Bears

Bears: Fangio settled on just one D-lineman at this point for 'Wave' approach

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Bears: Fangio settled on just one D-lineman at this point for 'Wave' approach

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. — The intrigue playing out at linebacker in the Bears’ emerging 3-4 scheme — Jared Allen at linebacker? Shea McClellin? Christian Jones? — is being matched or exceeded by the position competitions going on in front of that group, the defensive line that is the starting point for a successful defense.

Linebacker, the question mark in the scheme appears to be considerably further toward resolution, however, than the defensive line.

Rookie nose tackle Eddie Goldman is getting more time with top units. Ego Ferguson has settled into the new scheme nicely, moving from a 4-3 nose tackle to a potential five-technique working farther from the ball.

[MORE: Soldier Field session Saturday more than just another practice for Bears]

But right now the positions and reps taken at those positions are only prelude to what happens once the preseason games begin. Because right now the Bears have exactly one defensive lineman they are sure of.

“Well, we need to find our D-line,” said defensive coordinator Vic Fangio on Friday, adding, “coaches don’t pick the team, the players do.

“Somebody’s got to step out and be an obvious pick as to who’s the starters, who makes the team. Right now we have one really good player in Jay Ratliff. The other guys are fighting for that second, third, fourth, fifth and potentially sixth spot. There’s a good fight going on right now.” 

Not just the “who” is still in question. So also are the “how many” and the all-important “where” developments. No longer are the Bears breaking the defensive huddle and having the predictable front four putting hands on the ground.

Offensive lines are conventionally established based on “the five best guys will play.” The 4-3 lines similarly were “the four best guys will play,” with rotations as needed.

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The Bears need those positions after Ratliff to fill in because they are part of a “wave” philosophy.

The three best, “they'll start,” coach John Fox said. “If you look at most defenses in this league, the backup offensive linemen very rarely play unless it's an injury situation or an emergency. Not really the same case on the defensive line.

“Generally speaking. It's more of a ‘wave’ of D-linemen really on most defenses in the NFL now. There will be 5-6 guys that will be there. We'll refer to it as a wave. I think generally speaking, how it will develop with us yet I'm not sure until later, but that's something that Lord willing we get to.”

WATCH: Bears share video of post-game celebration after win over Cardinals

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WATCH: Bears share video of post-game celebration after win over Cardinals

The Bears are in first place in the NFC North for the first time since 2014, and they’re enjoying it. The Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings were both upset in Week 3, so an ugly win over the Arizona Cardinals was enough to put Chicago at the top.

Even though they were on the road, the Bears were still able to celebrate their victory with a disco ball dance party in the locker room and smiles all around.

The team shared a video of the post-game celebration, and it’s easy to see how much they cherish every win they can get.

The video also shows a locker room speech from Matt Nagy, and he specifically pointed out Eddie Jackson for his strong performance.

The second-year safety intercepted Sam Bradford and almost had a pick six off of Josh Rosen, but it was called back due to an offsides penalty on the defense.

The Bears know they still have a lot more work to do, but they’re going to enjoy this week’s win a little longer and then get back to work for Week 4 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Peter King includes Khalil Mack as MVP candidate in latest edition of 'Football Morning in America'

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Peter King includes Khalil Mack as MVP candidate in latest edition of 'Football Morning in America'

When Peter King, the former Sports Illustrated columnist now with NBC Sports talks (or writes), you listen. 

Monday, King published the Week 3 edition of his "Football Morning in America" column. The in-depth piece has 16 sections, including "MVP Watch," featuring five players in the hunt to win the NFL MVP.

This week, King listed Bears linebacker Khalil Mack third in his MVP watch, offering a glowing review for the 2016 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

"Bears are 2-1 and an Aaron Rodgers miracle from 3-0. And Mack has four sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception," King wrote. "Think what he’ll be like when he actually knows the defense."

Yeah, that will do.

In his first three games with the Bears, Mack has posted absolute video game numbers, as King notes. Imagine what the linebacker's numbers could be by the end of the season if he is able to stay healthy.

Mack is clearly an early candidate to win the 2018 Defensive Player of the Year. If he continues to play at such a high level, winning the NFL MVP award is not out of the question.