Monthly Archives: August 2018

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LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — No more promises. No more vows.

It’s time for the Chicago Bears to put words to action and show that their rebuilt defense is ready to deliver as advertised.

They host the Buffalo Bills in the season opener this week hoping the big makeover starts to pay big dividends and set a course to the playoffs for just the second time in eight years.

They brought in five-time Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen hoping he could spark a nonexistent pass rush and run defense after Chicago got trampled last season. He’s not the only addition to a defense that was one of the worst in franchise history.

The list includes end Lamarr Houston among others. The Bears are healthier, too, after being ripped apart by injuries, and they believe they now have the stoppers to back a prolific offense heading into coach Marc Trestman’s second season.

That starts on the line, particularly with Allen.

“I’ve been on some good defensive lines, and I feel just right there with them as far as comfortability level, knowing what we’ve got to do,” said Allen, who left Minnesota for a four-year deal with Chicago.

There is some uneasiness hovering in Chicago because the defense looked less than dominant during the preseason even when the starters played. And now, it counts.

The Bills are entering a new era after the death of founding father and Hall of Fame owner Ralph Wilson in March. They’re looking for more after three straight 6-10 seasons and 14 playoff misses in a row — the NFL’s longest active streak.

They acquired receiver Mike Williams in a trade with Tampa Bay last spring. They traded their 2015 first-round pick to Cleveland to move up five spots in the draft to take Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins at No. 4. They used three of seven draft picks on offensive linemen and added depth at running back — already a strength — by acquiring Bryce Brown in a draft-weekend trade with Philadelphia.

“It’s time for us to go out there and prove ourselves, and we got a great team to do it against,” running back Fred Jackson said.

Here are some things to look for in Sunday’s game:

MONSTERS AGAIN?: The Bears don’t necessarily need their defense to play like the Monsters of the Midway given the strength of their offense. They just need it to be more effective. Considering how bad it was last year, that shouldn’t be difficult.

The Bears ranked 30th overall and last against the run while tying Jacksonville with a league-low 31 sacks. They gave up 2,583 yards rushing and 5.3 per carry — both club records. But that was last year. They could have eight different starters from the finale against Green Bay in December. Allen (five), Jeremiah Ratliff (four), Lance Briggs (seven), Charles Tillman (two) and Tim Jennings (two) bring a combined 20 Pro Bowl selections.

MANUEL FOR IMPROVEMENT: If the Bills are going to break their playoff drought, their hopes hinge largely on Manuel. Though healthy after being sidelined three times last year with knee injuries, he hasn’t shown signs of taking a big step in his development.

He finished with a 4-6 record with 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions last season after being selected 16th out of Florida State. He got a reminder this week that he still has a long way to go when teammates did not pick him for one of the six team captain spots.

FOR STARTERS … : It wasn’t a great preseason for the Bills’ starting offense. That group failed to score a touchdown on its first 18 possessions before reaching the end zone on consecutive third-quarter drives against Tampa Bay’s second string in a loss Aug. 23. The starters were also scoreless on three possessions in the finale against Detroit last week.

In all, they had four field goals and two scores on 23 possessions. That’s a concern considering all the moves the Bills made on offense.

TOP THAT: The Bears made huge strides on offense in their first year in coach Marc Trestman’s system. Can they top it?

Chicago leaped from 29th to fifth in passing and 28th to No. 8 in total offense in 2013. Jay Cutler had a career-high 89.2 rating, but he missed five games because of injuries. The last time he played a full 16 games was 2009, after the Bears acquired him from Denver.

DOMINANT D: Plenty of eyes will be on the Bears’ defense. But don’t overlook Buffalo’s.

A dominant front line has three returning Pro Bowl picks (Mario Williams, Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus), and end Jerry Hughes had a career-high 10 sacks. They added linebackers Brandon Spikes and Keith Rivers in free agency. One concern: outside linebacker, with Kiko Alonso out with a season-ending knee injury, and replacement Nigel Bradham serving a one-game NFL suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — New York Giants tackle Will Beatty is going to remain on the physically unable to perform list for the rest of the season.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin says Beatty was diagnosed with a rotator cuff injury during his rehabilitation from a pectoral tear and will need surgery.

Beatty has been the starting left tackle for the most part since 2011. He tore a pectoral muscle in the offseason lifting weights and was placed on PUP to start the season.

The Giants had until Thursday to make a decision on activating Beatty.

First-round draft pick Ereck Flowers has replaced Beatty at left tackle and played well.

