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UNC point guard Coby White is making his first long term foray outside of his home state. White didn’t have to go far from his Wilson, North Carolina home to join the Tar Heels. The city of nearly fifty thousand people was once a major center for tobacco cultivation. Now it’s better known for Interstate 95, a major north-south route along the eastern seaboard, and as the birthplace of Julius Peppers, another illustrious UNC alum.
On draft night, the Chicago Bulls made him the first Tar Heel first-rounder the team has selected since Michael Jordan, with the seventh pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Most mock drafts had him going to the Bulls, who finished the 2018-19 season with a paltry 22-60 record.
I felt a sense of relief for Coby because he was at a spot where people recognized what a great player he was for us. He was in serious consideration for the third, fourth, fifth and sixth picks before the Bulls took him at seven. Chicago wanted him from day one, so I am very pleased he went there. They are getting a fantastic player.– UNC coach Roy Williams
John Paxon stressed that, “the most important thing is that Coby White is a nineteen year-old young man, that’s going to get better. He’s just starting his career. Our job is develop him and help him develop into the best player he can be.” Paxon went on to state, “all of our background on him is that he is the type of young man that will take the challenge on. You have to play faster in today’s game. You have to get the ball up the floor. This young man can play an up tempo game. Jim (coach Boylen) has spoken often how we want to have multiple ball handlers. Guys who can take the ball off the board and push it up. Coby can run. He can shoot the ball. At North Carolina, he took on a leadership role with a lot of older guys. We feel he’s just a really good fit for us.”
He is spot on in that assessment. White led the break for one of the highest and quickest scoring teams in college basketball. Coby averaged a tad over 16 points per game, scoring almost 100 more total points than Michael Jordan did his freshman season.
Bulls coach Jim Boylan had high praise for his new draftee. “We loved his positional size. We loved his multi-position defender and multi-position ball handler. He can play on the ball. He can play off the ball. He can create. He can receive. Above all that, he looks you in the eye when you talk to him. He’s coachable.”
I love being here. I’m glad they drafted me. My goal is to win. I’m all about winning. All the individual awards, that’s gonna come. My main goal is to come in here and win.-Coby White
The slender guard was spoting a neatly trimmed beard, and his now trademark crazy hair. He wore a beige suit and white shirt with no tie. His voice is quiet but confident when he adderssed the media, family, friends, and Bulls employees at the press conference. “At this level,” he says, “you are going against great players every night. Being in the ACC helped. I was playing against great college point guards. Every night you had to come ready to compete. You had to show up every game. For me personally, the ACC was the toughest conference in the country. Playing in that conference helped me bring that competitive spirit, that heart, and that will to win.”
with Packer Dave, Steve Leventhal, and John Poulter
The guys are back to discuss the Toronto Raptors’ first ever NBA Championship, the St. Louis Blues and their seven-game Stanley Cup win over Boston, as well as talk of the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers offseason football. John also gives his thoughts on the Major League Baseball season. Lastly, Jeff Rich joins us to talk Cleveland Browns football and the upcoming NBA Draft. We also discuss the trade between the Lakers and Pelicans that sent Anthony Davis to Los Angeles for the fourth overall pick and three players.
Khalil Mack and Mitch Trubisky were the story this week.
Last year, head coach Matt Nagy had to learn his new players, and the Chicago Bears in turn had to absorb his offensive scheme. In 2019, it is all about building on the success of the previous season.
Nagy talked about Trubisky’s growth. “He’s learning this offense. But now what he’s trying to do, is master it. Last year he learned it. This year he’s trying to really master it. He’s done a wonderful job right now at trying to get to some of the adjustment s we have withing the plays and the concepts and the schemes.” Nagy intimated that we would see that come to fruition in training camp and preseason games. He added, “He’s watching tape. He’s leading meetings. He’s vocal in the meetings that we have. He’s understanding that when we teach this offense that there’s different levels to it.”
When asked about having Mack for the entire offseason, Nagy commented, “It’s amazing how much he affected everybody (last year.) Now that he’s here, you get to see that he’s does things by his actions. He continues to do that. He shows some of these younger kids who want to be leaders. There’s different ways to do it, by showing up every day. By making plays.”
Khalil has been looking forward to the camaraderie, and getting a deep understanding of the defense early on. Unlike last year where, “having a one and a half weeks before the season wasn’t enough time to prepare.” As typical of his approach last season he vowed to let his play do the talking.
“It’s feels really great out there,” says Trubisky. “It’s a lot of fun to be back in Chicago, with the boys playing football again. Everyone’s on the same page. Everyone knows what they’re doing. Being year two in this offense. It’s a lot of fun going through it. Having fun executing it.” The third year QB was asked about the new acquisitions. “We got a ton of weapons on offense. It’s a lot of fun for a quarterback. We got a lot of talent around me in free agents we signed, that came in here and learned the offense. They picked it up real quickly. We continue to add great guys that contribute to our culture.” He went on to confirm Allen Robinson’s assessment that the team was way ahead of last year. “Everyone knows what they’re doing. We don’t have to spend a lot of time going in depth on each play, because we know most of the details. We’re helping the new guys, the rookies.”
The Chicago Bears begun 2019 organized team activities on Tuesday, kicking off the team’s first edition of on-field work as a team. Other than the imminent possibility of injuries, OTAs serve as an introductory and refresher period. It is a time for install and little else.
Last year’s session of OTAs focused on the installation of Matt Nagy’s offense. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky and the rest of the team got their first look at Nagy’s playbook, and some of them got their first look at each other. Trubisky got his first reps with a then-revamped receiving corps of Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Trey Burton. This season, however, Trubisky has an established connection with his targets and a familiarity with Nagy’s system.
“Versus last year, which is all I have to compare it to,” Nagy said, “The speed of the plays, especially offensively, breaking the huddle, they know where they’re going. Now they just get to play football. They don’t think as much.”
