Kyle Long Jersey

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Ohio State edge rusher Nick Bosa the No. 2 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft on Thursday night. It’s a move that pretty much everyone expected.

It also means that Nick joins his father and brother as first-round picks. Nick’s father, John, was a first-round pick of the Miami Dolphins back in 1987. Meanwhile, his older brother, Joey, was a top-five selection of the then San Diego Chargers back in 2016.

In responding to this news, Chicago Bears offensive lineman Kyle Long had a great take. He also decided to throw some fun shade in his father’s direction.

Of course, he’s talking about Hall of Famer Howie Long going in the second-round of the 1981 NFL Draft to the Raiders. His older brother, Chris, was the No. 2 overall pick of the St. Louis Rams back in 2008.

Knowing Howie, he’ll have some fun with this. But don’t put it past the old man to toss something back in his son’s direction.

126 days after Cody Parkey’s last-second field goal against the Philadelphia Eagles hit the left upright and cross bar, Kyle Long broke the silence.

The Bears haven’t avoided talking about the missed kick. Matt Nagy made it a point of emphasis at rookie minicamp.

But the team has kept it serious and somber when talking about the end of their playoff run. Until Sunday night when the veteran right guard cracked their first public “double doink” joke of the offseason.

He watched Kawhi Leonard of the Toronto Raptors hit a game-winning buzzer-beater in Game 7 of their second-round playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers with an iconic shot that bounced off of the rim four times.

Pat O’Donnell Jersey

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The Bears are having an open competition at kicker, but it appears there won’t be any drama at punter heading into training camp.

According to Adam Schefter, the Bears will be bringing back punter Pat O’Donnell on a two-year deal. Schefter reported the deal is worth $4 million.

O’Donnell made $1 million with a $500,000 signing bonus in 2018, so this represents a raise for him.

The 28-year-old has spent his whole career with the Bears since they drafted him in the sixth round in 2014. In 2018, he averaged 45 yards per punt and had 28 punts inside the 20, which matched a career-high.

A lot has changed since the NFL released the 2019 schedule. Teams have added through the draft and free agency, and learned more about their rosters with rookie minicamps. Now with all that behind us, let’s take another look at which opposing rookies could make an impact in 2019. We’ll go over the first five opponents on Wednesday, the next four on Thursday and the last four on Friday.

Kyle Fuller Jersey

On May 9, 2014, exactly five years ago today, the Bears were coming off an 8-8 debut campaign under rookie head coach Marc Trestman. Then-GM Phil Emery had recently completed his final free-agent shopping spree in Chicago, importing pass rushers Lamarr Houston, Willie Young and Jared Allen, DT Jeremiah Ratliff and S Ryan Mundy, among others, to arguably the NFL’s worst defense.

The previous night, the Bears spent the 14th overall pick on the quiet but confident West Virginia CB Kyle Fuller. The selection drew the ire of some fans longing for Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or Louisville’s Calvin Pryor to replace Chris Conte, whose blown coverage on the Aaron Rodgers-Randall Cobb game-winner in the NFC North title game a few months was burned into their brains.

As he met the Chicago media, Fuller discussed his versatility — inverted safety!? — and strong bloodlines — wait, how many brothers also play in the NFL!? — to name just a couple of the talking points in what surely remains his longest NFL news conference to date.

After one month of his rookie season, Fuller appeared poised to build on the legacy of his predecessor, Charles Tillman, whom he literally replaced that magical night in San Francisco. After one full season, he was an All-Rookie performer, but the Bears were tearing everything down and abandoning the scheme and coaches Fuller was picked for.

It got worse — a lot worse — for Fuller in Year 2, when he was benched in-game early in the season by new DC Vic Fangio following his second blown coverage and subsequent DPI way down the field. He finished his sophomore campaign with two interceptions —half of his rookie total — and no forced fumbles, after three “Peanut punches” in his first four rookie starts.

That decreased production would have been welcome in 2016.

Fuller in Year 3 never made it out of the doghouse and onto the field following an August knee scope and had his toughness and commitment to the game questioned publicly by Fangio. At that point, his future in Chicago was nothing if not murky, and after GM Ryan Pace opted the following spring not to pick up his fifth-year option, Fuller’s Bears fate appeared sealed.

Then something unusual happened. Entering his contract season, confidence seemingly renewed, Fuller became a tape junkie and unequivocal believer in what Fangio was teaching. He returned to start all 16 games, finishing second in the NFL in pass breakups (24) and rediscovering the consistency that made him a first-round pick and rookie standout.

