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Column: Trevis Gipson has a big opportunity the rest of the season to prove he can be an edge rusher the Chicago Bears can build around

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Column: Trevis Gipson has a big opportunity the rest of the season to prove he can be an edge rusher the Chicago Bears can build around

Justin Fields’ performance in the stretch run of the season will set the tone in terms of what the Chicago Bears roster looks like going forward.

Complicating that is the rib injury he suffered Nov. 21 during the aggravating 16-13 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Fields missed the Thanksgiving Day victory in Detroit and Andy Dalton is set to start again Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals at Soldier Field.

If you are compiling a list of young players not named Fields in position to offer hope for the future, start with outside linebacker Trevis Gipson.

The 2020 fourth-round pick hasn’t gotten the attention given to wide receiver Darnell Mooney, tight end Cole Kmet, cornerback Jaylon Johnson, offensive tackles Larry Borom and Teven Jenkins or even running back Khalil Herbert, but Gipson is a player the Bears need to take a large step forward in the final six games. The others, of course, have carved out niches for themselves or are working to do that.

Gipson has flashed on occasion and now with 17 games of experience entering Sunday, it’s time for him to show if he can push for a starting position in 2022 or if he’ll be a reserve the team is looking to replace. What’s ahead for Gipson is unlimited opportunity with Khalil Mack out for the season with a left foot injury and Jeremiah Attaochu previously sidelined with a torn pectoral muscle.

The defense sacked Ravens backup quarterback Tyler Huntley six times and Gipson had one, giving him three for the season. He followed that up by punching the ball out of the clutch of Lions quarterback Jared Goff before securing the ball.

There’s no way to overstate what the remainder of the season means to him. The stakes are raised and he knows it.

“It promises me a lot of opportunities,” Gipson said. “But if I don’t take advantage of the first one, then the rest won’t come. I’m just focused on taking advantage of that, obviously praying for Khalil hoping he comes back healthy.”

The Bears have Mack, 30, under contract through 2024 and while they could create $6 million in salary cap savings during the offseason by moving on from the six-time Pro Bowl selection, a long conversation would need to be had before heading down that path. Multiple restructures of his contract have driven up his 2022 cap hit to $30.15 million. The Bears would have a $24 million cap hit without Mack, so for the difference of $6 million he could anchor the defense for another season unless the team gets more in a trade than most imagine he’d bring.

Robert Quinn was named NFC defensive player of the month for November for having 5½ of his 11 sacks and he has become everything the Bears hoped he would be last season. The 31-year-old is set to earn $12.9 million in 2022. If the Bears have a roster in transition next season, it’s difficult to imagine they will pay two pass rushers over the age of 30, but that decision is a couple months off.

The franchise has spent two decades paying for pass rushers. Since 2000, only two drafted edge rushers have produced eight sacks in a season. Rosevelt Colvin, a fourth-round pick in 1999, had 10½ sacks in 2001 and 2002 before exiting in free agency. Mark Anderson, a fifth-round pick in 2006, had 12 sacks as a rookie but only 9½ in his next 50 games before being released in 2010.

The Bears consistently have paid players to spearhead the pass rush, acquiring and then extending players such as Phillip Daniels, Adewale Ogunleye, Julius Peppers, Willie Young, Lamarr Houston, Pernell McPhee, Mack and most recently Quinn. Young was the best value addition of the group by former general manager Phil Emery and most of the players on that list provided what the Bears were seeking. But it’s an expensive proposition to buy a pass rush, and time and again it has limited the organization from adding key offensive pieces.

The Bears were without a pick in the fourth round of the 2020 draft when Gipson was sitting on the board. The Bears deemed him worth getting, leading to a rare in-division trade with the Minnesota Vikings to add a pick and select him.

With a shortened training camp and no preseason during his rookie season, he made a slow adjustment to playing on his feet and not with a hand in the dirt as a defensive end like he was accustomed to at Tulsa. Gipson showed progress this summer and now he’s getting more action than he could have expected with Quinn missing time because of COVID-19 and Mack sidelined.

Gipson has been on the field for 48% of the defensive snaps but has been at 69% over the last five games. He has shown the ability to defeat pass blockers and needs to do it on a more consistent basis with five tackles for loss, four quarterback hits, two forced fumbles and the recovery against Goff.

Here’s a look at his three sacks this season.

