Bears

Bears No. 1 'D' wobbles in shakedown cruise

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Bears No. 1 'D' wobbles in shakedown cruise

The first unit had breakdowns and penalties, allowing a 14-play drive on Miami’s first possession, but after that, very little, with backup units producing four takeaways.

“We misplayed our linebacker alignment, that was for plus-27 [yards],” Bears head coach John Fox said. “We weren’t very crisp on third down. There were a couple conversions we had called for a penalty to give them a first down on a third-down situation. So it wasn’t as clean as we like but first preseason game with a new staff usually isn’t.”

Defensive line

The first requirement of the line was to control at the point of attack. The “wave” concept that Fox spoke of in camp was quickly evident Thursday, with a starting down-three of Jarvis Jenkins-Jeremiah Ratliff-Ego Ferguson but Eddie Goldman was in at nose tackle on Miami’s first drive. The Bears also showed a lot of rush packages with just two down-linemen, beginning with Ferguson and Ratliff, flanked by hybrids Jared Allen and Pernell McPhee. Allen nearly stopped the first Miami drive with a pass deflection.

[MORE BEARS: Bears win over Dolphins allows seeing just what you want to see]

Goldman was a force with surprising middle pressure on Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill and was given a heavy dose of playing time.

Will Sutton played extensively through the final three quarters and was able to be disruptive in spots.

Linebackers

Sam Acho made a push to regain his spot in the first unit. For most of training camp Acho was the outside linebacker opposite McPhee. But Allen, having a strong camp, turned up as the starter on the depth chart Wednesday and against Miami. The reason appeared to be pass rush, with Allen getting steadily better rushing out of a stand-up, two-point stance, while Acho was getting too often locked up in pass rushes and not putting sufficient pressure from a position where it is demanded. Acho was able to record the Bears’ first sack with a second-effort move coming around Miami right tackle Donald Hawkins.

Acho helped put the game effectively out of reach with a leaping interception in the fourth quarter that led to a Robbie Gould field goal.

[MORE BEARS: Fox Era begins for Bears with preseason win over Dolphins]

Rookie John Timu gave the Bears a second takeaway when he deflected a McLeod Bethel-Thompson pass up in the air and made the interception falling on his back. The offense converted the takeaway into a touchdown run by Ka’Deem Carey.

Secondary

Sherrick McManis made the defensive play of the game with a strip of the football from Dolphins running back Mike Gillislee in a fashion that takeaway legend Charles Tillman would have been proud of. He then recovered the ensuing fumble to set the offense up in Miami’s end of the field early in the third quarter. McManis also broke up a third-down slant pass to stop Miami’s second possession, and used perfect technique to go under a blocker and record a stop on a first-half Dolphins sweep.

At the other end of the grade book, Brock Vereen opened at free safety but was critically late getting over to cover Jarvis Landry on an out route from the 2-yard line for Miami’s first touchdown. Without knowing assignments and calls, it is difficult to completely critique, but Vereen was too deep when the play started and too late getting to an open receiver in a short-yardage goal-line situation where that simply cannot happen.

[MORE BEARS: Bears rookies letting things come to them in first game action]

Vereen was on the bench after the first possession, replaced by Ryan Mundy in a move that could be permanent. Al Louis-Jean allowed LaRon Byrd to get behind him for a 34-yard completion in the second quarter.

Cornerback Terrance Mitchell, who has been strong in coverage through camp, broke up a third-down pass with a hit as the ball arrived. Mitchell had to be helped off the field after a helmet-to-helmet collision making a tackle.

Rookie Adrian Amos was in on kick coverage and also at safety where he was decisive in run support and made stops with solid tackles. Cornerback Alan Ball added to the penalty count with a holding penalty to allow a second-quarter first down. He disrupted a throw into the end zone later.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up for the season, Bears fans]

Special teams

Marc Mariani, inserted as a wide receiver with the first unit in selected packages, made his bid for the job of punt returner with a 28-yard return in the second quarter. The run was called back when Demontre Hurst was called for a block in the back but Mariani got quickly to the second level, using his blocking effectively.

Gould raised some eyebrows with some uncharacteristic inaccuracy during last Saturday’s Soldier Field practice but was good from 48 and 23 yards in his only two tries against the Dolphins.

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.