Hockey

Now that the calendar has turned over from 2020, training camps across the league are now open, and the Men Of Four Feathers hit this ice this morning for their first practice of what will surely be many over the next week-plus where they will finally hone their man-to-man defensive zone coverage skills under the tutelage of Coach Kelvin Gemstone. Here are a few takeaways from what transpired on the West Side this morning and early afternoon.

 

  • Dylan Strome was on the ice after signing a two-year bridge deal worth $3.0 mildo per against the flat salary cap. Strome was one of the last RFAs league-wide to sign, and he didn’t have much leverage to get anything more either in term or dollars, so this is about right. Strome will have every opportunity to get prime power play minutes this year with both Kirby Dach and Jonathan Toews presumed out for the entirety of the season, and this could increase his value elsewhere in the event the Hawks want to move him to get help elsewhere, because they need help everywhere.
  • On the flip side of that coin, Zack Smith was placed on waivers today, and if he goes unclaimed, the Hawks could in theory demote him to Rockford (if the AHL figures their season out) they’d have about $2 million of dead money on the books, as only $1.075 million can be buried in the AHL. But most importantly it IN THEORY opens up a spot for a younger forward to get some time at the NHL level, and the Hawks need to figure out what they have in guys like Philipp Kurashev, Tim Soderlund, Pius Suter (who was “unfit” today), and others. And there is always the off chance that Smith gets claimed, as he is a depth center, and as he showed for a fair amount last year, he isn’t completely useless yet, though coming back from injury isn’t going to help that.
  • Other than Suter, Evan Barratt and everyone’s favorite expensive oaf Brent Seabrook were deemed unfit for today’s festivities. This isn’t a particularly good harbinger of things to come for Bottomless Pete, as he’s coming off basically having his entire body replaced by surgery last year, and has not seen any kind of NHL action in 15 months. With no exhibition games to even kind of get a look at him, if he does come back it’s going to be right into game action, and that’s not going to be pleasant for anyone involved. This is more than likely just another milepost that this slow-motion car crash has to skid by on its path towards the inevitable (and likely antagonistic) end of Seabrook’s storied Blackhawks career. It remains to be seen how everyone involved handles it, but given the lack of communication last year before he was shut down and not taking him to the Edmonton bubble, don’t expect this to end without there being some hard feelings.
  • Speaking of the blue line, while camp pairings mean nothing, it’s all anyone has to work off of in the absence of a single exhibition game. But that said, the pairings today of Boqvist-Zadorov, Mitchell-de Haan, and Keith-Murphy at least make sense from a free-safety/puckmover template. However, in order for them to work, that requires a) that de Haan and Murphy remain upright which is will almost assuredly not happen for any considerable length of time, and b) that Vinny del Colliton (or anyone in the organ-I-zation for that matter) has any idea how to develop a defenseman that isn’t completely turnkey and pro-ready. As usual, the future is blindingly bright.
Football

We gathered our Bears crew in the aftermath of the preseason opener to take a temperature. We won’t tell you about the thermometer application. And away we go?

Did we learn anything important from the Bears first preseason game?

Tony Martin: What popped for y’all? Nick Kwiatkoski still can’t cover the pass. I’m hoping the Bears go a different direction when his rookie deal expires.

-I sleep better at night knowing Ted Larsen is available in case of an injury on the offensive line. He was wrecking dudes out there last night.
-Kickers kicked some kicks! I’m so sick of all of this. If I have to see another message board post about getting that kicker from Baltimore I’m gonna finally admit I’m going bald and pay for Restore hair treatment (can you tell I was on I-90 today?).
-Ian Bunting looked okay at times, but did he play basketball in college? That makes all the difference.
Brian Schmitz: In an effort to suck myself off, I was happy to see my earlier prediction about John Franklin III come to fruition as he was all over the place last night. Franklin was 3rd on the team on tackles and contributed on both kick returns and kickoff coverage. He will be given a real chance to make this team and thus far, he’s looked good. 

