Miller: Bears hold edge at QB in 'Battle of the Backups'

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Miller: Bears hold edge at QB in 'Battle of the Backups'

With the report that San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback Alex Smith has been ruled out of tonights Monday night tilt against the Chicago Bears, this could be the break the Bears needed to even up this contest.

I wrote a column last week explaining how repetitions are distributed between starting quarterbacks and their backups. The key emphasized in the article was the experience of quality backup quarterbacks like Jason Campbell and Byron Leftwich of the Steelers.

If you did not see last nights SteelersRavens game, Byron Leftwich played very well. There are vast differences between Jason Campbell and second-year backup Colin Kaepernick of the 49ers, who now will receive the start tonight. This game just tilted in the Bears' favor.

Kaepernick ran a Pistol Offense at the lower division Nevada-Reno in college. He is very athletic, but is still very young in the process of progression reading systems in NFL offenses. It is not only the complicated system giving Kaepernick problems, but also the understanding of intricate defenses and how to attack them. He is a raw talent who will fall back on his own athleticism to get himself out of trouble.

Kaepernicks issue tonight is the Bears speed on defense. The Bears will neutralize Kaepernicks ability to run, forcing him to make decisions from the pocket. Bears fans have witnessed veteran quarterbacks this season who have struggled against the Bears from this aspect alone. The prime example would be watching Texans quarterback Matt Schaub throw two interceptions against this group last week.

Kaepernick also did not get the benefit of working with the starting unit all week. This is a big miscalculation by 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh if this is true. Harbaugh must have been putting all his eggs in one basket Alex Smith would be cleared. It has been reported that Smith and Kaepernick have been sharing repetitions with the first group all week.

This is a big difference between Kaepernick and Campbell before this game. Campbell has been there and done that, where Kaepernick will make his first NFL start with limited knowledge, repetitions and most likely a more limited gameplan adjusted to fit Kaepernick's inexperience against one of the best defenses in the league.

It would help the Bears if defensive end Shea McClellins athleticism was on the field to spy Kaepernick if he decides to run like they did against Cam Newton of the Panthers, but McClellin has been ruled out.

McClellins absence is not the difference because the Bears two challenges are to stop Frank gore on the ground and to now force Kaepernick to make decisions from the pocket. If the Bears accomplish these two keys, they return home victors from a west coast jaunt.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Cubs visit White House as World Series champions

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Cubs visit White House as World Series champions

On the latest edition of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, David Kaplan is joined by David Haugh (Chicago Tribune) and Jason Goch (SB Nation Radio) to discuss the Cubs' visit to the White House.

The guys reflect on the historic day and Theo Epstein's speech. Then, the panel breaks down the Packers' impressive run and question whether it's okay for Bears fans to appreciate Aarond Rodgers and company.

Finally, are the Wild the Blackhawks' biggest threat come playoff time?

Listen to the SportsTalk Live podcast below.

 

Fire trade for midfielder Dax McCarty

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USA TODAY

Fire trade for midfielder Dax McCarty

Midfield has been an area of focus this offseason for Chicago Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez and another new addition to that group was added on Monday.

The Fire have traded $400,000 in general allocation money in return for midfielder Dax McCarty from the New York Red Bulls. Paul Tenorio of Four Four Two first reported the trade.

McCarty was an All-Star in 2015 and part of the league's Best XI that season when he had eight assists to go with a goal. Last season he made 26 starts for the Red Bulls and totaled three goals and had five assists.

"Since the middle of 2016, we made acquiring Dax our No. 1 priority," Rodr√≠guez said in the club's press release. "We believe adding his character and leadership in the locker room, as well as his exceptional soccer abilities on the field, dramatically improves our team."

The last time McCarty played at Toyota Park was a 2-2 draw on July 31 when a Khaly Thiam tackle caused a fractured tibia, which forced McCarty to sit out a month.

McCarty got married on Saturday, which delayed his arrival to the current U.S. national team camp. McCarty's participation in national team camp means he will join the Fire's preseason already in progress. The final match of the camp is on Feb. 3 while the Fire are set to start preseason on January 23.

McCarty, 29, has spent the past five and a half seasons with the Red Bulls. He began his career by playing five seasons for FC Dallas and was with D.C. United for part of the 2011 campaign before being traded to the Red Bulls. As an 11-year league veteran and the Red Bulls' captain, McCarty adds leadership and experience which Rodriguez has prioritized this offseason.

The Fire already added a former MLS All-Star in midfield this offseason in Juninho. The pair could line up next to each other in the preferred 4-2-3-1 coach Veljko Paunovic used for most of last season. This also could potentially put Matt Polster's role with the team in question. As the roster stands now, the third-year midfielder would be competing for two veteran All-Star caliber midfielders who were brought in at a high price.

Not to suggest a position move is in the works for Polster, but he did split time between midfield and right back with the Fire in 2015 under coach Frank Yallop and played there for the U-23 national team in Olympic qualifying. Right back remains a position of need by Rodriguez's own admission.

The trade also adds further context to the Fire trading the No. 3 pick in the draft on Friday. The Fire swapped the pick for $250,000 in general allocation money from New York City FC and Tenorio is reporting the Fire will send $400,000 to the Red Bulls for McCarty. To add those two moves together, the Fire dealt the No. 3 overall pick and $150,000 of allocation money for McCarty.