Struggling Bears offense looking at options for impact at TE


Struggling Bears offense looking at options for impact at TE

A plan for the 2012 Bears offense was for dramatically more impact from the tight end position after that group was relegated to insignificance by Mike Martz, best reflected in the trading away of Greg Olsen.

(Not that anyone is keeping score but Olsen has 43 catches for the Carolina Panthers, more than double the combined total (18) of all Bears tight ends.)

The organization voted with its checkbook on Kellen Davis; 2.7 million signing bonus in a two-year package totaling 6 million. Davis is due a 2014 base salary of 2.4 million and at this point it is problematic whether the Bears consider a tight end with only 11 catches and significant drops through the teams first nine games.

He has seen a substantial negative rating by analysts for in five of the Bears nine games, allowing two sacks on Jay Cutler in addition to drawing four penalties.

Davis is the 55th-ranked tight end, according to PFF, with five drops, a key lost fumble on the Bears first play in the Houston game, and 55th in percent of catches from passes thrown (42.3).

But that seems like everything, said coordinator Mike Tice, refusing to lay an over-sized share of the blame for the offensive problems on Davis or any one player or area.

It seems like its me, its the players, it seems like were trying to get this thing going and were trying to play with some consistency. We havent achieved that so its frustrating all the way around.

But the Bears have edged away from the vertical schememindset of Martz and toward a West Coast controlled approach with Tice and quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates, who worked in that system with Denver and Seattle.

The latter system utilizes the tight end for considerably more than just blocking.

The Bears invested their fourth-round draft choice this year in Evan Rodriguez, a pass-catching tight end from Temple. Rodriguez was the first of the Bears rookie class to win a starting job, opening the season at fullback, however.

He missed four games with a knee injury and now is expected to integrate more receiving and route-running into his job description.

Its not too difficult because I was in the tight-ends room earlier this year, Rodriguez said. I have a good feel for whats going on.

Kyle Adams was targeted for his third catch of the season last game with Jason Campbell, more inclined than Cutler to use tight ends in check downs.

Morning Update: Cubs tie up World Series with Game 2 win; Bulls begin season against Celtics

Morning Update: Cubs tie up World Series with Game 2 win; Bulls begin season against Celtics

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Cubs offense settling into World Series groove

Cubs offense settling into World Series groove

CLEVELAND - It doesn't take long for the 2016 Cubs to rebound.

Their American League-style lineup is just simply too talented to keep down for an extended period of time, especially with Kyle Schwarber now added back into the fold.

They Cubs hitters are so confident, they even left Progressive Field feeling good about themselves despite being shut out in Game 1 of the World Series.

The Cubs got on the board early Wednesday night, plating a run on the third batter of the game as Anthony Rizzo doubled home Kris Bryant.

"Take the momentum away. Take the crowd out of it," Bryant said. "It's nice to score first. Especially when you're the visiting team, to get out there and score within the first three batters is huge."

The early lead helped the lineup settle in and keep their foot on the gas for a 5-1 victory to take the series back to Wrigley Field tied one game apiece.

"Especially with a young lineup, I think when you see a few guys go up there and take some good quality at-bats, one happens after the other and the other guys seem to do the same thing," Ben Zobrist said. "It takes a lot of pressure off. When you see other guys having good, quality at-bats, you don't feel like you have to take pitches and you can be aggressive early on. 

"Oftentimes when you're aggressive in the zone is when you take the tough ones. We did a good job tonight laying off some good pitches. When they made mistakes in the zone, we really hit the ball hard. Even though we scored five runs, obviously we had a lot of baserunners on and we could've scored a lot more."

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Zobrist has a point.

The night after leaving nine runners on base and going 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position, the Cubs left 13 runners on base and tallied just three hits in 12 tries with runners in scoring position.

Between nine hits and eight walks, there were Cubs on base all game. Indians pitchers didn't retire Cubs hitters in order in an inning until the seventh.

The Cubs also forced the Indians to throw 196 pitches in nine innings and worked starter Trevor Bauer to 51 pitches through the first two frames.

"That was good for us," Bryant said. "We saw a lot of their bullpen, so we have a lot of information to learn from and hopefully use in the next game."

Anthony Rizzo summed up the lineup's mentality simply:

"Grind out at-bats, work the pitcher's pitch count up and get the next guy up," he said.

That "pass the baton" mentality is what drives this offense and after a brief lull in that regard in Los Angeles when they were shut out in back-to-back games in the NLCS, the Cubs leave Cleveland feeling pretty good.

"When we're able to [get pitch counts up], you can kinda feel it - our offense really feeds off of that," Zobrist said. "We believe that we're going to break through eventually."