Coughlin also said that left guard Justin Pugh did not sustain a concussion Sunday. His headaches were from dehydration.

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Jim Tomsula made his modest head coaching start in NFL Europe, then landed as the 49ers’ top man nearly a decade later.

San Francisco promoted its longtime defensive line coach to head coach Wednesday, going with a familiar face following a national search that took more than two weeks and ended right in house.

The well-liked Tomsula is set to be formally introduced Thursday in a news conference at Levi’s Stadium.

“I’m a football coach. I’m Jim nobody from nowhere,” Tomsula said in 2010.

Tomsula replaces Jim Harbaugh, who parted ways with the Niners on Dec. 28 in what the team called a “mutual decision.” Harbaugh was introduced as Michigan’s new coach two days later following a successful four-year stint during which the 49ers reached three straight NFC championship games and a Super Bowl.

“After conducting a thorough coaching search, and meeting with a number of outstanding candidates, Jim Tomsula clearly is the right man to lead this team,” CEO Jed York said in a statement. “Jim is a great teacher and a tremendous mentor who conducts himself with great class and integrity.”

San Francisco went 8-8 last season and missed the playoffs for the first time in four years since Harbaugh arrived in January 2011, and the franchise is turning to a familiar face to get the Niners back on track to chase a sixth championship.

York said a day after the season ended he wanted to find a “teacher” to lead the franchise forward. Certainly a coach familiar with the operation was important as the 49ers build around quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who is coming off a disappointing year.

“I love my guys,” Tomsula said in a long sit-down with The Associated Press leading up to last season. “I have the best guys. They are just awesome guys from top to bottom.”

With the 46-year-old Tomsula’s hiring, it is expected that defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and other coaches will depart given he wasn’t chosen for the top job and got leapfrogged by Tomsula.

“Our organization is excited to have Jim Tomsula leading this football team,” general manager Trent Baalke said. “We have had the privilege of working alongside Jim for the past eight seasons. He is a proven leader, teacher and mentor, and we look forward to seeing him apply his craft and vision to our team.”

From one energetic, animated Jim to another leading the way.

“Extremely happy for Jimmy T! Can’t wait to get back at it!” safety Eric Reid posted on Twitter.

In the early ’90s, Tomsula worked as a sales rep for a medical equipment company, then delivered newspapers and worked as a night janitor and cut firewood to earn extra cash in his early coaching days with a young family.

“It’s a good move. I look forward to fighting for Jim Tomsula,” said tight end Vernon Davis, who is a neighbor of Tomsula’s — their kids play on the same flag football team. “Tomsula, just the energy that he provides during the games and having a relationship with him, I can tell that (for) players, he’s one of those coaches players wouldn’t mind playing for. Just his spirit. He’s a good guy and a terrific coach. He’ll allow you to go out and do whatever you can do. He’ll put each and every individual in place to perform at a high level.”

Tomsula is a perfect 1-0 as a head coach.

Serving a single-game stint as interim head coach to end the 2010 season following Mike Singletary’s firing, the coach who attended tiny Catawba College in North Carolina chose to start Alex Smith under center over Troy Smith for a 38-7 win against Arizona in the season finale.

“We’re going to win. Let me make that clear,” Tomsula said at the time. “That was something we talked about this morning. Jed’s made that very clear. Trent Baalke’s made it very clear — very, very crystal clear.”

Harbaugh was hired a couple of weeks later on a $25 million, five-year deal and quickly began a transformation of a team that had gone eight years without a winning record or playoff berth.

Now, if anybody might be able to persuade defensive lineman Justin Smith to return for another season after 14 years in the NFL, it might be his old position coach.

Tomsula could be a strong influence on running back Frank Gore returning, too.

Guiding Kaepernick will be a big part of the process.

The 49ers’ offense was inconsistent behind Kaepernick, who completed a second full season as starter that featured too many mistakes and missed opportunities. Harbaugh promoted him over Alex Smith in November 2012, and the 49ers fell short of a Super Bowl championship after that season, losing by three points to Baltimore.

“It’s up to us to make sure we compete for and win Super Bowls. That’s our only goal,” York said. “We don’t raise division championships banners. We don’t raise NFC Championship banners. We raise Super Bowl banners.”

Tomsula will be challenged to get far more production out of an offense that struggled to score points in the second half last season. San Francisco managed only 37 points after halftime in nine games going into its 20-17 victory in the regular-season finale against Arizona.