, smiling. “As he should be.”

Notre Dame announces four captains for 2016 season

Notre Dame announces four captains for 2016 season

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame announced four team captains for the 2016 season: Senior defensive end Isaac Rochell, redshirt junior left tackle Mike McGlinchey, redshirt junior wide receiver Torii Hunter Jr. and senior linebacker James Onwualu. 

Rochell, a native of McDonough, Ga., has 15 tackles for a loss and three and a half sacks in his Irish career. The former four-star recruit has developed into a vocal leader on an Irish defense that was hit hard by the departures of Sheldon Day, Joe Schmidt, Jaylon Smith and Matthias Farley from last season. 

McGlinchey will enter his second full season starting on Notre Dame’s offensive line after being flipped from right tackle to replace Ronnie Stanley at left tackle this offseason. The Philadelphia native has 27 career starts to his name and has earned some speculation he could be a first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. 

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Hunter, the son of former MLB All-Star outfielder Torii Hunter, has 35 career catches but is Notre Dame's leading returning receiver this fall. Coaches praised Hunter for how quickly he took on a leadership role in the Irish offense after the departures of prolific receivers Will Fuller and Chris Brown last season. 

Onwualu, a four-star recruit who initially played wide receiver his freshman year, was converted to Sam (outside) linebacker in 2014 and has been a steady presence there ever since. The Saint Paul, Minn. native had six tackles for a loss and three sacks last season.

Kyle Hendricks keeps rolling as Cubs sweep away Padres

Kyle Hendricks keeps rolling as Cubs sweep away Padres

SAN DIEGO — Kyle Hendricks reported to spring training as a fifth starter, leads the majors in ERA in late August and could pitch Game 1 in a playoff series.

That gradual evolution from possible question mark at the back of the rotation into a National League Cy Young Award candidate highlights how the Cubs have transformed from a team that won the offseason to one that owns the summer and maybe this fall.

In his own understated way, Hendricks smashed any perceptions of that ceiling, performing at a level and with a consistency that matches the franchise’s young hitting stars, mirroring their baseball IQ and grounded nature (without the billboards and flair for social media).

Hendricks kept rolling on a beautiful Wednesday afternoon at Petco Park, knocking the San Diego Padres off-balance and finishing a three-game sweep with a 6-3 victory in front of 30,033. The Dartmouth College graduate with an Ivy League degree in economics understands what he’s up against and knows what he’s doing.

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The Padres (53-74) looked a little checked out and didn’t really put any pressure on a Cubs team that should get an adrenaline boost this weekend at Dodger Stadium. Dexter Fowler and Kris Bryant opened the game with back-to-back doubles before Ben Zobrist lined a two-run triple into the right-center field gap. Within six minutes of Paul Clemens’ first pitch, Jorge Soler’s sacrifice fly made it 3-0.

Hendricks hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in a start since May 17, a run of 17 straight outings that has sliced his ERA from 3.51 to 2.19 and pushed his record to 12-7.

Hendricks hides his emotions on the mound and didn’t get flustered when the Padres put the leadoff man on base in each of the first four innings, working around the traffic to limit San Diego to two runs and finish with eight strikeouts.

Hendricks made it through six innings — he’s now gone at least five in each of his 24 starts this year — after beginning the day with a soft-hit rate (26 percent of batted balls) that led the majors on FanGraphs and would be the highest mark in the last five seasons.

Add all this up and the Cubs will be putting Hendricks front and center in October.