Scouting Report: McCoy against NFL-worst run D

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Scouting Report: McCoy against NFL-worst run D

After an eight-carry disaster against Minnesota, LeSean McCoy pleaded this week for more handoffs and more responsibility against the Bears.

If he doesn’t get at least 20 carries, it’ll be malpractice by Chip Kelly.

The Bears are a scoring juggernaut, but they’re the NFL’s worst team at stopping the run, and it’s not even close. They’re the league’s only team that allows more than five yards per carry. Not only should McCoy be heavily involved, but this sets up well for Chris Polk and Bryce Brown (if he’s still allowed to touch the ball) to make an impact as well.

The Bears’ problem starts up front with injuries. One of their best interior linemen, tackle Henry Melton, was lost for the year in September with a torn ACL and middle linebacker D.J. Williams (chest) is also done for the year. Weak-side linebacker Lance Briggs, a seven-time Pro Bowler, has missed the past seven games with a fractured shoulder but should make his return against the Eagles.

It’s hard to imagine one guy -- even with Briggs’ talent -- can single-handedly reverse the run-stopping problems that have plagued Chicago all year and also compensate for the other injuries. Second-round pick Jonathan Bostic runs well and makes plays in space, but it remains to be seen if he can be the control center of a defense against an explosive offense in a big game with potential playoff ramifications.

The Bears are also without their best corner, Charles Tillman, who’s one of the NFL’s best playmaking defensive backs and also a good run-stopper in the back end.

Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker runs a scheme that’s comparable to the one Lovie Smith ran in Chicago, and ran very well from 2004-2012. The Bears play a lot of zone, don’t blitz very much and rely on their gap-shooting linemen to pressure quarterbacks. They have the fewest sacks in the NFL with just 26.

Defensive end Julius Peppers isn’t the threat he used to be, but he has 6.5 sacks and can still be disruptive. Shea McClellin has 3.5 sacks, but more was expected when they picked him 19th overall last year. The loss of Melton, coupled with Peppers’ mediocre season, has taken the bite away from a defense that had been very imposing over the past few years.

Corey Wooten, a 275-pound tackle who took Melton’s spot, just isn’t big enough for the position’s demand and shouldn’t cause problems for Todd Herremans. Nose tackle Stephen Paea, a 325-pounder, is an anchor up front and will likely command double teams from center Jason Kelce and left guard Evan Mathis.

If left tackle Jason Peters can handle Peppers and right tackle Lane Johnson can bounce back from an iffy effort against the Vikings to keep McClellin in check, the Eagles shouldn’t have problems running the ball to set up big plays for the passing game.

Nick Foles struggled with his accuracy against the Vikings, who also played more zone than the Eagles usually see, so it’s important that he’s sharper and more decisive when he’s protected. He held onto the ball too long a few times against Minnesota and allowed some defensive linemen to win their matchups on second efforts.

Even with Tillman out, the Eagles have to be conscious of left cornerback Tim Jennings, a Pro Bowler in 2012. He’s undersized (5-8, 185), which could hurt against Riley Cooper and Zach Ertz, but he plays with great physicality and won’t back down. Safeties Major Wright and Chris Conte are big-time disappointments. Wright is OK in the box, but Conte struggles in coverage and tackling.

Foles’ ability to look safeties off and deliver deep should be one of his biggest strengths and Kelly will try to capitalize on the middle of the field, so expect DeSean Jackson to keep lining up all over the place, including in the backfield to get isolated against a linebacker or safety.

This is the poorest Bears defense in several years, so look for the Eagles to have another big game offensively. They had 14 takeaways in their first four games, but just 11 in their past 10, so the Eagles can do plenty of damage if they’re not sloppy with ball security.

To find out how the Eagles' offense matches up with the Bears' defense, click here.

NFL Notes: Panthers OT Michael Oher released

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NFL Notes: Panthers OT Michael Oher released

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Panthers have released the former starting left tackle Michael Oher after he failed a physical.

The move was announced Thursday, six days before they report to training camp.

Oher, the subject of the movie "The Blind Side," started 16 regular games and three playoff games for the Panthers during their Super Bowl run in 2015. However, he sustained a concussion in the third game of last season and hasn't played since. He remains in the league's concussion protocol 10 months after sustaining the injury.

"The Brain is a scary thing. You have to be careful with it," Oher Tweeted after being released.

It's the first personnel move under Panthers new interim general manager Marty Hurney, who was hired on Wednesday.

Cardinals: RB Johnson re-signs on 1-year deal
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Cardinals have re-signed nine-year NFL veteran Chris Johnson to a one-year contract.

The 31-year-old running back is expected to provide backup support for All-Pro David Johnson at the position.

Chris Johnson spent the last two seasons with Arizona. He played in only four games last season before a groin injury sidelined him for the rest of the year.

Johnson led the Cardinals in rushing in 2015 with 814 yards on 196 carries, an average of 4.2 yards per attempt, but his playing time diminished with the emergence of David Johnson, who was a rookie that season.

Chris Johnson is a three-time Pro Bowl player and is one of only seven players to top 2,000 yards rushing in a season. He rushed for 2,006 yards for Tennessee in 2009.

Cowboys: LB Durant back for 2nd stint with team
FRISCO, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys are bringing back linebacker Justin Durant again with training camp just a few days away.

Durant signed Thursday for a second season in his second stint with the Cowboys. He spent the 2013-14 seasons with Dallas before going to Atlanta as a free agent for one year. He returned to the Cowboys last season, finishing with 54 tackles in a reserve role.

