JJ STANKEVITZ

What should we make of Kevin White's minicamp?

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Associated Press

What should we make of Kevin White's minicamp?

The report on Kevin White from this week’s voluntary veteran minicamp was that Matt Nagy thought he looked “sharp,” played “fast” and, most importantly, was healthy. But that doesn’t mean the Bears will no longer have some difficult conversations with, and about, their 2015 first-round pick. 

The Bears have until May 3 to decide whether or not to pick up White’s fifth-year option, which would be worth $13.9 million, according to CBS Sports. If Ryan Pace wasn’t willing to commit $9.6 million over two years for Cameron Meredith over concerns about his 2017 knee injury, chances are he won’t be willing to commit more money than that for a guy in White who’s only played in five games over three pro seasons. The prudent thing for Pace to do would be to decline to pick up White’s option, setting him up for unrestricted free agency 11 months from now. 

Depending on what transpires in next week’s NFL Draft and then through OTAs and training camp, White still may have to earn his way on to the Bears’ 53-man roster, too. But that's looking too far into the future for a guy who’s suffered three serious injuries and has struggled to stack good practices when he's been healthy. 

“Sometimes you’re going to take a step backwards to go two steps forward — that’s kind of where he’s at,” Nagy said. “He’s a kid (whose) confidence hasn’t been where it needs to be. But what I can tell you is that from what I’ve seen so far, if I was somebody that was coming into this building and facility that didn’t know anything about him, you’d never in a million years know it from what we’ve seen recently.”

White made a handful of good plays during this week’s non-padded practices, for what it’s worth. The Bears need to see White continue to flash here and there on a regular basis, and then build up to having consistently solid practices throughout the offseason program and into the summer. The fresh start he’s afforded with a new coaching staff and new offense could benefit him, especially from a mental standpoint.

“His confidence is there,” linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski, who’s been a teammate of White’s since their days at West Virginia, said. “He’s ready to get back on the field.”

This sort simmering positivity about White around Halas Hall is fine, but it’s only April, and nobody is — or should be — getting ahead of themselves. Yes, the prospect of a healthy and effective White is mouth-watering, and would be tantamount to the Bears having two first-round picks this year (running back Tarik Cohen said the offense could be “dominant” with White and Robinson as outside threats). 

But Nagy is taking a narrow view of White’s outlook, one that won’t expand to the bigger picture until — for better or for worse — sometime during training camp, most likely. This is going to be a long process for the Bears to get the most they can out of White, and then they’ll have to hope the 25-year-old doesn’t suffer another cruelly-unlucky injury. 

“If any of us were in that situation and you have a fresh start — forget about the whys of what happened, forget about that,” Nagy said. “That doesn’t matter. What matters is about right now. He’s young. He has a big ceiling. 

“Now, we can try to do it as much as we can as coaches and try to pull it out of him, but he’s got to work hard. He’s got to put time in the playbook. He’s got to put in the extra work after practice when he can. And then when the game comes, he’s got to make plays. When you do that, his confidence will slowly get better and better. 

“The physical tools, forget about it. He’s got all that. It’s just a matter of him mentally, right now, seeing it happen and stacking them play by play in each practice.”

The hype is real for the 'natural' Matt Nagy-Mitch Trubisky relationship

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USA Today Sports Images

The hype is real for the 'natural' Matt Nagy-Mitch Trubisky relationship

For Mitch Trubisky, Matt Nagy’s offense just makes sense

Mitch Trubisky is still in the nascent stages of learning Matt Nagy’s offense, with this week’s three voluntary minicamp practices beginning to introduce Bears players to the basic concepts of it. 

But this is an offense that, as Trubisky put it, feels more “natural” to his skillset. The frequent use of the shotgun, the RPOs and some of the reads already appear to be a better fit for Trubisky than the conservative, dour offense he ran a year ago (that, to be fair, had lesser personnel). 

“That’s definitely why I love this offense and the coaches and how they’re handling this process,” Trubisky said. “We’re really starting from ground bottom and we start each play with why; this is what it’s good against and if we don’t get this type defense then these are our options to go off that. So this is what we want and if we don’t get this, this is how we adjust from there. They do a great job teaching it, and it’s not only me, all the other positions know the whys of the offense, so everybody will be on the same page. We’ll all have answers and we’ll be able to click as an offense because everybody knows our jobs and what we’re looking for.” 

This is about as important as a development you’ll find in mid-April. The Bears hired Nagy to tether to Trubisky; in turn, Nagy hired a quarterbacks guy in Mark Helfrich to be his offensive coordinator and retained Dave Ragone to be Trubisky’s position coach. Then Ryan Pace signed Chase Daniel and Tyler Bray to back up Trubisky, providing the 2017 No. 2 overall pick with two guys who know the intricacies and language of Nagy’s offense from learning it during their respective years with the Kansas City Chiefs. 