I saw what I needed to see from David Montgomery. Seven touches for 60 yards and a TD. I’m ok with not seeing the rook again until week 1, where he should be the starting RB. 
This time of the year is backup quarterback heaven. This is where guys make teams, showcase for other squads, and most importantly, make career money as a trusted backup. Chase Daniel is everything you want in a reserve QB whom you hope will never play. Guys knows the offense and most importantly, knows his own limitations. I don’t ever want to see him on the field this year, but he’s a solid insurance policy. 
Finally, what we learned from game 1 is that the Bears still don’t know who their kicker will be. Average showings from each on Thursday were expected and unappreciated. I’m convinced the Bears week 1 kicker is not on this roster. 
Tony: JF3 looked good, but I still think he needs to be a 4 phase special teamer to make this roster. As long as you can still contribute to the open threads, I say good luck, but don’t throw out your back trying to taste your successes.
Wes French: Brian, please don’t make any permanent body modifications to go about fellating yourself for JF3’s “breakout” in preseason game one. He was impressive against some paltry competition, but I think we’ll need to see more and, as Tony alluded, especially on Special Teams if he’s going to make the cut. I’ll now flip my thinking completely and overreact to Montgomery’s performance by agreeing we should pack him in bubble wrap and make sure he gets to September untouched.

I’d go as far as to say I was bummed to learn that Baltimore dealt kicker Vedvik to division rivals Minnesota over the weekend. Fry and Piniero are leaving a lot to be desired for what has been the biggest need for Chicago. having already dealt some (potential) draft capital for not-so-steady Eddy, I’d think Pace waits out other teams and picks through those cut as preseason comes to a close later this month. 
Then again, I’ve been out of the loop for a few days, moving my life a mile away and getting sick in the process. Did I miss any glaring transactions or anything else from around the Bears/the League? I know Miller rolled an ankle but sounds like he’s a go for week one…
Tony: I’m hoping for Vedvik to have a great career in Minnesota. May he hit 100% of his kicks against Green Bay and exactly 0 against the Bears. I’m not invested in the Lions enough to even pretend to want to put an arbitrary number on this hypothetical. Seriously, the Lions are the NFL version of the cousin whose name you never bothered to learn because you only see them at holidays and you try to avoid them.

Wes, I think you’re spot on about Montgomery because the more I think about it, the more I think he should be saved for the season. However, I say that because I am super interested in how the competition for the 3rd/4th running back spot goes. I’ve been thinking a lot about it and I think the Bears are going to approach this depth chart a little bit differently, with players like Patterson being on the depth chart as either a running back or wide receiver. So, let’s say the Bears choose to keep a combined 10 of the bunch for the 53. We’ve got:
AR12
Tarik
David Montgomery
Anthony Miller
Taylor Gabriel
Patterson
Mike Davis
Riley Ridley
Javon Wims
And then one of:
Kerrith Whyte Jr/Marvin Hall/Taquan Mizzell Sr (or two if they choose to not keep a FB).
I wanna see the competition for that last couple spots heat up, and as much as I like seeing Montgomery play, I’m here for those reps!
Wes French: I would also like to see more of Whyte/Hall/Ridley/Wims in the next few weeks. I think you’re right that the personnel they have makes it a bit fluid on RB/WR roster selections, but the back end of that list is going to need to show out on special teams as well. I know I keep bringing STs up, but the offense and defense are pretty well set in terms of starters and even most backups. Anyone that has ideas on being the next man up for one of those positions is going to have to contribute via the kicking/return/punt teams in addition to showing they can step in at WR/RB/DB/LB to make this team. That makes me think a guys like Mizzell and Wims have an inside track over Whyte and Hall. The Bears did not sign Davis to play in the kicking game, and Patterson actually hurts those bubble guys with his ability to return kicks in addition to his versatility on offense. 

