Bears

Bears cutdown to 53-man roster reveals Fox, Pace 'traits'

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Bears cutdown to 53-man roster reveals Fox, Pace 'traits'

Bears GM Ryan Pace and coach John Fox are still in the shakedown period of their Chicago tenures, the time when tendencies, preferences and other operating philosophies become apparent. With the first edition of “final” roster reductions (waivers, contracts terminated, suspension), from 75 to 53 players, one or two Fox/Pace traits suggested themselves.

For one, they are not ego-wedded to “their guys,” players with connections to them or their staffs from the past. Among the roster trims made official before Saturday’s mandated 3 p.m. deadline were a player signed by Pace this offseason projected to be a starting inside linebacker – Mason Foster – and a quarterback prospect – Zac Dysert – who played for Fox and coordinator Adam Gase in Denver.

And the Bears will not hesitate to roll dice on unproven undrafted rookies – linebacker John Timu – over presumably safer veterans (Foster).

[MORE: While Bears held on to football, they just didn’t do enough with it]

The exact level of draft quality remains to play out when games start to count, but for just the second time in the past 10 years – but the second in the last three years – the entire Bears class was incorporated into the 53-man roster.

Expect the 2015 Bears roster to remain fluid through Opening Day, the trading deadline and possibly beyond. Teams routinely are in constant search of upgrades and Pace has made it abundantly clear that the Bears would be aggressive once roster cutdowns made possible upgrades available from other teams’ castoffs.

In addition to defensive lineman Jeremiah Ratliff being placed on the reserve/suspended list, the following players were removed from the Bears’ final roster as of late Saturday:

LB Jonathan Anderson: Great showing vs. Cleveland should land him on practice squad, or with Browns.

LB David Bass: One of the many 4-3 speed rushers trying to make the switch to an edge player in the 3-4. Not enough impact moments at a position with better options (Sam Acho, Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston, Pernell McPhee, Willie Young).

QB Zac Dysert: The play of David Fales in the win over Cleveland made Fales arguably too valuable to cut with the hope of slipping him onto the practice squad. What Dysert’s brief stop in Chicago did, though, was give Bears a close-up look at a potential emergency quarterback.

LB Mason Foster: Signed by Pace and the Bears in March, Foster had moments as a backup inside ‘backer but did not flash enough for a fifth-year player. The impact plays of Timu in particular, with his value on special teams, made Foster expendable.

OL Michael, Ola: Ola started 12 games at four different positions in 2014, a versatility standard few players can match and teams covet. But Ola struggled throughout camp and was never even in the discussion for solving the problems at right tackle.

TE Dante Rosario: The late-preseason trade for Khari Lee, with Fox’s description of Lee as a good in-line blocker, portended Rosario’s exit, particularly after Rosario had a dropped pass and penalties on consecutive plays in the loss at Cincinnati.

NT Terry Williams: Swamp Monster had a creditable game in the shutout of the Cleveland Browns, and it would surprise no one if another 3-4 team (like the Browns) found space for him. The move by the Bears stands as a statement that they expect Eddie Goldman to be back from his concussion sooner rather than later. It also signals what coaches thought of how Will Sutton has performed at the spot, which also has Ego Ferguson available, and Jeremiah Ratliff should be back from his foot injury by the time his three-game suspension is served.

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Other cuts:

S Qumain Black

G Conor Boffeli

DE David Carter

WR A.J. Cruz

DL Brandon Dunn

CB Jacoby Glenn

S Anthony Jefferson

WR Rashad Lawrence

G Tyler Moore

TE Bear Pascoe

TE Gannon Sinclair

WR Ify Umodu

LB Matthew Wells

LB Kyle Woestmann

Why coming to the Bears was the right opportunity for Harry Hiestand to leave Notre Dame

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AP

Why coming to the Bears was the right opportunity for Harry Hiestand to leave Notre Dame

There wasn’t a single game Harry Hiestand coached while at Notre Dame — 77 in total — in which he didn’t have a future top-20 pick starting at left tackle. 

Zack Martin (16th overall, 2014) was followed by Ronnie Stanley (6th overall, 2016), who gave way to Mike McGlinchey (9th overall, 2018). Hiestand also developed Quenton Nelson, who went on to be the highest interior offensive lineman drafted (6th overall, 2018) since 1986. Nelson and McGlinchey became the first pair of college offensive line teammates to be drafted in the first 10 picks since 1991, when Tennessee had tackles Charles McRae and Antone Davis go seventh and eighth. 

