The Bears unveiled their first assistant coach hiring since bringing aboard Chuck Pagano as their defensive coordinator, with Matt Nagy announcing the addition of Deshea Townsend as defensive backs coach on Friday.
Townsend, a former cornerback and 13-year NFL veteran, had previous coaching stops with the New York Giants (assistant defensive backs coach, 2018), Tennessee Titans (secondary coach, 2016-2017), Mississippi State (cornerbacks, 2013-2015) and Arizona Cardinals (assistant defensive backs, 2011-2012).
Townsend finished his career with 21 interceptions, 15 1/2 sacks and 112 passes defended in 191 games spent primarily with the Pittsburgh Steelers (1998-2009) and Indianapolis Colts (2010).
Rumors swirled for the last week about the Bears’ potential interest in hiring future Hall of Famer Ed Reed as a defensive backs coach under Pagano, who coached him in college at Miami and in the NFL with the Baltimore Ravens. Pagano and Reed are coaching together at the NFLPA Bowl this week.
The Bears appear to have retained defensive line coach Jay Rodgers, while the team announced Ronell Williams was hired on Friday as a defensive quality control coach, a position previously held by Sean Desai.
Bears fourth-round pick Riley Ridley knew what to expect coming into the NFL thanks to his older brother Calvin, the Atlanta Falcons wide receiver.
Their family bond kept them close even as they played for rival colleges and now competing professional teams, and they both take a lot of motivation from the name on the back of their jerseys.
The two receivers came together on camera for the Bears’ “Meet the Rookies” series.
“We do what we do, not just for the family, but for our name, our brand,” Riley Ridley said. “We want to take that as far as it can go. That Ridley name is strong, and that’s how we view it.”
Ridley opened up about growing up with his mother raising him and his three brothers. He said he’s going to be his own biggest critic and do everything he can to help his teammates.
His brother Calvin added some color to the image of Riley that’s starting to take shape.
“Very funny, really cool, laid back,” Calvin Ridley said. “He’s a different person on the field. I would say he has a lot of anger on the field — very physical.”
Matt Nagy should find good use for that physicality in the Bears offense, plugging Ridley in a wide receiver group already deep with young talent.
Ridley doesn’t seem like the type of player who will allow himself to get buried on the depth chart.
Akiem Hicks finally earned the recognition he deserved in 2018 with his first trip to the Pro Bowl, and playing on the NFL’s No. 1 defense provided the national attention he should have received in his first two years with the Bears.
He’s a solid interior pass rusher, but where he dominates is in run defense, leading the NFL in run stops last season according to Pro Football Focus.
When Hicks beats an offensive lineman at the line of scrimmage to make a big tackle in the backfield, it’s a work of art, and he revealed the secret to those flashy plays on NFL Game Pass.
He broke down the film of a play against the Green Bay Packers where he beats center Corey Linsley because he knew right guard Jordan McCray was going to pull to the left.
“I read it before the snap happens. I know that McCray is going to pull just based off his stance,” Hicks said. “I know his stance for every play that he’s going to do. I’m going to be at least 75 percent right.”
Hicks looks at how much weight an offensive lineman is putting on his hand, how far apart his legs are and how much bend is in his hips.
“If you do your due-diligence as a defensive lineman and prepare like a professional during the week, you’re going to know,” Hicks said.
Any little deviation from a normal stance is an indicator to Hicks of what the play is going to be, and that pre-snap knowledge keeps him a step ahead of the blocker in front of him.
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