“Mitch is in and out of the huddle, he sees the defense, and so from the time that we’ve been out here, it’s exciting. You stay cautiously optimistic that he’s going to take that really big jump, which, I’ve been saying that since I got here that it takes time. You see the vision from him within the huddle and at the line of scrimmage.”
The above quote on Trubisky was an unprompted comment, highlighting how great of an offseason storyline the third-year quarterback has been. As great as the Bears’ defense was last year, and likely will be this year, it will keep that “next step” that Nagy referred to for the Bears to break through their ceiling and into the Super Bowl.
Along with the familiarity that comes with the second year of a new system, changes have been made on the offensive side of the ball, namely that James Daniels and Cody Whitehair appear amidst a position switch and that swing tackle Bradley Sowell is switching to tight end.
“We’re going to try it out and see what he can do,” Nagy said of Sowell’s position switch. “It’s a position right there of that Y-tight end type spot that we could use some more depth, and Bradley has shown us the ability, not just off a two-point play or a touchdown play, but he’s shown it repetitively in practice that he has the athletic ability, the hands, he’s very smart, he knows how to block, all that stuff. So let’s test it out and see. And when I tell you he’s all in, he’s all in.”
You may recognize Sowell more for his appearance in Nagy’s funky plays that turn linemen into receivers, and you may recognize him specifically for this touchdown celebration:
However, Bradley Sowell’s position change signals a possible solution to the need for an in-line blocking tight end that Nagy refers to as the “Y.” Ideally, that role would go to Adam Shaheen, but durability and performance issues have necessitated depth. One of Nagy’s lynchpin philosophies is being as versatile as possible, and Sowell’s presence on the field may tell the defense a run is coming more than Shaheen’s presence. However, depth was needed at the spot and the in-house position change could be an answer to that need.
The other piece of big news was James Daniels and Cody Whitehair switching positions, sending Whitehair to guard and Daniels to center, where he played in college.
“That’s what we’re looking at,” Nagy said. “You know, we’re giving them a chance to look at it and see where it’s at. We feel comfortable with it”
The move was slightly clamored for last year in response to Whitehair struggling with snaps at times. But the chemistry between Trubisky and Whitehair was too important for the installation of the offense to be messed with. With the offense now familiar to Trubisky, existing quarterback-center chemistry is not as prioritized.
Whereas this year’s OTAs is a refresher for the offense, the defense will be introduced to a new coach and system in defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano.
Pagano, who was fired from the Indianapolis Colts’ head-coaching job is energized and excited to work with the league’s number one scoring defense from a year ago: “When what you have has been taken away from you, and now you have an opportunity to be back doing what you love, that’s coaching and being around great coaches and great players and guys that love ball, it’s really easy.”
Pagano has said in the past he won’t mess with a great thing in the Bears’ defense. Other than the language, the Bears’ defense will likely look similar to last year’s from a schematic standpoint. One of the anchors of that defense is second-year linebacker Roquan Smith, who led the team in tackles last year.
“You talk about football character and you talk about football IQ, we know the measurables, he’s one of the brightest, smartest guys I’ve been around for just a second-year player,” said Pagano, who coached Hall of Famer Ray Lewis in Baltimore.
The Bears drafted Smith with the eighth pick in 2018 with the hopes that he could be a dominant presence in the middle of the field for years to come, and so far, that seems like a wise investment. Smith had 121 tackles last year, despite missing all of training camp in a contract holdout. He now gets the experience of a full offseason without any contract stalemates, allowing maximum improvement.
“It feels great to be out here with my guys,” Smith said. “So I’m just focusing on getting better with the guys each and every day, so you can’t ask for more than that.”
OTAs are either the first taste of massive changes or a continuation of previous schemes and coaches. Fortunately for a still-growing Bears offense, they fall into the second category. The defense, with such stars Khalil Mack, Eddie Jackson and Smith, is good enough that new terminology won’t be a barrier in its success. The Bears’ mandatory minicamp takes place June 11th-13th. We’re still months away from the Week One kickoff against Green Bay, but the Bears are in a good position after OTAs.
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Hear audio from Matt Nagy, Chuck Pagano and Roquan Smith:
Draft season is upon us, and after the typical ebbs and flows, falls and reaches of the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears will get their chance to add to their playoff-caliber team.
A successful season and a roster with few holes left the Bears with little to worry about, particularly the first night, where they were without a pick as a result of the Khalil Mack trade. The Bears hold five picks, one in the third (87), one in the fourth (126), one in the fifth (162), and two in the seventh (222, 238).
“There’s just so many variables and so many scenarios, cause there’s so much space before we pick” general manager Ryan Pace told reporters in his pre-draft press conference. “There’s a bigger pool of players. So you’re playing out every one of these scenarios, ‘Man, what if this player fell?’ There’s just a bigger pool of players we’re talking about, so a lot of scenarios. So that’s probably the challenge that exists with that.”
The Bears’ two most pressing needs remain running back and kicker, and the need for the former was exacerbated by the trade of former Pro Bowl running back Jordan Howard to the Eagles. The buzz has been that the Bears will surely take a running back in the third round, but it’s possible they truly believe in the upward arrow of Mike Davis and the versatility Cordarrelle Patterson and Tarik Cohen offer in the backfield.
Pace was sure to mention he doesn’t feel any immediate pressing needs, saying, “”You know, I know right now, running back’s been talked about a lot, but right now, we feel good about that position. We feel good about Tarik (Cohen), we feel really good about Mike Davis, we feel good about Ryan Nall, and we feel good about Cordarrelle Patterson and the things he can do out of the backfield as well.”
If such is the case, depth will be a priority, perhaps on the interior of the offensive line. Cody Whitehair will be a free agent next season and Kyle Long isn’t getting any younger. Ryan Pace has shown a willingness to draft secondary help in the later rounds, particularly at safety. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix’s one-year deal could call for insurance at the position.
“We’re trying to project right now, who will be there. So I would just say that third round cloud, for example, it’s just bigger than it is in previous years,” Pace said.
