Bears

Free hugs available for violent Bears’ 'dogs' after first day in pads

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Free hugs available for violent Bears’ 'dogs' after first day in pads

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. — A little girl with a homemade sign on her dad’s shoulders gave the Bears’ defensive line a boost that some of them may have needed after some portions of Saturday’s first day in pads:

“Free hugs D line” the young lady’s huge sign read.

The Bears’ D line didn’t have THAT bad a first day in pads by any means, and in fact was dominant against the run. Also evident was a degree of physicality that was absent the past couple of seasons, with linebacker/ends Jared Allen and Pernell McPhee among those delivering impact plays in team sessions that set a tone.

[MORE: Bears OL strong in first 2015 time in pads]

“That's going to really show who's got the dog in them and who doesn't,” McPhee said. "That's what it boils down to at the end of the day on defense: who's got the dog in them and who is going to be physical and violent.

“My attitude is, ‘Hey. I know what time it is; time to be a dog and every play I’ve got to be one.”

Defensive line

If Jared Allen is still feeling his way into a new job as a hybrid end/linebacker, it was not evident on Saturday. Allen played physical at the point of attack on numerous occasions against the run, lining up in multiple sets, and thoroughly handling block attempts by a receiver and tight end on separate plays, then closing down fast to stuff an attempted run play… . Cornelius Washington continues to show up on film, playing with 20 pounds added from last year and acquitting himself well as one of the 5-techniques. Washington recorded his third simulated “sack” of camp and also dominated two reps in one-on-one pass rushing drills… .

[RELATED: Two days, zero turnovers for Bears’ 'O']

Ego Ferguson is playing solid with the No. 1 defense but has not been able to provide noteworthy pass-rush pressure against strong pass-blocking efforts by Bears O-linemen… . Promising rookie nose tackle Terry Williams was held out of practice… .

Jeremiah Ratliff has been frequently unblockable one-on-one in team sessions, particularly strong against inside runs… . The hit of the day came from tackle Brandon Dunn, who got into the backfield and had 235-pound running back Daniel Thomas bounce off him like a ping-pong ball.

Linebackers

Sam Acho batted down a pass on a blitz late in practice, one of the first of this camp — a radical departure from practices when the defense was ordered to keep their hands down because they were blocking too many passes. Acho struggled in some one-on-one passing drills against different Bears right-side linemen… .

Pernell McPhee was barely held off in one-on-one pass rushing drills, working against tackles Charles Leno and Jordan Mills. McPhee is displaying an explosive first step to go with his use of leverage and 280 pounds… .

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bears fans!]

The Bears had to be pleased with the play of Lamarr Houston on the first day in pads. Houston was a force against the run, holding the point against 353-pound tackle Tayo Fabuluje and making a hit on the running back. Houston also defended well in space, reacting quickly to pressure quarterback Jimmy Clausen and forcing one premature throw.

Secondary

Cornerback Terrance Mitchell produced the defense’s first takeaway of camp when he stripped wide receiver Ify Umodu after a catch across the middle, with the defense recovering… . Coverage was good enough twice in 7-on-7 to force quarterbacks Jay Cutler and Jimmy Clausen to tuck the ball and run because no receiver was open… .

Brock Vereen continues to work alongside Antrel Rolle as the safety tandem, with Ryan Mundy working in with Rolle as well, after Alshon Jeffery got completely loose in the secondary with no defender closer than 20 yards of him. “We're still early in the evaluation,” coach John Fox said. “I think that was our third real practice, first in pads. So much about that position is how they key and diagnose. When you get into live game situations sometimes, practice obviously is big. We let loose a guy wide open on an all-block pass or a gadget play. That's why we're here, we're trying to teach guys to have the right eyes and look at the right things and react the right way.”

NFC North standings: Bears’ division lead on life support after loss to Dolphins

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USA TODAY

NFC North standings: Bears’ division lead on life support after loss to Dolphins

A tie is all that separates the Bears from the rest of the NFC North division. Chicago’s Week 6 loss to the Miami Dolphins dropped the team to 3-2, which just barely leaves them in first place.

Because the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings tied in Week 2, they sit just behind the Bears at 3-2-1 in the division. The Week 5 bye week also kept Chicago a little bit ahead, but they’re only a game away from dropping down to third.

They still control their own destiny, but Matt Nagy will need an upset win over the New England Patriots on Sunday to maintain their leading position. The Packers are on a bye week, so they would assume first place if the Bears lose.

The Vikings take on the New York Jets for a chance to take sole possession of the NFC North crown, but Chicago is guaranteed to stay ahead of the Detroit Lions, who also have a bye week.

These early season losses are tough on a Bears team trying to grow a division lead before they take on their NFC North foes midseason. The bigger cushion they can build now, the more wiggle room they’ll have when they face the Lions, Vikings and Lions back-to-back-to-back in November.

