Bears

Bears offense still wrestling with identity crisis

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Bears offense still wrestling with identity crisis

The 2012 Bears overall is excellent, as good as could be expected: 6-1. But as coordinator Mike Tice said on Wednesday, the performance against the Panthers obviously was not resume material.

It wouldnt be a whole heck of a lot of clinic coming out of that performance in the first half last week, Tice said.

Why that matters is that where some wins or losses provide positives to build on, that game didnt. A team that has stated it wants to build from a base of balance and running the ball did neither very well.

Indeed, the offensive coordinator is likening the Bears' offense to one in another sport that no one really should be aspiring to be like.

Forte analyzed

The questions have focused on whether or not Matt Forte is getting the ball enough of Brandon Marshall is getting it too much, or rather other receivers too little.

Fortes problem is actually simple. The franchise back missed one game, vs. St. Louis. In three of the six games he played, the Bears ran 57, 54 and 53 plays. Not enough enough to go around.

For purposes of loose comparison: Through the first six games last season, Forte handled the ball on 139 of the Bears 354 snaps (38.1 percent). Of those, 99 were runs.

Through the six games hes played this season, the Bears have run 376 snaps. Of those, the ball has gone to Forte on 113 (30 percent).

One difference is that through the first six last season, other backs (Marion Barber, Kalil Bell) had 28 total carries. Michael Bush has 49 carries in the 2012 Forte games, plus 18 vs. St. Louis.

The falloff in receiving for Forte also is no surprise, to him above all.

Im not the only one out there catching balls, Forte told CSNChicago.com. It just so happens we havent had to use me as much in the passing game.

Passing thoughts

The personality of the passing is incomplete. Marshall is in place but the loss of Alshon Jeffery cannot be ignored. The rookie had moved into the starting lineup and was second on the team with 14 catches when he broke his hand three games ago.

He is still No. 2 among wide receivers in catches. Losing speed receiver Johnny Knox, who had 37 catches all last season, was a setback but Jay Cutlers confidence level in Knox was nowhere near what it was becoming with the 6-foot-3 Jeffery.

But while the Bears spoke throughout the offseason, training camp and preseason about the multiple weapons on offense, the deployment of those weapons still has a tilt.

Marshall was acquired to catch a lot of passes. He is on pace to catch 110-112. That would be more than the top three Bears wide receivers combined last season.

Bad model

If that happens, what does that suggest about the effectiveness of those other so-called weapons.

Were like the NBA Minnesota Timberwolves when I was there and Kevin Garnett was playing, Tice said. All their offensive plays went through Kevin Garnett. In our passing game, were going to obviously go through Brandon, so hes going to be the first read or an early read a lot of the times.

Tice may want to find another template to use. In Garnetts years with the Timberwolves (1995-2007), Minnesota finished first in the Midwest Division and reached the Western Conference finals once.

With Garnett they never finished higher than third in the division, and they lost in the first round all six other times they managed to make the playoffs.

Charles Leno, Jr. on Harry Hiestand: 'He's getting us better'

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USA Today

Charles Leno, Jr. on Harry Hiestand: 'He's getting us better'

Chicago Bears left tackle Charle Leno, Jr. has outplayed expectations after joining the Bears as a seventh-round pick in 2014. General manager Ryan Pace rewarded Leno for his play with a four-year, $38 million extension last offseason, committing to the former Boise State product as the Bears blindside protector for the immediate future.

Leno joined his teammates at the team's annual Bears Care Gala on Saturday and said new offensive line coach Harry Hiestand is going to make the group better.

"We love Harry, let's just get that out of the way," Leno told 670 the Score's Mark Grote. "Harry is a great coach. I saw what he did for guys that he coached in college and the guys that were before us here in Chicago. He's getting us better."

Hiestand's efforts at Notre Dame produced four first-round picks: Zack Martin, Ronnie Stanley, Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey. He brings a no-nonsense coaching style back to Chicago, where he last served under Lovie Smith from 2005-2009. 

STANKEVITZ: In Harry Hiestand, Matt Nagy hits a home run on his first swing at Bears' coaching staff

Leno enjoyed the best season of his career in 2017. His 80.4 grade from Pro Football Focus was the best of all Bears linemen and his highest overall mark over the last four years. He finished 15th among all tackles graded by PFF last season.

Regardless, Leno still has to impress his new coach just like every other offensive lineman on the roster. The Bears haven't added any competition for Leno, but his fate as the team's long-term answer at left tackle could be decided by Hiestand.

Matt Nagy is winning over his players by being himself

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USA Today Sports Images

Matt Nagy is winning over his players by being himself

Despite losing 34 of his 48 games as the Bears’ head coach, John Fox’s players generally liked him and were disappointed to see him fired on New Year’s Day. That’s not to say they were blindsided by it — losing leads to people losing their jobs, even if the culture at Halas Hall had changed for the better following the disastrous end of the Marc Trestman-Phil Emery era. 

It was with that backdrop that Matt Nagy was offered and accepted the position of Bears head coach a week after Fox’s firing. Four and a half months later, Nagy has seemingly made a strong first impression on his new team, with one reason standing out among many: He’s genuine in who he is and what he does.

“I would say Nagy can be stern, and he can be playful also,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “I think when you’re a first-year coach, you want to win (over) your guys, and you want to be firm, and he’s doing that. You can’t really tell he’s a rookie coach or whatever. I feel like he was born for this, and he’s doing a great job.”

Granted, no player is going to publicly blast their new boss — especially not before he’s even coached a game yet. But veteran players also aren’t oblivious to who can and cannot work out as a head coach, and there haven’t been any “damning with faint praise” types of comments that were more common five years ago at the beginning of the Trestman era.

Will this win Nagy any games come September? No. But consider this sort of like team chemistry: It won't win a team anything, but if a team doesn't have it, it can be costly. 

“He’s a cool coach, man,” linebacker Danny Trevathan — who played for Fox in both Denver and Chicago — said. “He’s always giving us little details and smiling but we know he’s a hard worker just like we are. He’s up there working just like we are. He’s always putting us in the right position and he takes care of us. On the back end, where I come from, you take care of coaches like that. You go out and make plays for those coaches.”

From an observational standpoint, Nagy comes across as genuinely excited not just to be a head coach, but the head coach of the Bears. Players respect that approach — he's not coming in acting like a hired gun, and he's shown through these OTAs and practices that he cares about them, even if they haven't spent much time together yet. And he's also not strutting into Halas Hall every day with an over-inflated ego based on his promotion. That resonates, too. 

“I like the way he came in,” Trevathan said. “He came in humble but he was hungry. He came anxious, moving around in the meetings. I like that. That gets me fired up. I feel like we’ve got a good leader up here in the head coach.”