Bears-Titans preview: Titans ball

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Bears-Titans preview: Titans ball

Titans O has the Wright stuff
As the first round of the 2012 draft played out, the Bears turn on the clock arrived. They had made wide receiver a priority even after trading for Brandon Marshall in March and speed receiver Kendall Wright was still available after Jacksonville had taken Justin Blackmon sixth-overall and Arizona chose Michael Floyd 13th.
Wright, the Baylor partner of quarterback Robert Griffin III, was the next-highest rated receiver, according to Pro Football Weeklys Nolan Nawrocki.
But the Bears had Boise States Shea McClellin and South Carolinas Alshon Jeffery rated ahead of Wright. They selected McClellin at No. 19, passed on Wright whom the Tennessee Titans immediately grabbed at No. 20, and came back for Jeffery in the second round.
Wright now stands as the top rookie wide receiver with 40 catches, tied for fifth in the AFC, if for a surprisingly pedestrian 8.8 yards per catch. But his three touchdown receptions are tied for the team lead, which has not surprised the Bears at all.
We thought he was a heckuva football player, said coach Lovie Smith. Hes back from my home area in Texas. I knew quite a bit about him. Hes played well in the league, too. Same things we saw in his college video, hes doing that in the league. Good quickness. Has that great vertical. So he can catch the football. Well have to deal with him.
Titans turnaround?
He is not all the Bears defense will have to deal with.
Including running back Chris Johnson and tight end Jared Cook, the Titans have six players with at least 19 receptions. The Bears have one (Marshall).
The easy focal point of the Tennessee offense is Johnson. He has rushed for 1,000 yards in four straight seasons and last year ranked second on the team with 57 catches. His 19 this season are more than any Bear other than Marshall (Jeffery had 14 before missing the last two games).
If theres a hole there, hes going to find it and hit it fast, said linebacker Brian Urlacher. We just have get in our gaps. Thats our game plan every week: get in our gaps, run through our gaps and try to get into the backfield and make him change directions so we can get more guys to the football."
The Bears have done well getting into backfields against runners, ranking No. 1 against the run allowing 77.9 yards per game and eighth in average yards per carry (3.8). Johnson averages 4.5 this season.
Hasselbeck hassle
But Johnson has never faced the Bears. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has and he beats them.
Hasselbeck signed with Tennessee in 2011 as a free agent and passed for 3,571 yards, fourth-highest in franchise history. He was supposed to turn the offense this year to Jake Locker, the 10th-overall pick of last years draft.
But Locker has been out the last four games with a shoulder injury and the Seahawks have won two of the last three behind Hasselbeck, who has never lost to the Bears outside of Soldier Field either with Green Bay or Seattle.
The problem for the Bears is that he is a classic West Coast quarterback, patient and inclined to use every piece of his offense. Against the Bears is 3-3 for his career, has an 81.4 passer rating, throwing zero interceptions in his last three games vs. the Bears.
You have to be extremely disciplined and know that hes going to utilize everybody on that field at any time, said linebacker Lance Briggs.

In wake of first-round playoff sweep, Patrick Kane talks about the Blackhawks' 'reality check'

In wake of first-round playoff sweep, Patrick Kane talks about the Blackhawks' 'reality check'

It’s been just over a month since the Blackhawks were eliminated from the playoffs in swift fashion. And as Patrick Kane told WGN Radio on Tuesday morning, the bitter taste hasn’t gone away.

“I think a lot of us didn’t figure we’d be in the situation we’re in right now,” Kane told Steve Cochran and Dave Eanet on Tuesday. “All of us can work this offseason to get better. It’s a long time to wait to get back to that opportunity to play in the playoffs again, so we’ll have a sour taste in our mouth for a while.”

The Nashville Predators, who made quick work of the Blackhawks in the first round, eliminated the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night to earn the first Stanley Cup Final appearance in franchise history. Kane told WGN he’s been watching the playoffs and said Nashville “has a pretty good system going.”

“They come at you, they play aggressive. I don’t think any of us would be a big fan of the way they defend in the neutral zone, just sitting back and playing that 1-3-1. But at the same time they come at you,” said Kane, who added that the Blackhawks “weren’t even close in that (first-round) series.”

“Maybe we had a chance in Game 3 when we were up 2-0, but it was a clean sweep and that’s probably how it should’ve been,” he said. “So now it’s time to regroup.”

When the Blackhawks had their wrap-up media session on April 22, general manager Stan Bowman was asked if some players, having won three Stanley Cups since 2010, had lost some of the hunger. Bowman didn’t buy that and neither did Kane.

“Four sounds a lot better than three, right?” he said. “It’s a long time away and a lot of work, but sometimes you go through those situations and you realize you won three Cups and it’s almost like you’re going to be there again. That’s where the reality check is for us now, realizing how hard it is to get back in that situation, how hard it is to win a Cup or go deep in this league. There’s a lot of work to be done.”

94 Days to Kickoff: Oswego Panthers

94 Days to Kickoff: Oswego Panthers

CSNChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Jul. 31, we’ll unveil the @CSNPreps Top 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 25.

School: Oswego

Head coach: Brian Cooney

Assistant coaches: Marc Kersting, Karl Hoinkes, John Harazin, Steve Gregory, John Hugunin, Greg Verdino, Ben Wilson

How they fared in 2016: 10-1, 9-0 in Southwest Prairie Conference

2017 regular-season schedule:

Aug. 25 — vs. Minooka

Sept. 1 — at Plainfield North

Sept. 8 — vs. Joliet West

Sept. 15 — at Plainfield East

Sept. 22 — vs. Romeoville

Sept. 29 — vs. Oswego East

Oct. 6 — at Joliet Central

Oct. 13 — vs. Plainfield South

Oct. 20 — at Plainfield Central

Biggest storyline: Can the Panthers reload, especially on the offensive side of the football with just four starters back from the 2016 season?

Names to watch this season: offensive and defensive lineman Noah Shannon (a Minnesota commit), defensive back Josh Shodipo, quarterback Levi Olson

Biggest holes to fill: The Panthers will look for help at the offensive skill positions this summer.

EDGY's Early Take: Oswego has won 46 straight Southwest Prairie conference games, and the Panthers remain the team to beat in that league. Oswego has some serious star power, and this remains a hard-nosed, tough football team that is always a tough matchup in Class 8A.