Bears

Mullin: O-line depth, Urlacher back at Halas

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Mullin: O-line depth, Urlacher back at Halas

Thursday, Sept. 15, 2011
Posted: 9:32 a.m. Updated: 11:11 a.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com Bears Insider Follow @CSNMoonMullin
For reasons very much apart from football, it was good to learn a little while ago that Brian Urlacher is at Halas Hall Thursday morning. Sometimes work is indeed a good place to get away from personal hardship for a while, and it is never easy to lose your mother at any age. Hopefully this is a sign that hes among good friends and is in a place where he can go about his life even bearing the grief of the moment.

Talkin' Bears

Did the Bears overspend for Chris Spencer (at 3 million per for two years) if he isnt good enough to start over Edwin Williams at right guard with Lance Louis hobbled on a right-ankle injury? Why is it that Drew Brees has done worse against the Bears all three times hes faced them than against the rest of the NFL?

These are the kinds of things that Danny Mac and Spiegs and I chat about Thursdays at 10 a.m. on WSCR-AM 670 on The McNeil and Spiegel Show.

The reality with Spencer is that I never look too hard at the money because it isnt strictly a measure of the player; its perhaps more a measure of the market. The Bears thought they needed a center and other teams were flirting with Spencer, who also happens to have been a first-round pick of Bears personnel guy Tim Ruskells back when he was running the Seattle Seahawks.

Either way, and the bigger picture here, is that the Bears have quality depth in a league where thats extremely difficult (and expensive) to get. Williams started last year when Louis went down, was nicked up a bit and the Bears went other directions by moving Chris Williams to guard. All things being equal between Spencer and Williams, a thought here is that Spencer gives the Bears backup at both guard and center. Thatll all work its way out this week.

A more intriguing thought is whether the Bears defense can continue to throttle Brees, and why it has done that in the past. A huge plus from the Atlanta win was the debut of Henry Melton as the starting under-tackle. If the Bears get pressure in the middle the way they did from Tommie Harris, heres what happens:

The Cover-2 of Lovie SmithRod Marinelli has pressure in the quarterbacks face. The Smith scheme thrives on quarterbacks becoming impatient and forcing things downfield against a defense set up to prevent deep damage. Brees wont have No. 1 target Marques Colston (broken collarbone); if he becomes impatient against this defense, hell have a fourth loss to Lovie Smiths Bears.

Which is what I gave Mac and Spiegs, a prediction of a three-point Bears win. Well see.

Do the right thing

Kudos to quarterback Jay Cutler for the London trip package for the Tampa Bay game that his foundation is giving away, plus tix to the Carolina Panthers game. Go to jaycutlersix.com and register.

Working through grief

Expect Brian Urlacher to play Sunday in New Orleans against the Saints. Nothing is official by any means until the middle linebacker says hes in (hopefully some of the reports are more accurate and restrained than the Chester-Taylor-is-released business), but various indications are that hell be in New Orleans.

Teammates privately said Wednesday that theyd be surprised if Lach (as they call him) isnt there, as much for personal therapy as football, and Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune tweeted to that effect as well on @BradBiggs.

Personally, seeing him play really would be a positive, and that has absolutely nothing to do with football. His presence is clearly pivotal but dont look for a lot of breathless coverage of this whole thing; when Urlacher is ready to talk about it or his playing, he or Lovie Smith will talk about it.

Bear guy, sort of

Was Sean Payton involved in doing damage to the 85 Bears? Indirectly, probably yes.

Payton played his college football at Eastern Illinois, the program that gave the NFL and the Dallas Cowboys Tony Romo. And he also was one of the Spare Bears in 1987 during the labor impasse that caused the NFL to establish alternate squads which played three games.

When Mike Ditka, sticking up for the alternatesscabsfill-ins(your term here) declared that the real Bears will be the ones wearing uniforms Sunday, he lost the Mike Singletarys, Dan Hamptons and others. The Bears played well after that, even to the 1988 NFC Championship game, but more than a few players said it was never the same between Ditka, who preached loyalty, and the players who felt they didnt get any.

Amen to that

Kicker Robbie Gould ought to be making laws. RG tweeted on @RobbieGould09 this morning that Putting makeup on in a car should have the same consequences as cell phones."

Yup.
Amen to that II Chris Harris on @ChrisHarrisNFL Dear Summer, I really miss you!!!! Its 40 degrees this morning.

Talking football

Ill be getting in the weekly visit with The McNeil and Spiegel Show on WSCR-AM 670 at 10 a.m. Thursday, then hook up with Mike Florio on ProFootballTalk Live at around 11.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

What will Matt Nagy's passing offense look like with the Bears?

What will Matt Nagy's passing offense look like with the Bears?

First of two parts.

Looking ahead to training camp and what everyone will be looking at – it will help to have even a cursory idea of the offensive elements that coach Matt Nagy is incorporating, particularly in the passing game — because the when, where and how the Bears will be throwing the football is changing. NBC Sports Chicago focuses on a selection of specifics and their origins within that part of the offense that fans will notice, first in Bourbonnais and then in the 2018 season.