We haven’t talked much about the defensive side of the ball, but I think fans are sleeping a bit on the lack of depth behind the pass rushers up front. If Kyle Fitts is the best we’ve got to put in rotation after Mack/Floyd….yikes. 
Brian: You’re spot on about the defense; but I guess no news is good news. I’m extremely confident the defense will be who we think they are. 

We need to pump the brakes on Cordarrell Patterson. The guy can’t catch, which is fine, because Devin Hester couldn’t catch either, but in regards to the return game, Patterson is no Hester. I’m also suspect about his character. There has to be a reason he continues to sign one-year deals. 
Tony: I think there’s quality depth on defense since Aaron Lynch will most likely also take rotational reps, and they have solid backup ILBs even if I’m not crazy about them. The DL has a dank rotation in place, especially with Jonathan Bullard still on his rookie contract, but the secondary worries me. The depth chart after Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamura is as bare as my fridge in college. Brian, maybe some autofellatio might lock up your boy JF3 for a roster spot. Keep us posted.
Brian: Just had to google autofellatio. 1. Gross. 2. IT is going to think I am real sicko. O well.
Wes: You brought this on yourself. I think this is a good place to wrap this one up. Until next time, take care sports fans. 
Football

We’ve gathered the kids again to discuss the first full week of Bears training camp. Sadly, adult life called Brian Schmitz away this time, but Wes French (@WFrenchman) and Tony Martin (@MrMartinBruh were happy to pick up the slack. 

After the first full week of camp, is there anything coming out of there that has you excited or worried? Or is it the usual training camp argle bargle?

Wes: My feelings from earlier in the week haven’t really changed – it’s been sort of boring so far, but that’s okay. The injuries to Ha Ha and Shaheen proved to be short lived as both are back as of Thursday morning. Mack and Eddie Jackson look like monsters, tossing around the poor random conditioning coaches that have to hold foam pads in front of them. It’s been fine.

I’m interested to start seeing some position battles emerge, especially in the backfield on the offensive side. Every position returns the starter, while that includes Cohen here, but there are more quality options around him and no one is sure how they all fit. David Montgomery has garnered high praise since his selection, but as a rookie with plenty of veteran competition I’d guess the usage will start low and slowly build. Mike Davis was Pace/Nagy’s pick among a pretty strong secondary Running Back market in free agency, so there is clearly a plan for him. Early reports I’ve seen have him as highly rated in the passing game, especially as a blocker. Struggling on passing downs is what got Jordan Howard shipped out of town, so this isn’t really news but it’ll be interesting to see if certain guys are in to run routes, certain guys to block, or if they get to a level where everyone is trusted to do it all.  And I’m still anxious to see what the hell they have planned for Cordarrelle Patterson.
Tony: The local beat reporters are killing me with the kicker talk still, to be honest. I get the pressure element of it, but there are almost a hundred other players that can get the team in positions where they don’t need field goals to win. I’m not dismissing the importance of the position, but if the Bears break camp with a league average kicker, I’ll still sleep soundly at night if the other 52 are crushing it. 
Wes: The kicking competition is definitely dominating the early camp reports to the detriment of the rest of the team. It’s really early, but we’ve heard hardly anything about the rest of the team. Maybe no news is good news, but it’s a little concerning.

I’ll concede it’s probably too difficult to analyze if Mitch has progressed much from three padded practices, or individual standouts from the small amount of drills they’ve had. I’d still like to hear what looks new/different on a defensive unit with a brand new coordinator and how the group of newly signed/drafted DBs are doing thus far.
I feel like outside of kicking all I’ve heard is Allen Robinson is having a great camp since he’s a year plus removed from the knee surgery. Which is great! But what the hell else is going on?
Tony: You nailed it. This team will live and die with Mitch’s development, but I guess it’s realistic to assume we won’t know exactly how far he’s come until opening night, maybe even later. How will he play when Von Miller, Joey Bosa, or Aaron Donald are lining up to rush the passer? How will he hold up in a shootout? 

