Bears

Bears defense intent on instilling 'fear' into opponents

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Bears defense intent on instilling 'fear' into opponents

BOURBONNAIS — The Bears committed a lot of money – nearly $38 million over five years, $15 million of it guaranteed – in Pernell McPhee. He was the priority signing of the offseason, viewed as bringing size (280 pounds) and pass rush (7.5 sacks in 2014 despite zero starts) to the Bears’ fledgling 3-4 defense.

They may have gotten even more for their money than just one player.

McPhee, whose NFL career began in Baltimore and the Ravens' intimidation defense led by Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Ed Reed, represents not only the linchpin in the scheme overhaul, but also a key element in reshaping nothing less than the entire Chicago defensive persona.

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“That’s what we’re going to do this year: Put fear in other teams’ offenses,” McPhee said matter-of-factly. “When they see us come out there, [we want them to think], ‘Whoa, those guys are playing, everybody flies to the ball, everybody’s being very aggressive.’

“Me and the guys talk, and I’ll be, like, ‘We need to be aggressive. We need to be the attackers, not the ones being attacked.’ That’s our mindset right now and that’s what we’re working towards.”

That’s the mindset the Bears’ defense had before the exits of Lovie Smith and Brian Urlacher, and the injury woes of Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman. One player will not entirely undo the malaise of the past two years, but McPhee is willing to grab the “fear” flag and help rally a defense to it.

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Because more than a few members of the defense are thinking the same thing.

“Last year [stunk]; I’m not going to sugarcoat it,” said linebacker/end Jared Allen. “There’s always circumstances around it, but it is what it is.

“And I’m ready to go out and bust someone’s head open, honestly. That’s the kind of year that I want to have.”

Matt Nagy is winning over his players by being himself

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USA Today Sports Images

Matt Nagy is winning over his players by being himself

Despite losing 34 of his 48 games as the Bears’ head coach, John Fox’s players generally liked him and were disappointed to see him fired on New Year’s Day. That’s not to say they were blindsided by it — losing leads to people losing their jobs, even if the culture at Halas Hall had changed for the better following the disastrous end of the Marc Trestman-Phil Emery era. 

It was with that backdrop that Matt Nagy was offered and accepted the position of Bears head coach a week after Fox’s firing. Four and a half months later, Nagy has seemingly made a strong first impression on his new team, with one reason standing out among many: He’s genuine in who he is and what he does.

“I would say Nagy can be stern, and he can be playful also,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “I think when you’re a first-year coach, you want to win (over) your guys, and you want to be firm, and he’s doing that. You can’t really tell he’s a rookie coach or whatever. I feel like he was born for this, and he’s doing a great job.”

Granted, no player is going to publicly blast their new boss — especially not before he’s even coached a game yet. But veteran players also aren’t oblivious to who can and cannot work out as a head coach, and there haven’t been any “damning with faint praise” types of comments that were more common five years ago at the beginning of the Trestman era.

Will this win Nagy any games come September? No. But consider this sort of like team chemistry: It won't win a team anything, but if a team doesn't have it, it can be costly. 

“He’s a cool coach, man,” linebacker Danny Trevathan — who played for Fox in both Denver and Chicago — said. “He’s always giving us little details and smiling but we know he’s a hard worker just like we are. He’s up there working just like we are. He’s always putting us in the right position and he takes care of us. On the back end, where I come from, you take care of coaches like that. You go out and make plays for those coaches.”

From an observational standpoint, Nagy comes across as genuinely excited not just to be a head coach, but the head coach of the Bears. Players respect that approach — he's not coming in acting like a hired gun, and he's shown through these OTAs and practices that he cares about them, even if they haven't spent much time together yet. And he's also not strutting into Halas Hall every day with an over-inflated ego based on his promotion. That resonates, too. 

“I like the way he came in,” Trevathan said. “He came in humble but he was hungry. He came anxious, moving around in the meetings. I like that. That gets me fired up. I feel like we’ve got a good leader up here in the head coach.”

Anthony Miller sports Bears uniform at NFLPA Rookie Premiere

Anthony Miller sports Bears uniform at NFLPA Rookie Premiere

Anthony Miller has quickly become a fan favorite on social media. He has the confidence and swagger found in most top wide receivers and it comes through on his Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Miller was one of 40 players in attendance at the 2018 NFLPA Rookie Premiere where he not only learned about the business and marketing side of football, but also suited up in his Bears gameday uniform for the first time. Of course, he shared the moment on Twitter:

Panini America, a sports collectible company, snapped a picture of Miller with fellow rookie receiver Calvin Ridley (Falcons) and quarterback Mason Rudolph (Steelers):

Miller has become something of a standout for the Bears despite not playing a single snap. He's expected to have a big role in an offense that has several new pieces and roles that are up for grabs.

Miller will compete with former first-round pick Kevin White and free-agent addition Taylor Gabriel for reps opposite Allen Robinson. Miller has the necessary skill set to play as both an outside receiver and in the slot which should give him an even greater opportunity to be on the field quite a bit.

The Bears first three draft picks are all vying for starting jobs in 2018. Roquan Smith (first round) is a lock to start next to Danny Trevathan and James Daniels (second round) will start at guard. Miller should make it three-for-three in a draft class that could end up the best of Ryan Pace's tenure.