Bears

Emptying the Week 2 notebook: ‘Human nature’ kicks in for Mike Glennon

Emptying the Week 2 notebook: ‘Human nature’ kicks in for Mike Glennon

TAMPA — Mike Glennon practiced against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ first-team defense in 2016, so he has an idea of what second-year defensive coordinator Mike Smith may throw at the Bears offense on Sunday. 

What Glennon saw last year won’t be exactly what he’ll see at Raymond James Stadium this weekend, of course. But the concepts and key personnel — like defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and cornerback Brent Grimes — remain the same. 

“It’s little different when you break them down and start game-planning them than when you’re just going against them in practice,” Glennon said. “A lot of things look familiar, but they haven’t played a game yet so I have to be prepared for anything.”

This will be Glennon’s second start since the Buccaneers selected Jameis Winston with the first pick of the 2015 draft, so any edge he can get is important. He had one last week in facing an Atlanta Falcons team he was familiar with and did everything the Bears asked of him, for what it’s worth. 

Sunday, too, will mean a little more to Glennon as he returns to face the team that gave him his start in the NFL in 2013. 

“Obviously it counts the same, but it’s against the place I was for the past four years,” Glennon said. “(I have) a lot of friends, familiar faces on the other side, so I think it’s just human nature to be looking forward to this a little more just because of going against my former team.”

A positive step for Kyle Fuller

Back in April, declining Kyle Fuller’s fifth-year option was a no-brainer decision after the 2014 first-round pick didn’t play at all in 2016. But Fuller, now an impending free agent, could give the Bears something to think about next spring if how he played against Atlanta is any indication. 

Fuller and Marcus Cooper teamed up to limit Julio Jones to just four catches on five targets, and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio came away impressed with how the 6-foot cornerback played. 

“I was pleased with the way Kyle played overall,” Fangio said. “There's obviously some plays he'd like to do over and play them a little better, but overall I thought he did a good job. I like where he's at right now.”

What the Bears do with Fuller when Prince Amukamara (ankle) makes his season debut is an interesting question. The prevailing thought when Fuller was drafted was that he had ideal size to be a slot corner, but Fangio didn’t use him there in 2015. Perhaps he forces his way on to the field at that position — over Bryce Callahan and Cre’von LeBlanc — with a solid showing against Tampa Bay receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson this weekend. At the least, cornerback is looking like a potential position of depth going forward. 

Rooting for rookies

Mitchell Trubisky caught the highlights of Thursday night’s Houston Texans-Cincinnati Bengals slog, which arguably only had one impressive offensive play — DeShaun Watson’s 49-yard touchdown run. Between Watson and second-round pick DeShone Kizer (who looked solid even in Cleveland’s loss last weekend), the 2017 rookie class of quarterbacks is off to a decent start. 

On top of that, Trubisky and Kansas City first-round pick Patrick Mahomes both turned heads during preseason play. So maybe this year’s quarterback class won’t pale in comparison to the Sam Darnold-Josh Rosen-Josh Allen trio expected to headline the 2018 NFL Draft?

“They said our rookie class was going to be weak as quarterbacks, so I like to see those guys succeed,” Trubisky said. “Hopefully I can have some success in the future as well. I’m never rooting against guys. Always hoping for the best and the best for myself as well. It is kind of cool to see that, especially guys that you get to know throughout the process.”

Captain Compton

Wrapping up from last weekend, if you were wondering why Josh Sitton — who was voted a 2017 captain by his teammates — wasn’t at midfield for the coin toss in Week 1, coach John Fox provided an answer: He gave that role to Tom Compton, who started at right guard in place of Kyle Long and [played for Atlanta].

“We wanted to let Tom go out as an extra captain, he had played in Atlanta so it was a good gesture on Josh's part,” Fox said. “He cleared it with me, I always have to announce to the officials who the captains are out there for the coin toss so we made that change before the game.”

The last word with Tarik Cohen

On the Friday before the Bears’ season opener, Jordan Howard, Benny Cunningham and Tarik Cohen sang “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch at Wrigley Field. Apparently, some people thought the trio was off-key, which Cohen said wasn’t his fault. 