I’m no Jon Gruden (mainly because I’d never trade Khalil Mack), so I’m not an expert QB analyst, but what I do know is I’ve watched so many Bears teams that were skilled in all other phases fall short due to incompetent quarterback play. I’m cautiously optimistic, but still guarded.  The one thing I can say for sure, however, is that his weapons are unlike anything I can ever remember a Bears QB having. 
Wes: The world doesn’t need any more Jon Grudens. We don’t even need the one we have. He just said he likes what he’s seen of Nathan Peterman….

You bring up a good point that this has to be about as loaded a Bears team as I can ever remember in my lifetime, both sides of the ball. Kahlil Mack, Eddie Jackson and Akiem Hicks are arguably the best current players at their positions in the league. The offense boasts above average or better players across the entire line and wide receiver positions, they have a good mix of options in the back field and a very progressive offensive mind running everything.
This is the NFL and wild, random things happen all the time, but the feeling is this team has the juice to be a serious contender, but they can’t really be mentioned in that top tier of teams to dethrone the Patriots without improved accuracy and post-snap reads from Trubisky.
Football

Oh I got football thoughts, buddy.

We’ve been here before. No matter who you follow, or what you’ve come here to read, you know. The comparisons ran all last season. The ’08-’09 Hawks. The 2015 Cubs. And now the 2018 Bears. Seasons that went far better than expected, teams filled with young(ish) stars announcing themselves on the big stage for the first time, unadulterated joy from the off (well, after the Packers game that is). The first two portended to much bigger stuff. But before we got to that, we had months of just living in a fantasy world where no one really had to worry about the bigger implications to come. You got to be in the moment, completely, which is rare anywhere these days.

So the Bears find themselves in between the steps that both the Hawks and Cubs took. The larger implications are here now, which really means the expectations. Anything less than confetti showers and Virginia McCaskey being knocked over by trying to hold the Lombardi Trophy will be considered failure. The pure exhilaration of last year, the seemingly out-of-nowhere success, AN ACTUAL USEFUL BEARS TEAM FOR FUCK’S SAKE, that’s all gone now. Every win will have a context, a meaning to what comes next, until you get to the end. It’s now a simply pass/fail class.

And yet, football is different (wow, keen analysis, hockey boy). Whereas those seasons for the Hawks and Bears ended with nothing but expectation and excitement for the following campaign, there is a feeling of missed opportunity for the Bears. One, they weren’t simply outclassed at the last hurdle like the Hawks were back then by the Wings. Or simply helpless at the feet of a machine that had everything go right, as the Cubs did that year to the Mets pitching staff (which has never been able to duplicate it since because METS). The NFC was open for the Bears, and they lost to Nick Foles tossing up wounded turkeys that they could only pick off twice instead of the four it should have been. The Rams and Saints were obviously vulnerable, too. It was all there for them.

Internally, the Bears may never have as healthy and functional of a defense as they did last season. Already we have the questions about Chuck Pagano taking over for (Boers Voice) Vic Fangio. Adrian Amos is gone. So’s Bryce Callahan. HaHa Clinton-Dix has pedigree, but is far from a sure thing. Buster Skrine certainly gives the platform for a ton of Coen Brothers jokes, but will he be as exposed as non-Callahan slot corners were last year? And that’s not even getting into health, because it’s unlikely you’ll get 16 games of Earth-destroying play from Akiem Hicks again. Those four picks could have happened if Eddie Jackson was on the field. Will the defense suffer if he misses time again?

Of course, we’ve been here before with the Bears. The 2005 season was the same kind of joy, with another young, brash, emerging defense (though absolutely carrying a decidedly wagon-wheel offense). It ended with a bitter playoff loss at home as well (where your local mechanic was covering Steve Smith for some reason). It felt like the Bears missed something then too, as the Seahawks were hardly a great team.

But the 2006 Bears responded, didn’t shy from the expectations and predictions, roaring to a 7-0 start and eventually a 13-3 record (only the third time the franchise has amassed 13 wins or more, which seems off). We won’t talk about how that ended.

