Bears Grades: McPhee, linebackers provide strong performance


Bears Grades: McPhee, linebackers provide strong performance

Linebacker play was generally strong, contributing to holding the Oakland offense to 92 net yards in the first half, 243 for the game, and a consistent overall performance that did not buckle despite a number of dicey situations.

Pernell McPhee continued the kind of high-energy play he exhibited over the past couple of games and was involved in myriad plays both in and away from his area. His biggest was intercepting a juggled pass in the second quarter, setting up the Chicago offense in the red zone and leading to a go-ahead field goal just before halftime.

McPhee led the Bears with eight tackles, seven of them solo’s and one for a loss, in addition to a pass defensed.

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“I think Pernell McPhee’s play has been really beneficial to our football team,” said coach John Fox. “Not just today. I think he’s brought a certain mindset to our team that was needed and is much appreciated.”

Christian Jones and Shea McClellin each added five tackles, Jones’ being five solo stops. Sam Acho, taking over Jared Allen’s starting spot at outside linebacker following Allen’s trade to the Carolina Panthers, had two stops but one of the plays of the game.

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Sam Acho’s recovery of a fumble by running back Latavius Murray thwarted a threatening Oakland possession and gave the Bears the ball in the Raiders’ end. Murray, coming in as the AFC’s leading rusher with 248 yards and a 4.8-yard average through three games, was throttled and held to 49 yards on 16 carries, none longer than eight yards.

“We work on drills like that all the time,” said Acho, who added that he resisted any urge to pick the ball up and try to score.

Lamarr Houston, with his most extended play time of the season following the Jared Allen trade, struggled in pass coverage in spots but contributed two tackles.

Grade: A-

Roquan Smith helps shear a sheep at Bears community event

Roquan Smith helps shear a sheep at Bears community event

Roquan Smith has more sheared sheep than tackles on his stat sheet as a pro football player.

Smith and several other Bears rookies participated in a hands-on community event at Lambs Farm in Libertyville, Illinois on Monday where he assisted farm staff with the sheep's grooming. Smith said it was a first for him despite growing up around animals. 

"It's like on the norm for me though, playing linebacker you're in the trenches," Smith said of the experience.

"Shaving a sheep, I never really envisioned myself doing something like that," Smith said via "I was around animals [growing up], but it was more so cows and goats here and there and dogs and cats. I've petted a sheep before, but never actually flipped one and shaved one."

Bears rookies got up close and personal with more than just sheep.

Smith was selected with the eighth overall pick in April's draft and will assume a starting role opposite Danny Trevathan at inside linebacker this season. Here's to hoping he can wrangle opposing ball-carriers like a sheep waiting to be sheared.

The Bears' defense is ahead of its offense, but Matt Nagy doesn't see that as a problem

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The Bears' defense is ahead of its offense, but Matt Nagy doesn't see that as a problem

Asking players about how the defense is “ahead” of the offense is a yearly right of passage during OTAs, sort of like how every baseball team has about half its players saying they’re in the best shape of their life during spring training. So that Vic Fangio’s defense is ahead of Matt Nagy’s offense right now isn’t surprising, and it's certainly not concerning. 

But Nagy is also working to install his offense right now during OTAs to build a foundation for training camp. So does the defense — the core of which is returning with plenty of experience in Fangio’s system — being ahead of the offense hurt those efforts?

“It’s actually good for us because we’re getting an experienced defense,” Nagy said. “My message to the team on the offensive side is just be patient and don’t get frustrated. They understand that they’re going to play a little bit faster than us right now. We’ll have some growing pains, but we’ll get back to square one in training camp.”

We’ll have a chance to hear from the Bears’ offensive players following Wednesday’s practice, but for now, the guys on Fangio’s defense have come away impressed with that Nagy’s offense can be. 

“The offense is a lot … just very tough,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “They’re moving well. They’re faster. They’re throwing a lot of different looks at us and that’s just Nagy’s offense. If I was a receiver I would love to play in this offense, just because you get to do so many different things and you get so many different plays. It just looks fun over there.”

“They’re moving together, and I like to see that,” linebacker Danny Trevathan said. “We’re not a bad defense. They’re practicing against us, so they’re getting better every day, and vice versa. It’s a daily grind. It’s going to be tough, but those guys, they got the right pieces. I like what I see out there. When somebody makes a play, they’re gone. Everybody can run over there. It’s the right fit for Mitch, it’s the right fit for the receivers, the running backs.”

Still, for all the praise above, the defense is “winning” more, at least as much as it can without the pads on. But the offense is still having some flashes, even as it collectively learns the terminology, concepts and formations used by Nagy. 

And that leads to a competitive atmosphere at Halas Hall, led by the Bears’ new head coach. 

“He’s an offensive coach and last year coach (John) Fox, I couldn’t really talk stuff to (him) because he’s a defensive coach and it’s like Nagy’s offense so if I get a pick or something, I mean, I like to talk stuff to him,” Amukamara said. “He’ll say something like ‘we’re coming at you 2-0.’ Stuff like that. That just brings out the competition and you always want that in your head coach.”