Bears

A 20-year-old Dowell Loggains, a chance encounter and how the Bears' mesmerizing two-point conversion came to be

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USA Today

A 20-year-old Dowell Loggains, a chance encounter and how the Bears' mesmerizing two-point conversion came to be

Dowell Loggains knew he wanted to coach his whole life, so back in 1995 — his freshman year of high school — he started keeping a notebook of plays he recorded on video tapes (remember those?). One of those plays he wrote down happened in 2000, while Loggains was a freshman at the University of Arkansas. 

With the ball on the Green Bay Packers’ 2-yard line, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Shaun King handed the ball off to running back Warrick Dunn. Dunn then handed off to fullback Mike Alstott, who was running in the opposite direction. Alstott was met by a Packers defender, but flipped a pitch back to King, who caught it at the five-yard line and bolted into the end zone. 

Look familiar?

That play, designed by former Buccaneers offensive coordinator Les Steckel, was the inspiration behind the two-point conversion play the Bears ran Monday night against the Minnesota Vikings. While Loggains was with the Tennessee Titans, head coach Mike Munchak lived next door to Steckel, and the Titans hired Steckel’s son in an offensive quality control role.

“I got to meet coach Steckel one day," Loggains said. "We go to Easter with (former Titans offensive coordinator) Chris Palmer, Mike Munchak and Les Steckel and his wife. I had this notebook and I said, ‘Coach, I’ve got to ask you about this one play, You ran it 13 years ago.’ He called it doughnut.

“… So I’ve always had this play, as a coaching staff upstairs, we had this play. But you’ve got to have Zach Miller. You gotta have a tight end or a Mike Alstott that you trust with the ball-handling. So it’s just an option play off that. That’s where the play came from.” 

Miller is a former college quarterback who joked that he made the switch to tight end “because the option was my best pass,” so he was a perfect fit for the play. The Bears ran it in training camp and were holding on to it for the right situation — which also had to be with Mitchell Trubisky as the quarterback. 

Calling for the play in such a critical situation, with the Bears down by two midway through the fourth quarter, took some guts. But the Bears were confident in the design and their ability to execute the play — “there was a little smile going into the huddle, we were like we’re going to score and tie the game right here,” Trubisky said. 

The play worked to perfection, just like it did 17 years ago at Lambeau Field. Loggains wasn’t going to pat himself on the back for the innovative design — but he should thank his 20-year-old self for writing down that play. 

“Coach Les Steckel deserves all the credit for it,” Loggains said. “We just installed it 17 years later.”

Roquan Smith not among Bears rookies reporting to training camp

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USA Today

Roquan Smith not among Bears rookies reporting to training camp

Chicago Bears first-round pick Roquan Smith won't be reporting to Bourbonnais with the rest of the team's rookie class Monday, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. His absence won't be considered a holdout until veterans are required to report on July 19.

Smith is among several top-10 picks without a contract but is the first who will grab headlines. Chicago's training camp starts earlier than most this year because of their participation in the Hall of Fame Game on August 4. The extra week of camp makes Smith's contract status less concerning, even if it spills into the first few practices.

Still, we aren't too far removed from Joey Bosa's lengthy contract dispute with the Los Angeles Chargers that centered around offset language and his signing bonus.

Generally speaking, teams want offset language in rookie contracts as protection in the event they decide to cut a player in his fourth season. If the contract doesn't include offset language, the player is entitled to all of the money in that fourth season from his original team while also eligible to sign elsewhere. Teams don't want to pay that money while the player wants the ability to double dip.

This is one of the few issues that can result in a holdout now that the rookie wage scale is in place. Smith, most likely, isn't arguing over dollars. Instead, it's about contract language, which can get dicey.

We'll know more about how far apart the Bears and Smith are on his contract come July 19, when this disagreement will officially become a holdout.

Three questions for Bears D-line: Does Akiem Hicks have another gear?

Three questions for Bears D-line: Does Akiem Hicks have another gear?

