Rookie woes: Bears 2012 class struggling to stay healthy, make impact

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Rookie woes: Bears 2012 class struggling to stay healthy, make impact

NFL teams hope for impact contributions from the top of their rookie classes each year. One of the reasons Jerry Angelo is no longer general manager was a decided lack of impact or even modest contributions by too many individuals selected in Angelo drafts first three rounds.

Those hopes for the first draft class of GM Phil Emery are still on hold.

The Bears kept the top four of their six draft choices. Presuming Shea McClellin is forced to miss next Monday in San Francisco because of a concussion suffered against Houston, all four will have missed games with injuries, a combined 17 so far, including the nine by one on IR.

No. 1 Shea McClellin

No. 1 pick McClellin was gone with the concussion in the first series of the Houston game. Like Jay Cutler, his return is only a guess at this point.

Shea McClellin also is getting better, which you would like to happen, said coach Lovie Smith. Alshon Jeffery, hes been out for a while, hes getting better. So cant wait to get on the practice field and see exactly where we are.

No. 2 Alshon Jeffery

The second blow came in Jacksonville with wide receiver Alshon Jeffery breaking his hand and missing the last four games after playing his way into the starting lineup.

Whether Jeffery is fit to return for the San Francisco game on Monday is problematic but he was No. 2 in receptions at the time of the injury and still is behind only Brandon Marshall in touchdown catches (two). Only Marshall and tight end Kellen Davis have caught touchdown passes since Jefferys injury.

No. 3 Brandon Hardin

The group had a setback in preseason when No. 3 pick Brandon Hardin suffered a neck injury that cost him this season. But the cornerback-turned-safetys main work projected to be on special teams this season, depending upon the play of Chris Conte and Major Wright, which has been a significant positive through the years first half.

No. 4 Evan Rodriguez

Evan Rodriguez, selected in the fourth round as a pass-catching tight end out of Temple but turned into a blocking fullback to start the season, suddenly looms as a spot of much-needed hope for a struggling offense.

Rodriguez, the first of the rookies to crack the starting lineup, missed games with a knee injury and didnt play in the next two. He was back for Tennessee but is yet to catch a pass, although his role as a receiver is expected to increase in the wake of poor production from Davis and Matt Spaeth against Houston.

Davis will say it wasnt his best game, Smith said. Its as simple as that. Hell come back this week.

Reports: Dolphins assistant Jeremiah Washburn to be Bears' new O-line coach

Reports: Dolphins assistant Jeremiah Washburn to be Bears' new O-line coach

The Bears have reportedly found a new offensive line coach.

According to multiple reports Monday, Jeremiah Washburn will become the team's new offensive line coach, replacing Dave Magazu.

Washburn worked as an assistant offensive line coach this past season with the Miami Dolphins under Adam Gase, the Bears' former offensive coordinator.

Prior to his season in South Florida, he spent seven seasons with the Detroit Lions, working three of them as the team's offensive line coach after three as an assistant offensive line coach.

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This past season, the Bears ranked 17th in the NFL in rushing with 1,735 yards as a team. Only eight teams allowed fewer sacks than the Bears, who saw quarterbacks dropped by opposing defenses just 28 times. Bears quarterbacks were hit 73 teams, also a top-10 mark in the league.

The Bears also committed a good number of holding penalties, 1.68 per game, which was only bested by seven teams.

Magazu was a longtime member of John Fox's staffs in Chicago, Denver and Carolina.

Blackhawks' rough weekend 'a little bit of a wake-up call'

Blackhawks' rough weekend 'a little bit of a wake-up call'

Patrick Kane was summing up the Blackhawks' weekend, one that didn't go well in terms of points.

"Good way to kind of judge ourselves, where we're at," he said Sunday night. "Might be a little bit of a wake-up call to see how good we really are."

Well, in a way, it is. You can't really compare Friday's loss to Washington and Sunday's loss to Minnesota on performance; the Blackhawks didn't show up for the first game and were much better in the second. Nevertheless, it was the same result in each. The Blackhawks' lengthy hold on first place in the Western Conference ended, with the Wild taking over following Sunday's 3-2 victory.

It's not a sound-the-alarm situation, but the Blackhawks are certainly cognizant of the missed opportunity last weekend and that they came up short against the league's best.

Artem Anisimov agreed with Kane's assessment.

"We just need to play better. All four lines need to play better in all areas of the ice. Just be better in the little things," Anisimov said. "Back check, put stick in the right position, box the guy out, short shifts. All little things need to be better."

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Many of the little things that were absent against the Capitals were back against the Wild. But coach Joel Quenneville wasn't happy with mistakes made on goals allowed, especially the first two. And while Kane and the second line were a consistent scoring threat against the Wild, the other three lines weren't. It's a problem that's plagued the Blackhawks a good deal this season, even when they were stringing together victories.

There is no reason to think that, because of this weekend's results, the Blackhawks are going to falter against strong teams. They've done well against others already this season. They beat Montreal earlier this season, when the Canadiens were healthy and steamrolling everyone. They beat the New York Rangers when the Rangers and former Blackhawks backup goaltender Antti Raanta were on their respective hot streaks.

Still, Kane's analysis is correct: This should get the Blackhawks' attention. The Wild have beaten the Blackhawks in eight consecutive regular-season games now and will face them three more times this season. They have two more meetings with the Edmonton Oilers, who beat them soundly in November.

The Blackhawks' long reign atop the Western Conference standings is over. They’re currently second in the Central Division, with an eight-point cushion over the St. Louis Blues. The Blackhawks have done fairly well this season. But this weekend was a reminder that they can be better.

"The game (on Friday) was kind of like a shock to the system thinking maybe you're one of the top teams in the league, or being able to compete with one of the top teams, and we obviously got thoroughly outplayed. We came back (Sunday night). It was pretty even in chances. We might've even had more so, just kind of didn't pull it out," Kane said. "But (when) you've played two of the better teams in the league and lose, there's got to be room for improvement, right?"