With those three positions laid out, let’s start with the sexiest: Running back. The league has grown smarter and learned to understand the pitfalls of drafting a running back in the first round. After the first round, Alabama’s Josh Jacobs is the lone running back off the board.
This crop of running backs is particularly deep, and barring a crazy run on running backs, impressive talent will fall to the third round. Miles Sanders and David Montgomery are thought to be the next best running backs after Jacobs, and there’s a good chance they’ll be gone before the Bears are on the clock at pick 87. A trade-up is always possible with Pace, but let’s assume those two are gone.
Matt Nagy wants his running back to be two things, athletic, and adept catching out of the backfield. Jordan Howard was neither of these things, so he was traded to the Eagles. Memphis’s Darrell Henderson was an uber-productive ball carrier who runs hard and runs far (He averaged 8.9 yards per carry his senior year). He has the breakaway speed to make defenders miss at the second level, and he gets to that point with crafty agility and an ability to avoid defenders. His athleticism and explosiveness compliment his pass-catching abilities, and those three traits make him an enticing fit in Matt Nagy’s system, despite his 5’8 height. If (And that’s certainly a big “if”) Henderson is there, Pace should sprint to the commissioner with the draft card in his hand.
Offensive line is not an immediate need, but with running back being really the only one, the Bears can afford to shore up the interior. The middle rounds of the draft are a good place to find immoveable guards, but those guards also have to move. Another extension of Nagy’s desire for athleticism, a fluid set of interior players is a necessary component in Nagy’s system, particularly in the run game, indicated by the hit the Bears’ run production took they lost Kyle Long due to injury. Some names to keep an eye on over the weekend are North Carolina-Charlotte’s Nate Davis, Penn State’s Connor McGovern and Georgia’s Lamont Gaillard.
We still don’t know for sure what Chuck Pagano wants in his safeties, but the signing of Clinton-Dix indicate he desires balance between defending the run and the pass, at least next to his ball hawking free safety Eddie Jackson. Only two safeties came off the board in the first round, leaving a lot of talent left. Whoever the Bears draft likely won’t be an immediate starter, so it should be a safe assumption that they’ll look more to the fourth and fifth for a project as opposed to missing on a potential instant-impact player in the third. Boston College’s Will Harris made an impact in the run game, and with grooming, his athleticism could project him to be capable in the pass game.
One last thing to keep an eye on is the Robbie Gould situation. The Bears’ all-time leading scorer recently requested a trade from San Francisco, and the Bears immediately came to everyone’s mind. Kicker trade demands are fairly unprecedented, but if Ryan Pace truly wants to end his search for the ever-elusive kicker, the Bears’ fifth is not too high a high price.
Follow on Twitter: @crbevins11 @radiomogul
Hear audio from Ryan Pace:
These two Chicago Bears standouts were selected by their teammates to receive this distinguished honor.
The Piccolo Award has been given to a Bears rookie every season since 1970 in memory of Brian Piccolo. In 1992, the award was expanded to include a veteran as well. The Piccolo Award is a special honor voted on by Bears players, who select a teammate they feel best exemplifies the courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication and sense of humor of the late Brian Piccolo.
Patrick McCaskey, grandson of Bears founder George Halas acted as master of ceremonies. First he introduced Piccolo’s daughter Traci who noted, “It’s hard to believe that it’s been forty-nine years since we founded the Brian Piccolo Cancer Research Fund to carry on my father’s legacy and find a cure. She went on to talk about how much money has been raised, some of the current research, and expressed her thanks to the McCaskey family for all their support.
Coach Matt Nagy went next. He stressed how the team makes Piccolo’s legacy important, and how much it means to the players and coaches. “I think Our whole city, our whole family, our whole organization, should be extremely proud of the high character people we have, and how much family we’ve become.”
Assistant Linebackers coach Bill Shuey introduced rookie honoree Roquan Smith by saying, “Roquan epitomizes the characteristics associated with the Brian Piccolo award. Courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication, and the sense of humor. He has all of them.” Shuey added, “He’s an extremely hard worker, and he practices like he plays, but he also has a lighthearted side to him. His (Roquan’s) fast and tenacious style of play, coupled with humble and hard-working approach to the game, has earned him the respect of his coaches and teammates.”
The soft spoken Smith humbly accepted his award. “I’m honored to stand if front of you guys. I would like to thank the entire Chicago Bears organization for giving me an opportunity to live out my dream. To my teammates, I wouldn’t be here without you guys who have encouraged, motivated, and graciously taught me so much about this game on a daily basis. And also for noticing my hard work, courage, loyalty , and teamwork.”
New Defensive Coordinator Chuck Pagano talked about his own personal battle with cancer. “To the Piccolo family, I can’t tell you how grateful I am for your advocacy. The Piccolo fund research saved my life.” He discussed how the cure rate for the form of leukemia that he got back in 2012, had a cure rate of 90 percent, up from merely 50 percent thirty years ago. Pagano added, “I certainly know and understand the significance of this award, and everything that comes with it. It’s all about representing the decal on the helmet, and the name on the jersey. He turned to Hicks and explained that in the 2012 draft, the Colts picked below New Orleans, and stated, “had you slipped three spots, you would have been a Colt.”
“I watched the movie last night. Hicks thanked the McCaskey family for bringing him to Chicago and making him a part of the organization, and Ryan Pace for drafting him in New Orleans (where he served as player personnel director). This award means so much. You can be nothing better than a team guy, a coach once told me. You go nowhere without your teammates. No matter how strong, how big, and how fast you are, you can’t beat eleven guys by yourself. I understood that with a team, it takes everybody coming together. One of the biggest differences in our season this year was how we were able to come together and be teammates, and care for one another. It’s so important.”
After the presentation, both players met with the media. Hicks talked about how he holds the history of the organization in high regard. “I’ve met I don’t know how many of the Chicago Bear greats. I met Dan Hampton, Richard Dent, Mike Singletary. In other organizations that I’ve been in, I never had that opportunity.” He also explained why he voted for Roquan, “From his his first day, he came here with the right mind set. He was focused. He was hard working. He had respect for the were here before him. The way he approached the game as a young man, You don’t see that all the time when guys come into the league.”
