How Bears will approach first game in Matt Nagy era with nothing on the line

How Bears will approach first game in Matt Nagy era with nothing on the line

It looked like a normal Tuesday inside Halas Hall, with a half-dozen or so players scattered around a quiet locker room, stopping only to check their phones or grab a snack before heading into treatment. It felt like anything but a normal Tuesday inside Halas Hall, though, when they chatted with media for the first time since the immediate aftermath of the 21-13 loss to Green Bay that ended the Bears’ playoff hopes.

“We want to continue to show that we’re a better team than what we put out there this year,” center Cody Whitehair said. “Obviously we haven’t played up to the expectations this year, so just to come out here and end the year on a positive note.”

In a way, Tuesday was the last day they’d have to field questions almost exclusively focused on missing the playoffs. Wednesdays are the de facto start of the NFL week, and by then the conversation typically moves toward the upcoming game. That’s not to say the Bears’ playoff failure is going away any time soon, because you absolutely know it’s not, but with Matt Nagy’s mentor and Mitch Trubisky’s comparison in town, Wednesday might allow players the chance to refocus on football. Tuesday, though, was focused on failure.

“You know, I think it just came down to execution,” Whitehair added. “There were certain plays we wish we could have had back obviously. I think it was just about execution.”

Like Nagy said on Monday, the Bears are now on precarious ground for the next two weeks; it’ll be the first time in his tenure that this group has played regular-season football with nothing on the line. The Bears have to manufacture their own motivation now, which in itself can actually be a pretty valuable lesson.

“What type of respect do [players] have for themselves? How do they see themselves? What are they willing to put on the line for their dreams?” Akiem Hicks said. “It’s really just a self-check. Things haven’t gone the way you wanted, you hit a wall in some situations, so how are you gonna respond to it? That’s the age-old question for an athlete or a person in general: How do they respond to adversity?”

The Bears have done their due diligence hitting all the lines about playing hard every week, but they’re also a team that’s never given anyone a reason to believe otherwise. They’ve lost by more than one score only once in the Nagy era, and there are still plenty of performance-based incentives to keep players motivated. Some may not get the chance due to injury. Hicks returned last week from an elbow injury and gutted his way through the Packer game in obvious pain. “It’s my body, but the Bears have a lease on it,” he said. 

If he’s given the choice, the defensive tackle will be lining up against Pat Mahomes come Sunday night. “It’s about the boys, man. It’s about being out there with your guys,” Hicks said. “I love competition. I love competition. I love riding with my guys.”

As for what went wrong this season, neither Whitehair nor Hicks had much interest in relitigating it. Whitehair, who’s typically reserved with media, deferred to the one-game-at-a-time response. Hicks, who’s decidedly not, found an equally fitting response.

“You always say, ‘Man, I wish I could have contributed, I wish I could have done better, I wish I wouldn’t have gotten hurt.' … if a wish was a fifth, we’d all be drunk.” 

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A fan's guide for how to watch the NFL Combine

A fan's guide for how to watch the NFL Combine

The 2020 NFL Combine will go a long way in determining the final draft grade for each of the 337 prospects participating in on-field drills. General managers and scouts want to see whether their athletic testing matches the traits noted on film. If a player runs faster than he plays, scouts will question his on-field instincts and overall football IQ. In the alternative, if he runs slower than he plays, questions about level of competition and the ability to 'win' on the NFL level will be raised.

But in order to understand whether or not a prospect is having a good performance, you first have to know what the NFL is looking for as its minimum time/result required for each position and drill.

NFL Hall-of-Fame executive Gil Brandt, one of the legendary draft minds in the sport, shared what has become the standard breakdown each team uses when assessing a player's 40 time, 3-cone drill, broad jump, vertical jump and more.

Check it out:

Keep this page bookmarked this week and refer back to this chart as your favorite Bears prospects try to run and jump their way to Chicago. 

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2020 mock draft sends Bears OL, CB in 2nd round


2020 mock draft sends Bears OL, CB in 2nd round

The 2020 NFL Draft is front and center with the NFL Combine kicking off this week in Indianapolis. The week-long underwear Olympics represents the real start of draft season for the casual fan. Two months from now, we'll find out who the next class of Bears will be, and many of those players will make their case to GM Ryan Pace and the rest of the team's decision-makers over the next several days.

With the unofficial start of draft season comes the need to review the 2020 mock draft landscape. Pace has a chance to add two starters in the second round, and it's important to get a feel for which players could be within reach when Chicago picks at Nos. 43 and 50.

In Joe Marino's latest mock draft for The Draft Network, the Bears add a legitimate starting interior lineman and a cornerback who can challenge to do the same.

At No. 43, Marino sends Chicago Matt Hennessy, the standout center from Temple who can serve in the same capacity for the Bears if Nagy decides to kick Cody Whitehair back to guard. Hennessy was arguably the most impressive offensive lineman at the 2020 Senior Bowl. He routinely won his one-on-one reps and looked every bit the part of a decade-long starter in the middle of an NFL offensive line. 

What makes Hennessy so appealing is his ability to play either center or guard. We saw last season what a position change can do (both good and bad) along the interior of Chicago's offensive line, so depending on what the long-term outlook is for James Daniels and Whitehair, a player like Hennessy can fit any outcome. He'd be a great selection.

At No. 50, Chicago takes Mississippi State cornerback, Cameron Dantzler. This is the first mock draft that has Dantzler pegged to the Bears and it probably won't be the last that has Pace using one of his two second-rounders on a cornerback. The release of Prince Amukamara last week will move cornerback higher on the team's priority list.

Dantzler started 22 games for Mississippi State and totaled five interceptions over the last three seasons. At 6-2, 185 pounds, he brings good height and length to the pros. He projects like a fit in almost any defensive system and could come off the board much higher than the average fan is expecting at this point. How he performs in the athletic testing at the NFL Combine will be critical in his final evaluation. 

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