For all of the attention paid this offseason to wide receiver and finding a pass rusher, special teams is looking like the big winner right now for the Bears.First-round pick Shea McClellin talks about playing special teams. Third-rounder Brian Hardin is expected to compete for a safety spot but will have to play special teams in the meantime to secure his roster spot. The Bears envision fourth-rounder Evan Rodriguez being an every down tight end but also has the kind of speed treasured in kick coverage.Receivers Devin Thomas and Eric Weems were signed as free agents primarily for their special teams value. So was linebacker Blake Costanzo.The Bears added to the special teams talent pool Saturday when they selected Nevada cornerback Isaiah Frey.But Frey is 6-foot, 198 pounds and fits the mold that teams crave, that of a big defensive back to deal with receivers like Detroits Calvin Johnson and others 6-foot-2 and taller.The scouting reports on Frey suggest that he is better in man-to-man coverage rather than zone, and there are questions about his physical play, something that will need to improve enough to play the special teams hell need to for a roster spot.
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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."
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."