Secondary, special teams receive high marks

926603.png

Secondary, special teams receive high marks

The Panthers, who average 336 yards per game, had put 306 yards and 16 points on the Bears with 6 minutes still to play in the third quarter. On a 90-yard drive from its six-yard line, for example, Carolina converted plays of 18, 25, 15 and 17 yards, and the Panthers had 10 plays of 15 yards or longer.
Carolina, converting just 31.7 percent of its third downs coming in, converted 10 of 19 (53 percent) against the Bears and were never completely slowed down in a game where the Panthers offense was on the field more than 30 of the first 45 minutes.
DEFENSIVE LINE D
Pressure on Cam Newton was virtually non-existent for too much of the game. Julius Peppers got a first-quarter sack and added another in the second plus two QB hits but no other D-lineman was credited with a hit of any kind on the highly mobile Newton.
Henry Melton forced a key third-down throwaway in the second half to end a drive. Shea McClellin registered a tackle for loss and Corey Wootton deflected a pass.
LINEBACKERS C
Carolina totaled 119 rushing yards between Newton and the running backs but averaged only 3.3 yards per carry. Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher each had seven tackles, with Urlacher making one for loss in addition to breaking up a pass.
They and Nick Roach were active throughout with early hits on backs, although Newton, Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams all had at least one run of 13 yards.
SECONDARY B
Maybe the Bears should only schedule big receivers. Steve Smith lit up the DBs for 118 yards and seven catches. His long was 47 and he was missed on throws by Newton on several other routes when he was open.
But Smith didnt score and Tim Jennings intercepted a Newton pass to Smith in the fourth quarter and returned it for a go-ahead TD, the franchise-record sixth this season. Jennings had a team-high eight tackles, all solo, plus a second interception and three passes broken up.
Run support early was strong from Charles Tillman and Major Wright. Chris Conte, who finished with eight tackles, was beaten badly when he took a poor angle on a 62-yard completion to Brandon LaFell to set up a field goal.
COACHING B
The plan was to emphasize rush lanes by both ends and tackles to contain Newton and be positioned for an anticipated increase in Carolina running the ball. The Panthers did try to balance their run-pass with 41 pass plays and 36 run plays, including five Newton scrambles which are virtually tweeners.
SPECIAL TEAMS
Robbie Goulds game-winner was the special-teams story of the game. There were several good sidebars, however.
KICKING A
Even if you miss one earlier from 32 yards, when you convert a 41-yard field goal through swirling win as time expires, when a miss means a loss, you get an automatic A from CSNChicago.com. Robbie Gould also put all four of his kickoffs too deep to be returned.
COVERAGE A
Adam Podlesh punted four times. One was fair-caught. The other three were downed. The Panthers had zero return yards for the game.
RETURNS A
A unique area to evaluate. Devin Hester came out with a clear plan to be more aggressive and popped an 11-yard punt return early. The Panthers were not going to give him chances to beat them on kickoffs and squibbed every kick. Key for the Bears was handling every one without mishap, contributing to an average starting position of the Chicago 32 after six kickoffs.
COACHING A
The coverage plans were drawn up by somebody. No one had a chance to make a tackle but one reason punts and kicks arent returned is because the coverage is too close and Dave Toub units are among the NFLs best.

Jim Harbaugh makes Alabama and Nick Saban his latest Twitter target

jim-harbaugh-nick-saban-0531.png

Jim Harbaugh makes Alabama and Nick Saban his latest Twitter target

Like the killer in a slasher movie or an infestation of ants, the discussion about NCAA satellite camps just won't die.

Justified or not, the SEC still has sour grapes over the sudden spread of satellite camps across college football, and the latest head coach to voice his displeasure was Alabama's Nick Saban. You know, the coach of the reigning national champs and a five-time national championship-winning coach.

Saban made extended comments during the SEC meetings on Tuesday, going after the involvement of third parties in the running of these camps rather than the typical SEC target of a recruiting advantage for programs from other parts of the country infringing on SEC territory.

And because the poster child for satellite camps is Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh — who seems to be holding a camp in every state in the union every day of the upcoming month of June — of course his name came up.

"I'm not blaming Jim Harbaugh, I'm not saying anything about him," Saban said, his quotes published over at Dr. Saturday. "I'm just saying it's bad for college football. Jim Harbaugh can do whatever he wants to do. I'm not saying anything bad about him if he thinks that's what's best. There needs to be somebody that looks out for what's best for the game, not what's best for the Big Ten or what's best for the SEC, or what's best for Jim Harbaugh, but what's best for the game of college football — the integrity of the game, the coaches, the players and the people that play it. That's bigger than all of this."

Despite Saban saying he didn't care what Harbaugh does, Harbaugh — who has a mighty quick trigger finger on Twitter and has put several coaches in his crosshairs this offseason — took it personally and launched a counter-attack on social media.

Add Saban to the list of SEC head honchos Harbaugh has targeted via Twitter, the Crimson Tide coach joining Tennessee's Butch Jones, Georgia's Kirby Smart and Mississippi's Hugh Freeze.

Regardless of how things play out on the field or in the recruiting rankings, Harbaugh is making sure he is competitive in the war of words.

Oh, and if you're interested, here's video of Saban's comments.

Austin Jackson could return to White Sox on Friday

sox_ventura_on_ajax_still_day_to_day_05-31_640x360_696250435902.jpg

Austin Jackson could return to White Sox on Friday

NEW YORK — At least the White Sox have one thing going for them: Austin Jackson could return in time to play the Detroit Tigers.

The White Sox are optimistic their center fielder may require only another missed game or two before he returns to the lineup. Jackson exited Sunday’s game with turf toe on his left foot and hasn’t played since. A day earlier, White Sox manager Robin Ventura said the club hoped to avoid a trip to the disabled list for Jackson, even if it meant not having him for a week.

“It’s still day-to-day stuff,” Ventura said. “I’m really hoping to get him to the off day and have him back by the weekend. It doesn’t look DL worthy. I know today would be tough one to have him in there.”

“It’s right in the joint. Painful. It should be all right by Friday.”

The White Sox play one more game against the New York Mets on Wednesday before they get the day off. They return to action on Friday in Detroit, their first meeting with the Tigers.

Brewers claim Neil Ramirez off waivers from Cubs

cubs_maddon_on_rondon_05-31_640x360_696263235809.jpg

Brewers claim Neil Ramirez off waivers from Cubs

The Milwaukee Brewers are in that uncertain place where the Cubs used to exist, trying to collect as many long-term assets as possible, trying to see which interesting project players might actually stick around for their next contending team.

The Brewers have now claimed reliever Neil Ramirez off waivers from the Cubs, potentially adding a right-handed weapon to their bullpen, though that idea comes with the standard disclaimer.

"The biggest thing is good health," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said before Tuesday’s game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Wrigley Field. "If he’s able to maintain good health and get an opportunity, he’s going to pitch really well."

The Cubs acquired Ramirez as part of the Matt Garza trade with the Texas Rangers in 2013 and watched him develop into a dominant setup guy the following season (1.44 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 43-plus innings).

But Ramirez has been on the disabled list three separate times since the middle of that 2014 season, accounting for only 14 innings during last year’s breakthrough into the playoffs. The Cubs didn’t find a role for him this season (4.70 ERA in eight appearances) and designated him for assignment on May 21.

"He’s got a great arm," Maddon said. "He’s got a wipeout slider. The velocity, I guess, came back a little bit, but I wasn’t here to really see the difference. Primarily, with good health, this guy can be very good. And I wish him nothing but the best. It’s no more complicated than that. If Neil stays well, he’s going to pitch well."