Film review: Albert Wilson's 75-yard TD shows how Sunday was an aberration for the Bears' defense

Film review: Albert Wilson's 75-yard TD shows how Sunday was an aberration for the Bears' defense

(For a bonus film review, check out the video above of Akiem Hicks' forced fumble on the one-yard line)

When Eddie Jackson didn’t stay on top shoulder of Randall Cobb in the fourth quarter of the Bears’ season opener, there was a clear coaching point from that 75-yard backbreaking touchdown. The Bears’ defensive mantra the week after was to focus on “plastering” receivers, which this defense did a good job of over the next three weeks. 

There surely are coaching points leveled by Vic Fangio and his assistants after the Bears were carved up by Brock Osweiler and the Miami Dolphins in Sunday’s 31-28 loss in Miami. But maybe the over-arching though here is this: The Bears didn’t, during the off week, go from being one of the league’s more sure-handed tackling teams to one of the worst. 

A defense that swarmed to the ball over the first four weeks looked a step slow and frequently out of position on Sunday. The more likely explanation for that development isn’t the plot to Space Jam 3, where a group of cartoon aliens steal the athletic power of an entire defense to use for their own. More likely, it was the heat in south Florida that sapped this team’s energy over the course of a long afternoon.

In this week’s film breakdown, we’re going to look at Albert Wilson’s 75-yard touchdown, which was wildly uncharacteristic of this defense. 

Image 1: the Bears are in nickel man coverage with Wilson (red circle) lined up in the slot across from Bryce Callahan. Danny Amendola goes in motion to the boundary (green arrow), with Danny Trevathan (green arrow) following him, though safety Adrian Amos will be the guy covering the Dolphins receiver. Akiem Hicks and Jonathan Bullard are the two down linemen in the interior, with Leonard Floyd rushing from the left and Khalil Mack from the right. 

Image 2: Mack is chipped by tight end Nick O’Leary (yellow circle), with Roquan Smith (yellow arrow) responsible or covering him. Trevathan (green circle) is in space with Amos (blue circle) picking up Amendola. With Mack chipped, the Bears have three pass rushers to go against five offensive linemen. 

Image 3: There’s about 10 yards of space between Mack and Osweiler (yellow arrow) after Mack comes free of O’Leary’s chip. Trevathan (green circle) is in a good position here, with Amos (blue arrow) closing on Amendola. Wilson works into space ahead of Callahan (red arrow), while both Dolphins outside pass-catchers run go routes to clear cornerbacks Kyle Fuller and Kevin Toliver II out of the play. 

Image 4: First, the white circle — Hicks had his helmet ripped off, with right tackle Jesse Davis the apparent culprit. He still manages a good pass rush against a double team that could’ve hit home, or forced Osweiler to Mack (who’s about five yards from Osweiler when the ball is released) or Floyd, had the play extended longer. Meanwhile, when the ball is released, Callahan (red arrow) and Trevathan (green arrow) are in good position to bring down Wilson, while Amos (blue arrow) is there for help if Wilson were to turn upfield to the far sideline. 

Image 5: Wilson catches the ball and goes to the far sideline, away from Callahan (red arrow) and toward Trevathan (green arrow). After O’Leary and Smith engaged, the rookie linebacker is the farthest back from the play of these three when the ball is caught. 

Image 6: Trevathan (green arrow) seems to over-commit, giving Wilson a lane toward the boundary to cut upfield. 

Image 7: Amos (blue arrow) still has a chance to bring down Wilson short of the sticks.

Image 8: Amos misses the tackle, and Trevathan is blocked by O’Leary. That leaves Jackson (yellow arrow) as the last guy who can stop Wilson from breaking this play open. 

Image 9: In missing the tackle, Amos tripped Wilson a bit, which Jackson admitted threw him off (“but that’s not an excuse for it,” he added). Wilson re-gains his balance, cuts inside, and Jackson whiffs on the tackle. 

“Probably just try to shoot my shot on the tackle instead of just guessing, just probably should have shot my shot,” Jackson said of what he felt he should’ve done differently. 

Wilson goes to the house, and the Dolphins tie the game one play after the Bears took the lead. The last image here is Wilson’s route chart from NFL Next Gen Stats, which shows just how much running he did after the catch on that play — yardage-wise, it was 71 yards, but by distance it was much further. 

“We talked about how many tackles we missed,” Jackson said. “Some of that could have really changed the momentum of the game if we would have made some of those tackles. Unfortunately, two of them resulted in big play touchdowns.”

No members of the Bears defense were willing to use the heat as an excuse, instead opting for thumb-pointing instead of blaming teammates, coaches or the sun. But there’s a good chance we look back at Week 6 in Week 10 or 11 and can say with some confidence that the Bears beat themselves more than the Dolphins did, and it’s something that hasn’t happened since. 

“We know we made mistakes, that don’t kill our confidence,” Jackson said. “That don’t kill our swagger. We know what we gotta do, we know what we gotta correct. So we come in here, we’re going to play Chicago Bears football that we’re used to playing.”