Bears-Titans preview: Bears ball

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Bears-Titans preview: Bears ball

The Tennessee Titans have not defended anything particularly well. So:
If the Bears cannot run the ball at will on a defense standing 28th in yardage and 26th in per-carry averages allowed;
if they cannot throw at will on a unit ranked 31st in third-down stops, 30th in sacks per pass play and 30th in overall yards allowed per game;
then the Bears offense may want to forget about getting off the bus running and just stay on the bus.
We dont have to get exponentially better, insisted quarterback Jay Cutler. We just have to take one step at a time, each week each player gets a little better at a time and by the end of the year well be where we want to be.
They most definitely are not where they want to be now. Despite the addition of Brandon Marshall, the Bears rank 25th in passing yardage per game (195.6). Last year they were 18th (222.7).
Curiously perhaps, while some talk is over whether or not running back Matt Forte is getting the ball enough, the Bears are averaging 124 yards per game vs. last years 114.7 at this point.
Remember the Titans
The Titans are being perceived as a get-right game for the streaky Chicago Bears offense. It would be a mistake in judgment if that filtered into the Bears locker room the way the misperception of the Carolina Panthers appeared to, judging from the results of the first three quarters last Sunday and players acknowledging that they came out flat.
Carolina allowed the Bears all of 61 yards until the final possession of the third quarter when Jay Cutler found Earl Bennett for 24 and 11 yards on successive plays. Even that trace of a pulse amounted to nothing when Robbie Gould missed a field goal, meaning that with 7 minutes remaining in the game, the supposedly explosive Chicago offense had put all of seven points on the NFLs 20th-ranked scoring defense.
If that happens against the Titans, an offseason of adding Michael Bush, Brandon Marshall, Chilo Rachal and other pieces like Jeremy Bates to coach Cutler would appear to have added very little to the overall.
Tennessee is 31st in points allowed (32.1 per game). Of some immediate concern, for the last three games, the Titans are allowing an average of nearly 25 points per game, and they won two of those games.
Breakdown avoidance
The Bears have allowed an alarming 11 sacks in the last two games. They are credited with accounting for nearly a third of the years sack totals for Detroit (five of 17) and Carolina (six of 20).
The operative word there is Bears because Cutlers propensity to hold the ball too long has directly contributed to an estimated half of those takedowns.
And it is Bears because so many different players are having breakdowns in an overall where one missed block can offset every other one being made.
We talked about a couple weeks ago, Dont be The Guy to mess up, and we took turns all the way across the board being the guy, Tice said. We had a lot of individual breakdowns of guys physically across the board.
The Titans play a 4-3 with undersized speed rushers on the edges, one in particular that has left the Bears with some scar tissue.
Kamerion Wimbley delivered what arguably was a turning point the wrong direction last season as an Oakland Raider when he intercepted a Caleb Hanie pass and returned it 73 yards to set up a first-half field goal that took away a go-ahead scoring opportunity and appeared to unravel Hanie and the Bears, who lost that and the next four games, and the season.
Wimbley, with 2.5 sacks and five QB pressures, will typically line up at right end at 255 pounds about the same size as Green Bays Clay Matthews with a 70-pound disadvantage vs. left tackle JMarcus Webb. He had a sack of Hanie last year and one of Cutler in 2009, a game in which Cutler was pressured into a passer rating of 66.7.
Wimbley is a former No. 1 pick (Cleveland). Left end Derrick Morgan (278 pounds) was Titans No. 1 pick in 2010. And the starting secondary has a total of 22 NFL seasons, with three 6-footers and 5-10 corner Alterraun Verner.
Scary team, Marshall said. Theyve got some guys on the back end that have played the game for some time now.

Veteran outfielder Peter Bourjos eyes role with White Sox

Veteran outfielder Peter Bourjos eyes role with White Sox

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- As he surveyed the landscape this offseason, Peter Bourjos thought he and the White Sox would make for a good fit.

Adam Eaton had been traded and Austin Jackson departed via free agency, leaving the White Sox with Melky Cabrera and several young players to man a thin outfield. Bourjos, who lived in Chicago until second grade, pursued the White Sox and last month agreed to terms on a minor-league deal in hopes of earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Last season, Bourjos, who was born in Chicago, hit .251/.292/.389 with five home runs and 23 RBIs in 383 plate appearances for the Philadelphia Phillies.

“I always liked playing in Chicago,” Bourjos said. “It was a good fit and then spring training is here. I have two young kids. So packing them up and going to Florida wasn’t something I wanted to do either.

“We definitely look at all those options on paper. Evaluate what might be the best chance of making a team and this is definitely one of them. It seems like a good fit on paper.”

If he’s healthy enough, Charlie Tilson will get the first crack at the everyday job in center field. Tilson, who missed the final two months of last season with a torn hamstring, is currently sidelined for 10 days with foot problems. Beyond Tilson, the White Sox have prospects Adam Engel and Jacob May with Cabrera slated to start in left field and Avisail Garcia pegged for right. Leury Garcia is also in the mix.

But there still appears to be a good shot for Bourjos to make the club and manager Rick Renteria likes his veteran presence for the young group. Bourjos has accrued six seasons of service time between the Phillies, Los Angeles Angels and St. Louis Cardinals.

“Bourjy has been around,” Renteria said. “He knows what it takes. He understands the little nuances of major-league camp and how we have so many players and we want to give them all a look. We want to see Bourjos, we want to see him out there.”

