Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Bears Position Preview: Offensive Line

The Bears return all five starters on their offensive line in 2019.
JULY 16, 2019 - 11:10 AM

(670 The Score) Continuity can be hard to come by in the NFL, and it's something to be coveted. So the Bears aren't taking for granted returning the same five starting offensive linemen in 2019.

With the exception of a position switch for Cody Whitehair (now at left guard) and James Daniels (the new center), the Bears are entering the new season with the same protection for quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and an established group of blockers for a revamped backfield.

But that's only part of the story for the Bears' offensive line it enters the 2019 campaign.

Projected depth chart

Left tackle -- Charles Leno Jr., 27

A seventh-round pick of the Bears in 2014, Leno has started 61 consecutive games on the team's offensive line. He remains under contract through the 2021 season.

Left guard -- Cody Whitehair, 27

The Bears have valued Whitehair's versatility since making him a second-round pick in 2016. Now, he has a new home at left guard -- and one that certainly should be more lucrative entering a contract season.

Center -- James Daniels, 21

The Bears viewed Daniels as a center since drafting him in the second round in 2018. But they didn't want to force the issue during his rookie season, so Whitehair remained as center and Daniels eventually became the starter at left guard. Now that there's more comfort, Daniels and Whitehair are swapping spots.

Right guard -- Kyle Long, 30

One of the key leaders for the Bears since his arrival in 2013, Long remains an important piece for the offensive line as he now enters his seventh NFL season. For the first time since 2016, Long is heading into training camp at full health.

Right tackle -- Bobby Massie, 29

The Bears ensured they would be retaining the same five starters on their offensive line by re-signing Massie to a four-year deal in January, ensuring he wouldn't hit the open market. Massie has started 46 games since arriving in 2016.

Depth: Ted Larsen, 32; Rashaad Coward, 24; T.J. Clemmings, 27; Alex Bars, 23; Blake 
Blackmar, 23; Joe Lowery, 23; Cornelius Lucas, 27; Jordan McCray, 27; Sam Mustipher, 22; Marquez Tucker, 22

Position coach: Harry Hiestand

Considered one of the most respected assistants in the game, Hiestand is beloved by his linemen and heralded for his work in revealing his players' best.

How they got here

The Bears entered the 2018 season with one primary question: How soon could Daniels show his readiness? That opportunity would come in October, and he never looked back.
Daniels displayed his development in starting 10 regular-season games for the Bears at left guard, with coaches like Hiestand speaking on behalf of his growth. His ascension to a starting role came in the same game that Long suffered an injury that forced him to miss eight games.

Meanwhile, Leno, Whitehair and Massie served as anchors for the offensive line by starting the entire season.

This offseason, the Bears lost veteran interior reserve Eric Kush but replaced him with Ted Larsen, who started eight games for Chicago during the 2016 season. Coward and 

Clemmings will provide depth at tackle. Meanwhile, the Bears have some intriguing rookies vying for spots, led by the Notre Dame standout Bars.

The leadership of Hiestand will help the Bears define roles behind their starting group.

Key storyline: What's next for Whitehair?

Under the regime of general manager Ryan Pace, the Bears have operated by offering contract extensions to eligible and deserving players days ahead of the regular season. This year, the player who fits that profile best is Whitehair.

Whitehair has been what the Bears had hoped in drafting him in the second round in 2016. Now, they feel his fit is best suited at left guard instead of center, and that position switch stands to bring him even more money on his next contract, given how guards are valued more highly than centers.

The Bears have been carefully maintaining their cap room for the coming years with the hopes of locking in homegrown talents like Whitehair. The team has spoken of how important continuity is on the offensive line. Losing a key starter on the open market would be problematic.

Whitehair said in June that he has stayed out of the contract dealings, instead deferring to his agency and the Bears' front office. But he's aware of the looming possibility that awaits. Considering the Bears have their other four offensive linemen locked in for multiple years, an extension seems even more likely for Whitehair.

Massie is secured through 2022, Leno and Daniels are signed through 2021 and Long is locked in through 2020. 

What happens next with Whitehair will be an important detail for the Bears, perhaps before the regular season kicks off.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.

Monday, July 15, 2019

3 reasons Marshal Yanda is a top 5 Ravens player of all time

by Chris Schisler 2 days ago

The four best players in the history are obvious. This is the case for why Marshal Yanda is the fifth best Ravens player of all time.

