Bears

Bears' offseason ranked as one of the five best in NFL

Bears' offseason ranked as one of the five best in NFL

Offseason grades are starting to pour in now that the NFL draft is over and OTAs are underway. This is good news for the Chicago Bears, who've been one of this year's transaction darlings.

According to NFL.com's Gil Brandt, the Bears had the fifth-best offseason in the NFL.

Last year, Mitchell Trubisky was throwing to what could charitably be called a below-average pass-catching corps. In Year 2 of his NFL career, Trubisky won't lack for targets, with premier free-agent receiver Allen Robinson joining fellow free agents Taylor Gabriel and Trey Burton. First-round pick Roquan Smithwill be another name in a long list of excellent Bears linebackers, going back to Bill George, Mike Singletary and Brian Urlacher. Chicago also stepped up to keep Kyle Fuller after he was signed to an offer sheet by the rival Packers. Leonard Floyd should be back and wreaking havoc on defense, while the kicker situation should get a boost from the addition of Cody Parkey. Finally, there's new coach Matt Nagy, who has shown in his previous stops as an assistant that he knows how to wring production out of an offense.

Unfortunately, the Bears weren't the highest-ranked team in the NFC North. The Vikings, who added Kirk Cousins and Sheldon Richardson in free agency, ranked third.

Nevertheless, Chicago is set up for success in 2018. The road to the playoffs will be challenging because of six games against the Lions, Packers and Vikings, but they can get off to a hot start in the first month of the season with games against the Seahawks, Cardinals and Buccaneers. They could easily be 3-1 at the BYE.

Positive free-agency scores and good draft grades are great, but unless the Bears end their long playoff drought, it will all be for nothing. It's rare for expectations to be this high for a team coming off a 5-11 season, but with so much offseason optimism comes in-season demands.

The Bears have to deliver.

Roquan Smith helps shear a sheep at Bears community event

Roquan Smith helps shear a sheep at Bears community event

Roquan Smith has more sheared sheep than tackles on his stat sheet as a pro football player.

Smith and several other Bears rookies participated in a hands-on community event at Lambs Farm in Libertyville, Illinois on Monday where he assisted farm staff with the sheep's grooming. Smith said it was a first for him despite growing up around animals. 

"It's like on the norm for me though, playing linebacker you're in the trenches," Smith said of the experience.

"Shaving a sheep, I never really envisioned myself doing something like that," Smith said via ChicagoBears.com. "I was around animals [growing up], but it was more so cows and goats here and there and dogs and cats. I've petted a sheep before, but never actually flipped one and shaved one."

Bears rookies got up close and personal with more than just sheep.

Smith was selected with the eighth overall pick in April's draft and will assume a starting role opposite Danny Trevathan at inside linebacker this season. Here's to hoping he can wrangle opposing ball-carriers like a sheep waiting to be sheared.

The Bears' defense is ahead of its offense, but Matt Nagy doesn't see that as a problem

5-21bearsplayersotas.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

The Bears' defense is ahead of its offense, but Matt Nagy doesn't see that as a problem

Asking players about how the defense is “ahead” of the offense is a yearly right of passage during OTAs, sort of like how every baseball team has about half its players saying they’re in the best shape of their life during spring training. So that Vic Fangio’s defense is ahead of Matt Nagy’s offense right now isn’t surprising, and it's certainly not concerning. 

But Nagy is also working to install his offense right now during OTAs to build a foundation for training camp. So does the defense — the core of which is returning with plenty of experience in Fangio’s system — being ahead of the offense hurt those efforts?

“It’s actually good for us because we’re getting an experienced defense,” Nagy said. “My message to the team on the offensive side is just be patient and don’t get frustrated. They understand that they’re going to play a little bit faster than us right now. We’ll have some growing pains, but we’ll get back to square one in training camp.”

We’ll have a chance to hear from the Bears’ offensive players following Wednesday’s practice, but for now, the guys on Fangio’s defense have come away impressed with that Nagy’s offense can be. 

“The offense is a lot … just very tough,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “They’re moving well. They’re faster. They’re throwing a lot of different looks at us and that’s just Nagy’s offense. If I was a receiver I would love to play in this offense, just because you get to do so many different things and you get so many different plays. It just looks fun over there.”

“They’re moving together, and I like to see that,” linebacker Danny Trevathan said. “We’re not a bad defense. They’re practicing against us, so they’re getting better every day, and vice versa. It’s a daily grind. It’s going to be tough, but those guys, they got the right pieces. I like what I see out there. When somebody makes a play, they’re gone. Everybody can run over there. It’s the right fit for Mitch, it’s the right fit for the receivers, the running backs.”

Still, for all the praise above, the defense is “winning” more, at least as much as it can without the pads on. But the offense is still having some flashes, even as it collectively learns the terminology, concepts and formations used by Nagy. 

And that leads to a competitive atmosphere at Halas Hall, led by the Bears’ new head coach. 

“He’s an offensive coach and last year coach (John) Fox, I couldn’t really talk stuff to (him) because he’s a defensive coach and it’s like Nagy’s offense so if I get a pick or something, I mean, I like to talk stuff to him,” Amukamara said. “He’ll say something like ‘we’re coming at you 2-0.’ Stuff like that. That just brings out the competition and you always want that in your head coach.”