Bears

Bears Camp Shorts: Alshon Jeffery down with hamstring strain; Sam Acho, Eddie Goldman dominant

Bears Camp Shorts: Alshon Jeffery down with hamstring strain; Sam Acho, Eddie Goldman dominant

BOURBONNAIS — While so much of the attention has been on the new additions to the defense — lineman Akiem Hicks, linebackers Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman — two returning members of the defense have turned heads, in more ways than one.

Outside linebacker Sam Acho, a starter at this time last year before being sidelined with mononucleosis for some weeks and losing his job to Jared Allen, continued his high-impact camp Thursday, taking turns besting Bears offensive tackles Bobby Massie and Charles Leno Jr. He followed that with a near interception on a superb pass drop and mirroring quarterback Brian Hoyer’s scramble before undercutting the intended receiver for the near-pick.

Acho set Massie up for an outside speed move that left him with a clean win. He followed that with an inside counter against Leno, the most consistent pass protector of camp, and again went in on the quarterback-dummy virtually untouched.

[RELATED: Bears sign fullback Darrel Young, waive Joe Sommers]

Coaches set up a best-of-three matchup with Leno, who redeemed the position group’s honor with a stalemate on the second rep and then a clean stand-up of Acho on the third.

- Nose tackle Eddie Goldman, whose improved conditioning and game awareness have him substantially ahead of where he was as a rookie last year, completely stuffed two tight red-zone running attempts, stopping running backs Jeremy Langford and Jacquizz Rodgers on successive tries at the goal line.

 “I want to see him dominate,” defensive line coach Jay Rodgers said. "I want to see him be that anchor point in the middle of the 3-4 defense that we all talk about. Once we get into game situations, I want him to knock people back and be able to make plays. That’s what his role is."

[MORE: Jay Cutler, Dowell Loggains seeing Bears offense same ways, good and bad]

- Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery did not finish practice on Wednesday because of muscle tightness and did not attend Thursday’s practice.

“I think again we get concerned about everybody whether they're injured or not practicing,” head coach John Fox said. “But on the other hand we don't get too concerned. We've got guys to take their place, we've got [roster] numbers."

- Guard Amini Silatolu was brought off the physically unable to perform list and was in uniform. Silatolu is coming off ACL surgery and is not expected to begin full participation in practice for some time. 

Kyle Long was back at his customary right guard spot and participating in pass-protection drills and full team sessions, but not every one, as he comes back from a mild calf strain last week.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

- Greg Scruggs, converting to tight end from defensive tackle, demonstrated some receiving skills on Wednesday, catching a couple of Jay Cutler throws. On Thursday Scruggs took on a power rush by Willie Young in team work, stood the veteran rush linebacker up completely, and sealed the edge for a run by Ka’Deem Carey. But Scruggs appeared to take a blow to the head during goal-line work and had his helmet off and was talking with medical staff.

- Leonard Floyd and defensive lineman Akiem Hicks were paired in a pass-rush drill against Massie and Long. Neither of the rushmen got close to a sack. But Floyd flashed with a perfect break to deflect a pass toward wide receiver Daniel Braverman on a third-and-goal in a full team period.

Putting Bill Belichick’s complimentary comments about the Bears in context

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USA TODAY

Putting Bill Belichick’s complimentary comments about the Bears in context

Bill Belichick had plenty of good things to say about Matt Nagy and the 2018 Bears during a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. Some of the highlights:

 

On the Bears’ season as a whole:

 

“The Bears have lost two games, one on a game when they were in control of the game and another one they lost in overtime. This really looks like a 5-0 team to me, if you change one or two plays. You can say that about a lot of teams, but that’s the league we’re in.”

 

On Mitch Trubisky:

 

“I think he’s done a good job of getting ball to the players that are open or in space and letting them be playmakers. He has a lot of them. That’s the quarterback’s job is to deliver the ball to the playmakers and let them go. I think he’s done a good job of that. He’s a tough kid, which I respect. That’s what we would ask our quarterbacks to do, to make plays to help our team win, to get the ball to the players that are open and in space. It’s not about stats. It’s about doing what you need to do to win.”

 

On Tarik Cohen’s usage:

 

“He plays about a little bit less than 50 percent of the time and he’s in a lot of different places, he’s hard to find. He’s a dynamic player that can run, catch, really threaten every yard of the field from sideline to sideline, up the middle, deep. You can throw it to him, you can hand it to him and he’s elusive with the ball and he’s elusive to be able to get open so the quarterback can get him the ball. Those are great skills to have. Any one of those is good and he’s got several of them.

