Bears

Vic Fangio had a lot of pretty great things to say about Khalil Mack, Eddie Jackson, and others on the Bears' defense

Vic Fangio had a lot of pretty great things to say about Khalil Mack, Eddie Jackson, and others on the Bears' defense

Vic Fangio talked with Chicago media on Wednesday, the first time he’s done so since taking the Broncos job in early January. He’s widely credited with building the Bears’ defense as it currently stands, as only Kyle Fuller pre-dates the Fangio Era (2015-2018). He talked in depth about a half-dozen of the Bears’ defensive starters, and all in predictably-glowing terms: 

On Khalil Mack:

“I didn’t [find] out [about the trade] until a couple seconds after the world found out, and obviously was very, very excited. I didn’t know a lot about him other than I knew he was a good player, because when he came out of college we were drafting very late in the first round in San Francisco at the time, so they said don’t even bother watching him… So I didn’t watch him as a collegiate, and with him in Oakland and me in the NFC, I really didn’t see him play a lot. And then when we got him, it was just after a few days it was like, holy s***.’” 

On Eddie Jackson:

“If you remember, he didn’t partake in the offseason program [his rookie year] because he was injured coming out of college. And it wasn’t, he was ready, full go by training camp. And it was, I don’t know, definitely within the first week, maybe three days or so that I said to Ed Donatell, this guy’s really going to be good. And Ed kind of got a little taken back. ‘Well, how can you tell already? Ya know? Jeez, you want to crown him or something.’ I said, ‘I can just tell. This guy’s got it.’"

"Just his total instincts and feel for the game. His body movement. The way he just reacted to things and saw things. He saw them quicker than most and reacted quicker than most. And then he had the talent to take advantage of those reactions."

On Leonard Floyd:

“Yeah, I told you guys time and time again that he's a really good player. He's had some injuries that slowed him down early in his career. But they knew what they were doing when they gave him that fifth-year option. He's a hell of a football player and he's going to continue to have a hell of a career and he'll just keep getting better and better.” 

On Danny Trevathan:

“Danny’s a very positively emotional guy. He’s totally into the team. He wants the team to do well. He wants to be a leader and he is just because of the way he plays and his emotional fire and the intensity with which he plays. He’s a contagious guy in that regard besides being a hell of a football player. So he’s really been a nice pick-up for the Bears.”

On his golf game, which has nothing to do with defense but deserves to be here nonetheless: 

“Not good. Supposed to be able to hit it farther out here, but I have not had that experience in my game because I don’t hit it well enough.” 

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Contract decisions coming for Bears defense as questions hang over LB Danny Trevathan

Contract decisions coming for Bears defense as questions hang over LB Danny Trevathan

As 2018 came to its bumpy playoff-loss ending, the Bears could look toward the coming offseason without major crisis decisions looming for what was then an elite defense. They’d prepared contingencies for possible departures of safety Adrian Amos and nickel back Bryce Callahan.

This offseason they will have further-reaching calls to make, beginning at inside linebacker where two of their top three players are coming out of a contract: Danny Trevathan, also off an elbow injury suffered against Detroit, and Nick Kwiatkoski, coming off a second defense-leading performance in a backup role.

The Bears made a decision earlier this year to keep Nick Kwiatkoski for the final year of his rookie contract. The former college teammate of wide receiver Kevin White had played his way under the NFL’s “Proven Performance Escalator” from $720,000 up to a fourth-year salary $2.025 million, a not-insignificant tab for a reserve linebacker on a defense fortified with major dollars invested on the line (Eddie Goldman, Akiem Hicks), at linebacker (Khalil Mack, Trevathan) and cornerback (Prince Amukamara, Kyle Fuller), with decisions pending at both safety spots.

Possibly before this season is done, the Bears could secure Kwiatkoski with another deal, particularly after Kwiatkoski has stepped in and keyed the defense in place of Roquan Smith (Minnesota) and on Sunday when Trevathan went down with a severe elbow injury.

