Bears could target linebackers in draft


Bears could target linebackers in draft

Bears draft trail of breadcrumbs leads to

General manager Phil Emery has been firm and consistent about maintaining a cloak of secrecy and cone of silence over Bears draft intentions. But in theater, action is character and in the NFL, action is revealing.

The signing of former San Francisco 49ers guard Chilo Rachal, the latest in an offseason replete with additions on offense (Michael Bush, Brandon Marshall, Devin Thomas, Eric Weems), is a small trail of breadcrumbs leading in the general direction of a first draft strike on the other side of the ball.

But not just anywhere on defense.

Cornerback was addressed with the signings of Kelvin Hayden and Jonathan Wilhite. Safety was attended to with third-rounders in the last two drafts (Chris Conte, Major Wright) and that too is not a first-round need.

Emery is looking hard at veteran additions at linebacker in the days remaining before next Thursdays draft opening. chronicled a Halas Hall visit by Washington Redskins veteran Rocky McIntosh, a player on the Bears radar for the past couple of years.

Also getting looks have been Zac Diles from the Houston Texans and Bryan Kehl from the St. Louis Rams, according to various reports.

The implication: Emery and the Bears see value in free agency and potential depth behind Lance Briggs, Nick Roach and Brian Urlacher. Sports Illustrateds Peter King also reported that the Bears brought in Alabama linebacker Donta Hightower

D-end games

But where the guest list for linebacker has been heavier with veterans, an equally strong parallel effort has been happening at defensive end with an eye toward the draft.

The Bears have done extensive checking out of Illinois Whitney Mercilus, whom more than one mock draft projects to be falling to the Bears at No. 19. South Carolinas Melvin Ingram was a visitor at Halas Hall this week, according to sources. And Syracuse edge rusher Chandler Jones was a previous interviewee for the Bears.

Ingram is not expected to last until the Bears turn comes, with a resume including 19 sacks over the past two years. Jones, whom ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper rates behind only North Carolinas Quinton Coples and Ingram among ends, and Mercilus are juniors.

That makes for some difficulties in evaluations. Jones had 4.5 sacks in 2011 but missed five games with a knee injury. Mercilus had 16 sacks last season but only one in each of the previous two and if you go back to August, Mercilus wasnt even one of Illinois top five defensive linemen, Kiper said.

The juniors come out with a limited body of work, but sometimes that helps them because you cant shoot as many holes in them or find red flags. The guys that stay a long time, you find something that bothers you and youre picking them apart.

Fault-finding is traditionally the sport of choice in draft rooms over the last week before the draft. The Bears will be doing that with an eye toward having their preferences decided as their turn approaches next Thursday evening.

Cubs set historic lineup for Game 3 of World Series

Cubs set historic lineup for Game 3 of World Series

Pay attention to this; it will be the answer to a trivia question someday.

The Cubs released their lineup for Game 3 of the World Series Friday night, aka the first World Series game at Wrigley Field in 71 years.

So commit this to memory:

1. Dexter Fowler - CF
2. Kris Bryant - 3B
3. Anthony Rizzo - 1B
4. Ben Zobrist - LF
5. Willson Contreras - C
6. Jorge Soler - RF
7. Javy Baez - 2B
8. Addison Russell - SS
9. Kyle Hendricks - P

With Kyle Schwarber unable to play the outfield, the Cubs lose his bat in the starting lineup, but he will be available off the bench as a pinch-hitter.

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The wind is expected to be gusting out all night at Wrigley, so the Cubs are opting for some power potential early with Soler in right field.

This also represents the fourth straight game in which Jason Heyward is not in the starting lineup.

Indians Game 3 starter Josh Tomlin gave up 36 homers in the regular season, an average of 1.9 homers per nine innings.

Hendricks will go up against an Indians lineup that managed just one run off Jake Arrieta and the Cubs bullpen on a frigid, wet night in Cleveland in Game 2.

Hendricks is also coming off a stellar start at Wrigley last weekend when he absolutely dominated the Dodgers to clinch the National League pennant for the Cubs. In the postseason, Hendricks has a 1.65 ERA, 0.80 WHIP and .164 batting average against.

Three keys and prediction: Notre Dame - Miami

Three keys and prediction: Notre Dame - Miami

1. Get DeShone Kizer back on track. Notre Dame can’t afford a third consecutive sub-optimal game from its star quarterback, who followed his understandingly-ineffective game in Hurricane Matthew at N.C. State with a head-scratching benching in ideal conditions against Stanford. Miami has a good passing defense (13th in S&P+) that will provide a stiff test. The hope here is that Kizer returns from the bye week feeling refreshed, and that translates into the kind of showings he had in Weeks 1-5. But without a successful game from Kizer, Notre Dame will have an awfully difficult time beating Miami. 

2. Pressure Brad Kaaya. While all quarterbacks are, of course, far less effective under pressure, Kaaya’s splits are significant: A 67.5 completion percentage with no pressure and a 32.4 completion percentage under pressure. Miami ranks a mediocre 63d in adjusted sack rate, though Notre Dame’s defense ranks 119th at getting to the quarterback by the same measure. Notre Dame did have some success pressuring Stanford’s quarterbacks two weeks ago, but that was against a surprisingly weak Cardinal offensive line. If Notre Dame can’t make Kaaya uncomfortable on Saturday, he should have no problem picking apart the Irish secondary. 

3. Finally come up with “a play.” Notre Dame’s five losses have all been by eight or fewer points, and in each of them, the Irish have had a chance to win or tie late. Coach Brian Kelly feels like his team is only a play or two short of having beaten Texas, Michigan State, Duke, N.C. State and Stanford a year after making them against lesser opponents like Virginia and Temple. The onus is on Kelly and his coaching staff to get this still young team in better positions to make and execute those critical plays that could start flipping losses to wins. 

Prediction: Miami 27, Notre Dame 23. DeShone Kizer plays better but struggles to finish drives while Miami’s offense rides a second half surge to a comeback win to deal the Irish their sixth loss of the season.