Bears

Bears rookies letting things come to them in first game action

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Bears rookies letting things come to them in first game action

Everybody always talks about how much faster the NFL is compared to college football.

But for rookies, that point is never truly driven home until they actually get out on the field and experience it themselves.

Such was the case for the Bears rookies in the preseason opener, a 27-10 win over the Miami Dolphins at Soldier Field Thursday.

"It's fast," defensive lineman and second-round pick Eddie Goldman said, repeating the phrase one more time for emphasis. "But it's preseason and I know it's gonna speed up even more."

[RELATED - Fox Era begins for Bears with preseason win over Dolphins]

Goldman rotated in with the first-team defense at nose tackle and was credited with only one tackle, but got into the backfield several times, disrupting the Dolphins' flow.

The Florida State product said he spent a lot of time studying up on plays and what he should do in situations before just letting instinct and his reactions take over once the ball was snapped.

"When you're playing, you can't really think, you gotta react," Goldman said. "But at the same time, you gotta be conscious of the technique. You're not supposed to think; you're supposed to react.

"But pre-play when you're in your stance and the QB's set up, you gotta play the play in your mind and think about what you're gonna do. And then when the ball is snapped, that's when the thinking stops."

Goldman acknowledges that he has plenty of work to do - especially after the experiece of his first preseason game - but he thinks he can be a playmaker in the Bears defense.

But that doesn't mean he expects to be a starter from Day 1 of the regular season.

"I've learned to play my part and play my role and things will come," he said. "There are a lot of veterans here and I realize that I need to take advantage of that and soak up all the knowledge that they have, learning everything I can from the guys around me and playing my role.

"It will all eventually come."

On the offensive side, first-round pick Kevin White didn't play - as expected - but third-round center Hroniss Grasu helped spark the running game with the second and third unit as the Bears finished with 166 yards on the ground.

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

Rookie running back Jeremy Langford - the Bears' fourth-round draft pick out of Michigan State - got some playing time in the second quarter, but struggled with only one yard in four rushing attempts. He did have 16 receiving yards on two catches.

"It felt good [to play]," Langford said. "Really, just learning the speed of the game and how everything goes. I felt good really getting my feet wet."

Langford admitted the speed and tempo is up a notch from practice and scrimmage, but he understood what to expect after talking to his teammates before the game.

The Bears' running back depth chart is pretty secure at the top with veterans Matt Forte and Jacquizz Rodgers locking down the first two spots.

Langford is competing against several options - including second-year back Ka'Deem Carey - but the Michigan State product's ability on special teams is a tipping point.

Langford said he relishes the chance to tackle guys while playing special teams, something he did for all four years in college.

"I feel like every day is working for a job," he said. "I'm gonna do my best on special teams. That's where it's gonna start. I'm all for special efforts and I'm giving my best effort out there.

"After that, it's really learning the plays and bringing that blue-collar aspect at running back."

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.