And just like before that season, a lot of hope hinges on a quarterback we have more questions than answers about. Just like Rex did before it all became clear, there are flashes of top-level throws and plays from Mitch. And then there are the ones that leave you with an expression on your face that if you hold for just one second longer will cause permanent damage to the muscles contained therein. We just don’t know. Anyone who says they know is selling something. But Mitch will be swallowed and spit out by this town if they even get a whiff that he’ll be a reason it doesn’t get its second Super Bowl. We’ve done it before.

If you Occam’s Razor this, the most likely ending is with the Bears in the NFC Championship game at worst. There are playmakers all over the field. You can’t make the QB’s job much cushier. The defense is laden with game-turners. They have the swagger already. And while you know there will be injuries, they could just as easily be small and to non-vital players or vital ones for just a week instead of catastrophe. It can go either way.

It just won’t be possible to be as in the moment as we were last year. You’ll always have one eye on the end this time around. You can’t say, “This is so much fun, it doesn’t matter where it goes.” We already did that. You only get it once. You can try, and you’ll maybe even succeed for a short time.

But January will still deal the only feeling and verdict that matters for this team. And this is a definite chance. Unless you’re the Patriots and you’ve found some vortex that only they can see, you only get three or four years. Hell, the Bears are three years away from having to pay Trubisky the boat and losing other pieces to do so or concluding he’s not good enough–which probably means you haven’t won–and starting over.

It goes fast in football. Faster than anywhere else. You can’t miss the bear now.

 

Football

We threatened you. We warned you. And because no one told us no, we’re going to do it. We’re bringing our madness to the Chicago Bears. Because you know they deserve it. So today, we introduce you to our troika of misfits that are going to take this on: Brian Schmitz, Wes French, and Tony Martin. LET’S KICK THIS PIG!

So with vets reporting today, what are you guys looking for in B0urbonnais, other than no one getting hurt?

Brian Schmitz: I personally cannot wait to see Robbie Gould back in a Bears jersey. Too soon?

Defensively, I want to see how how well the players transition from Vic Fangio to Chuck Pagano. The Bears are so talented on defense that a lot a alignment and assignment mistakes will be covered up by pure athleticism.  Offensively, I can’t wait to see who is the first reporter to declare what a great camp Adam Shaheen is having. I’m also excited to see if a healthy Anthony Miller will get more looks. This guy has the skills to be a #1.
Tony Martin: I’m with you on Anthony Miller. Dude is a beast, and I think if he recovers from his shoulder injury he could be a dominant wideout. 

I’m actually interested in seeing if any major names don’t make the team as the Bears start looking towards future salary cap constraints. If Danny Trevathan gets cut I’d be shocked, but if Taylor Gabriel were to be released I wouldn’t be nearly as blown away.  I’m super interested in seeing if Kerrith Whyte Jr makes the squad and how he’d be used. If some of these draft picks pan out, the Bears offense could look like a Madden playbook I created while high at 3am, with like spread formations with  four running backs and a tight end on the field.
Brian: Trey Burton is another guy who needs to have a good pre-season. The organization isn’t exactly happy with the way he ended last season and at this point, it’s more than fair to label him as unreliable and soft.
Tony: I think Burton is the most likely candidate to win “Starter from last year who is cut this year”, but that also implies Shaheen has a good preseason, which isn’t a given. 

So, does Matt Nagy take the next step and open up even more of the playbook this year? I’m all in, let’s get weird. If Akiem Hicks is running for touchdowns in year one, what sort of bananas shit can we expect to see?  Calling it now: Khalil Mack catches a touchdown this year, from someone who isn’t Mitch Trubisky. You heard it here first.
Wes French: I’ll start on defense, where I agree I’m interested to see the shift from Fangio to Pagano, but I want to see if anyone slips/steps up under the new boss. Will we see Roquan Smith become the defensive centerpiece/signal caller he was at Georgia or will that take another season or so under a new coordinator? Quan seemed pretty well ready to take over the defense late last year…Was Vic a “whisperer” to any major contributors to the defense that could fall off under the new boss? Will anyone clash with Pagano/his style? I think we’ll get that answer sooner than later with how camp starts on that side of the ball.  