“It wasn’t surprising because the kind of guys they are, they absolutely did everything the right way, the way they took care of themselves, the way they trained, the teammates that they are and were,” Hiestand said. “They just did it all the way you wanted them to do it. So it was. It was a good moment.”

Hiestand said he had a sense of pride after seeing his two former players be drafted so high, even if he wasn't able to re-unite with either of them. The Bears, of course, didn’t have a chance to draft Nelson, and had conviction on using the eighth overall pick on linebacker Roquan Smith (as well as having tackles Charles Leno and Bobby Massie in place for the 2018 season). 

Anecdotally, one former Notre Dame player said (maybe half-jokingly) that Nelson and McGlinchey were fighting each other to see who could get drafted by the Bears to play with Hiestand again.

“There’s nobody that I’ve been around in this game that’s more passionate about what he does,” McGlinchey, now with the San Francisco 49ers, said of Hiestand at Notre Dame’s pro day in March. “There’s really only two things that are important to him, and that’s his family and then his offensive linemen. There’s a lot to be said for that. 

“In this game, everybody’s always trying to work an angle to up their own career — he doesn’t want to do anything but coach O-line, and that’s what really sticks out to us as players. He cares for us like we’re his own. Obviously he coaches extremely hard and is very demanding of his players, which I loved — he pushed me to be the player that I am.

“I’m standing in front of all you guys because of Harry Hiestand. But the amount of passion and care that he has not only for his job but his teaching abilities and his players is what sets him apart.”

Hiestand could’ve stayed as long as he wanted at Notre Dame, presumably, given how much success he had recruiting and developing players there. But six years at one spot is a long time for a position coach, especially at the college level, where the grind of recruiting is so vital to the success of a program. It’s also not like every one of the blue-chip prospects Hiestand recruited to South Bend panned out, either. 

So Hiestand knew he wanted to get back to the NFL after coaching with the Bears under Lovie Smith from 2005-2009. It’s a new challenge for him now, not only to develop second-round pick James Daniels but to continue the growth of Cody Whitehair and Leno while getting the most out of Kyle Long, Massie and the rest of the group (back during his first stint with the Bears, Hiestand had the luxury of coaching experienced, more ready-made offensive lines). 

As one of the more highly-regarded offensive line coaches in the country, though, Hiestand could’ve jumped back into the NFL whenever, and nearly wherever, he wanted. And for him, coming back to the Bears was the perfect fit. 

“That’s an awesome, awesome place, a great franchise,” Hiestand said. “It was something, I always wanted to go back, I didn’t know where I would get the opportunity. So I’m just very fortunate it just happened to be back at the same place that I was before. There are a lot of things that are different but there’s also a lot that’s the same. 

“But it’s one of the — it is the greatest organization. Historically, this is where it all began, and being part of it — and the other thing, and I told those guys when I got here, when we get it done here, you guys are going to see this city like you’ve never seen it. And I remember that. That’s what we’re after.” 

On a scale of 1-10, Tarik Cohen says his dangerous level is 12

On a scale of 1-10, Tarik Cohen says his dangerous level is 12

Don't be fooled by Tarik Cohen's height. He has towering confidence and he's setting up to have a big role in coach Matt Nagy's offense in 2018.

“On a scale of 1-10, the dangerous level is probably 12,” Cohen said Wednesday at Halas Hall about the impact he can have in the Bears' new system. “Because in backyard football, it’s really anything goes, and it’s really whoever gets tired first, that’s who’s going to lose. I’m running around pretty good out here, so I feel like I’m doing a good job.”

Cohen proved last season he can thrive in space. He made an impact as a runner, receiver and return man and will have a chance at an even bigger workload this fall, assuming he can handle it.

With Jordan Howard established as the starting running back, Cohen knows his touches will come in a variety of ways.

“It might not necessarily be rushes,” he said. “But it’s going to be all over the field, and that’s what I like to do. Any way I can get the ball or make a play for my team, that’s what I’m looking forward to doing.”

Cohen averaged 4.3 yards-per-carry as a rookie and led all NFL running backs in the percentage of carries that went for at least 15 yards. He's a big play waiting to happen.