“Right now honestly I’m not thinking about it because there’s a lot of football to play and it’ll take care of itself,” he told NBC Sports Chicago last week. “For me, I feel like whatever happens, happens.”

What has happened is that twice Kwiatkoski, until now a four-phase leader on special teams, has helped the Bears make their decision. Against the Lions, Kwiatkoski’s third-quarter interception, the first of his career, set up the Bears’ third, final and ultimately deciding touchdown.

“Ryan [Pace, GM] and his personnel guys, they created this depth chart throughout our team where when guys go down you're able to have guys step up,” said coach Matt Nagy. “Kwit has done that, and that's what it's all about.”

Kwiatkoski’s is not the only critical depth-chart decision the Bears have upcoming for their defense.

Besides calls like whether Amukamara is playing at a level commensurate with a $9 million base, or whether to go longer-term on a deal for safety HaHa Clinton-Dix. Defensive lineman Roy Robertson-Harris will be a restricted free agent. They picked up Leonard Floyd’s fifth-year option but now need to assess whether he is worth either $13.2 million this year or a long-term deal.

And defensive lineman Nick Williams, leading the Bears with six sacks, is going to be worth more than the $895,000 they landed him for this year.

But the Trevathan injury, besides presenting player and team with a difficult decision on injured reserve, also adds a complicating factor in determining where the quarterback of the defense falls among their priorities. His four-year deal, with $15.5 million guaranteed, averaged $7 million per season, with base salaries of $5.8 million in the last two.

There is zero question where the former Denver Bronco wants to finish his career.

“This city’s been nothing but good to me,” Trevathan said. “It’s all I think about, all I want to be. Chicago is a linebacker’s dream. It’ll take care of itself, I’m sure.

“Everybody has a role. I just wanted to do my job and be the best ‘Danny Trevathan’ I can be, and the best Bear I can be. That’s all I can do. My Mom always told me that things would take care of themselves if you work your tail off.”

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Akiem Hicks talks patience and his friendship with Nick Williams

Akiem Hicks talks patience and his friendship with Nick Williams

The Bears have been playing without Akiem Hicks since Week 4 when Hicks was placed on injured reserve after dislocating his elbow during the Bears trip across the pond to the play the Oakland Raiders. If that Week 4 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings feels like a long time ago, it’s because it has been, and the Bears have been feeling Hicks’ absence.

Hicks spoke at an event at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago this week about his time on IR and when he thinks he’ll be back on the field.

“I try not to make too many projections,” Hicks said. “I have no projections, I just want to be healthy and contribute to this football team.”

When asked about what he missed most while being on IR, Hicks kept his answer simple.

“Just being with the boys,” he said. “It’s a different feeling Saturday night at the hotel when everybody is getting prepared and locking in for the game and you’re sitting there spectating. As much as you try to involve yourself, giving them advice and pushing them in the right direction, the true moment, the battle, the competition you’re going to miss. You just have to accept that.”

“One thing that has improved on my time away is patience, I understand that it was my moment and I have to be comfortable with this time away.”

Hicks was asked about Nick Williams, who has been filling in for him at defensive end, with Hicks having nothing but kind words to say.

“Just a stud,” Hicks said. “He’s shown that he can be a dominant defensive tackle.”

Hicks certainly isn’t wrong. Nick Williams is currently leading the Bears in sacks, with six sacks to his name this season. Hicks also touched on the long-standing friendship he and Williams have shared over their two years as Bears.

 “Myself and Nick Williams have a long relationship over these past two years,” Hicks said. “It feels like we’ve been friends forever. He was very supportive of me throughout his time here. It’s unfortunate that I’m on IR, but it’s a great opportunity to be supportive of him as well.”

“If there was anybody who was going to come up for me and play the time that I’ve missed, I’m glad it was Nick,” Hicks said. “I challenge you to pick somebody in the crowd more excited than me when he makes a play.” 

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