“Not everyone has an ear for talent like I do,” Cohen quipped. “Some people said I couldn't sing — I don't think they were listening to the right person. They probably heard Benny or Jordan. My singing was excellent."

Takeaways from Bears ‘18 coordinators: Mitch Trubisky affecting more than offense, kudos to hiring process

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USA TODAY

Takeaways from Bears ‘18 coordinators: Mitch Trubisky affecting more than offense, kudos to hiring process

Head coach Matt Nagy conducted his first press conference on Thursday, introducing the coordinators for his three phases (Mark Helfrich, offense; Vic Fangio, defense; Chris Tabor, special teams). The session was predictably short on hard news, given that the hirings were just completed within the last several days, but some takeaways were there to be had, ranging from impressions to firmer indications of some directions the post-John Fox Bears may be trending:

Mitch Trubisky is going to be one seriously coached young quarterback.

Nagy is a former quarterback. Helfrich is a former quarterback. And the Bears are expected to bring back quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone, per Brad Biggs over at the Tribune; “Rags,” as his charges have dubbed him, is a former quarterback.

Forgive Trubisky is he develops neck problems nodding at all the advice he might be getting from three guys who by their quarterback training pretty much have had to know everything about their offenses. But it is a whole lotta QB mindset swirling around the young man.

The coaching corps is still sorting out exactly who does what, which will involve the hands-on coaching of Trubisky. “We’re finishing out the staff,” Helfrich said, “and once we have that, then we’ll start to kind of slot in those responsibilities.”

This kind of concentration of coaches from a similar background is actually a little unusual, the current vogue notwithstanding. Carson Wentz did bloom in his year two under a Philadelphia Eagles staff topped by former quarterbacks Doug Pederson, Frank Reich and John DeFilippo. And the Los Angeles Rams loosed Jared Goff’s talents with an all-former-quarterback triumvirate in Sean McVay, OC Matt LaFleur and QB coach Greg Olson.

But just for comparison’s sake, back in Kansas City, Nagy mentor Andy Reid was an offensive lineman at BYU. Down in New Orleans, Sean Payton is a former quarterback, but OC Pete Carmichael went through college on a baseball scholarship and QB coach Joe Lombardi was a college tight end, so Drew Brees hasn’t been info-swamped. Bill Belichick was a center and tight end, Green Bay’s Mike McCarthy was a college tight end and Case Keenum has flourished under former offensive lineman Pat Shurmur.

Helfrich has been on the job exactly one week and already has done some advanced evaluation of Trubisky, with an eye toward inevitable comparisons with Marcus Mariota, who starred at Oregon while Helfrich was a member of that staff.

“I see a lot [of similarities],” Helfrich said. “Mitchell has a tight release. He’s an accurate passer. They also have a couple things similar that makes them inaccurate. Their feet take them out of position. I sense from talking to a couple of offensive linemen, and this was unsolicited, when your offensive linemen are talking about how hard your quarterback works, that’s a great sign. So he needs to do that and continue to challenge himself and improve."

Football involves ego but not always to a fault

Keeping Vic Fangio as defensive coordinator may not rank yet with the organization retaining Buddy Ryan in that job when Mike Ditka was hired, but some intangibles make this a very big deal and reflect well on a spectrum of individuals.

GM Ryan Pace interviewed but didn’t elevate Fangio to the head-coaching slot. Yet whatever was said during the interview process didn’t alienate or create awkwardness for Fangio or whomever was hired ultimately. Point for Pace. Players made their feelings abundantly clear that they wanted Fangio back, and Fangio did not let a 20-year age difference between Nagy and himself ruin a good thing. Points to a lot of folks.

“I like our [players],” Fangio said. “I think I said it here during the season at a point that I really like coaching the group that we have. My favorite time during the week was being in front of them like I’m in front of you and going over practice watching the opponents’ tape, installing the plan for the week. I really liked being in front of our guys. They’re a good group collectively and as individuals and that part was appealing to me.”

