First look at Bears’ new 3-4 has a touch of 'Where’s Waldo?'


First look at Bears’ new 3-4 has a touch of 'Where’s Waldo?'

Bears head coach John Fox said earlier this offseason that one of the reasons he, a 4-3 coach virtually his entire career, liked the 3-4 scheme because it made it difficult to tell who was rushing the quarterback. (Seeing it live for the first time on Tuesday, he wasn’t kidding.)

Fox also said all offseason that he was holding off on position decisions and assignments until he had time to see his 2015 Bears “on the grass,” meaning the practice fields of Halas Hall.

That process began in earnest on Tuesday with the start of the team’s first minicamp, this one voluntary. And if observers weren’t sure who was rushing the quarterback, they were even less sure of even who was where.

[MORE BEARS: Matt Forte passing up Bears voluntary minicamp]

Which underscored Fox’s overall point.

While considerable attention will be focused this offseason at what happens with certain individuals and positions – Tim Jennings’ No. 1 cornerback spot, whether Kyle Long is a guard or tackle, how will Jared Allen, Shea McClellin, Willie Young and others will fit a totally new scheme – conclusions were in very short supply.

Rules prohibit getting into specific personnel packages, schemes, plays and such. But even without limits on putting out what the team considers competitive information, suffice it to say:

[MORE BEARS: Fuller, Forte honored at Piccolo awards]

Jeremiah Ratliff is the only defensive lineman listed as “NT” on the Bears’ roster. He won’t be attending the three-day camp. Ego Ferguson was mentioned by GM Ryan Pace as a nose tackle, but Ferguson was all over the three-man defensive line on Tuesday.

Asked whether he was a nose, five-technique, end, tackle, what? Ferguson laughed: “Just say, ‘defensive lineman.’”

So was Will Sutton. So was Jarvis Jenkins. So was Allen.

Fox said that McClellin would start out at one of the inside linebacker spots. McClellin did. So did four other linebackers, in multiple permutations.

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You get the point.

And as far as how well former 4-3 players fit generally into the new scheme:

“I think there's enough carryover that other than OLB vs. DE, I mean that's just alphabet, it's the same job description in my experience,” Fox said. “Whether a guy's been a holdover, I mean, I kept coaches on this staff, so I don't really buy into all that. You try to find good human talent at all levels, upstairs and downstairs, and you go about your business.”

Former Bear Greg Olsen randomly walks into marriage proposal, catches whole thing on video


Former Bear Greg Olsen randomly walks into marriage proposal, catches whole thing on video

Scenario: you're walking down the street and randomly walk into a marriage proposal. What do you do?

For former Bear and current Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen, the answer was to capture the magical moment on video. 

Olsen was in Nashville this week to give a keynote speech at a healthcare conference. While walking back to his hotel on Thursday, he randomly stumbled into a marriage proposal. His first response: hit record on his phone and capture the whole thing on video.

"Did she say yes? I got it on video, dude," Olsen said emphatically. "I'm going to send it to you!

"She said yes and I got it all on video, and you don't even know me, but I'm going to send it to you."

The couple, according to the Panthers, is Max Harvat and Brooke Hartranft. The two were visiting Nashville for the week, but Harvat didn't necessarily plan the proposal. It was as much of a sporadic moment for him as it was random for Olsen.

"Oh my god, you're my hero," Harvat said to Olsen after the proposal.

As it turns out, Harvat grew up a Panthers fan. However, he had no idea that Olsen was the person recording the proposal in the moment, only happy that someone caught it on video. When he stood up, he realized who the mystery man was.

“When I stood up, I looked over and I started having a mini heart attack," Harvat said to "I was like, ‘I’m 90 percent sure that’s Greg Olsen from the Panthers!’

“I'm a huge Carolina fan. I was like, ‘Oh my God, you're telling me that Greg Olsen just recorded the whole thing?’ I was so excited. It was amazing."

The moment wasn't just special for Havrat and Hartranft, though.

"It's the best thing I've ever witnessed," Olsen said in the video.

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Bilal Nichols eyes an even bigger impact for Bears in 2019

USA Today

Bilal Nichols eyes an even bigger impact for Bears in 2019

Even if Bilal Nichols repeated his 2018 performance in 2019, the Bears would be lauded for unearthing a solid rotational player with a fifth-round draft pick. But Nichols isn’t resting on his rookie accomplishments, and is aiming to be an even more impactful player on the Bears’ defensive line as he enters Year 2 in the NFL. 

“More consistent, more dominant,” Nichols said. “That’s the biggest thing for me right now.”

Nichols was a top-50 run defender in the NFL last year, as rated by Pro Football Focus — he made a “stop” on 8.7 percent of his run defense plays, ranking 44th in the league (PFF defines a “stop” as a play that constitutes a failure for the offense). For reference, Akiem Hicks ranked eighth at 13.3 percent, Eddie Goldman was 17th at 11.6 percent and Jonathan Bullard came in 40th at 9.1 percent. 

Nichols’ biggest “stop” came in the Bears’ narrow Week 3 win over the Arizona Cardinals, in which he dropped running back Chase Edmonds for a three-yard loss on a third-and-two play inside Bears territory just after the two-minute warning. While Nichols debuted a week earlier against the Seattle Seahawks and recorded a pressure of Russell Wilson, that play against the Cardinals was critical in an important victory for the Bears. It also proved to Nichols that what he was doing was beginning to work. 

“That was really a situation where I had cut it loose and went,” Nichols said. “I knew what i was doing on that play, I knew the possible things I could get from the offense and that was just a situation where I cut it loose and just played football. And I happened to make a big play. 

“I can’t wait to do that this year.” 

Nichols, as he was figuring out how to form a routine and study opponents in the NFL after making the jump from FCS-level Delaware, played a shade under a third of the Bears’ snaps last year as part of a rotation that proved critical to the team’s defensive success. Hicks played the most snaps (780), followed by Goldman (552) and Roy Robertson-Harris (353). Nichols (328) pushed Bullard (298) to the bottom of the rotation, which helped keep members of Jay Rodgers’ unit fresh and at their most effective when they were on the field. 

The Bears’ defensive line is arguably their best and deepest unit, one which can collapse pockets and stymie opposing run games (the latter of which is especially important, given the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions’ renewed commitments to running the ball this year). Nichols was already a big part of it in 2018, and may be an even bigger part of it in 2019. 

“Last year, I was still trying to figure things out, still trying to figure the league out, figure myself out as a player,” Nichols said. “And now that I got everything figured out, I’m just able to go. I could just play and play fast and cut it loose.”