Count me as the third amigo/musketeer/likely dipshit that’s beyond sold on Anthony Miller as a sure star. Get him the ball, do it often…but will there be enough touches to go around? I also agree Nagy and Co. will get weirder (in the best way) this year, and the guy I am most intrigued by is Corderelle Patterson. He lined up at RB for half his touches in Foxboro and I have to think the versatility is going to bring some funky ass sets this year. 3 RB/2TE? 2RB/3 TE? I can guarantee you that man will be in motion pre-snap basically every time he’s on the field. 
The biggest question about the myriad options with the personnel and playbook is at the center of it all: Mitch. They made the playoffs last year with their signal caller playing WILDLY inconsistent. How, and more importantly if, Mitch has progressed with a full year/offseason under Nagy’s watch is going to be the real driver of this campaign. All the fun that they draw up won’t matter if Mitch keeps sailing balls to wide open targets or missing open reads. I love me some Mitch, but this is a massive year for him and his GM that staked his reputation on Trubs tapping that potential of his.
Brian: I’m honesty glad and proud of each of you for not mentioning the placekicking situation in your early emails. Thank you for that. It’s such an overblown and ridiculous storyline that lazy ass media members continue to talk about only because it’s low hanging fruit and requires no prep work or research.

We are all in agreement that Nagy will continue to get creative in the regular season. Are we also in agreement that he will continue to shit down his leg in the playoffs and choke games away? Asking for a friend.
Tony: Yeah, the kicking game is not really much of a concern for me, it’s literally a meme at this point. Thanks a lot, Cris Collinsworth. Does the lack of a solid kicker worry me? Of course it does, but there’s plenty of time to see who does well this preseason both in Bourbonnais and in other camps and bring them in. 

I’ll also go on the record saying the one downside to having a team that people want to watch on prime time is how many times I’m gonna have to hear Collinsworth or Joe Buck call a game. I’m so used to Fox’s C-level announce team that I want Kenny Albert to do the play by play at my funeral. 
As for Nagy, I think having the ability to use more of his playbook will be a good thing. That “next step” phase that we’re all looking to from Mitch also needs to apply to play calling. Sometimes on 3rd and 3 you need to be able to feel confident in your teams ability to get those yards without having to resort to some play that looks like a deleted scene from Little Giants. I’m not that old school meatball fan who screams about running the ball up the middle the entire time, but I think the offense is good enough to not need to run a triple option to pick up a crucial first down. 
You guys have mentioned a few guys on offense you’re watching closely, and you’ve mentioned Pagano as well. Is there a player on defense you’ll be watching closely, either for a breakout season indications or possibly be a surprise demotion or cut?
Brian: The Bears thought enough of John Franklin III to bring him back again this year. This guy is arguably the most athletic player on the roster and is trying to make the transition from a lifelong quarterback to a DB – to make this position change at the NFL level, you have to be special, and I believe the organization thinks he is. Depending how impressive he is in camp, he could, at the very least provide some insurance for the old and oft-injured Prince Amukamara; and at best, be a value replacement for the 30-year-old who, while having a solid season in 2018, has been on the downside of his career for a while now.
Wes: Whoa, hey, I wanted to get in on the kicker talk since it’s all anyone seemed to care about in the Spring! Not really, I think it’s pretty embarrassing that the mini camp was basically devoted to coming up with wild scenarios for guys to kick meaningless FGs in. They’ll have some rookie or camp cut rookie/vet and that’ll be that. I won’t be shocked if they burn through a couple kickers by seasons end. I can’t help but notice no one has mentioned the new backfield savior, David Montgomery, either. Maybe we’re already tired of hearing about how great his character is and what a steal he’s set to be. To me this screams of future disappointment, but I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

