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Pagano puts stamp on Bears 'D' after year out of coaching

Wed May 22 6:30pm ET
By ANDREW SELIGMAN
AP Sports Writer

Players: Cody Parkey, Taquan Mizzell

Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano smiles as he watches his team during NFL football practice in Lake Forest, Ill., Wednesday, May 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)


LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) Chuck Pagano made the most of his time away from the sideline. He's also glad to be coaching again.

The Chicago Bears' new defensive coordinator gets to put his stamp on a unit that emerged as one of the best the past four seasons under Vic Fangio, particularly now that offseason workouts are underway.

''You ask any player that's been let go or put on the street and then been given another opportunity, another team, another locker room, coaches to be around, players to be around, come out here and run around like a kid again - there's nothing better,'' Pagano said Wednesday.

The Bears have soaring expectations and a bit of a chip on their shoulder after a bitter loss to end a breakthrough year.

Chicago won the NFC North at 12-4 in coach Matt Nagy's first season, ending an eight-year playoff drought, only to lose the wild-card game at Soldier Field to Philadelphia when former kicker Cody Parkey's potential winning field goal hit an upright and crossbar.

The Bears are banking on improvement by an offense entering its second year in Nagy's system, and more dominance from a defense that returns mostly intact - with at least one notable change.

Overseeing it now is Pagano, hired in January after Fangio took the head coaching job in Denver.

He spent last year out of coaching, as an NFL consultant working with officials, after leading Indianapolis to a 53-43 record and two AFC South championships from 2012-2017.

Pagano got to go to the Masters, rode his Peloton bike and spent quality time with his family. He made the most of his situation. But he wasn't where he really wanted to be: coaching.

With offseason workouts in process, he feels recharged and ready to embrace the challenge. On the one hand, he inherits a loaded defense. On the other, his predecessor set a high standard.

''He knows what kind of challenge that is, because there's expectations not just from the media and from the fan base but from his own players,'' Nagy said. ''They know what they did under Vic's regime and his coaching staff. So I think that's going to be really neat to watch organically happen, but there's got to be some patience involved there, so that's what we'll continue to talk through.''

Pagano inherits a group led by All-Pros Khalil Mack, Kyle Fuller and Eddie Jackson that ranked third in total defense. The Bears had more takeaways (36) and interceptions (27) than any other team. They allowed a league-low 17.7 points per game and 1,280 yards rushing - the fewest by a Chicago team in a 16-game season. And they tied for third in the league with 50 sacks even though they didn't blitz much.

''We all know how well this defense did,'' Pagano said. ''They love football. They love playing football. We've had great attendance, great participation. They love each other. They just love playing the game. It's been a real pleasure. We've got a long way to go, obviously. But they're doing a great job.''

One thing that has stood out to defensive end Akiem Hicks is Pagano's ability to relate to his players.

''He just understands what they could be thinking, what the possibilities are,'' Hicks said. ''And he can attack those before an issue arises. And he can stop an issue from arising.''

Linebacker Roquan Smith said he has the ''utmost respect'' for Pagano and Fangio.

''Definitely, Chuck's a little more outgoing,'' Smith added. ''He is who he is. We respect that, love it and embrace it each and every day.''

When it comes to scheme, Pagano and Fangio are similar. They both run a 3-4. And they overlapped as assistants in Baltimore, helping mold a defense that ultimately led the Ravens to a Super Bowl championship at the end of the 2012 season.

Pagano said he would be ''foolish'' not to retain some of Fangio's plays. But he's also putting his mark on the defense.

He said his staff has been ''throwing a lot of mud at the wall and seeing what sticks.'' What he's seeing so far is a high retention rate.

''There's gonna be stuff to clean up,'' he said. ''There's gonna be mistakes made. But again, these guys have done a great job to this point.''

NOTE: Two players have changed positions, with Bradley Sowell moving from offensive tackle to tight end, and Taquan Mizzell from running back to receiver.

Player Notes
Bruce Irvin Jul 10 12:30am ET

Seattle Seahawks third-year linebacker Shaquem Griffin is one of The Seattle Times' Bob Condotta's "bubble" players for training camp this summer. He has yet to carve out a role as a starting linebacker after being a fifth-round pick out of Central Florida in 2018. Seattle has also added three draft picks in the last two years -- Jordyn Brooks, Cody Barton and Ben Burr-Kirven -- at the position, in addition to starters Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright. Veteran Bruce Irvin is also in the picture. Griffin will likely need to add something as a pass-rusher in order to have a shot at making the regular season roster out of camp. His salary cap number also continues to go up ($829,405) this year, but with practice squads likely being increased to 16 in 2020, there's a chance he sticks with the team even if he doesn't make the roster.

From RotoBaller

Matt Breida Jul 10 12:20am ET

The Miami Dolphins have yet to discuss a contract extension with running back Matt Breida after giving up the No. 153 overall pick in April's draft to acquire him from the 49ers. The running back is scheduled for unrestricted free agency after the 2020 season and is scheduled to make $3.3 million in the final year of his deal. Breida's career highs of 153 carries and 814 yards came with San Francisco in 2018. He is expected to share the backfield load with free-agent pickup Jordan Howard. Miami has understandably held off on extensions with uncertainty over how COVID-19 will affect the 2021 salary cap. The 25-year-old had 623 rushing yards in 2019 and is the better and cheaper fantasy option over Howard if he can just stay healthy.