Because the Bears had declined his fifth-year option, they wisely used the transition tag as a contingency plan and, after the Packers signed Fuller to an offer sheet, quickly locked up their best corner to a long-term deal with a four-year, $56 million contract.

The Bears would undergo another coaching change last offseason but managed to retain Fangio and DB coach Ed Donatell, the two men other than Fuller most responsible for his renaissance. And Fuller not only impressively retained the fire and form from his contract season, he took his game to a whole new level, recording a career-high seven interceptions and earning his first Pro Bowl invite and first-team All-Pro honor.

Now, Fuller is more than the anchor of the NFL’s top secondary. He’s the biggest success story and best example of a former first-rounder having his option year waived and still flourishing. So with last week’s deadline to pick up 2020 options marking a record 45 percent of 2016 first-rounders either not having it exercised or sticking with their original teams, they might want to take a page from Fuller’s — and the division champion Bears — redemption story.

Charles Leno Jersey

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The Bears’ 1963 NFL championship team featured four of the best seventh-round picks in franchise history in linebacker Joe Fortunato (1952), defensive back J.C. Caroline (1956), center Mike Pyle (1961) and defensive end Ed O’Bradovich (1962).

Fortunato was voted to five Pro Bowls in 12 seasons with the Bears from 1955-66. He was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 1950s and selected as one of the top 300 players in NFL history. An outside linebacker, the Mississippi State product recorded 16 interceptions and 22 fumble recoveries during his career.

Caroline played 10 seasons with the Bears from 1956-65. He had 24 career interceptions, tied for eighth in franchise history with Doug Buffone. The Illinois product was voted to the Pro Bowl in his first season with the Bears in 1956 after leading the team with six interceptions. Caroline spent one season in the CFL before joining the Bears.

Pyle, a Chicago area native who attended New Trier High School, played his entire nine-year NFL career with his hometown team from 1961-69. Pyle anchored the Bears offensive line and was voted to the Pro Bowl in 1963. After his retirement, he hosted Bears pre- and post-game radio shows as well as “The Mike Ditka Show” when Ditka was head coach.

Known by younger generations as a fiery Bears post-game radio host, O’Bradovich displayed that same temperament on the field for 10 seasons from 1962-71. He made a key play in the 1963 NFL title game against the Giants, intercepting a Y.A. Tittle pass and returning it 10 yards to the New York 14 to set up the winning touchdown. Like Pyle, O’Bradovich was a local product who attended Proviso East High School and the University of Illinois.

Another seventh-round pick who developed into a star was chosen by the Bears in 1965. Receiver Dick Gordon played seven seasons in Chicago from 1965-71 and ranks 11th on the team’s all-time receiving list with 3,550 yards and 13th with 238 receptions. The last Bears player to lead the NFL in receptions with 71 in 1970, Gordon was voted to back-to-back Pro Bowls in 1970-71.

A key member of the current Bears blossomed after being selected in the seventh round of the 2014 draft from Boise State. Left tackle Charles Leno Jr. was voted to his first Pro Bowl last year and has made 61 straight starts, dating back to Week 4 of the 2015 season when he was promoted to the No. 1 offense.

Bryce Callahan Jersey

One of the most underrated pickups of the entire NFL free agency signing period this spring was the Denver Broncos’ addition of Bryce Callahan. The veteran cornerback joined the Broncos on a three-year, $21 million deal.

It didn’t happen right away, as the Broncos focused first on signing defensive back Kareem Jackson and right tackle Ja’Wuan James in the opening days of free agency. Towards the end of week one of free agency, the Broncos inked Callahan.

But don’t mistake the delay as any sort of slight on Callahan. If anything, the only reason he lingered on the market was because of a foot injury that ended his 2018 campaign prematurely.

The Broncos signed a young nickel cornerback just hitting his prime. Callahan is coming off a dominant 2018 season. I don’t throw the ‘D’ word around lightly, but he was just that for Vic Fangio‘s Chicago Bears defense.

According to Pro Football Focus, Callahan ranked first among NFL cornerbacks last year in yards allowed per snap from the slot (0.69 yds/snp). Callahan’s idol of sorts — Chris Harris, Jr. — finished third in the same category.

The Broncos essentially signed a top-10 caliber cornerback on the relative cheap. The team now boasts the league’s top-two nickel corners — or at least the Broncos will, once Harris’ contract dispute gets resolved.

However, the Broncos don’t view Callahan as purely a nickel corner. He’ll get snaps on the outside this year, as evidenced by the reps he’s been getting during OTAs in 11-on-11 team periods.