Smith noted, “Last year at this time, I was more focused on ‘where I was going to go’ and now I can focus on my craft.” He also commented on coach Pagano. “He’s a great guy. Great sense of humor. I love his character. He comes to work every day with a positive attitude.” His goals for this season. “Try to pick up where we left off last year. It didn’t end the way we would have liked it. Put pour heads down and keep working to not make this year a disappointment like last year.”
Roquan Smith and Akiem Hicks feature prominently in our new book, The 2018 Chicago Bears – Return to Respectability, available exclusively on Amazon Kindle. Get it for a limited time for only 99 cents, a Dan Hampton friendly price.
During the Bears 2018 season, we interviewed several members of the media covering the team on a daily basis. These are incorporated into our upcoming book release “Return to Respectability.”
Here are the complete audio interviews, with written excerpts. They were used as part of our radio show / podcast The Sports Report.
Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times on the Opening Game –Recorded September 10, 2018
“I think it’s safe to say that Matt Nagy was out coached as the game went on. For all of the magic of that first drive, (Green Bay Defensive Coordinator) Mike Pettine, made adjustments. Some of that is Matt Nagy coaching in his first game. He’ll get better the same way Mitch Trubisky is supposed to get better.
On Khalil Mack – “The last time I saw somebody dominate a half the way that he did was Brian Urlacher against the Cardinals way back when. He didn’t have the wind to make it through the rest of the game. Rogers getting hurt was probably the best thing to happened to their game plan. They said ‘the heck with it, we’re going to go three steps and get the ball out’, and that limited Khalil Mack.”
John Mullin from NBCSportsChicago.com – Recorded 10/10/18
Discussing the addition of Khalil Mack: “The interesting thing is the ripple effect. What a guy like Mack does is introduce an element like the team had back in 1985. Guys like Richard Dent would get a sack and everyone else said ‘I’m going to get mine now.’”
“The impact he’s had throughout the defense has made everyone else put their foot down even harder. That gives them the chance to be great.”
“Mitchell Trubisky is 0-6 against the NFC North. At some point he has to start beating those guys. they’ve all stumbled, but they’ve gotten back up. One thing the Bears have been arguably is consistent, with the arrow going up. After the Bears finish with the four game stretch with the AFC East.”
“What’s tailor made for (Tarik Cohen) he’s got offensive coaches going to him in more situations. A guy who is good with the football in his hands. Give him to me. I’ll find a place for him.”
JJ Stankevitz of NBCSports Chicago on the Bears 3-3 –Recorded October 24th
“The expectations with this team should be higher, given what they did in the offseason, adding Khalil Mack a week before the season. I think you feel encouraged about them. You feel like there a certain things they obviously need to be doing better, but right now they’re a competitive team that needs a few things to go their way to still make the playoffs, but they’ll be playing meaningful games in December.”
“The Bears, before they can really start thinking about this division being weak, they need to start beating teams in the division. They lost the first week to Green Bay. The stretch where they play Detroit – Minnesota – Detroit, that is going to be the critical stretch for this team, assuming they go out and beat the Jets and the Bills in the next two weeks. The Bears haven’t won in this division in a long time, and for them to really say we’re better than last place in this division, they’ve go to start taking care of those games first.”
“Teams knew they had to be aware of Tarik Cohen at all times. The Bears had no other weapons last year. Now you have Taylor Gabriel, Trey Burton, or Allen Robinson, and Anthony Miller. That is allowing Tarik Cohen to have a lot of freedom in the offense. It’s giving Matt Nagy a lot of freedom to use Tarik in this way. Because even if a team does key on him, he can be a really good a decoy for the rest this offense. And even if they do key on him, sometimes he beats the opposing defense. What Matt Nagy has done with Tarik Cohen has been a really good success for him so far.”
Dionne Miller, Sports Anchor, ABC 7 Chicago –Recorded 11/8/18
“This is going to be the true to test to see where they are at. 5-3 is exceeding expectations. I would say the grade is B plus, A-minus. I think the last couple of weeks have been easier, but they have risen to the occasion. Now they’re getting healthier. This next stretch of three games in twelve days is going to be huge. This means something to them. Matt Nagy sets a tone that they hear listen and relate to in a different way than John Fox. Matt comes in with such a good energy and authenticity, that is legit, and they see it. And what he says works. He’s got their attention. It’s exciting.”
“It’s fun. The way that they are winning, and how they are growing. How can you not be excited about that. There are so many great angles to talk about.”
“Getting Khalil Mack back (from injury) is huge. During that stretch, when people asked them how much they missed it bothered the other defensive players, they said we were good before we got Mack. We were considered a top ten defense. We’re still those same guys. They really proved that over the last couple of weeks. Last week, getting interceptions all over the place. Leonard Floyd getting into the end zone, and Kyle Fuller and Eddie Jackson scoring. this is building confidence.”
Dan Wiederer of the Chicago Tribune – Recorded December 10th
“First and foremost we’re seeing that anything is possible for the 2018 Bears. When you take an offense that is as high powered as the Rams. A team that was 11-1 coming into the night, and you dominate them for four quarters, it’s not otr of the question that this team could get hot and make a run through January, and suddenly start eyeing a a run to the Super Bowl. This team knows what got them here. The way the defense has taken over, and once again gotten on a big stage in prime time and played the way they did shows you this is a fearless team. With great talent, great cohesion and more than anything great confidence to do what they need to do.”
“It’s a special thing to watch this defense play. We’d be remiss not to start with Vic Fangio, who has great respect from all his players, and understands how in this era of offense, how to take apart an opponent. Obviously, they did a wonderful job Sunday night against the Rams. Todd Gurley comes in as the league’s leading rusher. He leaves with 28 yards on 11 carries. That is a testament to the talent that the Bears put out on defense. It’s a testament to their ability to subscribe to Fangio’s game plan. It’s a testament to Vic’s ability to see those things. So this defense is full of talent, and it’s very well coached, and that’s why they are 9-4 right now.”