Pre-camp depth chart

DE
1. Akiem Hicks
2. Bilal Nichols
3. Bunmi Rotimi

1. Jonathan Bullard
2. Roy Robertson-Harris
3. Cavon Walker

NT
1. Eddie Goldman
2. John Jenkins
3. Nick Williams

1. Does Akiem Hicks have another gear?

Hicks led the Bears with 8 1/2 sacks last year, and combined with his excellent work against the run probably should’ve been enough to get him to the Pro Bowl (it wasn’t). Still, 2017 was a feel-good year for Hicks, who signed a four-year contract extension a day before the season started and then turned in career-best production.

With the Bears’ pass rush having the most questions of any segment of this team coming into training camp, Vic Fangio will have to hope Hicks not only doesn’t take a step back in 2018, but improves off what he did a year ago. 

Defensive line coach Jay Rodgers said he wants to see Hicks play with greater consistency in 2018 — and if he does that, it would allow him to find that extra gear in his play. 

“Consistency with technique, consistency with production,” Rodgers said. “More opportunities to get in on tackles. I think his solo tackles were really high as compared to previous years, I’d like to see his assists go up, which means that he’s finding ways to get to the ball even faster. All those things you take into consideration when you’re evaluating a guy and seeing a guy if he gets better from Year 1 to Year 2 to Year 3.” 

2. When will Eddie Goldman get his second contract?

Goldman’s place in the Bears’ defensive line isn’t in question, even if his surface-level numbers (27 tackles, 1 1/2 sacks) aren’t exactly eye-popping. What Goldman primarily succeeds at — pushing back two interior offensive linemen weighing about 600 pounds — doesn’t show up in a box score, but it certainly doesn’t go unnoticed by his coaches and teammates. 

“He’s a beast, man,” linebacker Danny Trevathan said. “I’m glad to have him in front of me. He’s not a guy who’s rah-rah, but when he’s out there, he’s out there making plays. It doesn’t show up on film but he’s the key, he’s a vital part of this defense. He’s wrecking stuff in there. As a linebacker, that’s my best friend. 

“The more he can wreck, the more I can make plays and we all can make plays. It shows to us, and probably not to the public as much, but to us we know what his game is and we know what he brings to this defense. He’s definitely making us better.”

Goldman and Hicks played off each other well last year, and with Hicks (and Fangio) sticking around for a while, it would only make sense for Goldman — who’s entering the final year of his rookie contract — to be Ryan Pace’s top priority to sign to an extension during training camp. It seems like a matter of when, not if, that deal will be reached. 

“I don’t know about you all, but I don’t put any of the highlight reels on (that are on) national television,” Rodgers said. “I have a highlight reel in my room. And if I see him knock people back and make a play, or knock another guy back on his way to the quarterback that affects the pocket, that’s a highlight in my mind.”

3. Who emerges opposite Hicks as the starting DE?

While the consistency achieved across Fangio’s defense has been a point of praise for the Bears, at least inside Halas Hall, the impact of the departure of defensive end Mitch Unrein may have flown under the radar. Coaches and teammates praised how well Unrein fit a role on the Bears’ defensive front last year, with his consistency and knowledge allowing Hicks and Goldman to play faster. Consider what Rodgers said about Unrein last fall:

“Mitch is the glue that kind of holds it all together,” Rodgers said. “…When he’s out there on the field with those guys, he allows those guys to play fast. And if they know what’s coming their way, then they can play even faster.”

Unrein signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in March, and the Bears didn’t make a move to replace him in free agency. So that means there will be a relatively open competition for the third starting spot on the defensive line come training camp between, primarily, Jonathan Bullard, Roy Robertson-Harris and Bilal Nichols. 

Each player has his own strengths and weaknesses. Bullard, a 2016 third-round pick, showed flashes at times last year but only has two sacks and 33 tackles in 30 career games. The Bears believe Robertson-Harris is an ascending player with pass rushing potential, but he’s only entering his second year playing 3-4 defensive end and would need to make significant strides in training camp. Nichols is a fifth-round pick who the Bears see as having some pass-rushing potential, too, but expecting a guy who played defensive tackle at Delaware to step into a primary role on an NFL defensive line is a little lofty.

One other note here, though: Even if the Bears have a true “starter,” expect there to be plenty of rotating with the spot(s) opposite Hicks and Goldman. For all the praise Unrein received last year, he didn’t even play half of the Bears’ defensive snaps, so having at least two other defensive linemen emerge as viable options would be beneficial for this group.