“It’s been going pretty good,” Callahan said on Tuesday, following Day 2 of OTAs. “I’ve been playing on the outside more and I like it.”

Although Fangio utilized Callahan more as a nickel corner in Chicago, the fifth-year veteran does have experience playing on the outside and despite standing at 5-foot-10, 188 pounds, he relishes the opportunity to play more outside the numbers.

“No, I played some outside in Chicago,” Callahan said. “I was playing corner in college too, so I’m familiar with that background.”

The Broncos have played Harris outside in base defense dating back to 2012. Harris is also 5-foot-10 but he’s a little thicker than Callahan at 199 pounds.

As a former undrafted rookie out of Rice University, Callahan has modeled his game after Harris. For a no-name nickel corner trying to make it in the NFL, Harris is the epitome of success that guys like Callahan have lionized. For what it’s worth, Callahan hopes the Harris situation “gets resolved”.

One thing Callahan brings to the table that Harris, nor any other Broncos’ defender, is experience playing in Fangio’s scheme. Callahan is trying to use his knowledge to help his new teammates soak in the new system.

“Yeah, I feel like that’s one thing I can bring to the defense is kind of knowledge just being there for four years,” Callahan said. “I can kind of help some guys out and make it easier for them.”

Fangio has earned a few different nicknames over the years, depending on the team he’s coached. In San Francisco, he was known as ‘the Wizard of Football’ or ‘Lord Fangio’. In Chicago, Fangio’s players christened him as ‘the Godfather’.

In Denver, fans are hoping Fangio has assembled a ‘Mile High Mafia’ — with Italiano coordinator assistants like DC Ed Donatell and OC Rich Scangarello. Callahan talked about the mafioso mystique Fangio exudes and also why his players play so hard for him.

“I couldn’t even just nail it down,” Callahan said. “It’s just how he carries himself and he’s always straightforward with you. I guess he has a type of mafia background, I don’t know (laughing). I’m just kidding.”

Just because Fangio has a penchant for moving Callahan around the field like a chess piece on the board doesn’t mean the veteran coach doesn’t have a clear plan in place. That’s part of the point of the three-headed cornerback beast the Broncos have assembled.

Harris, Jackson and Callahan can play inside or outside, which is going to make it harder for opposing offenses to isolate matchups and predict what Fangio’s coverages will be.

“I always see him as a defensive mind,” Callahan said. “I kind of see him favoring the defense more. Compared to Chicago, he does have to walk around more and give other stuff attention.”

With Harris still holding out from OTAs, Callahan will have an even more expanded role. The Broncos have taken the training wheels off with regard to his recovery from his foot injury. He’s a full go.

Jackson has been playing more safety than corner, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be permanent. Callahan has a depth chart replete with young corners he can help bring along in the Fangio defense.

Bobby Massie Jersey

It’s as if the Bears and right tackle Bobby Massie knew they had a good thing going.

Massie and general manager Ryan Pace pulled a mild surprise in the offseason when they quickly agreed on a four-year, $30.8 million contract that runs through the 2022 season. After an above-average but non-Pro Bowl season on a playoff team, Massie could’ve taken his chances in free agency with the possibility of striking gold in a relatively weak market. The Bears, a team on the rise, could’ve looked for an upgrade — though that same lukewarm market and the absence of a first-round pick probably limited their options.

But with continuity and chemistry even more important as they attempt to take the next step from playoff team to Super Bowl contender, the Bears and Massie signed a deal that seems to work for both sides. The first two years of the contract (2019 and 2020) are guaranteed.

Signing Massie assured the Bears of returning the five starters on the offensive line from last year’s 12-4 team.

Left tackle Charles Leno Jr., who made the Pro Bowl as an alternate in 2018, is signed through 2021. Right guard Kyle Long, who recently reworked his contract to give the Bears salary-cap room for 2019, is signed through 2020. Left guard James Daniels, who started as a rookie in 2019, is signed through 2021. And center Cody Whitehair, who made the Pro Bowl as an alternate in 2018, is on the last year of his rookie contract but is expected to sign a long-term extension, possibly before the 2019 season begins.

That gives the Bears the continuity every team likes to have. This will be the fourth consecutive season that Leno, Long, Whitehair and Massie will be together.

And, perhaps just as important, this will be their second year with offensive line coach Harry Hiestand, who made a big impact last season. The Bears were ranked second in the NFL in pass-blocking efficiency by Pro Football Focus. They allowed an NFL-low 117 pressures on 519 pass-blocking snaps, according to PFF.

Leno and Massie are far from the most heralded pair of tackles in the NFL, but coach Matt Nagy was quick to credit them as a solid foundation.

