This Week In Chicago Sports

Bears

The Bears get to go first this week because they without question had the most exciting week.

NFL free agency is weird, because it seems like it all happened in the 48 hours before NFL free agency technically began. A quick roundup of all the guys the Bears got this week.

Allen Robinson, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars

Perhaps the biggest question for the Bears entering the offseason was would they use primarily free agency or the draft to improve the wide receiving corps. Well, we have our answer and Robinson is the biggest piece of that. He’s coming off a torn ACL which he suffered in Week 1 this past season, a huge disappointment not only for him but for Jacksonville where he was expected to be their number one receiver. While they did do just fine without him, Blake Bortles never really had a go-to target last season. Robinson will be hoping to become the go-to target for Mitch Trubisky this coming season. Robinson had his best year in 2015 when he had 80 catches for 1400 yards and made the Pro Bowl. He 883 receiving yards in 2016, his last full season, but thats still 250 more yards than any Bears receiver had last season. If Robinson stays healthy (please don’t be like Kevin White) he’s a huge upgrade for the Bears offense and for Mitch Trubisky.

 

Taylor Gabriel, WR, Atlanta Falcons

I’ll always like Taylor Gabriel for being a secret weapon on my fantasy football championship-winning team in 2016, but I’m pretty sure that has nothing to do with why the Bears signed him. There was talk of Tarik Cohen filling the “Tyreek Hill role” in Matt Nagy’s offense, but I think Gabriel is an even better candidate. Gabriel had roughly the same number of targets and catches in 2017 as in his breakout 2016 season but saw a drop from 579 to 378. He did rush eight times last season, a career high. Honestly I think Atlanta’s receiving corps is just too crowded. Julio Jones, Mohammed Sanu, Austin Hooper at TE; Matt Ryan has a lot of options. Gabriel will have an opportunity to be a focal point of the Bears’ offense, particularly in Matt Nagy’s system. While Robinson will clearly be the #1 guy, I think Gabriel has the potential to be just as valuable to Mitch Trubisky and the Bears.

 

Trey Burton, TE, Philadelphia Eagles

Trey Burton is most famous for throwing a touchdown pass to Nick Foles in the Super Bowl, a play which of course the Bears invented. I’m convinced this is part of the reason the Bears signed him, not that any team can really run that play every again but hey, you never know. Burton has 60 catches over the last two seasons and averages under 20 receiving yards per game. He’s clearly been the third TE in Philly behind Brent Celek and Zach Ertz, so I’m sure he’s excited for the opportunity to be a bigger part of an offense. The Bears are thin at TE, with it unknown if Zach Miller will ever play again. Burton has never really had the chance to shine at the NFL level. If he’s above replacement level, he’ll be an improvement.

 

Cody Parkey, K, Miami Dolphins

Hey the Bears signed a kicker! Last season was a disaster, which is what the Bears deserve for cutting Robbie Gould. Anyway, Parkey had the 8th best field goal percentage in the NFL last season, posting a career best 91%.

 

Chase Daniel and Tyler Bray, QBs, New Orleans Saints and Kansas City Chiefs

The Mike Glennon experiment is over, time to forget that ever happened. Daniel is a career backup who’s never had to play much thanks to spending most of his career backing up Drew Brees. Bray is very much a third-stringer taking up space. Hopefully we never have to see him play.

 

Aaron Lynch, LB, San Francisco 49ers

The lone defensive signing thus far, Lynch has struggled for game time the last two seasons but is hoping to rekindle the success he had working under Vic Fangio when he was a rookie back in 2014. Lynch is an edge pass-rusher who may get an opportunity if Leonard Floyd isn’t 100% yet when the season starts. At the least, he’ll be looked at as a replacement for the recently released Pernell McPhee

 

As for what this all means for the Draft, I don’t expect the Bears to take a wide receiver with the 8th overall pick. That said, if they do draft Calvin Ridley from Alabama they could have quite the receiving corps with Robinson, Ridley, and Gabriel. If they don’t trade the pick it will be about who is available. I assume they would take Notre Dame G Quenton Nelson if he’s available but that seems doubtful. NC State LB Bradley Chubb, Georgia LB Roquan Smith, or DBs Josh Jackson from Iowa, Denzel Ward from Ohio State, or Minkah Fitzpatrick from Alabama would all be great options there as well.

