It’s probably dishonest to describe any NFL OTA as having a palpable buzz, considering it’s run at quarter-speed, in shorts, on back fields. The high-energy moments last only as long as the Meek Mill song blasting over the speakers.
Still, there’s a genuine excitement at Halas Hall that’s hard to be cynical about. The fabled Year 2 of the Matt Nagy era has arrived, and the Bears are ready to cash in their chips.
“I feel really great out there, I feel very comfortable,” quarterback Mitch Trubisky said. “It's just a lot of fun to be back in Chicago with the boys playing football again.
“Everyone knows what they're doing be year two in this offense so it’s a lot of fun just getting out there and going through it and just being even more detailed than we were last year within every single and each play. And yeah, it's going really smooth.”
For the most part, the gang is back. 8 of the 11 starters who played in last year’s Wild Card game against Philadelphia are returning. Last year was about setting up a vision; this year’s about seeing that vision through.
“The guys are really stacking these days on top of each other,” Matt Nagy said. “You can see the defense is playing faster each and every day. It reminds me of last year with us. Now offensively we're adding some things there and you get to see where everybody is at, put it on tape, evaluate.”
The problem, of course, is that not *everyone* is in Year 2. Free agent signee Mike Davis and rookie David Montgomery join a madeover running backs unit. James Daniels and Cody Whitehair, both here last season, are new to their positions after an offseason swap. Rookie Riley Ridley has some catching up to do in a crowded receivers room. We promise not to mention the kickers after this sentence, but they’re new as well.
“The only challenge is learning the playbook,” Davis said. “I’ve really gotten it down quickly because it’s some of the same terminology as other places I’ve been. It’s all about really getting the playbook down and coming out and executing in practice.”
Getting everyone on the same page can be harder than it sounds, especially when an entire aspect of the offense -- one that was not very effective last season -- is essentially starting from the ground up. Not only that, but they’re expected to hit that ground running. They don’t get the luxury of spending a year in Football 101.
“We talk a lot about how we just need to build a foundation,” running backs coach Charles London said. “Let’s put a foundation in place. Let’s learn our runs and learn our formations and we can go from there.
“We’re taking those steps but these guys have done a great job of studying and being prepared every day for practice. They’re all smart guys, very conscientious.”
Getting guys up to speed on a tight clock is a uniquely challenging task in the NFL. Windows of contention are short, and teams expect new players to mesh quickly and seamlessly. It’s obviously easier said than done, and one of the big challenges of coaching pro football.
“I think you have to break it down to its simplest forms,” said Brad Childress, a coaching veteran who now works as a senior offensive assistant for the Bears. “Whether it’s a wide receiver stance or his start, his split, just all those small details.
“For us, it’s not good enough to just be in the vicinity, it’s how you got there and that you’re getting there at the same time as the quarterback. Think you just go back to the basics - you don’t forget those every year. And then you can build everything out.”