Postseason thoughts from John Mullin of NBC Sports Chicago – Recorded January 14, 2019
“For the first time, Ryan Pace felt the arrow was pointing up for the Bears. He was vindicated. His quarterback got better. His team got better. His coach looks like the right guy.”
“I think Chuck Pagano is going to be real motivated. Pagano would look good, because he’s inheriting so much talent. I think may be a more stable hire than bringing Adam Gaze was. There’s not a whole lot of worry that Pagano is going to be a one and done guy.”
“I won’t say he had to, but Mitch Trubisky made some strides this year. He became a more accurate guy, completing 59% of his passes in 2017. Then he goes up to more than 66% this year. They finally got him some weapons. He was running an NFL offense with bad receivers, and some accuracy questions. The major steps forward were taken. You won’t see him get dramatically better, you’ll see him cut out the bad stuff. The bad overthrows or questionable decisions.”
It is an understatement to say that Chicago Bears running back and kick returner Tarik Cohen has a chip on his shoulder.
Despite excelling in both football and track & field, Cohen’s size hampered his ability to land a college scholarship. Only one school, North Carolina A&T, offered him an opportunity to play college football.
Not only did excel there, he finished as the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference’s all-time rushing leader with 5619 yards, and set the the single-season touchdown record with 19, while also tying the school record for the single-season rushing touchdowns record with 18. He holds several other school and conference records. That led to Cohen winning the prestigious Deacon Jones Trophy, given to the most outstanding all-around collegiate football player of the year, among teams from Historically Black Colleges and Universities. “I feel like they rewarded me for choosing them. They helped me grow into the player that I am,” he states about his time at A&T.
The Bears selected Cohen in the fourth round, 119th overall, of the 2017 NFL Draft. He played in all sixteen games, teaming up with Jordan Howard, and ran for 370 yards, while also catching 53 passes for 353 yards. Tarik scored four touchdowns, two on the ground, one on a pass, and also notched a punt return for a TD. Most notably, he threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Zach Miller in an October game against Baltimore.
You always have the dream of making it to the NFL, no matter what school you go to.-Tarik Cohen
The diminutive Cohen stands all of five foot six inches. He barely tips the scales at 180 pounds. However, he uses his speed and agility to elude linebackers, which is why he’s been so effective as a pass receiver. In post game or weekday interviews, he flashes a 100-watt smile and gold capped teeth, as well as plenty of glittery bling. He’s affable, congenial, and doesn’t hesitate to speak to the media.
One of the more remarkable things about his agility is on full display in a YouTube video of him catching footballs while doing a back flip.
When asked about how he learned about life in the NFL, Cohen admits, “You get guidance from the other players on the team, who have been in the league for a couple of years now. That’s mainly what I did last year. You look to the guys who’ve been there before, and the staff on the team.”
Cohen gave his mid-season perspective in a media interview. “I feel like we did OK. We think we did better than some people thought we were going to do. But we haven’t lived up to our own expectations.” What were those expectations? “To be more consistent,” he says. “To finish some of those games that we could have finished. Where we were in position to win.”
2018 was another solid year for Cohen. He increased his rushing totals to 444 yards and three TD’s. He more than doubled his receiving yards to 725 and scored five touchdowns, plus threw another TD pass. Tarik led the league in punt return yards, which resulted in being named to the 2019 Pro Bowl.
Off the field, Cohen likes to play video games, “To relieve the stress,” he notes. NFL 2K or Call of Duty are his games of choice. “I have to get away from football from time to time. I talk to my teammates from back in college. They help me relax.” Cohen is also a fan of AMC’sThe Walking Dead, based on his Twitter posts.
He enjoys social media and says that Twitter is his favorite method to communicate with the fans. “People say congratulations on the good games that I have. They tell me that they’re fans and they are going to get my jersey. Things of that nature.” He will also take to Twitter to defend teammates like Mitch Trubisky. “He is like my brother on the team, so I’m going to protect him.”
Tarik was asked about winning the 2018 NFC North title and responded, “It means a lot. What we went through last year, not winning any division games, then we came from the bottom, and we finally got to the top now.”
Cohen has a marketing advisor and an agent to take care of his business affairs. “They help me out with some things, like getting commercials and appearances and signings. I enjoy it a lot. I enjoy making money.”
At least he’s honest.
with Packer Dave and Steve Leventhal
Joining us this month are Dionne Miller of ABC7 Chicago, just back from Arizona, to talk Spring Training and a some Bears football. Jeff Rich chimes in on NBA hoops, and Adam Lucas, UNC beat writer from GoHeels.com previews the Duke-Carolina game and the ACC Tournament for us.
Don’t miss cameos from Pat Hughes and Bill Raftery.
with Packer Dave, Steve Leventhal, and John Poulter
Join us for a Super Bowl LIII (aren’t these Roman numerals getting lame by now?) preview, plus final thoughts on the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers’ seasons. Steve highlights the top teams in college basketball to watch out for. Dave sings the praises of the Milwaukee Bucks. John gives us a mid-season update on the NHL, and we try to explain to Dave the unique nature of the FA Cup soccer tournament in England. Lastly, Steve talks with Dwight Payne, a cameraman from ABC-7 in Chicago, who’s been capturing great sports video for the past three decades.
Hear interviews from Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Wade Phillips, and Jared Goff. Don’t miss a cameo from Bill Raftery of CBS Sports.
Pro golfer Bryson DeChambeau probably has as much in common with Bill Nye the Science Guy as he does with fellow golfer Bill Hass. He majored in Physics at Southern Methodist University, and thus takes a very scientific approach to the game of golf.
