Bears

Bears pose biggest threat to Pack in NFC North

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Bears pose biggest threat to Pack in NFC North

For the past two seasons, three now with 2012, CSNChicago.com has forecast a "10-6 or better" finish for the Bears. That target was missed last year when 7-3 turned sour after the Jay Cutler injury and beginning of the Caleb Hanie Experience, but the point was quite clear at that point:

The Bears were actually a very good team, the one in fact that had pulled past the Detroit Lions and was being talked about at the time as the biggest concern for the Green Bay Packers.

One of the top NFL commentators has advanced that same outlook for the Bears - for 2012. Clark Judge, senior NFL columnist over at CBSSports.com, says flatly that the Bears are the Packers' biggest worry.

I cite Clark not because he agrees with me, or because he and I go back a long time and I hold his work in nothing short of the highest regard - but because he is the first observer in my 2012 experience to talk about the Bears without the clichd concern about the offensive line.

One of Clark's key points is the backups to Cutler (Jason Campbell) and Matt Forte (Michael Bush), which were not in place when 2011 collapsed. Another is that Detroit has talent but the Bears even with concerns on defense were 14th in points allowed, the Lions 23rd.

Point is, the Bears took a number of significant steps forward this offseason - Brandon Marshall, a draft with potential impact players at pivotal spots (DE Shea McClellin, WR Alshon Jeffery), Bush and Campbell - and took no significant steps backwards. (Losing DT Amobi Okoye to Tampa Bay does not qualify as "significant.")

It's all just analysis right now. Training camp doesn't begin in earnest until Thursday and with pads until Saturday night. But Clark has nailed the main reasons why the Bears and not the Lions, with their miscreant ways, are the Packers' biggest cause for concern.

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 ChicagoBears.com. "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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USA Today Sports Images

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.”