I’m watching the defensive backfield closer than other position groups at camp. Pagano made his money coaching up the Ravens secondary through their years of dominance and I’m interested to see how everything settles with the DBs. That’s the only group that sees new faces in starting roles, so the easy answer is will Buster Skrine/Ha Ha Clinton-Dix come in and keep the status quo or better, or will we see some troubles early on replacing the stud nickel Bryce Callahan and the under appreciated Adrian Amos? The Skrine signing was met with some raised eyebrows and Ha Ha is already on the PUP so we’re off to a very Chicago sports start on that front. 
An individual I’m keying on is probably in direct competition with your boy J Franks the 3rd – Stephen Denmark. If you’re not familiar with the 2019 7th Rd pick, he’s got a pretty winding path to the DB group as well. Denmark is quite new to the defensive backfield, having lined up only one season there at Valdosta St. after playing wide out his whole career prior, with a lot to be desired. You won’t find many 6’3″ Corners around the league, and there’s no guarantee that Denmark sticks there, but he’s got the bloodline (father, three brothers all played some level of D1 college or pros) and the athleticism to make a stand out impression, be it at corner or safety. I’d guess the Bears try to stash him on the practice squad and develop him for the year, but if he shows the kind of promise discussed out of the draft the vultures could circle to pluck him off the squad. 
I’m going to add a player on offense here as well because I’m five hours behind on vacation and feel a bit left out, and there’s nothing you can do about it, Fels (besides edit it out and make this all just wasted time). Riley Ridley seemed like a guy that should not have been around in the late 4th Rd, but there he was and the Bears made him a luxury pick given what they’ve spent on the WR position in the last two seasons. I believe he’s well worth it, though, as an elite route runner dropped into a system predicated on receivers being in the right spot, every time. Someone up there mentioned Taylor Gabriel as a possible shocking, albeit mildly, cut. Thanks to our friends at Over The Cap you’ll see that cutting Gabriel now would have zero cap savings and $6.5M in dead money, but say another team thin at the position or sees a string of camp injuries at wideout and a trade for a future pick materializes. Trading Gabriel is much more palatable with a little under $2M in dead money against almost $6M in cap savings. If the WR room gets crowded this Fall because Ridley, Miller and any one of the many WR fighting for special teams reps force the issue, I’d look for Gabriel to get dealt on the cheap before anyone gets outright cut. 
Tony: I could see Gabriel as trade bait, for sure. In terms of next steps being taken, Bilal Nichols is going to be a beast this year. I don’t see Jonathan Bullard breaking out, but I think this year finds Nichols and Roy Robertson-Harris stepping up in a big way. 

The David Montgomery hype is getting to me, tbh. Let’s see this man suit up and play before he’s anointed the next great Bears RB, ya know? He has to learn the offense, and his scouting report via PFF lists his receiving ability as a weakness, something that might limit his snap count. 
At the end of the day, I’m interested in what sort of formation/personnel wrinkles we’ll see in the new defense. Is Pagano going to consistently use his front 3/4 to generate pressure, or is he going to utilize the greatest buzzword in all of football: “exotic blitzes”. Is Eddie Jackson going to be asked to continue to roam the middle of the field and read the QB, or will he have less freedom in this new system? There’s no doubt that Bryce Callahan is a beast at nickel corner in a Vic Fangio defense, can we even be sure Chuck Pagano will ask Buster Skrine to do something similar? The fit between scheme and player was ideal last year, and I’m hoping this year is more of the same. I think Ha Ha will play well and earn that multi year deal somewhere else next year. 
Everything Else

People, as I’ve shared in the past, I used to be a comedian. And never, in my seven to eight years of dedicating my life to trying to write stuff to make people laugh, did I ever come anywhere close to anything as absurd and uproarious as the opening hour of Blackhawks training camp this morning. Yes, I use the featured photo a lot, but you sum it up better than that!

