Bears

Moon: Emery's time is now

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Moon: Emery's time is now

The Bears and the rest of the NFL without exception have swung onto final approach for the draft that is now 2-12 weeks off.

It is the time and reason for which Phil Emery was hired as Bears general manager. This is his time. And for the Bears in their quest to catch the Green Bay Packers and get back ahead of the Detroit Lions, it has to be.

Setting draft positions aside for the moment, the Packers (Aaron Rodgers) and Lions (Matthew Stafford) landed their franchise quarterbacks in drafts. They landed their top receivers (Greg JenningsJordy Nelson; Calvin Johnson) in drafts. They secured their top defensive players (Clay Matthews, Ndamukong Suh) in drafts.

The Bears didn't have top-four picks but the misses later is why Emery is back in Lake Forest.

Continuity through free agency a first, major positive

Emerys accomplishments in the open market have been considerable. Trading for wide receiver Brandon Marshall; adding backup quarterback Jason Campbell and retaining Josh McCown; adding Michael Bush at running back; signing cornerbacks Kelvin Hayden and Jonathan Wilhite; and with the assorted Blake Costanzo, Devin Thomas and Eric Weems for special teams and ideally more.

Add to that the re-signings of Kellen Davis, Israel Idonije, Tim Jennings and Craig Steltz and the result has been an offseason of several steps forward without any backwards, other than defensive tackle Amobi Okoye leaving for one year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

(Consider that one almost by choice. The Bears made an offer in their range for a player they wanted and who wanted to stay but were simply outbid by a team offering more of a starting opportunity.)

A subtly noteworthy backdrop here has been that Emery has followed a course in sync with much of what Jerry Angelo had laid out.

Angelo had targeted San Diegos Vincent Jackson as the first big strike in free agency. Marshalls character issues made him off-limits for Angelo with Sam Hurd and Tank Johnson on the resume, deserved or not.

Campbell was the goal at quarterback along with McCown, Angelos addition. And Hayden had met with the Bears previously but not signed.

The real point, however, is that Emery clearly is in phase with coaches and their needs a major positive. He did not pull into Halas Hall with an agenda and telling coaches what they needed.

And We used our college scouts expertise to work with us on unrestricted free agents, Emery said.

But now...

Emery is generally credited with a significant improvement from the Kansas City Chiefs draft of 2009 before he arrived and those of 2010 and 2011.

He already has put himself and the Bears in apparent better position than the Chiefs were. General manager Scott Pioli arrived in January 2009 but was slow to trust and ran that draft with a skeleton staff. Sources said he was rumored to have simply thrown scouts reports away and gone his own way and Emery was there for 2010.

Emery, as he has done in free agency, has avoided slipping backwards with staff or personnel losses. He worked with many of the scouts when he was with the Bears from 1998-2004; he will not be emulating Piolis first draft year in that area.

Emery, with his own credentials in college scouting, kept the Chicago college-evaluation staff in place. He also undertook a comprehensive program of synchronizing language, standards, expectations and virtually every other aspect of talent appraisal. He had the college scouts evaluate pro tape.

The objective was to ensure that the grading system and descriptions were matched in minds and the Bears system So that I could have a common understanding of where that grade was with the player, Emery said.

We put our coaches through the same process. We met with both groups and formulated the groups of players we had targeted. After the combine, we came back and met for 10 days and went through 400 college prospects.

Now the urgency is taking the steps forward that didnt happen with the Jarron Gilberts, Dan Bazuins, Juaquin Iglesiases and more.

Even though the contracts are small, it has always been the harder side of the personnel job.

Watching players as pros is an easier process because the level of the playing field, Emery said. Whereas in college you have a wide variety of talent prospects are playing against.

Matt Nagy is winning over his players by being himself

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USA Today Sports Images

Matt Nagy is winning over his players by being himself

Despite losing 34 of his 48 games as the Bears’ head coach, John Fox’s players generally liked him and were disappointed to see him fired on New Year’s Day. That’s not to say they were blindsided by it — losing leads to people losing their jobs, even if the culture at Halas Hall had changed for the better following the disastrous end of the Marc Trestman-Phil Emery era. 

It was with that backdrop that Matt Nagy was offered and accepted the position of Bears head coach a week after Fox’s firing. Four and a half months later, Nagy has seemingly made a strong first impression on his new team, with one reason standing out among many: He’s genuine in who he is and what he does.

“I would say Nagy can be stern, and he can be playful also,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “I think when you’re a first-year coach, you want to win (over) your guys, and you want to be firm, and he’s doing that. You can’t really tell he’s a rookie coach or whatever. I feel like he was born for this, and he’s doing a great job.”

Granted, no player is going to publicly blast their new boss — especially not before he’s even coached a game yet. But veteran players also aren’t oblivious to who can and cannot work out as a head coach, and there haven’t been any “damning with faint praise” types of comments that were more common five years ago at the beginning of the Trestman era.

Will this win Nagy any games come September? No. But consider this sort of like team chemistry: It won't win a team anything, but if a team doesn't have it, it can be costly. 

“He’s a cool coach, man,” linebacker Danny Trevathan — who played for Fox in both Denver and Chicago — said. “He’s always giving us little details and smiling but we know he’s a hard worker just like we are. He’s up there working just like we are. He’s always putting us in the right position and he takes care of us. On the back end, where I come from, you take care of coaches like that. You go out and make plays for those coaches.”

From an observational standpoint, Nagy comes across as genuinely excited not just to be a head coach, but the head coach of the Bears. Players respect that approach — he's not coming in acting like a hired gun, and he's shown through these OTAs and practices that he cares about them, even if they haven't spent much time together yet. And he's also not strutting into Halas Hall every day with an over-inflated ego based on his promotion. That resonates, too. 

“I like the way he came in,” Trevathan said. “He came in humble but he was hungry. He came anxious, moving around in the meetings. I like that. That gets me fired up. I feel like we’ve got a good leader up here in the head coach.”

Anthony Miller sports Bears uniform at NFLPA Rookie Premiere

Anthony Miller sports Bears uniform at NFLPA Rookie Premiere

Anthony Miller has quickly become a fan favorite on social media. He has the confidence and swagger found in most top wide receivers and it comes through on his Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Miller was one of 40 players in attendance at the 2018 NFLPA Rookie Premiere where he not only learned about the business and marketing side of football, but also suited up in his Bears gameday uniform for the first time. Of course, he shared the moment on Twitter:

Panini America, a sports collectible company, snapped a picture of Miller with fellow rookie receiver Calvin Ridley (Falcons) and quarterback Mason Rudolph (Steelers):

Miller has become something of a standout for the Bears despite not playing a single snap. He's expected to have a big role in an offense that has several new pieces and roles that are up for grabs.

Miller will compete with former first-round pick Kevin White and free-agent addition Taylor Gabriel for reps opposite Allen Robinson. Miller has the necessary skill set to play as both an outside receiver and in the slot which should give him an even greater opportunity to be on the field quite a bit.

The Bears first three draft picks are all vying for starting jobs in 2018. Roquan Smith (first round) is a lock to start next to Danny Trevathan and James Daniels (second round) will start at guard. Miller should make it three-for-three in a draft class that could end up the best of Ryan Pace's tenure.