Bears

Bears' new offensive line settling in despite embargo on contact

Bears' new offensive line settling in despite embargo on contact

Linemen – offensive and defensive – aren’t really allowed to hit each other or anyone else in earnest this time of year, even in the closing days of the pre-training-camp phase of the 2016 offseason. That includes this week’s mandatory three-day minicamp, expected to be the first real sighting of Alshon Jeffery after the wide receiver has chosen to stay away from Halas Hall amid stalled talks on a new contract.
 
But for one group in particular this time is critical, contact or no contact, because it is about laying the foundation of coordination.
 
Of the five current starting offensive linemen, only one – right guard Kyle Long – is in the same position he was this time a year ago, and Long spent the 2015 season at right tackle. Only one – left tackle Charles Leno Jr. – is in the same position he was at the finish of 2015.
 
Right tackle Bobby Massie and left guard Ted Larsen were playing those positions last offseason. It’s just that they were playing them in Arizona.
 
Turnover and change is not necessarily an issue for offensive lines. The 2005 Bears’ line had only two of the 2004 starters in the same spot and improved by six wins and made the playoffs. The 2006 group brought in another new starter and reached the Super Bowl.
 
The choreography that is axiomatic for success is under serious development right now, regardless of how live the action is. The contact embargo still may be in place, but getting up to speed, literally, and still being in right places at that next-level speed has been the focus since the walk-throughs against inverted trash cans through the offseason.
 
“It’s a lot different when you’re lined up in the spring and there are trash cans across from you and then when you’ve got these big fast d-linemen across from you,” Long said. “There’s going to be a bit of a learning curve.
 
“We’ve got to gel. You talk to a lot of guys who have been on good teams before and they’ve said, ‘We didn’t really gel until the end of training camp,’ or ‘it took us until training camp.’ So there’s going to be some time to get some of the rust off from a technical standpoint, from a live football standpoint, but I think we’ll be all right.”
 
Larsen and Massie may know their positions and even some of the schematic details. They don’t, however, know their linemates and tendencies yet.
 
“It's a learning experience, something new for me,” Massie said. “It just takes repetition and time, that's the only thing.”
 
Even with just the modest amount of time, some settling in already is happening.
 
“Ted and I work together pretty well,” Leno said. “I miss Matt [Slauson, left guard released this offseason] because we became so close, but other than that it’s not a real big challenge. [Larsen is] a veteran. He knows the game. Me and him talk. We pick up on different things all the time. We help each other out in the meeting room and on the field. It’s not a big difference.”

Matt Nagy calls Kevin White a 'great weapon' with a new future

Matt Nagy calls Kevin White a 'great weapon' with a new future

Former first-round pick Kevin White hasn't caught a break -- or a touchdown -- through the first three years of his career. He has more season-ending injuries than 100-yard games and after an offseason focused on upgrades at wide receiver, White's future in Chicago beyond 2018 is very much in doubt.

Ryan Pace declined the fifth-year option in White's rookie contract, making this a prove-it year for the pass-catcher who once resembled a blend of Larry Fitzgerald and Dez Bryant during his time at West Virginia.

He's getting a fresh start by new coach Matt Nagy.

"He is healthy and he's really doing well," Nagy told Danny Kanell and Steve Torre Friday on SiriusXM's Dog Days Sports. "We're trying to keep him at one position right now so he can focus in on that."

White can't take all the blame for his 21 catches, 193 yards and zero scores through 48 possible games. He's only suited up for five. Whether it's bad luck or bad bone density, White hasn't had a legitimate chance to prove, on the field, that he belongs.

Nagy's looking forward, not backward, when it comes to 2015's seventh pick overall.

"That's gone, that's in the past," Nagy said of White's first three years. "This kid has a new future with us."

White won't be handed a job, however.

"He's gotta work for it, he's gotta put in the time and effort to do it," Nagy said. "But he will do that, he's been doing it. He's a great weapon, he's worked really hard. He has great size, good speed. We just want him to play football and not worry about anything else."

Nagy on Trubisky: 'He wants to be the best'

Nagy on Trubisky: 'He wants to be the best'

The Bears concluded their second round of OTAs on Thursday with the third and final set of voluntary sessions scheduled for May 29-June 1. Coach Matt Nagy is bringing a new and complicated system to Chicago, so the time spent on the practice field with the offense and quarterback Mitch Trubisky has been invaluable.

"We’ve thrown a lot at Mitch in the last 2 ½ months,” Nagy told Dog Days Sports’ Danny Kanell and Steve Torre on Friday. “He’s digested it really well.”

Nagy’s implementing the same system he operated with the Chiefs, an offense that brought the best out of Redskins quarterback Alex Smith. The former first-overall pick went from potential draft bust to MVP candidate under Andy Reid and Nagy’s watch.

Nagy admitted he and his staff may have been a little too aggressive with the amount of information thrust upon Trubisky so far.  It took five years to master the offense in Kansas City, he said, but the first-year head coach sees a lot of similarities between his current and past quarterbacks.

"These guys are just wired differently,” Nagy said when comparing Trubisky to Smith. “With Mitch, the one thing that you notice each and every day is this kid is so hungry. He wants to be the best. And he’s going to do whatever he needs to do. He’s so focused.”

Smith had the best year of his career in 2017 and much of the credit belongs to Nagy, who served as Smith’s position coach in each season of his tenure in Kansas City. He threw for eight touchdowns and only two interceptions during the five regular season games that Nagy took over play-calling duties last year.

Nagy said Trubisky has a similar attention to detail that Smith brought to the Chiefs’ quarterback room.

"Each and every detail that we give him means something. It’s not just something he writes down in a book. He wants to know the why,” Nagy said of Trubisky. “He’s a good person that is in this for the right reason. His teammates absolutely love him. It was the same thing with Alex [Smith] in Kansas City.”

A locker room that believes in its quarterback is a critically important variable for success, one that Nagy already sees exists in Chicago.

"When you have that as a coach and when you have that as being a quarterback, not everybody has that, and when you have that you’re in a good spot.”