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Bears Bullets: Highlights From OTAs, Offensive Playmakers, Tirico To TNF, Recent Visitor On Hot Seat, More

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There may have been a Kevin White injury-related scare (he’s OK by the way) and a report that backup quarterback Mark Sanchez will miss the rest of offseason activities, but at least none of the team’s key contributors has suffered any kind of season-ending injury during this stretch of OTAs. Boom: Bright-sided.

So let’s enjoy some highlights and be thankful the injury bug that helped sink the 2016 season hasn’t bitten yet:

  • Jordan Howard doesn’t have blazing speed or imposing size to power through defenders, but he did show the ability to be a playmaker as a rookie in 2016. In Wednesday’s Bullets, we noted a Sun-Times report that Howard intends to play leaner in 2017, while Brett Whitefield of Pro Football Focus highlighted some of the things that made Howard a top-10 back in 2016. He was PFF’s 10th most elusive back, and also ranked in the top 10 in breakaway percentage, a metric that accounts for a percentage of yards that come on runs of 15 yards or more. Howard also proved to be a top-10 blocking pack in pass protection, something Mike Glennon will surely feel good about as he takes command of the offense.
  • And despite only receiving 11 total snaps in the first two weeks of the season, Howard still came up with 19 carries of 15 yards or more. That was the third most in the league, with only Ezekiel Elliott and LeSean McCoy (each had 22) coming up with more. The average NFL running back had eight such runs in 2016.

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  • Howard’s success carrying over to 2017 would be a boon for Bears receivers, especially Cameron Meredith – who had a breakout season of his own in 2016. Over at CBS Chicago, Chris Emma writes that Meredith’s stock is on the rise as he strives to be even better than the player who led the team in targets, catches, and receiving yards last season. Meredith latched onto the Bears as an undrafted free agent in 2015, but fast-forward a few years and he now finds himself at the head of the class with a handful of young players and veterans looking to establish (or re-establish) themselves in the NFL.
  • And in case you missed it, Meredith threw out the first pitch at Wednesday’s White Sox game:

  • Victor Cruz has been with the Bears for just a few days, but he already has praise for his quarterback. “I think he has a command of the offense in the huddle when he’s in there. I think he understands this offense, even in a short period of time. You can see he’s getting more and more comfortable as these practices go on. That’s all you can ask for in a guy like Mike.”

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  • Admittedly, commanding the huddle and understanding the offense in OTAs and doing so during in-game situations are two different tasks to conquer. However, it’s refreshing not to hear the concerns surrounding Jay Cutler trying to learn another offense – a storyline that took over one-too-many Bears’ offseasons. Of course, we won’t know whether Glennon has command of the offense or if this is simply offseason training lip service until the games actually count, but I’m willing to patiently wait it out.
  • Jonathan Bullard, who was drafted by the Bears in the third round, had a tough rookie season – he struggled to get on the field and produce when his number was called. However, only Green Bay Packers rookie Kenny Clark had a better run stop percentage among rookie 3-4 defensive ends than Bullard’s 7.8%.

  • With the NBA Finals starting tonight between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, it’s worth pointing out that Cavs forward Kevin Love had a more successful passing season than several NFL quarterbacks. FiveThirtyEight notes that Love has as more completed 20-yard passes than several teams and as many as the Los Angeles Rams. Perhaps a Kevin Love Quarterbacks Camp will be in order after the conclusion of the NBA Finals.

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  • On the television side of the game, Mike Tirico will replace Al Michaels as the voice of Thursday Night Football, according to John Ourand of Sports Business Journal. The move represents a change of direction for NBC, but more so for the NFL, which vetoed the move last season and limited Tirico to a handful of fill-in games.
  • Minnesota Vikings second-round draft pick Dalvin Cook signed his rookie contract, meaning all of the the team’s draft picks are locked in. Allow me to use this as a reminder that quarterback Mitch Trubisky remains the Bears’ only unsigned draft pick.
  • Kevin Sumlin, who recently visited Halas Hall to get a first-and look at the Bears’ OTAs, is apparently on the hot seat. Sumlin was one of football’s hottest coaching candidates when Johnny Manziel was winning the Heisman Trophy as a redshirt freshman at Texas A&M, but things haven’t taken off for the Aggies since.

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Luis Medina

Luis is the Lead Writer at The Ten-Yard Line, and you can find him on Twitter at @lcm1986.