Bears offense still wrestling with identity crisis

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Bears offense still wrestling with identity crisis

The 2012 Bears overall is excellent, as good as could be expected: 6-1. But as coordinator Mike Tice said on Wednesday, the performance against the Panthers obviously was not resume material.

It wouldnt be a whole heck of a lot of clinic coming out of that performance in the first half last week, Tice said.

Why that matters is that where some wins or losses provide positives to build on, that game didnt. A team that has stated it wants to build from a base of balance and running the ball did neither very well.

Indeed, the offensive coordinator is likening the Bears' offense to one in another sport that no one really should be aspiring to be like.

Forte analyzed

The questions have focused on whether or not Matt Forte is getting the ball enough of Brandon Marshall is getting it too much, or rather other receivers too little.

Fortes problem is actually simple. The franchise back missed one game, vs. St. Louis. In three of the six games he played, the Bears ran 57, 54 and 53 plays. Not enough enough to go around.

For purposes of loose comparison: Through the first six games last season, Forte handled the ball on 139 of the Bears 354 snaps (38.1 percent). Of those, 99 were runs.

Through the six games hes played this season, the Bears have run 376 snaps. Of those, the ball has gone to Forte on 113 (30 percent).

One difference is that through the first six last season, other backs (Marion Barber, Kalil Bell) had 28 total carries. Michael Bush has 49 carries in the 2012 Forte games, plus 18 vs. St. Louis.

The falloff in receiving for Forte also is no surprise, to him above all.

Im not the only one out there catching balls, Forte told CSNChicago.com. It just so happens we havent had to use me as much in the passing game.

Passing thoughts

The personality of the passing is incomplete. Marshall is in place but the loss of Alshon Jeffery cannot be ignored. The rookie had moved into the starting lineup and was second on the team with 14 catches when he broke his hand three games ago.

He is still No. 2 among wide receivers in catches. Losing speed receiver Johnny Knox, who had 37 catches all last season, was a setback but Jay Cutlers confidence level in Knox was nowhere near what it was becoming with the 6-foot-3 Jeffery.

But while the Bears spoke throughout the offseason, training camp and preseason about the multiple weapons on offense, the deployment of those weapons still has a tilt.

Marshall was acquired to catch a lot of passes. He is on pace to catch 110-112. That would be more than the top three Bears wide receivers combined last season.

Bad model

If that happens, what does that suggest about the effectiveness of those other so-called weapons.

Were like the NBA Minnesota Timberwolves when I was there and Kevin Garnett was playing, Tice said. All their offensive plays went through Kevin Garnett. In our passing game, were going to obviously go through Brandon, so hes going to be the first read or an early read a lot of the times.

Tice may want to find another template to use. In Garnetts years with the Timberwolves (1995-2007), Minnesota finished first in the Midwest Division and reached the Western Conference finals once.

With Garnett they never finished higher than third in the division, and they lost in the first round all six other times they managed to make the playoffs.

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Royals think White Sox have done 'phenomenal job' acquiring young talent

Royals think White Sox have done 'phenomenal job' acquiring young talent

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Only six years after they had the “best farm system of all time,” the Kansas City Royals see a bright future ahead for the upstart White Sox.

Several current Kansas City players who graduated from that farm system and led the Royals to a 2015 World Series title and manager Ned Yost all said they’re intrigued by how quickly the White Sox have built up their minor league talent.

Through four major trades and the signing of international free agent Luis Robert, the White Sox boast a system that features 10 top-10 prospects, according to MLBPipeline.com. Baseball America ranks eight White Sox prospects in their top 100. While the system isn’t yet ready to compete with the 2011 Royals for the unofficial title of best ever, it’s pretty impressive nonetheless.

“Have you seen what they’ve gotten back from tearing it down?” Yost said. “MLB ranks the top 100 prospects. Most teams have one or two. I don’t think we have any. They have 10. They’ve done a phenomenal job of restocking their system with incredibly talented young players.”

Not everything is identical between how these organizations built their farms.

The Royals headed into 2011 with nine top-100 prospects and five in the top 20 alone (Eric Hosmer 8, Mike Moustakas 9, Wil Myers 10, John Lamb 18, Mike Montgomery 19). The Kansas City Star in 2016 reviewed the best-ranked systems of all-time and determined by a point value system (100 points for the No. 1 prospect and one point for the No. 100 prospect) that the 2011 club was better than all others with 574 points.

But that group was the byproduct of a painstaking stretch in which the Royals averaged 96 losses from 2004-12. The slower path taken by Kansas City allowed its young core to develop and learn how to play together in the minors. As pitcher Danny Duffy noted, “we went to the playoffs every year.”

They won at Rookie-Burlington, Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha took home three titles. Working together was a big key to the team’s success at the major league level, said catcher Salvador Perez.

“We didn’t come from different teams,” Perez said. “We all came from here. We had a young team together. We learned how to win and win in the big leagues.

“We learned how to win together, play together and play for the team. It was really important.”

The only time the Royals didn’t win was at Advance-A Wilmington Blue Rocks, Duffy said.

“You learn how success feels and how some failure feels,” Duff said. “We lost in Wilmington and you would have thought the world was coming to an end.”

According to the Star, the Royals haven’t had much recent competition for the best system. Until now.

The 2006 Diamondbacks accrued 541 points and the 2000 Florida Marlins had 472. The 2015 Cubs scored 450 points.

After the addition of Blake Rutherford on Tuesday (the No. 36 prospect on BA’s current top 100 list), the White Sox have 483 points. But the 2017 Atlanta Braves are even better with 532 points, the third-highest total of all-time.

The White Sox farm system has created excitement among the fan base that had wavered in recent years. Not everyone is on board, but the majority seems to be and that can create hysteria.

“We had people at the games who were super excited about the wave of prospects,” Duffy said. “Obviously they have a stacked system over there, very similar to what we had coming up. There was a lot of excitement. It was crazy.”

But excitement didn’t immediately translate into victories. Though a fair amount of the 2011 class graduated to the majors by later that season, the Royals didn’t get on track in the big leagues for a few years.

It wasn’t until the second half of 2013 that the Royals got going. The 2014 club ended a 29-year playoff drought with a wild-card berth that led to an American League pennant. They followed that up with a World Series title in 2015. Had it not been for a Herculean effort by Madison Bumgarner, Kansas City might have had consecutive titles.

Still, getting there takes time.

“The first thing you had to do was get them here,” Yost said. “Experience has taught me that it’s generally 2 1/2 years before they can get to a point where they can compete. They just have to gain that experience at the major league level because it’s definitely a much more difficult style of play up here. The talent is just so incredibly good that it takes a while for talent or players to adjust to where they’re productive. It just takes time then being able to go out and play every single day.”

Even though that means the White Sox will experience difficult times the next few years, Duffy and Co. think it’s worth the wait. While Duffy imagines losing Jose Quintana and David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle and Todd Frazier isn’t fun, he has a good sense what is headed this direction.

“Losing Quintana stings, but they got a king’s ransom back,” Duffy said. “It’s the way of the game. But they’re going to have a really good time in the next few years.”