WCC Notebook: Takeaways from Bears camp, David Bote, Bulls games to look forward to, and Blackhawks national television schedule released

It was a great weekend in sports. Tiger Woods played a magnificent Sunday at the PGA Championship, the Cubs won Sunday night thanks to the heroics of David Bote, and so much more. As the summer winds down, we are getting closer and closer to the NFL season, and the start of the NBA and NHL training camps. Plus, who could can forget about October baseball on the North Side.

A lot to talk about on this Monday so let’s get started.

The Chicago Bears wrapped up camp on Sunday at the University of Olivet Nazarene with a closed practice. The biggest storyline? 1st round pick Roquan Smith officially missed his first rookie training camp. Coach Matt Nagy has addressed the situation almost everyday after practice and his statement after their Saturday night practice may be the most telling. He stated that Smith missing the Bourbonnais portion of training camp that will limit whatever he would be able to do in Week 1. We know Smith is a physical, highly intelligent at his position, but he has missed all of the install of the schemes, meetings, gameplanning, and most importantly live reps in the two preseason games the Bears have already played. Frustration is growing among the fan base and around camp. Multiple players have spoken about Smith and they support him, but they also have to be frustrated that one of the expected leaders of the defense has not been with them since OTA’s.

But to no prevail, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweeted Monday afternoon that the Bears and Smith have agreed to terms on his rookie deal. FINALLY!

Smith’s camp had particular demands and we will wait and see if they got what the wanted. And what is it they wanted? Smith’s agent is fighting that his clients guaranteed money will be protected against suspensions and his representatives at CAA Football have insisted the Bears go even further and include contract language protecting the player from discipline for behavior outside the realm of a football play. David Haugh from the Chicago Tribune wrote that the Bears are not concerned about Smith’s character but “their reluctance to do so revolves around their fear of setting a precedent for future contracts.”

A perfect example of this happened last week in Jacksonville. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey was suspended for attacking the media for filming an altercation at Jaguars practice. Dante Fowler and Yannick Ngakoue has to separated on the practice field and then again on the way back to the locker room. And the media caught most of it. “Stop recording that s—, man!, Ramsey said.

“Ramsey most likely has seen the financial protections for 2018 and 2019 evaporate by virtue of the punishment. (It’s possible, but not likely, that Ramsey secured the removal of language voiding the guarantee for a team-imposed suspension.)” Florio makes it sound like the Jaguars would be able to recoup some of that guaranteed money if they were to move on from Ramsey, which Florio notes “resides somewhere between slim and none.” – Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio

This has been one of the biggest storylines in Chicago for weeks now. And both sides are at a stalemate for a very long time, but it’s finally over.

Outside of Smith, the Bears had a very productive camp. The offense is advanced and brings a lot of excitement. Vic Fangio’s defense is together again and in the words of Prince Amukamara, “we are picking up right where we left off.” The excitement around a new coach in Nagy and the breakout potential of Mitch Trubisky brings a whole new vibe surrounding the Bears. We learned a lot through two preseason games and listening to the players and coach Nagy. Let’s take a look at the biggest takeaways from camp and what we learned from the final weekend in Bourbonnais.

Anthony Miller burst onto the scene at camp, taking over Twitter with a bunch of videos of his suburb route running, his great hands and unreal speed. But we know producing on Sunday’s is all that matters. Miller got starter treatment, sitting out the HOF  game in Canton despite his need for game reps. I was against sitting him because how is he going to get ready for NFL corners by Week 1 wearing a baseball hat on the sideline? As a rookie, he needs all the reps he can get. We should see an increased volume in playing time the next two preseason games.

Coach Nagy said after their night practice on Saturday that the staring left guard spot is open for competition. Rookie James Daniels, Eric Kush, and Earl Watford will be competing for the job.

“There’s a good competition right there. You have a couple of guys there with obviously Kush and James, and you have Earl as well, Nagy said on Saturday. There’s three good guys right there who are battling it out. That’s good for us as a team. So we’ll just let them keep battling and see where it goes.”

Daniels saw time at center with the second team offense in last Thursday’s preseason game in Cincinnati. And he played fairly well. After they selected him in the second round of the draft, the Bears said they are focused on developing him as a guard. When asked after Thursday’s game if Daniels would get reps at center with the first team offense, Nagy quickly shut that down. Cody Whitehair remains the first team center and is not getting any work at guard.

It does not look like it will be happening anytime soon, but I think the Bears best offensive line would be Daniels at center and Whitehair at left guard. Both would be playing their positions from college and I see tremendous upside for both players. But the Bears are determined to keep Whitehair at center.

Eric Kush is entering his third season with the Bears. After missing last season with a torn hamstring suffered in camp, Kush might have the best shot at starting at left guard. He started four games for the team in 2016 and appeared in eight. You may remember his t-shirt line from Hard Knocks when he was with the Rams? Well if you don’t, look it up! Kush is a massive human and a fairly solid lineman. I’d say he is the leading candaite for the job at this point.

Lastly, Earl Watford is in the mix to play between Whitehair and Charles Leno Jr. The 28 year old is entering his sixth season in the NFL. He was previously with the Arizona Cardinals for the first part of his career, starting 21 games over that span. Watford has played with the one’s in camp at left guard and right guard when Kyle Long was given his scheduled days off. Do not count out Watford and I would not be that shocked if he won the job.

To conclude the Bears takeaways, outside linebacker depth remains a mystery. Aaron Lynch hurt his hamstring on the first day of practice, leaving even fewer players behind Leonard Floyd on the depth chart.