“We fully understand some of these bookend defensive ends that we’re going to be seeing in the future and the direction of speed and talent [there], so you better have those edges protected,” Nagy said. “We have two guys that we feel really good with on the edges. Credit goes to Pace and his guys for building that unit.”

Grading the Bears’ need: Low. The Bears return all five starters, plus swing tackle Bradley Sowell. Eric Kush, a valuable reserve who started seven games last season, signed with the Browns in free agency. But the Bears seem to have ably filled that hole by signing Ted Larsen, who filled a similar role to Kush in 2016.

On the roster: Tackles Charles Leno Jr., Bobby Massie, Sowell, Rashaad Coward, Dejon Allen and Cornelius Lucas, guards Kyle Long, James Daniels, Larsen and Willie Beavers and center Cody Whitehair.

The five best draft prospects: Florida tackle Jawaan Taylor, Alabama tackle Jonah Williams, Washington State tackle Andre Dillard, Oklahoma tackle Cody Ford and North Carolina State center Garrett Bradbury.

Keep an eye on: Don’t sleep on Alabama State tackle Tytus Howard, a former 6-2, 225-pound prep quarterback who grew into a 6-5, 322-pound offensive tackle over the last four years. With big hands and long arms to go with his natural athleticism, in the right hands, he has the makings of a quality NFL lineman who could be a great one.

Akiem Hicks Jersey

If you’re not a fan of Game of Thrones, you’ll miss a few things in this article. But I’ll be keeping that in mind and I’ll keep the mentions on the light side. Sending a raven is like an old school text message by the way. If you are a Game of Thrones fan, I’ll put in a plug for one of our sister sites, WinterIsComing.net, where you can keep up to date on all things Game of Thrones. But this all ties together because the first episode of the final season of Game of Thrones premiered on HBO last night and Cameron Jordan and former Saints defensive tackle Akiem Hicks were having a Twitter battle to rival the “Battle of the Bastards”.

Saints fans probably are a little familiar with Akiem Hicks as a defensive tackle for the Chicago Bears. Actually, a pretty good defensive tackle for the Bears. What many may not know is that he actually played for the Saints for a brief period of time and was actually drafted by them.

For those thinking the 2019 NFL Draft is going to be bad for the Saints having to wait until pick 62 and then all the way to 168, the 2012 NFL Draft may have been worse. In fact, 2012 was, without a doubt, the worst season of the Sean Payton era because he wasn’t a part of it.

That was the year that Sean Payton was suspended by the NFL because of Bountygate and he wasn’t allowed to have any communication with the team. In the draft that year, the Saints didn’t have a first-round pick because they had traded it and 2011’s second-round pick to move up in the first round in 2011 for Mark Ingram. The Saints had also lost their second-round picks in 2012 and 2013 as part of their Bountygate punishment.

The 2012 NFL Draft for the Saints ended up being the worst of the Sean Payton era. Akiem Hicks, believe it or not, was the bright spot. After him, the team selected wide receiver Nick Toon, cornerback Corey White, guard Andrew Tiller and tackle Marcel Jones. To top things off, the team had hired Steve Spagnuolo to be their defensive coordinator. That may have led to some players not getting where they could be with better coaching.

Danny Trevathan Jersey

This time of year can be a little silly around the NFL. Trades can come out of nowhere during draft season either before or during the big event. Bleacher Report’s Derrik Klassen recently took a look at the one draft-day trade that makes sense for every team and has the Chicago Bears trading away Danny Trevathan on his list.

“Linebacker Danny Trevathan’s contract expires following the 2019 season, and the Bears are not in a position to pay him,” Klassen wrote. “With other contract extensions such as Cody Whitehair’s and Leonard Floyd’s likely on the horizon, it is tough to imagine the team would prioritize an inside linebacker over an offensive lineman and a pass-rusher.”

Klassen further explains that the Bears need to load up on cheap options right now considering quarterback Mitch Trubisky will likely be in play for a large contract down the line.

There is a lot to unwrap here. First, Klassen makes a good point when it comes to the type of money Trevathan is going to garner. Whitehair is a lock to get a contract extension here in the future and Floyd likely will also receive a substantial deal in the future as he enters his fourth year in 2019. The team is going to need to eventually pay both of those players, Trubisky and a pair of All-Pros in Tarik Cohen and Eddie Jackson in the coming years. Not to mention, Chicago has the highest-paid defender in NFL history on the roster in outside linebacker Khalil Mack.