Week 4 vs. Lions

Gipson does a really nice job of setting up Lions’ first-round pick Penei Sewell, starting at left tackle in place of Taylor Decker, by taking him vertically upfield off the ball. Gipson forces Sewell to widen in his set, opening the door to beat him inside. It’s a schemed one-on-one, a simulated pressure from the Bears bringing three to that side. The left guard has to account for blitzing linebacker Roquan Smith, the back is releasing because it’s only a four-man rush, so it’s a true one-on-one versus Sewell. Gipson makes him set vertically and then goes to the inside with a quick swim move, pins the inside arm of Sewell to remove it and beats him. It’s a good athletic play. Goff feels the pressure and tries to spin out but Gipson is in position to get him down.

Week 5 at Raiders

Las Vegas goes with max protection using 12-personnel to take a play-action shot downfield with a two-man route. The Bears are only rushing four and the Raiders have eight in to block, but because of the way the line is sliding Gipson gets a one-on-one versus tight end Foster Moreau. This isa power move with active hands. Moreau trips a little bit but not until after Gipson is bending him back to create a path to the quarterback. He shows the burst to close on Derek Carr.

Week 11 vs. Ravens

Coming out of a two-point stance on the defensive left side, Gipson wins with a classic pass rush move. Right tackle Patrick Mekari sets deep in the second-and-15 situation. Gipson presses Mekari upfield and forces him to open his hips. This creates a situation in which Gipson has to bend, turn the corner and flatten to get to Huntley, preventing Mekari from running him upfield. Gipson does a good job dropping his anchor and bending, he has to rip, change levels and get through Mekari and he does a good job to get home to Huntley.

The signs are there that Gipson has the ability. The Bears have a major hole without Mack, something defensive coordinator Sean Desai has to scheme around on a weekly basis. That’s not a knock on Gipson, who is getting the chance to evolve his game.

“It’s a great opportunity given where that room is going,” Desai said. “He is continuing to develop. You’ve seen spurts of him getting better with his hands at the point of attack, his conversions in the pass rush, stuff that (outside linebackers coach Bill) Shuey has been working on and emphasizing with him. He’s straining his body and mind to try to improve on those.

“And it’s still a process. He’s not where he wants to be and I don’t think he’s where we want him to be. But he’s still a young player who hasn’t played a lot of football snaps in this league. We’ve got to make sure that we develop him and build him up to our standard.”

If Gipson plays well — if he can begin accumulating more impact plays — the Bears can gain confidence that a young player is beginning to ascend. If not, they’re going to have to continue paying top dollar, one way or another, for edge rushers.

Scouting report

Budda Baker, Cardinals free safety

Information for this report was obtained from NFL scouts.

Budda Baker, 5-foot-10, 195 pounds, is in his fifth season in Arizona after the Cardinals made him a second-round pick in 2017 out of Washington. Baker, a captain, is fourth on the defense with 41 solo tackles and has two interceptions and three pass breakups.

A three-time Pro Bowl selection (once on special teams), the Cardinals extended Baker before the start of the 2020 season, a deal that places him fourth among safeties in the league with an annual average of $14.75 million, just above the Bears’ Eddie Jackson.

“They’ve been mixing man and zone this season but the last few weeks they’ve been more zone heavy,” the scout said. “That could be based on tendency and who they are playing against. They’ve been good on both. That was a big concern about this team coming into the season, did they have the corners to play as much man because (coordinator) Vance Joseph is a heavy man-pressure coach, but they’ve done that and Budda Baker really helps them do both.

“It’s not always perfect with him but he plays with urgency. He’s at top speed all the time and he is a game changer for them because he can fill the alley versus the run, he can blitz, check tight ends and he can drive top down on the ball. He’s got enough range to spin him to the post. He’s got multidimensional traits but when you turn on the tape, the thing that always jumps out is he’s playing faster than everyone else.

“Everyone in the NFL can run so why is this guy always a step ahead of everyone? I think he sees it faster than everyone else and when he goes there, if you’re a ball carrier, he’s going to thump you too. He’s an excellent tackler, he’s a good tackler in space and what he ultimately is for Arizona is a tone setter. If you’re a wide receiver coming across the middle of the field or a running back bouncing the ball outside the tackles, you better get your pads low.

“He doesn’t have the same playmaking traits of Eddie Jackson or the same fluid range, but his lateral speed is better and his closing speed is better and he’s more than a willing tackler. He wants to drop the hammer. You can build a secondary around that. He dictates the tempo of the game.”