The most noticeable way DeChambeau has put his intellect to use, is by cutting all his irons to a uniform length. As he explains it, “it’s to maintain the same body posture through every single shot. I can make them the same length and change the mass and the length of the head. It comes down to loft. At the end of the day, the pitching wedge is a lot shorter with a heavier head. We just lengthen it, taking the weight out of the head, to make it like a seven-iron. So they all play like seven-irons, just with different loft. All that means is that you’re going to have a change in four-degree loft, which accounts for 12-13 yards, just like anybody else.”
In 2015, DeChambeau told USGA Insider, “I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to give out all my secrets, you know, but Epsom salts, they help me float a golf ball, and I’m actually able to find the center of gravity of a golf ball. Not every golf ball is perfectly manufactured, so there’s going to be an error in the machine and the center of gravity will actually be off-center.” He went on to tell them that about four of every dozen balls fails to meet his high standards.
Back in 2013 at that year’s Western Open, I asked my colleague Rory Spears from GolfersOnGolf.com, to give me the name of an up and coming golfer to interview. He glanced at his tee-time sheet, and pointed down the 18th fairway. He suggested I speak to a player two groups back. “This kid just won his first PGA tournament at Quad Cities, and he isn’t even twenty years old. His name is Jordan Spieth.” When Speith walked off the green, there was only one other reporter interested in speaking to him. Less than two years later, Speith went on to have a stellar season. Post match interviews are a mob scene.
Mindful of Spears’ insight into the game, I posed the question once again in 2017 at Conway Farms, seeking lightning in a bottle once again. This time he mentioned two names, one of which was DeChambeau, who had coincidentally, also won the John Deere Classic for his first tour victory. Despite missing ten cuts in a row during the season, he bounced back to qualify for the BMW Championships. I caught up with him at the end of his second round of play, and snagged a one-on-one interview.
Speaking about the John Deere win, he said, “It’s something special. All wins I’ve had have been really incredibly helpful, and pushing me to the next step, the next level in this game. It has already elevated my game.”
I asked him about turning pro. “It’s a whirlwind.” He states, adding, “It’s a lot harder than people think. I thought that having six months before I turned professional, and playing in professional events worldwide would help me. It did help a little. I did not know how much golf I’d be playing, and how tired my body would be. You have to be well rested to play for four days.”
The California native is already a strapping six-foot one, and a muscular two hundred pounds. When on the course, he sports the ivy cap of fellow SMU alum, the late Payne Stewart, with whom he feels a kindred spirit.
It’s not long before the discussion returns to college level science. “Hitting into greens,” he notes with the same tone and demeanor he would address a graduate level lecture, “we have to understand the firmness value, so that based on the angle of descent, the spin rate, the wind characteristics and also the slope that I’m landing into, how far that ball is going to roll. It’s in between four millimeters and point-seven millimeters, based on a correlating factor that we do before playing.” Let that sink in.
All the science in the world still doesn’t help over come the mental aspect that is so key to high level golf. DeChambeau went on to finish 33rd at the BMW in 2017. He would end the year ranked 99th in the world.
The following year, DeChambeau seems to have finally found his stride. In 2018 he recorded four tournament wins, a second place, a third, and three other top ten finishes, vaulting to fifth in the golf world rankings. His best finish in a major was tying for 25th place at the US Open.
As the 2019 season gets underway, all that is missing is that elusive major. Brush aside the Newtonian physics, and the analytical approach to the game. DeChambeau has what it takes. So can he go from being the smartest person in the room, to the best golfer in the room? We’ll see.
with Packer Dave, Steve Leventhal, and John Poulter
On the Sports Report this week, Dave and Steve discuss the hiring of a new Green Bay Packers coach, and the surprising end of the Chicago Bears season. Plus, we preview the NFC and AFC Divisional games this weekend. In the second segment, John joins us to talk NHL hockey and English Premier League soccer.
Hear interviews from Matt LaFleur, new coach of the Green Bay Packers, Kyle Long, Prince Amukamara, and Alan Robinson II of the Chicago Bears, plus Pat Mahomes, Drew Brees, Sean McVay, and Bill Belichick. Don’t miss a cameo from Wayne Larivee, Packers radio announcer.
The Chicago Bears fell to the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2019 Wild Card that will be remembered in infamy.
Mitch Trubisky took over for the Bears’ offense at his own 42 with a chance to extend the Bears’ season and further silence his critics. His counterpart Nick Foles had just orchestrated what appeared to be the nail in the coffin of the Bears’ season until Tarik Cohen’s clutch kick return gave the Bears good field position. Trubisky merely had to get his team in field goal range to overcome a 16-15 deficit and set up a rematch with the Rams in the divisional round.
The second-year quarterback started the last drive with an incompletion to Taylor Gabriel to draw out the groans and rolling eyes of onlookers who have watched every throw of the season with bated breath. His next ball, a 25-yard beauty to Allen Robinson with 44 seconds left, sent a jolt of energy into Bears fans and a stone in the stomach of Eagles fans. Number 10 found Robinson to his right again, and after one last shot at the end zone to a streaking Anthony Miller with 15 seconds left, it was time for a 42-yard field goal. The young quarterback did exactly what was needed, setting up his team for the win with 10 seconds left. All Trubisky could now do was wait for the kick. Parkey trotted out with the season on the line and the opportunity to either be remembered in the same vein as Steve Bartman or become a Chicago hero.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson did what he was supposed to, namely, burn his last time out in an effort to ice the Bears’ kicker.
The all-too familiar sound of a Parkey kick nailing the upright sent Soldier Field into a pregnant silence, ending the Bears’ season in one of the most painful ways possible.
“That’s one of the worst feelings in the world to let your team down, so I feel terrible,” Parkey said. “I’m going to continue to put things into perspective. Continue to put my best foot forward and sleep at night knowing that I did everything in my power this week to make that kick. For whatever reason, it hit the crossbar and the upright. I still couldn’t do it. Yeah, I feel terrible.”