Marshal Yanda is one of the greatest Baltimore Ravens of all-time. He doesn’t get the glory that Ray Lewis had. He isn’t as flashy as Ed Reed. Nobody is like Terrell Suggs and Jonathan Ogden may have been the best left tackle in NFL history. Yanda belongs in a category with these four names. Here is why Yanda is the fifth best Ravens player of all-time:

1. A Legacy of consistency:

This will be Marshal Yanda’s 13th season with the Baltimore Ravens. He was drafted in 2007 as a third round pick and he has been a rock for the offensive line ever since. In the 162 games since he donned the number 73 for the Ravens, Yanda has 151 starts. That’s a fairly remarkable accomplishment when you consider how brutal life is in the trenches. Yanda has had a few major injuries that have sidelined him for major chunks of time however he’s proven to be one of the toughest and most durable linemen in the NFL. When the Ravens needed him to kick out to offensive tackle, he did it well. There’s nothing he can’t do for the Ravens’ offensive line.
The Ravens offensive line has had some real inconsistencies over the course of Yanda’s career. The Ravens struggled to find a post Ogden answer at left tackle before finding Ronnie Stanley in the 2016 NFL Draft. The Ravens have seen a handful of centers play next to Yanda. In fact, the Ravens have shuffled through every offensive line position except the right guard position. Other than maybe Justin Tucker, there hasn’t been a more consistent player for the Ravens. Yanda almost never gives up sacks and he is a great run blocker.

2. He’s the best at his position:

To be in the same class as players like Lewis, Reed, Ogden and Suggs you have to be a legend. It’s not just about being a top-tier player. Reed has an argument for being the greatest safety in the history of football. He holds numerous NFL records and is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Lewis was a first ballot Hall of Fame inductee for a reason. He was a once in a lifetime player. Many believe that Ogden was the best left tackle in the history of the game. Suggs may not have been the best outside linebacker ever to lace them up, however he produced over 132.5 sacks and was with the Ravens from 2003-2018.
Yanda has to be in the conversation when you’re talking about the best right guards in football. Pro Football Focus has Yanda scored as the second best guard since 2006, with a career score of 92.7. Yanda is always one of the highest rated players in every edition of the Madden football video game. He has been to seven Pro Bowls and has twice been named to the All-Pro 1st team. Yanda isn’t just a great player in the scope of Ravens football. He’s one of the very best players the league has ever seen.
There are very few players you can even compare to Yanda. He is the gold standard when it comes to the offensive line. He is in the same category of players that Jonathan Ogden is in. He’s a rare kind of player that belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame five years after his retirement.

3. Longevity

Yanda has seen so many phases of Ravens football in his career. When he entered the NFL, the Ravens had one of their most disappointing seasons ever.  The 2007 Ravens went 5-11 behind a nightmarish quarterback back and forth between Kyle Boller and Troy Smith. The next season the Ravens had just gotten John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco. The Ravens went to the playoffs five straight years and won Super Bowl XLVII. 2013-2017 were years the Ravens mostly squandered. In those years the Ravens missed the playoffs in every season except, 2014. All of the sudden, Yanda is on the reigning AFC North champions.
Yanda retirement talk picked up this offseason but he put that to bed quickly. The Ravens gave him a contract extension through 2021. One of the biggest reasons Yanda has such a strong legacy is his longevity. He’s been with the Ravens over a decade and he’s not done. Should Yanda have two or three more seasons at his standard level of play the argument that he’s not a top 5 Raven of all time would start to become absurd.
There are very few offensive lineman in NFL history with the kind of resume that Yanda has. Ogden is the only offensive lineman the Ravens have ever had that compares to Yanda. Because of the nature of his position, people don’t give Yanda enough credit. He’s a legend and he’s a top 5 Raven of all time.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Phil Dawson hasn't made 'any decisions' on retirement, reflects on 'incredible' bond with Browns fans

July 11, 2019 01:21 PM UPDATED 10 MINUTES AGO

Sports Business

The 2012 season, Phil Dawson's last with the Cleveland Browns, might have been the best of the kicker's career.