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New Hampshire detectives pin cold case murder of Massachusetts woman on dead man

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New Hampshire detectives pin cold case murder of Massachusetts woman on dead man

Investigators have pinned the New Hampshire murder of a Haverhill woman that had remained unsolved for nearly 50 years on a man who died in 2019.

Arlene Clevesy was 48 years old when her nude body was spotted by a local fisherman near Hume Brook in Newton, N.H., on June 4, 1972, according to a N.H. Attorney General Office report. An autopsy found the cause of death to be “traumatic asphyxia, including drowning.”

Investigators re-opened the case in 2015 and announced Thursday they had determined Albert Francis Moore Jr. was the killer. In 1977, Moore was indicted by a grand jury on a second-degree murder charge in connection with Clevesy’s death. Prosecutors decided not to pursue the case in 1979 because Moore was serving a life sentence for the 1972 killing of Donald Rimer in Salem.

Moore, 88, died on Nov. 11, 2019, of metastatic prostate cancer, the N.H. Cold Case Unit said.

Harold Clevesy, Arlene’s husband, had told police they had gone out for drinks in Haverhill the night before. She had stayed out when he left for home. Witnesses later said that they had seen Arlene Clevesy leave in a truck with Moore.

The attorney general’s office said through the years, Moore “made a series of admissions … about his responsibility for Ms. Clevesy’s death,” including that he had “beaten” a polygraph exam when he was asked questions about her.

Moore also had admitted in other accounts during the 1970s that he had driven Clevesy to a wooded, secluded area, became violent with her, killed her and left her lying face-down in the water, the report said.

Herald wire services contributed to this report.

A 1972 artist sketch of the Arlene Clevesy homicide scene in Newton, N.H. (N.H. Attorney General’s Office)
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Jamaica Plain public housing development targeted for big investments this year

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Jamaica Plain public housing development targeted for big investments this year

A large Jamaica Plain public housing complex is in for a big year, as Mayor Michelle Wu is looking to put $50 million toward capital improvements to the Mildred C. Hailey apartments — which already are set as the site of a big project this year.

Wu swung by the 766-unit Hailey complex — named after a longtime housing activist who lived there — on Thursday to make the announcement alongside residents and other officials.

“These funds will go toward improving plumbing and ventilation, renovating windows, kitchens and bathrooms across 526 units of housing,” Wu said.

She added that the money, which requires the approval of the City Council to go forward, would come from a combination of federal recovery funds and the city’s capital budget.

“When we make an investment in public housing, we are making an investment in the working class people of the city,” new City Councilor Kendra Lara said.

The Mildred C. Hailey apartments were built in stages — one chunk in 1941, another 1952 and a third in 1964. People in the apartments — officials said about 50% of residents are seniors and 30% children — generally pay 30% of their income as rent.

“The only thing pulling the median income down from being stratospherically high is the public housing that we built in the 1940s,” said Kenzie Bok, a city councilor who formerly worked on policy for the Boston Housing Authority. “It is the only way that we are keeping low-income people in many of the neighborhoods of the city including JP.”

This is actually just one of two big changes coming to the Hailey apartments starting this year. The BHA is entering into a public-private partnership that would result in a developer knocking down and rebuilding 253 public housing units, and adding about 435 new “affordable and upper middle-income apartments,” according to the Boston Planning & Development Agency’s summary of the project.

The BHA is working with The Community Builders, the JP Community Development Corp. and Urban Edge — for the purposes of this project they’re all are coming together as Centre Street Partners — who all are developers that focus on affordable housing.

This overhaul didn’t come up much at the press conference, but construction is expected to start this fall. It’s the latest of various versions of this approach. The BHA has similar plans on deck at the Mary Ellen McCormack development in Southie and Bunker Hill in Charlestown.

“These renovations combined with the new housing plan with Centre Street Partners will really bring this site forward to serve generations of families,” Bennett said at the press conference.

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Lydia Edwards sworn in as state senator

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Lydia Edwards sworn in as state senator

State senators welcomed their newest member, former City Councilor Lydia Edwards of East Boston, into the chamber Thursday after she was elected in a special ballot where she was unopposed.

Edwards, the first Black woman to serve the First Suffolk and Middlesex district, was sworn in wearing suffragette white on Thursday afternoon.

In her inaugural speech, Edwards thanked her “four mothers” and spoke directly to her biological mother, Bridget Edwards.

“I hope you know the reason why I won was because of you. Your story — you’re more popular than I am, mom,” the senator said.

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