Bears

Behind 2012 Matt Forte? Look for Bell, not Barber

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Behind 2012 Matt Forte? Look for Bell, not Barber

A mild surprise of sorts unfolded in Green Bay when Kahlil Bell ran for 121 yards and vaulted himself squarely into the No. 2 running back spot going into next offseason.

A second, bigger surprise will play out next Sunday if Marion Barber is active in Minnesota.

A third, major jaw-dropper will come in January or possibly February if Barber is still a Bear.

Barber was inactive Sunday because of a calf injury, the same type of problem that caused him to miss the fourth preseason and first three regular-season games. And Barber missed three games in 2010 with a calf injury.

Quoting James Bond, Once is chance; twice is coincidence; three times is enemy action.

Its a concern always when a player has missed time, and not just one year, said coach Lovie Smith. Hes been a player thats been injured quite a bit. We always look at the history. So that is a factor in determining players on your roster, what position he has and all of that.

Barber is due to make 1.9 million in 2012, the second year of his two-year contract, and he is expected to go the way of Chester Taylor, Barbers highly paid predecessor.

Bell, who just turned 25 this month, is the reason Barber, who turns 29 in June, is expendable. Bell is a restricted free agent after this season and is playing his way into an upper-level tender offer that would ensure the Bears the right to match an offer to him or receive compensation. The money may not be significantly less than Barbers deal but the production, versatility and dependability are better.

He does have to hold onto the ball, but he made excellent cuts in the open field, ran with power, caught the ball out of the backfield, Smith said. Everything you want a good running back in the NFL to do, he did, on a national stage. You have to feel good about what he did in his first time as the bell cow

Based on what hes done his entire time here you would feel comfortable with him as the No. 2 running back.

Bell isnt. Which is exactly the attitude coaches want.

Im not interested in that, Bell said. I never woke in the morning and said Im going out there to be the No. 2 running back on any team that Ive ever been on. My goal is to be a starter in this league, and thats what Im shooting for. Im not settling for anything less.

Trubisky using flashcards to learn Bears offense

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USA Today

Trubisky using flashcards to learn Bears offense

Chicago Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky is preparing for his second season in the NFL, one in which he'll be running an entirely new offense, with a tried-and-true method of learning: flashcards.

“Quarterback play is how fast you can process,” Trubisky told the Chicago Sun-Times. “A lot of that is recollection. That’s exactly what flash cards are.

"You’re trying to learn and memorize, and to try to forget what you did in the past.”

Coach Matt Nagy is attempting to install an offense that took five years to master in Kansas City in his first offseason in Chicago. Its success or failure will circle directly back to how well Trubisky operates within its structure.

Despite its complexity, Trubisky feels more comfortable in Nagy's system than the one Dowell Loggains ran last season.

“It’s more complex, but it’s easier [to execute], as opposed to simpler but more difficult.

"That’s how I would describe it last year. Last year, there were probably less words, but they didn’t necessarily fit together. Or it was just more difficult to process. This year, it’s more complex but it’s easier to execute and memorize and remember because everything builds on something. You start with a base concept, and it gets more and more complicated.”

Trubisky's comments illustrate what makes Nagy a potentially special offensive coach. He's making a normally difficult process seem easy, and that's the kind of environment that will facilitate learning and execution.

“It’s just crazy to see. I feel like that’s how it should be done, because it’s a more advanced offense, but we were able to pick it up so quickly over the summer because of how they taught it. And how everything fits together."

Three questions for Bears ILBs: What kind of an impact will Roquan Smith make?

Three questions for Bears ILBs: What kind of an impact will Roquan Smith make?

Pre-camp depth chart

1. Danny Trevathan
2. John Timu
3. Joel Iyiegbuniwe

1. Roquan Smith
2. Nick Kwiatkoski
3. Jonathan Anderson

1. How good can Roquan Smith be?

Making sweeping observations from shorts-and-helmets practices in OTAs is often a fool’s errand, but Smith looked the part while running around the practice fields of Halas Hall after being drafted in April. His quickness and instinctiveness stood out — as they did at Georgia — and his football intelligence and work ethic were praised by coaches and teammates. 

“He’s learning well,” Trevathan said. “He’s doing a good job of learning. He’s learning the little things that you need to learn in this defense. Now it’s all about putting on a show and going out there and rocking.”

And that’s what’s going to be fun to watch in Bourbonnais: How does Smith play with the pads on? Chances are, the answer to that question will be “well,” setting the eighth overall pick on a path to being a mainstay of this defense for years to come. 

That’s not to say Smith doesn’t have plenty on which to work during training camp. But he left Georgia as a sort of “safe bet” in the draft, and nothing he’s done to this point has changed the view of him that he’s likely going to be a good one. 

2. Can Danny Trevathan stay healthy?

In terms of size and athleticism, Trevathan and Smith profile similar to NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis, the inside linebacking tandem that was the spine of the San Francisco 49ers defense during Fangio’s time there. But for Trevathan and Smith to reach that lofty bar — or even to come close to it — Trevathan needs to be more available than he was his first two years with the Bears.

This isn’t questioning Trevathan’s toughness — far from it. That he returned for Week 1 of the 2017 season 10 months after rupturing his patellar tending (an injury that can be a career-ender) was impressive, and that he was immediately productive upon returning was even more extraordinary. But Trevathan missed three games in November due to a strained calf, and coupled with a one-game suspension and the seven games he missed in 2016, the 28-year-old has only played in 21 of 32 games since signing with the Bears. 

Trevathan is confident he can improve his production in 2018, given he wasn’t able to participate in last year’s offseason program practices. He’s entering his third year in Fangio’s defense and feels better prepared after going through OTAs and minicamps this year. It’s just now about him staying on the field to make sure that work pays off.

“I’m more comfortable with this defense, I’m more comfortable with the guys and the calls that we make,” Trevathan said. “I take pride in being correct and working my tail off and making the defense better. And the more that I can be out there — which I plan on being out there a lot — it’s going to help us tremendously.” 

3. How big a role will Nick Kwiatkoski have?

The Bears didn’t draft Smith because they felt like they absolutely needed to upgrade over Kwiatkoski, who’s acquitted himself well in 25 games since being picked in the fourth round of the 2016 draft. But Kwiatkoski has dealt with some injury issues, and for as solid a player as he may be, the Bears’ defense needed (and still needs) more great players. Drafting Smith gave the Bears a shot at adding a great player.

It also leaves Kwiatkoski in the same spot he was in a year ago, when the Bears entered the 2017 season with Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman as their unquestioned starting inside linebackers. Smith still has to earn that starting spot, but the safe bet is he will, relegating Kwiatkoski again to reserve duties.

And that’s a positive for the overall health of this defense, having a player good enough to start ready to play if needed. But it also raises this question: What do the Bears do with Kwiatkoski if he’s one of their four best linebackers, but isn’t one of their two best inside linebackers? 

So for the purposes of watching training camp practices, seeing if Kwiatkoski gets any reps at outside linebacker will be an interesting storyline to follow.