Outside linebacker may be the weakest position on the roster. Leonard Floyd looks to be taking the next step in his development and he is healthy. Isiaih Irving showed promised in the Bears first game but missed the matchup last week with an injury. Rookie Kylie Fitts has caught the eye of the coaching staff and has showed some flashes. His health is very important after injuries being the main concern during his time at Utah.

While Aaron Lynch is not some superstar pass rushers, the Bears need him back more than ever. They have to find out what they have in Lynch and if he is worth keeping around. Because if he continues to be sidelined, it’s an easy choice come roster cut day.

The Cubs beat the Nationals Sunday night off the bat of David Bote. It was another magical night on the North Side.

It was a pitching duel that screamed one sided. Max Scherzer took to the bump for the Nats and Cole Hamels made his Wrigley Field debut. Both men were outstanding and pitched into the seventh inning. Scherzer allowed just three hits and struck out 11 and Hamels gave up just one run and struck out nine. He gave the Cubs a chance.

Newly acquired Brandon Kitzler, a former National, surrendered two runs, increasing the Nationals lead to 3-0 heading into the bottom of the ninth. But any Cub fan knows that it ain’t over until it’s over. Ryan Madson was given the ball to close it out but after loading the bases with  a hit by Jason Heyward and beaming Albert Almora Jr. and Willson Contreras, it all came down to David Bote with two outs and two strikes, and 25 year old hit it well over the center field basket. He flew around the bases as the crowd went ecstatic and his teammates mobbed him at home plate. It was a night to remember and further validates Bote’s value to the team with Kris Bryant still recovering from a shoulder injury.

After the game, Maddon said that Bote will get some time in the outfield come spring. That is far down the road but it hints at Bote’s value and being viewed as a key member of the team going forward. If you can play multiple positions, you got a spot on Maddon’s roster.

With the Cubs this season, Bote is hitting .329 with an OPS of .957 to go along with 3 HR’s and 18 RBI. To think he was a possible trade chip at the deadline! It’s been a lot of fun watching the newest prospect excel at the major league level. Bote has been in the Cubs minor league system since 2012. What a great story of hard work and never giving up.

Bote will remain a key piece to this Cubs team going forward. When Kris Bryant returns, Bote is another option off the bench for Maddon in pinch hit situations along with Tommy La Stella.

The NBA released the 2018-2019 schedules on Friday and the Bulls have not one, but three national TV games. They will also make an appearance in Mexico City in December to take on the Orlando Magic.

Lauri Markkanen will lead the Bulls to Philadelphia on October 18th for a matchup on TNT with the 76ers. A big test right off the bat. Get excited for TNT Bulls boys and girls. Even though the famous TNT streak will not be damaged, currently a 20 game win streak on TNT at the United Center, the vibe will still be around the team. It’s a fun fad that fans have kept with this team over the past years.

The Bulls home opener will be October 20th vs. Detroit. Some other notable games early in the season is a four game home stand lasting from October 29th to November 4th when the Warriors, Nuggets, Pacers, and Nuggets come to the UC. Jabari Parker will return to Milwaukee on November 16th and will be aired on ESPN.

For the near future, the Bulls-Timberwolves matchup will be circled on the calendar. Sending Jimmy Butler to Minnesota on draft day in 2017 changed the direction of the franchise. And playing against former coach Tom Thibodeau and Butler along with Taj Gibson and Derrick Rose will be very entreating.

Some other dates to keep in mind are January 15th when the Bulls to travel to LA to face LeBron James, and the Pelicans come to the UC on February 6th. These are just a few games that will be circled on Bulls fans scheduled and tests for the young Bulls squad.

We still do not know what this Bulls young team can become. We saw flashes of Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn last season along with stellar play from Lauri Markkanen. Bobby Portis, Denzel Valentine established themselves as players who can be counted on off the bench. And draft picks Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison will join the rotation right away in hopes of solidifying the core in Chicago. Oh, and don’t forget about free agent signing Jabari Parker who is very excited about playing for him hometown team. Parker is slated to play small forward in the starting lineup. While power forward is his natural position. Parker has the skill to be an impact right away for his new squad.

The Blackhawks will play a league-high 19 games on national television this season, including the 2019 Winter Classic at Notre Dame Stadium vs. Boston.

After missing the playoffs last season, the Blackhawks desperately need to bounce back or people will lose their jobs. Stan Bowman is banking on his captain Johnathan Toews along with Brandon Saad, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Corey Crawford to return to form and put the Blackhawks back in the playoffs. I do not doubt that Toews and Saad will be better, but both Keith and Seabrook may be on the downhill. Keith is still a very skilled defensemen and a excellent skater, but is time finally caught up to him? Seabrook has reportedly lose weight and has worked extremely hard to return to a top four defensemen for coach Joel Queneville. Lastly, Crawford’s health still remains a mystery. He told the media at the Blackhawks convention a few weeks ago that he is still not a 100% percent but had made a lot of progress since being sidelined in December.

It is very important Crawford is ready for the start of the season. We all saw what happened last season after the Blackhawks lost their starting net-minder. The team fell apart and found themselves out of the race in February. Their reserve goalies could not do enough to keep them in games and losing Crawford hurt the defense, badly. If the Blackhawks want to be one of the best in the Western Conference and chase a fourth cup in the decade, they have to pray Crawford is healthy by game one.

Back to the national television schedule, the Blackhawks draw an enormous viewing, no matter how bad the team may be struggling. So it is no surprise the Blackhawks will have a lot of marquee matchups on NBC. Games to look forward to: November 27th vs. Vegas, December 18th vs. Nashville, January 20th vs. Washington, and

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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