Bears

Why Prince Amukamara thinks Allen Robinson is exactly who the Bears needed

Why Prince Amukamara thinks Allen Robinson is exactly who the Bears needed

Highlight reels posted to social media are an easily-sharable way to get excited about a player in mid-March, when the first games of the 2018 NFL season are still nearly half a year away. But a different, and maybe better, way to judge a player is by how he practices: That influences not only what he can put on those highlight reels, but how he’s perceived and accepted by his coaches and teammates. 

Prince Amukamara had a first-hand look at Allen Robinson’s practice habits in 2016, when the two were teammates with the Jacksonville Jaguars. And the Bears’ cornerback, who inked a three-year deal on Wednesday, came away impressed. 

“Allen Robinson was a nightmare in practice, and I say that in the best way possible,” Amukamara said. "He’s very, very competitive. If he makes a play, he’s going to let you know it, and he just works extremely hard."

What makes Robinson such a difficult matchup, Amukamara explained, is his elite athleticism to pair with his 6-foot-3, 220 pound frame. Even if a cornerback feels like he’s covering Robinson well, he can go up and get passes with a large catch radius that can’t be defended. 

And even more promising, as Amukamara sees it, is Robinson’s youth and his potential for growth. That 2016 season was a “down” year, as it compared to Robinson’s 1,400-yard, 14-touchdown 2015 season, with 73 catches for 883 yards and six touchdowns. But Amukamara sees a higher ceiling for Robinson, and said he’s an ideal fit for the Bears’ offense. 

“He’s so raw, he’s super young and I think he’s definitely what this team needs,” Amukamara said. “He’s a big-play guy. Not too long ago, he was one of the leaders in touchdowns and yards in this league and I know he’s excited to get back to that.” 

Under Center Podcast: Feeling the good vibes at Halas Hall

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USA TODAY

Under Center Podcast: Feeling the good vibes at Halas Hall

Matt Nagy has roundly impressed his players during minicamp this week, and has done so in a way that carries some importance.

John "Moon" Mullin and JJ Stankevitz dive into how quickly Mitch Trubisky is picking up Nagy’s offense, why Jordan Howard may be feeling refreshed and if the Bears can expect anything out of Kevin White.

Listen to the full Under Center Podcast right here:

Why Tarik Cohen is so excited to be a part of Matt Nagy's offense

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Why Tarik Cohen is so excited to be a part of Matt Nagy's offense

We’re a little under five months away from the first meaningful snap of the Matt Nagy era, but since it’s April, it’s a good time to daydream about what the Bears’ offense could look like in 2018. 

So let’s add to that what Tarik Cohen had to say on Wednesday about his early impressions of Nagy’s offense.

“It can be dominant,” Cohen said. “… We have a whole lot of pieces on offense. It could get real crazy this year.”

At this time of the year, just about every player and coach is naturally “excited” by the prospect of a fresh start on a new season, especially with a new regime taking over. But these aren’t empty platitudes put forth by the players who’ve been available to the media this week.

Cohen said one of the first things he saw after the Bears hired Nagy was that the Kansas City Chiefs, while running his new coach’s offense, had two 1,000-yard pass-catchers (Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce) and a 1,000-yard running back (Kareem Hunt). 

“I was like, ‘I don’t know how that ball’s getting around like that,’” Cohen said. “But I know it’s going to be a good thing because we have as many weapons as we do, to know that everybody’s still going to be able to get the ball and get the yards, it’s a wonderful thing.”
 
Cohen said he’s worked this year on his route-running and receiving skills, which could make him an interesting candidate to back up the similarly-diminutive Taylor Gabriel at the “Zebra” receiver spot in Nagy’s offense. And while Cohen can be used there, that may sell short his skills as a running back, which will remain his primary role. 

“He just needs to understand he’s not a receiver, so there’s a lot of details that the receivers themselves are putting into it,” Nagy said. “He’s a running back. So whatever we can do in the specific routes he’s going to (run) — his route tree is not going to be quite as big. So that ones that he does have, he can hone in on those and understand the specifics of that. Coach (Charles) London will do a great job of teaching him that. But then also remember, too, we need you to run the ball, too. If you become one dimensional a certain way, now it’s advantage defense.”

Cohen, for what it’s worth, said he’s gained about 10 pounds and now weighs 190 pounds (“all muscle, solid,” he quipped), which should help him stay on the field as his role grows as a second-year pro. 
 
Cohen’s versatility, though, fits with the bigger-picture offensive scheme that Nagy and his coaching staff are in the nascent stages of installing this week. The inside zone and run-pass options concepts that are a big part of Nagy’s offense are familiar to Cohen, too — “that’s really how I got all my yards in college,” he said. 

But even while the Bears operate a basic version of the offense they’ll eventually use, there’s a certain excitement level around Halas Hall about how things could look come September. And how those things look should help Cohen get closer to — or reach — his goals after a strong rookie debut. 

“I just have this attitude like I don’t really feel like I’ve done anything yet,” Cohen said. “I wasn’t in the Pro Bowl, really not like a definite household name yet, so I feel like I have a lot more to prove. Didn’t have any 1,000-yard season in any phase of the game, so I feel like I have a lot more to do.”