From RotoBaller

Laviska Shenault Jr. Jul 10 12:10am ET

The Jacksonville Jaguars signed second-round wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. to his rookie deal on Thursday. When fully healthy, Shenault can end up being one of the most explosive receivers in a stacked class at the position. Shenault played at Colorado and was the 42nd overall pick in the draft. He was twice an All-Pac 12 player and is expected to make an immediate impact in Jacksonville's passing attack in 2020. The 21-year-old is versatile and could fill a variety of offensive roles with the Jags right away, but that typically hurts the development of young players like Shenault. He does have injury concerns and will have one of the weaker QBs in the NFL throwing to him, Shenault can put up big numbers if he's given the opportunity. Consider him a late-round flier in redraft leagues with DJ Chark Jr. and Dede Westbrook ahead of him.

From RotoBaller

Lamical Perine Jul 10 12:00am ET

The New York Jets announced on Thursday that they signed rookie running back Lamical Perine to his rookie contract after they selected him in the fourth round (120th overall) back in April. The Florida product became the fourth of the team's nine draft picks to sign. He rushed for a team-high 826 yards and seven touchdowns as a junior and ran for 676 yards and six touchdowns in 13 starts in 2019. Perine also added a career-high 40 catches for 262 yards and five touchdowns. There's upside in the long-term in New York once Le'Veon Bell is out of the picture, but there's not a lot of 2020 upside with Bell and veteran Frank Gore in the backfield. The rookie could factor in on some third downs in his first season, but he's way more attractive in dynasty/keeper affairs.

From RotoBaller

Cam Newton Jul 9 6:53pm ET

New England Patriots WR N'Keal Harry was filmed running routes with QB Cam Newton Wednesday, July 8.

Fantasy Spin: Harry was never able to find a true groove with former Patriots QB Tom Brady (Buccaneers) last season while being limited to just seven games. He caught 12 of 24 targets for 105 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie. Newton could take better advantage of Harry's downfield abilities if fully healthy in 2020. The early reps are certainly a good sign for what hopes to be the Patriots' top duo in the passing game.

From TheHuddle

Cam Newton Jul 9 6:43pm ET

New England Patriots QB Cam Newton will win the starting competition against QBs Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer in training camp, according to former Patriots executive vice president Michael Lombardi Thursday, July 9. 'Watching Cam Newton throw and move, there is no doubt he will win the starting job,' Lombardi tweeted.

Fantasy Spin: Newton is widely expected to win the starting job by fantasy football enthusiasts and it would certainly be the best result for all the other members of the offense in 2020. He'll be at least a low-tier QB1 and should be given plenty of opportunities to make plays with his legs.

From TheHuddle

Derrick Henry Jul 9 5:53pm ET

Tennessee Titans RB Derrick Henry has less than a week to sign a long-term contract, or he will play the 2020 season under the franchise tag. Titans head coach Mike Vrabel stressed Thursday, July 9, deal's like these take time and patience is needed on both sides. 'Derrick signed his franchise tender, he's under contract,' Vrabel said. '... Having been involved with the NFL for a lot of years, getting deals done is about being patient, hopefully keeping them private and confidential. So I'm going to try to respect that, and understand that we love Derrick and he understands how important he is to our football team. Again, his leadership that grew last year, I'm looking forward, I know our team is looking for more of that this year.'

From TheHuddle

Kirk Cousins Jul 9 5:13pm ET

Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins led the NFL with an average depth of target of 19.2 yards on touchdown passes in 2019, according to Pro Football Focus.

Fantasy Spin: Cousins could see a dip in this department in 2020 following the offseason trade of WR Stefon Diggs, but it bodes well for rookie WR Justin Jefferson, who is the most likely replacement across from WR Adam Thielen. Cousins relies heavily on efficiency and is a low-upside QB1 in a run-first offense.

From TheHuddle

Raheem Mostert Jul 9 3:03pm ET

San Francisco 49ers RB Raheem Mostert is looking to be paid similarly to what the highest-paid running backs on the roster are scheduled to make, according to Mostert's agent. RB Tevin Coleman is scheduled to make $4.55 million next season, which is what Mostert would like to make.

Fantasy Spin: Mostert has asked for a trade, but the 49ers may decide to keep him with or without a new contract. He is coming off his best season and would have a significant role if he stays with the 49ers. Fantasy players should monitor the situation because Mostert could be at least a flex option in fantasy leagues.

From TheHuddle

Matt Breida Jul 9 2:43pm ET

Miami Dolphins RB Matt Breida has not had any contract extension talks with the Dolphins this offseason, according to a source.

Fantasy Spin: Breida will be sharing playing time with Jordan Howard this season, but it is not known which back will win the starting job. Breida has posted solid numbers over the last few seasons and could be a No. 3 or No. 4 fantasy running back depending on his role.