Bears coach Matt Nagy and offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich have initiated a monumental makeover of the Bears’ offense, some effects of which should be evident sooner rather than later, if for no other reason than the quarterback and receiver group project to be noticeably better than the tools at the disposal of John Fox and Dowell Loggains.

But the changes run deeper than personnel.

“We’re going to continue to do some of the things that we did in Kansas City,” Nagy said not long after his hiring, “but we’re also going to grow. We’re going to create our own identity.”

Nothing should suggest that the 2018 Bears will ascend to the Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive heights (multiple top-10 statistical rankings, including points (No. 6) and yards (No. 5) per game) in the short term. However, if it takes five years for the Bears to reach those levels, as it did for the Chiefs to do so under Andy Reid, the prospects of Nagy and GM Ryan Pace still being around to see it are problematic. Meaning: Changes will be noticeable immediately.

The complexities of the Nagy/Helfrich iteration of the time-honored West Coast offense are too much to chronicle in one analysis, and they won’t be immediately apparent to the naked eye. For one thing, if civilians could pick it up that easily, it wouldn’t have survived the decades of distinguished defensive coordinators assailing it. Also, if it were that simple, Mitch Trubisky wouldn’t have needed to work as hard at it as he has for some months now. A prime directive in all of this is precisely that the offense is NOT easy to figure out.

For another reason, regardless of how many years he apprenticed under Reid in Philadelphia and Kansas City, Nagy’s offense will be uniquely his, not merely a Reid clone. Reid did not simply run the Bill Walsh playbook; he authored his own edition. Similarly, not all of the clues to the Nagy offense can be found looking at 2017 Chiefs film. Nagy brings a different and expanded offensive scheme to the Bears, with Helfrich in a complementary role.

But the past is often prologue. Nagy’s NFL experience has all been within the parameters of Reid’s framework, and Helfrich has never coached against an NFL defense. So a reasonable expectation is that Nagy and Helfrich build out from a Reid foundation, but customizing it with personal preferences and with an eye toward molding it to the collective skillset of Trubisky and the rest of the offensive components.

To gain a preliminary, superficial understanding of what Nagy’s offense is about, look to Nagy’s past, the West Coast roots that Nagy incorporates in his work.

With his own modifications. As in:

“I think if you compare the old-school West Coast offense, where the three-step [dropback-passing] game was the extension of the run, and they’re looking for the yards after the catch, the ‘YAC’ yards,” Nagy said, “now you look at our offense which is more of the RPO [run-pass-option] stuff. You’re sort of getting the same thing, but now you’re mixing in run and pass on the same play.”

The Walsh influences

At its core, the West Coast offense uses the pass to set up the run, and uses the pass as a device for ball control – something of a departure from recent Bears offenses, although Marc Trestman based much of his scheme around that premise.

Actually the West Coast offense is misnamed and should’ve gone into NFL lore as the “Ohio River offense,” or something reflective of the fact that Bill Walsh formulated many of the concepts while an assistant with the expansion Cincinnati Bengals 50 years ago. Walsh came from the vertical passing game espoused by the Oakland Raiders, his first NFL employer, but was forced in Cincinnati to adapt to the arm limitations of Virgil Carter, who stepped in as starter when strong-armed Greg Cook suffered what was effectively a career-ending arm injury. Walsh exploited the defense horizontally, not simply vertically.

With Trubisky, Nagy won’t be constrained by arm limitations. Trubisky has the deep arm and has speed with Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and Kevin White.

But like any coach or assistant, Walsh wanted ball control but approached it through the pass, not the run, as explained in his “Controlling the ball with the pass” written in 1979. “To do that.” Walsh wrote, “we have to have versatility – versatility in the action and types of passes thrown by the quarterback.” Nagy subscribes to the notion of ball control using the pass, not solely the run.

Walsh espoused three passing concepts:

• drop-back passes, typically with short drops and quick releases;

• play-action passes, which in Nagy’s scheme can take the form of run-pass-option plays besides the conventional fake handoff on the way to a drop-back;

• and what Walsh termed the “action pass” where the quarterback moves outside to negate a rush, change the trajectory of a throw or shorten the throw to a targeted receiver.

Ex-quarterback Nagy has a full grasp of and appreciation for all three, particularly the action pass, and it begins with his own awareness of history. Within even a brief conversation about his offensive tenets, Nagy brings up one of the great plays in NFL history, one Walsh built into the San Francisco 49ers scheme, one that may have looked like a broken play, but was anything but.

“’The Catch’” was a movement play, ‘Q-8,’” Nagy said, recalling the Joe Montana pass to the late Dwight Clark against the Dallas Cowboys to win the 1981 NFC Championship game. “Montana sprinted out. That’s an old-school West Coast play, and we have that play. That’s a movement play. We do have movements; we don’t live in that world but we want to have that.”

Next: The misunderstood centerpiece position of West Coast offenses, and how all things “timing” are changing.

 

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."