Bourjos, who turns 30 in March, has an idea what he wants to do with his chance. A slick defensive outfielder, Bourjos wants to prove he’s a better hitter than his .243/.300/.382 slash line would suggest. He said it’s all about being relaxed.

“Offensively just slow everything down and not try to do too much,” Bourjos said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself and it hasn’t translated. I think last year I got in a spot where I just tried to relax in the batter’s box and let everything go and what happened happened. I had success with that.

“I now realize what that feels like and it doesn’t work. Just take a deep breath and be relaxed in the box and good things are going to happen.”

Why Brett Anderson called Cubs fans ‘f------ idiots’ and loves the idea of pitching at Wrigley Field

Why Brett Anderson called Cubs fans ‘f------ idiots’ and loves the idea of pitching at Wrigley Field

MESA, Ariz. – On an October night where you could literally feel Wrigley Field shaking, Brett Anderson fired off a message on his personal Twitter account: "Real classy cubs fans throwing beer in the Dodgers family section. Stay classy f------ idiots."
 
The Cubs had just clinched their first National League pennant since the year World War II ended, beating Clayton Kershaw and playing as close to a perfect game as they had all season. Anderson kept up the entertaining commentary during the World Series, previewing Game 7 – "We can all agree that we're happy it's not Joe West behind the plate tomorrow" – and tweaking his future manager: "Aroldis (Chapman) might puke on the mound from exhaustion." 
 
In another generation, a veteran pitcher might walk into a new clubhouse and wonder about any awkwardness with a hitter he once drilled with a fastball or some bad blood from a bench-clearing brawl. But overall today's players share the same agents, work out together in the same warm-weather offseason spots and understand the transient nature of this business. When pregame batting practice is filled with fist bumps, bro hugs and small talk between opponents, it becomes trying to remember what you said on social media. 
 
"I'm kind of a sarcastic ass on Twitter," Anderson said Monday. "I kind of sit back and observe. I'm not a huge talker in person. But I can kind of show some of my personality and candor on some of those things.
 
"You look at stuff (when) you get to a new team. I'm like: ‘Wow, man, did I say anything about anybody that's going to piss them off?' But I think the only thing I said about the players is that Kyle (Hendricks) looks like he could have some Oreos and milk after pitching in the World Series. 
 
"But that's kind of the guy he is. Just the calmness that he shows is something that we can all try to strive for."
 
Anderson essentially broke the news of his signing – or at least tipped off the media to look for confirmations – with a "Wheels up to Chicago" tweet in late January. The Cubs guaranteed $3.5 million for the chance to compete against Mike Montgomery and see which lefty can grab the fifth-starter job. Anderson could max out with $6.5 million more in incentives if he makes 29 starts this season. 
 
After undergoing surgery to repair a bulging disc in his lower back last March, Anderson made three starts and didn't earn a spot on the NLCS roster.  
 
"I obviously wasn't in the stands," Anderson said. "Supposedly from what I was told – it could be a different story – but there was just some beers thrown on where the families were. I'm going to stick to my family and my side.  
 
"I wasn't calling out the whole stadium. (It wasn't): ‘Screw you, Cubs fans.' It was just the specific (incident) – whoever threw the beers on the family section. Everybody has their fans that are kind of rowdy and unruly.

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"That just happened to be a situation. But you like those people on your side. I played in Oakland, and they had some of the rowdiest fans. In the playoffs, it seemed like ‘The Black Hole' for the Raiders games.
 
"You have your bad seeds in every fan base. When people are rowdy and cheering on their team and have one too many beers, the next thing you know, you're throwing them.
 
"Just visiting (Wrigley), it's a fun crowd, because it's such an intimate setting and you feel like they're right on top of you and it's so loud." 
 
Imagine the matchup nightmare the Dodgers could've been if their pitching staff hadn't been so top-heavy and manager Dave Roberts could've confidently gone to someone other than Kershaw, Rich Hill or closer Kenley Jansen. The Dodgers had made Anderson the qualifying offer after a solid 2015 season – 10-9, 3.69 ERA, 180-plus innings, a 66.7 groundball percentage – and he grabbed the $15.8 million guarantee. 
 
Anderson turned around and did the knock-on-wood motion at his locker, saying he felt good after completing a bullpen session with catcher Willson Contreras at the Sloan Park complex. Anderson is a Tommy John survivor who's also gone on the disabled list for a stress fracture in his right foot, a broken left index finger and a separate surgery on his lower back.
 
"Yeah, it's frustrating," Anderson said. "When I'm healthy and able to go out there and do my work, I feel like I'm a pretty good pitcher. I don't think I've ever been able to put everything as a whole together in one season. I've had some good spots – and some good seasons here and there – but hopefully I can put it all together and have a healthy season and do my part."
 
The Cubs are such a draw that Shane Victorino signed a minor-league deal here last year – even with more than $65 million in career earnings and even after a fan dumped a beer on him while he tried to catch a flyball at Wrigley Field in 2009.   
 
Anderson wanted to play for a winner and understood the organization's pitching infrastructure. He saw his pitching style as a match for the unit that led the majors in defensive efficiency last year. He was even intrigued by Camp Maddon and the wacky stunts in Mesa.  
 
"It's obviously an uber-talented group," Anderson said. "(It's also) seeing the fun that they're having. I'm more on the calm and cerebral side, but I think doing some of the things that these guys have in store for me will hopefully open me up a little bit and break me out of my shell. 
 
"'Uncomfortable' is a good word, especially for me. You don't want to get complacent. You don't want to get used to rehab. You want to go out there and do new things and try new things and meet new people and have new experiences. All things considered, the Cubs offered the best mix of everything."