From TheHuddle

Cam Newton Jul 9 1:03pm ET

Updating previous reports, New England Patriots QB Cam Newton can earn $7.5 million next year if he hits all the incentives and wins the Super Bowl. He has a $1.05 million base salary, which $550,000 is guaranteed. He can earn $43,750 per game in roster bonuses, up to $700,000. He can earn a maximum of $3.75 million in playing-time incentives with $500,000 in Pro Bowl and All-Pro bonuses. He can earn a maximum of $1 million from $250,000 bonuses for each playoff win with above 50 percent playing time.

Fantasy Spin: Newton is in the best spot he could have wished for, but the team still lacks proven weapons around him. He'll be a midrange QB2 in fantasy, but he could ultimately outplay that draft status if he's finally healthy.

From TheHuddle

Dak Prescott Jul 9 9:40am ET

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott has been negotiating a long-term deal with the team but the two sides still differ on the length of the contract as the extension deadline looms. The Cowboys have a contract offer on the table, but it is reportedly longer than Prescott wants. Prescott is scheduled to make $31.4 million under the franchise tag this year, but both sides have expressed desire to keep the Mississippi State Bulldog in Dallas long term. Franchise tagged players have until July 15 to work out a contract extension. Only two quarterbacks have played under the franchise tag, Drew Brees and Kirk Cousins, and both signed with new teams in their ensuing free agency which could affect Prescott's dynasty value if the sides cannot agree on a new deal by next week.

From RotoBaller

Mark Ingram Jul 9 8:10am ET

Baltimore Ravens running back Mark Ingram II is ready to get back to playing football, but he also wants to make sure it is in a safe environment. In a short interview clip that aired on NFL Total Access on Wednesday, Ingram said, "I'm basically just listening to the updates from the team, from the [players association], from the league and, I want to play ball, but I think it needs to be in a safe, effective and efficient way. I know there's standards and protocols and guidelines and all that to make sure everybody's healthy and safe. And we're doing everything to make sure nobody's at risk. I'm hopeful that we'll be playing." The concern for safety has been shared by several of Ingram's colleagues of late and will be a frequent topic of discussion as training camps are scheduled to begin at the end of July. Ingram faces increased competition for backfield touches with second-round rookie J.K. Dobbins in the fold, rendering the veteran as more of a flex option in fantasy for 2020.

From RotoBaller

Jack Cichy Jul 8 10:43pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers LB Jack Cichy (elbow) is expected to be play primarily on special teams in 2020 after missing most of last season with an elbow injury.

From TheHuddle

Kendell Beckwith Jul 8 10:43pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers LB Kendell Beckwith (ankle) was activated from the Reserve/Non-Football Injury list in February, but he is not a lock to make the 53-man roster in 2020.

From TheHuddle

Malik Hooker Jul 8 7:33pm ET

Indianapolis Colts FS Malik Hooker is expected to be one of the starting safeties this upcoming season.

From TheHuddle

Raheem Mostert Jul 8 6:40pm ET

San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostert requested a trade on Wednesday, per his agent, Brett Tessler. Mostert and his representation simply want to bring him in line with the highest-paid running backs on the team. Tevin Coleman will make $4.55 million in 2020. Mostert has two years left on his deal, which initially paid him as mainly a special teams player. He became the team's lead back down the stretch last year, helped lead the team to a Super Bowl appearance and led the NFL in yards per carry. It's likely that the two sides work something out, but if not, Tevin Coleman would become a lot more interesting. Even though he's set to be San Fran's lead back in 2020, Mostert could lose touches to Coleman and Jerick McKinnon, making him more of a low-end RB2/high-end RB3.

From RotoBaller

Cam Newton Jul 8 5:43pm ET

New England Patriots QB Cam Newton officially signed his contract with the Patriots Wednesday, July 8. Official terms of the contract were not disclosed.

From TheHuddle

Raheem Mostert Jul 8 5:33pm ET

San Francisco 49ers RB Raheem Mostert has requested a trade, according to his agent.

Fantasy Spin: Mostert is coming off the best season of his career with 772 rushing yards and eight touchdowns but has not received the new contract he is looking for this offseason. Fantasy players should monitor the situation to see where Mostert will play this season because he can be at least a flex option in leagues.

From TheHuddle

Stefon Diggs Jul 8 4:30pm ET

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs tweeted on Tuesday that he'd "be lying if I said I was comfortable starting back up" amid the coronavirus pandemic. The NFL has plenty of questions to answer regarding safety protocols for player health before training camps and the regular season begins, and it's possible that players will decide to opt out of playing altogether. If Diggs ultimately decides to play in 2020, he'll be the No. 1 wideout in his first year in Buffalo, but his fantasy ceiling might depend on how much Buffalo throws the ball and whether quarterback Josh Allen can make strides as a passer. John Brown and Cole Beasley will take targets away and give Diggs a lower ceiling as more of a low-end WR2 in fantasy.

From RotoBaller