One of the most beloved players from the last 20 seasons of Browns football is a kicker.
That says quite a bit about the success, or lack thereof, from the Browns since they returned in 1999. It also says a lot about Phil Dawson.
"I thought I had an understanding of the bond when I left in 2013," Dawson said in a phone interview on Thursday, July 11. "That's only been proven more true since. During the playoff run with the Niners in 2013, the outpouring of support from Browns fans was just amazing. They just expressed how happy they were that I got to experience that. That was incredible."
Dawson played 14 seasons with the Browns. He left after the 2012 campaign, which was one of the best of his stellar career.
Dawson earned his only Pro Bowl selection that year, during which he made 29 of 31 field-goal attempts and all 29 of his extra-point tries. The two misses remain a career best.
But the Browns — stop us if you've heard this before — were going through a regime change at the time. The organization had a new CEO-general manager tandem in Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi, and the Browns, according to, never made a formal offer to a kicker who had recently turned 38 and had played under the franchise tag for the last two seasons.
"It was incredibly difficult to leave," Dawson said. "I didn't really have the luxury of time at that time to reflect and let it all in. I had to go find a job and had to dive in and fully commit to my next challenge, as I always have. In some ways, I didn't absorb that whole process. It was extremely difficult. But there were no hard feelings because the people making the decisions were new. It would've been a lot more difficult if it was people I had been with for a long time. These were people I really didn't know. In some ways, that helped, but it was difficult to leave."
In 2013, Dawson set career highs in points (140), field goals made (32) and extra points (44). He was perfect on PATs and missed only four field goals. The 49ers, with whom he had signed a one-year deal worth $2.35 million, were 12-4 and advanced to the NFC championship game.
Two years later, Dawson made an emotional return to Cleveland as a member of the 49ers. The Browns honored him with a video tribute in the first quarter, and the gesture was followed by a standing ovation.
"I don't have words to express how overwhelmed I was at the love," Dawson said Thursday. "The Browns organization doing the welcome-back video, that just doesn't happen for visiting players. The feedback, the back-and-forth through social media, continues to be incredible. I do some public events, and I did one with Firestone, a big corporate event, and there was a huge amount of Cleveland people there. It turned into a dang reunion."
Dawson left the 49ers after the 2016 season. He signed a two-year, $6 million deal with the Arizona Cardinals.
The 2018 season was one of his most difficult. The 44-year-old was limited to 10 games by a hip injury, and his five field goals and 30 points were career lows.
Not exactly the ideal way to enter free agency.
Dawson's 21-season résumé, though, stacks up with almost any kicker in league history.
He's made 83.8% of his field-goal attempts, which ranks 22nd all-time, and his 1,847 points rank second among active kickers and 11th all-time. His 305 games played are second among active players and seventh in league history — two ahead of Jerry Rice and three better than Brett Favre.
So is this it for a player who ranks second to Lou Groza on the Browns' all-time scoring list?
"I haven't made any decisions yet," Dawson said. "Every year, honestly, for the past seven or eight years, I come home in the offseason and assess where I am and where my family is, and then we all sit down and make a decision. We're in the process of doing that again."
Dawson and his wife, Shannon, have two sons, Dru and Beau, and a 13-year-old daughter, Sophiann. ("Three teenagers. Never a dull moment," he said.)
Dru, who is entering his senior season, is the starting quarterback for Vandegrift High School in Austin, Texas. Beau played tight end as a freshman in 2018.
Watching his kids play is "an absolute blast," Dawson said.
Whether or not he will do so in 2019 as a current or retired kicker remains to be seen.
Dawson said there is "always some back-and-forth" between teams and his agent, Beachwood-based Neil Cornrich.
"One thing I learned from the NFL: You don't really know if someone is interested until they slide that piece of paper (with an offer)," he said. "Neil and I have a deal. He handles all of that, and when there are legs to it, we start talking about it from there. We have a really good working relationship and I really value his opinion."
Dawson is excited for the Browns and their many backers as the team enters a season with legitimate hopes to be a contender.
"The fans deserve a winner," he said.
And yes, he's heard from fans hoping he'll return to the team as a free agent.
"It kinda gives me a glimpse of what retirement would be like," Dawson said. "None of the people seem to realize that I used to miss kicks here and there. It's pretty awesome."
You can follow me on Twitter for sports information and analysis, and you can follow Dawson for responses to fans who are uncertain about what to do with his former No. 4 jersey.

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