The 31-year-old Durant spent his first four seasons with Jacksonville before playing two years in Detroit. He has 809 career tackles.

The Cowboys, who have their first camp practice Monday in Oxnard, California, released defensive back Jeremiah McKinnon of Florida.

O.J. Simpson granted parole after 9 years in prison

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O.J. Simpson granted parole after 9 years in prison

LOVELOCK, Nev. -- O.J. Simpson was granted parole Thursday after more than eight years in prison for a Las Vegas hotel-room heist, successfully making his case for freedom in a nationally televised hearing that reflected America's enduring fascination with the former football star.

Simpson, 70, could be released as early as Oct. 1. By then, he will have served the minimum of his nine-to-33-year sentence for a bungled attempt to snatch sports memorabilia he claimed had been stolen from him.

During the more than hour-long hearing on live TV, Simpson was, by turns, remorseful, jovial and defensive, heatedly insisting the items taken in the armed robbery were "my stuff."

At one point, the murder defendant in the 1995 "Trial of the Century" set off a storm of sarcasm and incredulity on social media when he said: "I've basically spent a conflict-free life, you know."

All four parole commissioners who conducted the hearing voted for his release after a half-hour of deliberations. They cited, among other things, the low risk he might commit another crime, his community support and his release plans, which include moving to Florida.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you," Simpson said quietly as he buried his head on his chest with relief. As he rose from his seat to return to his prison cell, he exhaled deeply.

Then, as he was led down a hall, the Hall of Fame athlete raised his hands over his head in a victory gesture and said: "Oh, God, oh!"

Simpson was widely expected to win parole, given similar cases and his good behavior behind bars. His defenders have argued, too, that his sentence was out of proportion to the crime and that he was being punished for the two murders he was acquitted of in Los Angeles in 1995, the stabbings of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman.

Inmate No. 1027820 made his plea for freedom in a stark hearing room at the Lovelock Correctional Center in rural Nevada as the parole commissioners questioned him via video from Carson City, a two-hour drive away.

Gray-haired but looking trimmer than he has in recent years, Simpson walked stiffly into the hearing room in jeans, a light-blue prison-issue shirt and sneakers. He chuckled at one point as the parole board chairwoman mistakenly gave his age as 90.

Simpson insisted he never meant to hurt anyone, never pointed a gun and didn't make any threats during the holdup of two sports memorabilia dealers.

"I thought I was glad to get my stuff back, but it just wasn't worth it," he told the board. "It wasn't worth it, and I'm sorry."

Even one of the dealers Simpson robbed, Bruce Fromong, testified on his behalf, telling the parole board that Simpson deserved to be released so he could be with his family.

"He is a good man. He made a mistake," Fromong said, adding the two remain friends.

Arnelle Simpson, at 48 the eldest of Simpson's four children, told the board, "We recognize that he is not the perfect man." But she said he has been "a perfect inmate, following all the rules and making the best of the situation."

"We just want him to come home, we really do," she said.

The commissioners said the murder case played no role in their decision, though a majority of letter writers opposed to Simpson's release asked the board to take it into account.

Among those angered by Thursday's decision were Goldman's father, Fred, and sister, Kim.

"The Goldmans are devastated," said family spokesman Michael Wright, adding they didn't want to say anything more.

Simpson said that he has spent his time in prison mentoring fellow inmates, often keeping them out of trouble, and that he has become a better person behind bars.

"I've done my time. I've done it as well and respectfully as I think anybody can," he told the board.

Asked if he was confident he could stay out of trouble if released, Simpson replied that he learned a lot from an alternative-to-violence course he took in prison and that in any case he has always gotten along well with people.

Several major TV networks and cable channels -- including ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox, MSNBC and ESPN -- carried the proceedings live, just as some of them did two decades ago during the Ford Bronco chase that ended in Simpson's arrest, and again when the jury in the murder case came back with its verdict.

Simpson said if released he plans to return to Florida to be near two of his adult children.

"I could easily stay in Nevada, but I don't think you guys want me here," he joked at one point.

"No comment, sir," board chairwoman Connie Bisbee replied.

Authorities must still work out the details of Simpson's release with Florida officials, including where he will live and what rules he must follow.

An electrifying running back dubbed "The Juice," Simpson won the Heisman Trophy as the nation's best college football player in 1968 and went on to become one of the NFL's all-time greats.

The handsome and charismatic athlete was also a "Monday Night Football" commentator, sprinted through airports in Hertz rental-car commercials and built a Hollywood career with roles in the "Naked Gun" comedies and other movies.

All of that came crashing down with his arrest in the 1994 slayings and his trial, a gavel-to-gavel live-TV sensation that transfixed viewers with its testimony about the bloody glove that didn't fit and stirred furious debate over racist police, celebrity justice and cameras in the courtroom.

Last year, the case proved to be compelling TV all over again with the ESPN documentary "O.J.: Made in America" and the award-winning FX miniseries "The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story."

In 1997, Simpson was found liable in civil court for the two killings and ordered to pay $33.5 million to survivors, including his children and the Goldman family.

Then a decade later, he and five accomplices -- two with guns -- stormed a hotel room and seized photos, plaques and signed balls, some of which never belonged to Simpson.

Simpson was convicted in 2008, and the long prison sentence brought a measure of satisfaction to some of those who thought he got away with murder.