 

Fire

Good news: the Fire scored three goals in their season opener including two by last season’s leading scorer in MLS Nemanja Nikolic and one by new signing (and owner of the #10 jersey) Aleksandar Katai.

Bad news: The Fire’s worst defensive fears were realized and they let in four goals to Sporting Kansas City. As I feared, Richard Sanchez looked horrible in goal. The Fire need to fix that situation ASAP. I’d like to see them give Stefan Cleveland a chance against Minnesota in their next game. I’m all for exciting, high scoring games but this won’t be sustainable. I’ll be interested to see if the fire make any tactical adjustments this coming weekend. They played two (really three counting Bastian Schweinsteiger) defensive midfielders and still let in 4. Time to clean things up at the back. I do love the offense though so that’s a promising sign to start the season.

Nemanja Nikolic was called up by the Hungarian National Team, but luckily it looks like he won’t miss any games due to that participation.

 

White Sox

The Sox were afraid they had yet another injury on their hands early this week when Nicky Delmonico injured his shoulder, but apparently he’s fine and will definitely be good to go for Opening Day. Not that one guy getting injured matters all that much to a team in this stage of a rebuild but please, this need needs to stop.

Speaking of injured White Sox, Luis Robert is out 10 weeks with a thumb injury. This means to see him in a White Sox uniform again we’ll have to wait for Spring Training next year as he’ll likely be spending this year in Winston Salem, with an outside chance of making it to Birmingham if things go really really well.

You know who isn’t injured? Eloy Jimenez. Is four games of Spring Training a small and insignificant sample size? Of course it is, but who cares. He’s slashing .571/.667/1.714 in those four games which, if it was for let’s say 10 or more games, would be absolutely ubelievable. He was also asked if he thought he could make it to the White Sox this season and said simply “Si.” That seems incredibly optimistic but I’m very onboard with that plan.

Lucas Giolito has had back to back quality starts including an 8 K performance in 4+ innings against the Cubs. He’ll be expected to hit the ground running for the White Sox this season so hopefully this carries over to the regular season next month.

 

Cubs

by Logan Springgate (@loganspringgate)

When last I wrote, starters were still only going an inning or two each, so let’s talk pitching.

In case you didn’t know Yu Darvish is pretty good at throwing a baseball. He’s such a good strikeout pitcher that I saw just over 9.0 K/9 in his last two games and thought it was too low. With that said, it still looks like he has some work to do. He threw against the As and the White Sox this week for 3 ER in 8.1 IP. He’s a pro, this is spring training and I’m not worried about it, but those numbers don’t blow you away.

Not to spoil an upcoming post, but I’m psyched as hell about what Tyler Chatwood can do with the Cubs this year. He showed what he can do this week getting 9 Ks while giving up 1 hit and 2 walks in 5 IP against the Giants. More to come on this guy, but he’s the 5th starter and I think he’s in for big things.

Kyle Hendricks struck out 7 in 6 innings against the DBacks this week, so looks like the Professor is ready to go. Jon Lester threw against minor leagues to build up to his Opening Day start. Quintana threw a simulated game, so not much to say here.

Finally, an update on The Happening: His slash line is still absurd (.375/.459/1.000) after 12 games and he hit another homer. I don’t see how Joe doesn’t start the year with Happ as more or less the everyday lead off guy.

 

Blackhawks

With 11 games to play the Blackhawks are 15 points out of a playoff spot. Not looking good. Best case scenario is to get some moral victories by beating the Blues all three remaining times we play them.

 

Bulls

The Bulls are headed the wrong way in the standings. This time last week they were the 8th worst team in the NBA and are now the 9th worst team in the NBA. With the NBA Draft being a lottery system it’s not really even worth speculating at this point who the Bulls will get (the last mock draft I saw had them getting Wendell Carter, Jr. from Duke, which, cool) so that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

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