And while Ditka and Ryan barely spoke, relationships in this administration have a different air.

“I am going to be in Vic’s office a lot,” Helfrich said. “He’s going to be annoyed by me trying to get in his head and know what might help me transition from college to the NFL. I would be an idiot if I didn’t walk 24 feet down and ask a guy like that.”

A “Trubisky factor” may be in the offing

Free agents have taken less money to sign elsewhere, as recently as last season. Alshon Jeffery wanted out of Chicago, not so much for the weather (Philadelphia is less than 2 degrees lower latitude than Chicago and not many degrees warmer on average) as for the Bears never getting quarterback and offensive consistency that could max out his talents.

Trubisky already has started to have a positive impact. “Mitchell is a part of the equation,” Fangio said of his own decision to return as coordinator. “Because I think he has a chance to be a really good player, regardless of who is coaching him. So that part was positive.”

And that’s from a defensive guy.

Vic Fangio delivers some refreshing honesty about the state of the Bears' defense

Vic Fangio delivers some refreshing honesty about the state of the Bears' defense

Vic Fangio took the podium at Halas Hall on Thursday after coach Matt Nagy and offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich fielded questions for about 30 minutes, and began his press confernece with a classic quip. 

“Alright, let’s continue this lovefest,” Fangio said. 

For a Bears team coming off a 5-11 season — the fourth consecutive double-digit loss season for the franchise — there’s been plenty of positivity pinging around Halas Hall since Nagy was hired last week. But Fangio showed up with a reality check on Thursday, at least as it relates to the defense he’ll return to coach for a fourth year. 

“There’s no doubt strides were made," Fangio said. “Not enough. I think it’s a wrong picture to paint that the defense was great and the rest of the team wasn’t. We were 5-11. 

“If we were a great defense we’d have more than five wins. There’s a lot of room for improvement there — a lot — and we need to do that.”

The Bears opted for continuity in enticing Fangio to return to coach their defense, which ranked 10th in total defense and 9th in points last year, but was 14th in defensive DVOA. This was a good, not great defense that won the Bears a few games (most notably, the 17-3 win over the Carolina Panthers) but struggled at times, too. 

A great defense? That’d be the Jacksonville Jaguars, which on the back of one of the league’s best pass rushes and secondaries has vaulted Blake Bortles into the AFC Championship game. A great defense wouldn’t have let Brett Hundley post a 110.8 passer rating against it in Week 10; a great defense wouldn’t have allowed Matthew Stafford to scythe through it on two occasions. 

And that Fangio — who’s generally honest and brings a no-B.S. attitude to his press conferences — acknowledged that eight and a half months before the 2018 season starts was refreshing to hear. It’s almost been easy to forget the Bears lost their 11th and final game of the 2017 season less than three weeks ago with a new, young, offensive-minded coach stepping into Halas Hall. 

There will be plenty of turnover on the offensive side of the ball — possibly an entirely different receiver corps than was regularly on the field in 2017 — but the defense will have some consistency, starting with Fangio and extending to his defensive coaches, who he said Thursday he expects to be back. This is a group that needs more talent at edge rusher and cornerback, but Fangio is more concerned with developing the guys who are already here — and were why this was a “good” defense last year. 

“Guys like Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Danny Trevathan, Leonard (Floyd), Eddie Jackson, I know I’m going to miss some, I think they all have a lot more to give to us than we’ve seen,” Fangio said. “And it’s our job to get them to improve and become even better players. That will be more important to us than anybody we can acquire between now and whenever our first game is. 

“So, and I know it’s always sexy to talk between now and the first game, you know, who are you going to draft, who’s in free agency, etc., but we’ve got to get our so-called good players playing even better. And that will be critical.”

And that approach — more so than his lengthy experience in the NFL — is why retaining Fangio made so much sense for the Bears. Nobody knows the strengths and flaws of the Bears’ defense better than Fangio; and keeping Hicks, Goldman, Trevathan, Floyd, Jackson etc., in the same scheme with the same coordinator and same coaches gives this Bears’ defense the best chance to go from being “good” to great.