Trevathan has also dealt with injuries at times during his Bears career. He signed with the organization in 2016 after winning a Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos. He played in just nine games that season due to a knee injury. He missed three games due to an injury in 2017 and one other contest because of a suspension. He started all 16 games for the first time since the 2013 season during the 2018 campaign. He ended last year with 102 tackles, two sacks, six pass deflections, two interceptions and one forced fumble.

Another reason why it would not be out of the realm of possibility to move on from Trevathan is that the Bears have a trio of young linebackers they like at the inside linebacker position. Roquan Smith is a building block on defense and will hold onto one of the starting spots at the position while both Nick Kwiatkoski and Joel Iyiegbuniwe are players the Bears are high on.

Nick Kwiatkoski Jersey

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Nick Kwiatkoski isn’t looking forward to Sept. 14.

That day, his beloved Mountaineers are hosting one of his closest personal mentors as former West Virginia defensive coordinator Tony Gibson will return to Milan Puskar Stadium with NC State.

“I saw NC State on the schedule, but I haven’t even thought about that [part],” said Kwiatkoski, a West Virginia linebacker from 2011-15. “Gibby, I’m very close with him. He did a lot for me and my career. It’s going to be tough. That’s gonna be something I have to figure out when the time comes.”

Kwiatkoski is considerably more eager for the upcoming weekend.

Other than a brief foray to the football facility for WVU’s recent Pro Day, the Chicago Bear hasn’t been back in town since last year. Saturday morning, he’ll be helping with former Mountaineers quarterback Jeff Hostetler’s 5K run and walk. The second annual event benefits the WVU Medicine Children’s Hospital.

“Seeing what those kids are going through first-hand when I was in Morgantown, it’s a good relationship to have with the hospital and football team,” Kwiatkoski said. “It’s something I wanted to stay involved in even though I’m not there.”

Following the 5K, Kwiatkoski is ready to see what the Mountaineers will look like under new head coach Neal Brown in the spring game.

Like many former West Virginia defensive players, Kwiatkoski openly advocated for Gibson to get the job after Dana Holgorsen’s depature for Houston. But any initial disappointment is fading based on what he’s seen thus far from Brown.

“From the outside looking in, it all seems great, the whole culture change around the building,” Kwiatkoski said. “I think what the coaches are doing is great.”

Kwiatkoski has seen first-hand how much a first-year coach can change a culture. After going through two losing seasons in Chicago, Kwiatkoski and the Bears won the NFC North under new head coach Matt Nagy last year.

“It was a complete turnaround this year from previous years. It can be a major impact,” Kwiatkoski said of the coaching change. “From my experience, coaching changes have worked out. It can be a great thing.”

Kwiatkoski made the most of many changes in his third year with the Bears. Last spring, Chicago used its first-round pick on a player at his inside linebacker position – Georgia’s Roquan Smith.

“I didn’t let it change how I approached things,” Kwiatkoski said. “I knew it would be more competition. That’s part of the NFL. Guys are coming in and leaving all the time. I tried to make the most of each day. I worked on what I needed to work on.”

“That was a highlight of my NFL career so far,” he said. “I did not expect that at all. It was a great experience.”

Kwiatkoski joined an unlikely group that included offensive tackle Bradley Sowell and 332-pound defensive tackle Akiem Hicks in scoring for the Bears last year.

“It’s a blast,” Kwiatkoski said. “The defense, offensive linemen, a D-lineman scoring a rushing touchdown. It’s fun. It’s awesome. When you see Akiem Hicks score a touchdown, the whole defense is rooting for him from the sideline. The whole team gets into it.”

Prince Amukamara Jersey

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The Chicago Bears come in at number two of our sleeper list. The Bears had arguably the NFL’s best defensive last season, and most of that group returns for the 2019-20 campaign. Players like Khalil Mack, Prince Amukamara, and Kyle Fuller will all be back for Chicago, making up one of the most reliable defenses in the league. Mack is coming off of an MVP-level season, as he collected 12.5 sacks and six forced fumbles last year. In addition to this talent, the Bears added experience to the defensive side of the ball in the offseason by signing safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Clinton-Dix is set to bring additional run support for the 3-4 defense in Chicago.

They say that defense wins championships, and if that’s the case, then this Bears team has a chance at Super Bowl LIV. Chicago has built a championship caliber defense, and has started to piece together young talent on offense. Third year quarterback Mitch Trubisky took big strides last season as a leader. Trubisky threw for 24 touchdowns and 3,223 yards, and was able to improve on his game management skills. With this Chicago defense, the Bears are set to go as far as Trubisky can take them in 2019-20, with a Super Bowl title not out of the question for this exciting Bears squad.