Where to even fucking start? So yesterday, company and television stooge Pat Boyle “reported” that Corey Crawford would hit the ice today. He didn’t say in what capacity, if he was just going to check that he in fact can still skate at all, or would be just touching up the logos painted under the surface. This was clearly the Hawks attempt at…

So Crow did actually hit the ice, and he did actually practice…just by himself. Which is…something? I mean it’s better than nothing. It’s on the road to full participation, it’s just that no one has any idea how long that road is. But hey, he’s alive and he’s wearing gear and that’s like, a step forward from where we’ve been. Maybe. Unless he disappears again tomorrow and/or this was all for show. Good stuff, really.

Oh, but it gets so much better.

Right about the time the Hawks were hitting the ice as a team, it was announced that Connor Murphy is going to miss two months with a back injury. TWO MONTHS. BACK INJURY. Let’s try and unpack this all, because it’s a fucking ton and ain’t none of it good.

So, this summer, Stan Bowman hoarded all of his “assets,” such as they are, and decided against upgrading a blue line that was rat semen anyway, because the Hawks are terrified of what they have to pay Nick Schmaltz and Alex DeBrincat in the next two years (no really, that’s the reason). Except there’s no fucking chance Murphy showed up today and said, “Hey I think my back is fucked up.” For it to be a two month thing, they have to have known about it for a while, and still elected to present you with Brandon Manning and Jan Rutta. TICKETS TO THE HOME OPENER STILL AVAILABLE, PEOPLE!

So essentially, what the Hawks are telling you while hoping you don’t notice their lips are moving, is that they know they’re going to be a dungheap this season. Because if you thought you had a chance at being anything, you wouldn’t just toss your hands up at the news that your most consistent d-man of last year was going to be out until December basically, yelling, “Dems da breaks!”

Going further, you wouldn’t do that if your thought your team has any hope of being anything other than a representation of sadness and confusion in watercolor because back injuries of this significance to a player who is, y’know, 6-FOOT-FUCKING-5, have a tendency to be career-altering, if not debilitating. That’s a major, major problem that the Hawks thought they could just sneak by you.

Oh, and Brent Seabrook is going to miss a week with an “abdominal injury,” which simply just has to be a really unruly burrito.

The capper of course is that at the first practice Chris Kunitz was skating with Jonathan Toews and Alex DeBrincat, which couldn’t be a more Quenneville moment unless it came with a bottle of wine, a Whalers jersey, and a mustache painted on the ice. TICKETS STILL AVAILABLE

If there’s a silver lining to all of this, and there isn’t, basically Quenneville is going to be forced into giving Henri Jokiharju a long look because there ain’t shit on shit else. And he was already skating with Keith today, so fuck it, let’s ride that snake as far as it’ll go and figure out the rest later. Or never. Probably never.

So just to review, when the Hawks open the season, your pairings could be a declining Keith with a 19-year-old the coach will hate, Sbarro and Jan Rutta, and The Guy Worse Than Radko Gudas next to Cowboy Gustafsson.

Everything Else

If you haven’t seen it, the Trib today ran a profile of the Erie County DA who will be handling this case, if it becomes a case, Frank Sedita III. I’m almost certainly in above my head when discussing the nuances here, and this post probably best serves as a launch point for the various lawyers who are friends of the site to explain it out better in the comments.

Obviously, to everyone certain things jump out. His “choosiness,” for lack of a better term, is one. But I’m guessing like most other big city District Attorney offices, Erie County’s would have limited time and resources and prosecuting every case that comes into it is an impossibility, especially if Buffalo’s court system is anywhere near as backed up as Chicago’s. I don’t know what the proper balance is here, and I hope someone or a few can hash it out in response to this.

Everything Else

Leahy looks at the new deal, including the end of 12/26 at the UC: PD

Here are the 26 in camp: BH

Does Bolland to 2C feel a little like Hester to WR to anyone else?: ESPNChi

Want to make me happy, here’s an idea WIN GAMES: CSN

The farm is fairly stocked: HF

A closer look at the teams we hate: CtA

Bergevin and Les Habitants send Gomez home: PHT

hahahahhahahahah… but no really ahahahahahaha good luck with that hahahaha: NM