 

“He’s very hard to tackle. But they do a great job mixing him, not just putting him in the game but who he’s in the game with, what the combinations are and then where they locate him and so forth. There are a lot of multiples. It’s hard. Coach Nagy does a good job with that and he’s a special player that you gotta know where he is at all times.”

 

On Trubisky’s 54-yard bomb to Taylor Gabriel on Sunday:

 

“That’s about as good a throw and catch as I’ve seen all year. The execution on that was like 99 out of 100. It was a great, great throw, great route, great catch. There was like a few inches to get the ball in there 50 yards downfield and that’s where it was.”

 

On Akiem Hicks’ impact, who played for the Patriots in 2015:

 

“He’s hard to block. It doesn’t make any difference what the play is, you can run to him and he’s hard to block. You can run away from him, and he makes tackles for loss on the back side. He’s quick and can get around those blocks when there’s more space back there because everybody is going to the front side. He can power rush. He can rush the edges with his quickness. He’s a very, very disruptive player. He’s hard to block on everything.

 

“I appreciate all of the plays he makes. He makes plays on all three downs, against all types of plays, whether it’s reading screen passes or power rushing the pocket to help the ends, to help (Leonard) Floyd and Mack and (Aaron) Lynch rush on the edge. He’s a powerful, disruptive guy. (Eddie) Goldman has done a good job of that. (Bilal) Nichols has done a good job of that too. They have some really powerful guys inside that are hard to block, and they change the line of scrimmage in the running game and the passing game. It really creates a problem, frees up the linebackers in the running game and helps the ends because the quarterback can’t step up in the pocket in the passing game.”

 

On Matt Nagy:

 

“Obviously he's done a great job, as has Ryan with building the team. They have a lot of good players. They have a really experienced staff and they do a great job in all three areas of the game. They're good in the kicking game, they're good on defense they're good on offense. They have highly-skilled players in all three areas.

 

“It's a well-balanced football team that does a lot of things well. Run the ball. Stop the run. Throw the ball. Rush the passer. Intercept passes. Return kicks. Cover kicks. Cover punts. They're at the top of the league in all those categories. Turnovers. Points off turnovers. It doesn't really matter what area you want to talk about, they're pretty good at all of them. That's why they're a good football team.

 

“Coach Nagy and his staff certainly deserve a lot of credit. It's not a one-man band. They're all doing a good job. It's a good football team. I'm sure there will be a lot of energy in the stadium this week. It will be a great test for us to go into Chicago and be competitive against them.”

 

While listening to Belichick rave about the Bears, this missive from former Patriots general manager Michael Lombardi stands out:

 

“Whenever Belichick tells the media on Mondays or Tuesdays that he has already moved on to the next game, trust me, he’s not lying. I worked with Bill for five years in Cleveland, and then during the 2014 and 2015 seasons in New England. Belichick treats every game like a Super Bowl; no detail is too small, no possible scenario or situation goes overlooked. I have heard Belichick break down a bumbling Jaguars team as if it was the reigning two-time Super Bowl winner and treat Blake Bortles like he’s the second coming of Aaron Rodgers. Belichick does it with tape to back up his claims, only showing his team the opponent’s greatest strengths. (With Bortles, I swear, he must have used George Lucas to doctor the video.) No Patriots opponent is underestimated or taken lightly — EVER.”

 

One of the myriad things that make Belichick the best coach in the NFL — and maybe the best coach in NFL history — is how he never takes an opponent lightly, and then how he’s so successful at scheming against what an opponent does best.

 

The Bears are undoubtedly better in 2018 than they were in the John Fox era, or when these two teams last met in 2014 (when New England waxed a moribund Marc Trestman side, 51-23). And a lot of Belichick’s points are valid – that throw Trubisky made to Gabriel was outstanding, for example.

 

But Belichick talks this way about every team he faces. And that, again, is part of what makes him the best at what he does.

Under Center Podcast: What will we learn about the Bears against the Patriots?

Under Center Podcast: What will we learn about the Bears against the Patriots?

On this week's Under Center podcast, JJ Stankevitz and John “Moon” Mullin look at how Bill Belichick and New England will attack Matt Nagy and the Bears on Sunday, and if Mitch Trubisky can get to the point where he can reliably lead a late-game scoring drive like Tom Brady is so good at doing.

You can listen to the whole thing here, or in the embedded player below: