Hall of Fame Game: What to watch when Bears are on offense

USA Today

Hall of Fame Game: What to watch when Bears are on offense

The Chicago Bears kick off their 2018 preseason schedule against the Baltimore Ravens in Thursday night's Hall of Fame Game in what will be the first look at the team's revamped offense.

The Bears spent significant resources on the offensive side of the ball this offseason, starting with coach Matt Nagy and extending to playmakers like Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Trey Burton and second-round pick Anthony Miller. And while most, if not all, of the high-priced players won't see action against the Ravens, there are still several things worth watching when Chicago has the ball.

Nagy's debut

The game may not have much importance in the grand scheme of things, but it does represent the debut of coach Nagy and the new era of Bears football. He won't be putting much, if any, of his playbook on the display Thursday night, but we will get a look at his sideline demeanor and how he handles things like clock management and replay challenges. The extra preseason game will do wonders for Nagy once the regular season rolls around.

Kevin White

Whether or not White plays will be a storyline worth monitoring, but logic suggests the fourth-year pro needs as many in-game reps as possible. The Bears can't fear injury when it comes to White, even though he's been one of the most oft-injured players in recent team history. Unlike last season, Chicago has several receivers slotted ahead of White on the depth chart and are more than protected against another setback for the former first-round pick. There's no player on the roster who could use extra on-field time more than White.

Chase Daniel

The backup quarterback is one of the most important positions for any team that wants to make a deep run in the playoffs. The Bears had a decent one last year in Mark Sanchez but should have an upgrade this year with Daniel. That said, he's been paid a boatload of money for a relatively unproven career. He should get a lot of reps Thursday night, giving Bears fans a look at what life would be like in case of a Trubisky emergency.

Wide receiver competition

The backend of the receiver depth chart will be one of the more interesting position battles to watch as training camp continues. Seventh-round pick Javon Wims looks the part and has had some moments in practice. He can build a lot of momentum for himself with a good performance against Baltimore. Veterans Joshua Bellamy, Marlon Brown and Bennie Fowler need big preseasons to earn a spot on the final roster. And then there's Tanner Gentry, last year's training-camp darling, who is certain to make a play or two.

Backup running back

Will the Bears keep four running backs? Maybe. Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen and Benny Cunningham are locks for the final roster, but undrafted rookie Ryan Nall has an appealing combination of size and natural ability to make a strong claim for the final 53. Nall will battle Taquan Mizzell all preseason for a job and the player who gets off to a faster start in the Hall of Fame Game will have a leg up for the rest of the summer.

Age before beauty when it comes to Bears, elite NFL defensive coaching

USA Today

Age before beauty when it comes to Bears, elite NFL defensive coaching

It doesn’t necessarily qualify as age discrimination, maybe just more of a sorta “age-typing” around the NFL. Because the image of what makes a top offensive mind in the NFL is radically different from what’s become almost a standard for defensive-coaching pedigree.

Looking for a hot offensive coach? The cliche’d expectation has become that it’ll be someone young.

Putting together a ring of honor for the elite defensive minds in the NFL? Think “veteran"... VERY veteran.


Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer this week remarked during preparations for his Vikings hosting the Denver Broncos that he was pleased that Denver coach and former Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio finally got a head-coaching berth at a time when so many top jobs have been going to the presumed hot, young offensive minds that vaulted to the top after “one-year sabbaticals.”

The one-year thing refers to the fast-tracking that has happened with increased frequency in recent years — the ascensions to head coach of Adam Gase (41) with the Jets, Arizona’s Kliff Kingsbury (40), Matt LaFleur (40) in Green Bay, the Bears’ Matt Nagy (41), or Zac Taylor (36) in Cincinnati — after a year or two, sometimes less, as offensive coordinators. Sean McVay was 31 when the Rams hired him. Kyle Shanahan took over in San Francisco at 38.

Andy Reid at 61 looks perhaps like an outlier out there in Kansas City. But Reid was 41 when he became Donovan McNabb’s head coach in Philadelphia back in 1999.

Meanwhile, for whatever reason, the image bar on defense, between head coaches or defensive coordinators, lies in the other direction — the savvy, cagy, crusty old lion: Bill Belichick (67) in New England with the NFL’s No. 1 defense; Dallas ranked No. 6 on defense with coordinator Rod Marinelli (70); the Bears fourth in scoring defense under Chuck Pagano (59), who succeeded Fangio. Denver No. 7 with Fangio as head coach and Ed Donatell (62) as his defensive coordinator.

Preparing for the Los Angeles Rams’ 11th-ranked defense on Sunday, Nagy this week brought up Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips (72) for recognition: “How do you not appreciate what he’s done over his career? He’s done some amazing things. He’s been in the league forever. When he was in Denver and I was in Kansas City we’ve seen him. When he was in Houston and I was in Kansas City we’ve seen him.”

Defensive legend Dick LeBeau finished his NFL coaching career with Tennessee at age 80.

So how is it that youth has come to be served on offense, while on defense, the prevailing philosophy has been age before beauty?

"I don't know,” Nagy reflected. “Maybe it's just a phase that we're in right now?

“It's probably a little bit of a trend involved there. the other part of it, too, is that you get some of these older coaches that are in it, they've seen it all, right? You go back to Tom Brady when he talked about that he's seen every defense; these [defensive seniors] have seen every offense and so they have ways to adjust and experiences.”

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Injury Report: Trey Burton, David Montgomery, Adam Shaheen all non-participants in practice Thursday

Injury Report: Trey Burton, David Montgomery, Adam Shaheen all non-participants in practice Thursday

As the Bears prepare for a pivotal Week 11 matchup with the Rams, the team's injury report is trending in the wrong direction.

Take a look at the report from Thursday:

David Montgomery (ankle) was a non-participant in Thursday's practice after being limited Wednesday. Trey Burton (calf), Isaiah Irving (quad), Adam Shaheen (foot) and Danny Trevathan (elbow) also didn't practice.

Last Saturday, the Bears signed RB Ryan Nall and LB James Vaughters off their practice squad — potential candidates to see more run with Trevathan likely to miss time and Montgomery's status up in the air.

The Rams reported earlier this week that RT Rob Havenstein, WR Brandin Cooks and DB Darious Williams are all already ruled out for Sunday.

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