Logic dictates that Parkey’s career in Chicago is likely over, and the Bears’ biggest question mark entering the offseason is still finding a kicker, but let’s take an optimist’s approach. Super Bowl teams have great kickers like Adam
Trubisky’s performance Sunday night had to be the biggest positive from Sunday night. A dreadful 13-of-23 for 105 yards stat line in the first half left the game tied at 3, but his second half performance was a major improvement, going 13-of-20 for 198 yards and a go-ahead touchdown. Most importantly, he put the Bears in position to win.
“I was just telling somebody in there, no one, not one person truly knows how far that kid has come this year than me,” Nagy said. “I mean, we’re lucky. We’re lucky to have him. I’m looking forward to the future. I really am, with him, because the city of Chicago is lucky to have that kid at quarterback.”
“He’s a leader and he’s a heck of a football player and he’s the guy you want in your huddle in that situation,” Kyle Long said of Trubisky said.
The Mitch Trubisky-Allen Robinson connection was on full display Sunday night, with the two linking up 10 times for 143 yards and a touchdown. Trubisky found Robinson deep multiple times in critical moments, as Robinson routinely got behind Eagles cornerback Avonte Maddox.
“Yeah, just taking advantage of the backside match-up,” Trubisky said. “They do a great job of taking away the passing strength for us and just making you take away certain spots and throws. They were playing off of zone so we just had to find ways and get creative to get the ball to playmakers and A-Rob did a great job of running his routes and getting open, and I was just trying to put it in a spot for him to make plays. And he made a bunch of great catches, and like everything else, it starts up front with our guys giving me time.”
The Bears’ defense was as iron-clad as it had typically been, but the Eagles’ offensive line is one of the best in the NFL and allowed only one sack. Playoff games are often determined by who had more lucky bounces, and, well, the Eagles had the best one of all. The Bears can go into the offseason with their heads held high after winning the division in what was supposed to be a “first-step” year. Bryce Callahan and Adrian Amos are both free agents, but Prince Amukamara said on Monday that he and his teammates will do their best to recruit them.
It all comes back to Mitch.
Follow on Twitter: @crbevins11 @radiomogul
Hear audio from Adrian Amos, Prince Amukamara, Trey Burton, Allen Robinson, Kyle Long and Sherrick McManis:
The NFL playoffs are upon us, and for the first time since 2010, the Chicago Bears are among the 12 teams still standing. They will cap off Wild Card weekend with a faceoff against the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles. It’s a tough card to draw, but as the saying goes, to be the best, you have to beat the best.
A test on the secondary
The Philadelphia Eagles pose a number of problems for the Bears’ pass-rush, starting first and foremost with their rock-solid offensive line. Khalil Mack will have his hands full with Lane Johnson and Jason Peters and Lane Johnson bookending the Eagles’ line, so inside pressure from Akiem Hicks, and linebackers Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith will be of even further importance.
A second pass-rushing issue comes to the surface with Nick Foles at the helm,
“This is the best line we’ve faced lately,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “They’re a very good offensive line. Both tackles are good. They’ve got good interior people, you know, with (Jason) Kelce setting it up there. So, it’ll be a challenge for our front guys to play these guys vs the run and the pass.”
Nick Foles’s release time and a quick glance at his passing chart reveal that most of his success comes in the short to intermediate game, working off play-action, crossing routes and RPOs. This means the Bears will have to fly to the football and prevent any chunk yardage after the catch. Their safeties will have to patrol the middle of the field and limit the effectiveness of the crossing routes that Foles excels at, and Chicago’s cornerbacks will be tasked with owning the short game while still respecting the deep-ball threat that Foles presents.
“We can’t let them get behind us,” Fangio said. “Cause this guy does have a big arm. And he does like to throw the deep ball. So if there’s a chance that he can throw a deep ball and he sees it, he will throw it. And that’s his mentality. That’s Doug (Pederson)’s mentality. So they will do it. And a big part of this game will be how we defend the deep balls.”
A good pass-rush and a good secondary often go hand-in-hand, one often covering for the other. The sign of a truly elite defense is whether or not those units can work independently of one another. This is a game in which the Bears may not be able to lean on the pass-rush, so the secondary will have to step up and keep the Eagles air attack at bay. The Bears have done an excellent job at rallying to the ball this season, making plays in space preventing teams from nickel-and-diming them. That success will have to continue. Chicago’s heir pass-rush has a higher chance of getting into the backfield, the longer Foles holds the ball, and the secondary can do that by taking away his passing options. Marrying the pass-rush to the secondary will be crucial in defeating the Eagles and Nick Foles, but the Bears’ secondary is a unit that is more than capable of doing so. It is now a matter of doing it when the stakes are the highest they’ve been.
Tarik Cohen’s impact
The Eagles’ defense is strong in many areas, but one of their biggest vulnerabilities is their struggles against pass-catching running backs. Saquon Barkley had 99 receiving yards against them, Christian McCaffery had 57 yards and Todd Gurley notched 76.
The Bears feature one of the league’s best backfield receiving threats in Tarik Cohen. He is second on their team in receiving at 725 yards. His speed and suddenness make him a matchup problem for nearly any opposing defense, and the Eagles are no exception.
The Eagles tend to match linebackers with opposing running backs, and there isn’t much reason to think that won’t continue this week. Tarik Cohen obviously gives up size to opposing linebackers, but his long speed and suddenness give him an enormous advantage. Matt Nagy has had no problem turning to Cohen when he has an advantage (See the Giants game), and he will probably go to him both in the short game to get Trubisky going and in the deep game on
Working the deep game
Coach Matt Nagy emphasizes staying aggressive with deep shots, but the Bears have struggled to execute said deep shots. The Eagles’ secondary is massively depleted though, with three cornerbacks listed on IR and two more marked as questionable, meaning Nagy may have a little more reason to go long.
“It’s all predicated on what the defense gives us,” Nagy said of the deep game. “We’re always in attack mode. We want to be aggressive. I think people could see that throughout the beginning of the year. We had some opportunities. Teams had decided to try to take some of that away and now we got to be able to take advantage of other things because of that.”