“I feel like these last three days, I’ve been coached more than I ever have,” Trubisky said. That’s not necessarily a shot at last year’s coaching staff, to be fair — there just wasn’t a similar structure in place centered around him. 

It’s not just that the Bears have hired a bunch of quarterback coaches and signed a few veteran backups, though. It’s that all of these moves, from Nagy to Bray, have been tailored to giving Trubisky the best chance to succeed. So, it’s telling that the early returns on those efforts are so positive. 

“He played so much shotgun in college at Carolina,” Nagy said. “So much, and the stuff that we do is easy for him. Now he has to just take that language that he learned in North Carolina, put it into our language, and then what's going to happen is you're going to see an evolution to him. 

“Right now, calling the plays in the huddle is easy. That is not one concern at all for him, calling plays. To me, that's a step forward, because he's ahead of the game, because when he's at the line of scrimmage now, now it's his first wide vision of just understanding the defense and seeing what's coming at him.”

Running back Tarik Cohen said this week that Trubisky was already calling audibles in the huddle during practice, which is another sign that this offense is coming naturally to Trubisky. Trubisky’s teammates talked this week about how he’s taken an even greater command of the Bears as a leader even in the early stages of the offseason program, a role he’ll continue to grow into as he gets more comfortable with the language of Nagy’s offense. 

Does this mean you should start carving out weekends in January to watch the Bears in the playoffs for the first time in eight years? Of course not. But the 2018 season is all about how Trubisky develops as a quarterback. 

And right now, in mid-April, all the signs emanating from Halas Hall indicate that process is going well. 

“It’s exciting,” Trubisky said. “I think that’s why (Nagy) gives me glimpses and previews and we have those side conversations. Just knowing what we’re going to be in the future. First things first, you have to master the basics and build off and go from there. But it’s just exciting to talk about and know that’s where we could be down the line.”

Matt Nagy can make a statement with Bears opening 2018 season in Green Bay

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USA Today Sports Images

Matt Nagy can make a statement with Bears opening 2018 season in Green Bay

The Matt Nagy era will begin with a primetime Sunday night game at Lambeau Field against the Green Bay Packers, according to multiple reports. And while it’s true that the Bears’ last four coaches — John Fox, Marc Trestman, Lovie Smith and Dick Jauron — all won their first trips to Lambeau Field, none of them had to make their Bears coaching debuts in Wisconsin. 

Fox’s was on Thanksgiving, Trestman and Jauron’s were in early November and Smith’s was Week 2.  Fox’s first game as Bears coach came against the Packers at Soldier Field — a game which the Bears lost. The last time a Bears coach lost his first game at Lambeau Field was on Oct. 31, 1993, when Dave Wannstedt watched his team lose, 17-3, to the Packers. 

So beating the Packers in a coach’s maiden voyage to Green Bay with the Bears isn’t an indicator of future success. But for Nagy, opening the season with primetime win over the Bears’ longtime rival that’s been far more successful in the last few decades would be about as good a beginning as could be imagined. 

The rest of the Bears’ schedule:

Week 1: At Green Bay (Sunday Night Football)—7:20 p.m.
Week 2: Seattle (Monday Night Football)— 7:15 p.m.
Week 3: At Arizona— 3:25 p.m.
Week 4: Tampa Bay— Noon
Week 5: Bye
Week 6: At Miami— Noon
Week 7: New England— Noon
Week 8: New York Jets— Noon
Week 9: At Buffalo— Noon
Week 10: Detroit— Noon
Week 11: Minnesota— Noon
Week 12: At Detroit (Thanksgiving)— 11:30 a.m.
Week 13: At New York Giants— Noon
Week 14: Los Angeles Rams— Noon
Week 15: Green Bay— Noon
Week 16: At San Francisco— 3:05 p.m.
Week 17: At Minnesota— Noon

There’s not much use in evaluating where these games fall in the schedule, given last year the Bears’ “difficult” stretch of the schedule turned out better — with three wins in the first eight games — than the “easier” part of it — two wins in the final eight games. 

If the Bears are a good team, they’ll be able to navigate ostensibly difficult stretches, like the season’s final four games. 

Remember last year, when the Bears’ had a “difficult” first half of the season and won three games? Then, in the “easier” portion of the schedule, only won twice? What matters more than the order of opponents is the quality of the team playing them. If the Bears aren’t a bad team, it won’t matter when any of these games are played — they’ll be a bad team.