The Eagles have allowed the third-most receiving yards in the NFL, and much of that is due to their struggles with allowing chunk yardage through the air to which they have been made vulnerable by their injuries. The Bears have the personnel to take advantage of that, particularly with Taylor Gabriel and Allen Robinson, but it is a matter of Trubisky executing his throws.
“We played in a lot of big games this year,” Robinson said of why he is confident in Trubisky. “You know so throughout four quarters, you know, we’ve always been in a position to win the game. You know and that’s the thing, I’ve never seen him flustered one time at all this season. You know, we’ve always been able to bounce back and make plays and most of those plays translate to a lot of wins.”
Trubisky’s 2018 passing chart reveals that he is below the league average in passer rating on throws 20 yards or further. The Bears are good enough to beat the Eagles without hitting their deep throws, but that doesn’t erase the fact that there is a clear area of weakness the Bears can exploit. The Eagles’ rush defense is seventh in the league, so if the Bears can’t slow down their offense, Trubisky will have to step up in a big way.
Follow on Twitter: @crbevins 11 @radiomogul
Hear audio from Matt Nagy, Vic Fangio, Akiem Hicks, Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller
The 2018 Chicago Bears closed out their season with a 24-10 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, setting up a playoff matchup with the defending Super Bowl champions, the Philadelphia Eagles. Their Wild Card showdown will take place Sunday at 3:40 CT, but there’s a whole week before then. For now, it’s time to unpack the Bears’ dominance over the Minnesota Vikings.
A thriving run game
Jordan Howard has not thrived this season the way he has in years’ past, but he’s been an available go-to when the Bears have felt the need to establish physicality or drain some clock. Sometimes both. He was that and more Sunday, rushing for 109 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries.
The offensive line, bolstered by the temporary insertion of Kyle Long, controlled a fearsome Vikings’ defensive line at the point of attack. Long’s impact was felt early by his down block that sprang Jordan Howard for a 42-yard run, setting a quick tone that would carry throughout the game.
“We were moving around and creating holes so that the defense could not keep the line open,” Trubisky said on the team’s run game. “We did that which created one-on-one matchups on the outside which allowed us to change up our plays. For us, our goal is to keep the defense off balance.”
“You have to be able to run the ball, especially when you’re in the environment we’re in with the fans being so loud,” coach Matt Nagy said. “They have 33-out-of-50 sacks this year at home, on the turf with the crowd noise. If you can’t run the football you’re in trouble for being one-dimensional. We did not want to be one-dimensional.”
Howard read the holes set up by his line better than he has all year, and that resulted in his 5.2 yards per
The strong showing from the run game allowed the Bears to bully this game away. The Vikings’ front was unable to contain Howard and his relentless, efficient running allowed the Bears to dominate the possession time battle (37:08 to 22:52). He often set his team up with second and five, or second and four, allowing the playbook to fully open up (Though, it couldn’t be fully opened up, as Nagy didn’t want to give too much away before the playoffs). The old-school style of football, running the ball and playing suffocating defense, has prevailed in even the modern NFL’s playoffs. That formula was executed against the Vikings, and sets up the potential to do it again throughout the playoffs.
The monsters came to play
The Bears had far less to play for than the Vikings, but you wouldn’t have been able to tell from the way the two teams played. Especially as it became apparent the Rams would win their game and get the second seed in the NFC. The Bears’ defense came out with an intensity the Vikings simply could not match. Their defensive line completely overpowered a woeful Vikings’ counterpart for a four-sack performance. Kirk Cousins’s inability to improvise when things broke down along the offensive line was exacerbated by a Bears’ front that simply wanted it more, and it made Cousins look far less than the $84 million man he is. He finished his day 20 for 33 with a touchdown and a quarterback rating of 17.7.
“Collapsing the pocket, getting hands up,” Nagy said on how they pressured Cousins. “That green grass we always talk about. Being able to make sure he can’t see where he is throwing. The guys just kept going all the time. Forced him sometimes out of the pocket, to throw on the run.”
The Vikings’ offense placed more emphasis on the run game, upon the firing of former offensive coordinator John DeFilippo. Minnesota’s success in establishing a ground game with Dalvin Cook made opposing teams respect the run, thus opening opportunities for Cousins as a passer.
That strategy is moot when you can’t run the ball, however, and the Bears made sure the Vikings would not get the ground game going, allowing only 63 yards on 15 rushing attempts. The Vikings’ offense was completely anemic, and the Bears’ defense was dominant to the point of causing a screaming match between Kirk Cousins and Adam Thielen along the sidelines. While turmoil bubbled over for the Vikings, the Bears rode happily into the playoffs.
Getting up to play
The two seed and a first-round bye were still in play entering Sunday, although the probability of a Rams loss to the lowly 49ers seemed unlikely. Any hopes of that were quickly dashed by the Rams’ outpour that took them into halftime up 28-3. The Vikings, on the other hand, were playing for their playoff lives. A loss meant they were out with a likely Eagles win. They had far more on the line than the Bears, so it speaks to coach Nagy and his staff’s ability to get their players up to play so well against the Vikings.
“What do they know, right?” Akiem Hicks said when asked about the pundits thinking the Bears should take the foot off the gas. “What I will say is this, coach has a great plan in place for us. I believe in him. He has done us right so far, going through OTAs, training camp and now in the regular season. If he feels like it is time for us to play, we are going to go out there and play ball.”
Yes, Club Dub was alive in Minnesota, and Nagy’s trademark “BOOM” was screamed for the last time of the regular season. That’s who this Bears team is. They were simply better than the Vikings and they played like it in what could be seen as the bow on top of Nagy’s Coach of the Year case. They dominated their opponent when they didn’t have to, and as WBBM’s Jeff Joniak would put it, it was a fade to black moment for the Vikings. The Bears now get ready to face the Eagles in a matchup of familiar foes in Doug Pederson and Matt Nagy, both of whom were members of Andy Reid’s staff. To be the best, you have to beat the best, and the Bears will have to do so against the defending champs.
Follow on Twitter: @crbevins11 @radiomogul