Bears

Takeaways from Bears' rookie minicamp: Speed has been evident

Takeaways from Bears' rookie minicamp: Speed has been evident

Minicamps, particularly rookie ones, can be dismissed as NFL hopefuls just trying to run around in shorts trying to impress coaches enough to advance to the next minicamp, and then to OTA’s, and then to training camp, and so on. Linemen in particular aren’t allowed to hit each other and direct competitions are limited, which hampers a team like the Bears that has made “competition” a mantra this offseason.

So the chances of forming meaningful impressions from sessions like the Bears’ three-day rookie minicamp this weekend are minimal.

Or are they?

No, Leonard Floyd will not flash full pass-rush moves the Bears expect from a No. 9 overal pick. No, second-rounder Cody Whitehair will not show any mauling abilities at guard, certainly not against fellow rookie defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard.

But what has impressed coaches both publicly and privately has been one of the missing elements in the 2015 Bears, particularly on defense, one that in fact can be evaluated meaningfully now:

Speed.

That speed has been evident among the rookies, both drafted and undrafted, and that was a focus in the player acquisitions over the past month, beginning with Floyd.

“We wanted speed,” said defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. “Our team speed up front last year was below average. To add somebody with some speed as part of [Floyd’s] ‘toolbox’ is something we were intrigued by.”

Obviously more is involved in “speed” than simple times in the “40.” Getting off NFL blocks is a first step in functional speed for front-seven player; getting into those blocks involves meaningful speed for offensive linemen.

But coaches, who can differentiate between camp speed and functional speed, have been struck by the infusion of speed that has come in with the draft picks and others — diminutive receivers Daniel Braverman (seventh rounder) and Kieren Duncan (UDFA) have run 4.4’s and even 4.3’s in 40-yard dashes — and that theme of increasing team speed has been evident.

Most notably, that speed has appeared in the front-seven on defense, where the Bears invested three of their first four draft picks. Where former GM Phil Emery spoke openly about the need to get the Bears bigger, the tilt has now been toward a faster team in addition to the always-present need for skillsets.

“The kind of guys you bring in,” said coach John Fox, “I think our scouts understood it and understood it a year ago; I was pretty pleased with all our draft picks — we’re still early in the evaluation process with this draft class — but I think there’s a theme to it that I think is important for any professional football team.”

Trubisky: 'I'd definitely like to catch some touchdowns'

Trubisky: 'I'd definitely like to catch some touchdowns'

The Chicago Bears are counting on Mitch Trubisky to have a breakout season in 2018. His rookie year was strong, but for the Bears to emerge as a playoff contender, the second-year passer must enjoy a Jared Goff-like improvement.

There's no doubting the talent Trubisky possesses in his right arm. And with a plethora of new weapons at his disposal, his production should make him appealing to fantasy football owners. But he may do more than just throw touchdowns.

"I'd definitely like to catch some touchdowns and some passes, that would be cool," Trubisky said at Halas Hall after Wednesday's OTAs. "The sky's the limit with this offense, just the creativeness that these coaches bring, there's going to be a lot of fun plays. We get the base ones down first and hopefully, we can have some fun trick plays."

Trey Burton was signed in free agency to provide a weapon for Trubisky at tight end, but he may end up throwing a few passes before the year is out. He was on the quarterback end of the famous Super Bowl LII touchdown pass (the Philly Special) to Nick Foles and spent time at quarterback as a freshman at the University of Florida.

Don't forget about Tarik Cohen, either. He attempted two passes in 2017, completing one for a touchdown (21 yards) to Zach Miller.

Trubisky is the kind of rare athlete at quarterback who an offensive coordinator can legitimately devise a few trick plays for, adding just another wrinkle in the new-era of Bears offensive football set to launch in September.

Trubisky believes Bears will stand for national anthem

Trubisky believes Bears will stand for national anthem

Mitch Trubisky met with reporters after OTAs on Wednesday and addressed the NFL owners' unanimous approval of a new national anthem policy that requires players to stand if they are on the field while it's performed. If they don't want to stand, they can remain in the locker room or teams will be subject to fines.

The Bears avoided the media firestorm around the national anthem last season. No one on the roster kneeled. Instead, teammates locked arms and Trubisky believes it will be more of the same in 2018.

"I’m just proud of how our team handled last year. It's in the past and I believe we’ll all stand on the field together this year," Trubisky told reporters at Halas Hall. "It is what it is. I think it’s all about eliminating distractions for the team and for the audience. Just represent yourself and the organization in the right manner.”

STANKEVITZ: NFL Anthem policy won’t keep Sam Acho, others from standing up for what they believe in

Trubisky is the unquestioned leader of the Bears, only one year removed from Mike Glennon's proclamation that this was his team. Now, with a new coach and elevated expectations, Trubisky must weather the off-field issues that naturally come with a leadership role.

No off-field issue is bigger than a comment by the President of the United States, which happened Thursday in response to the national anthem policy during in an interview on "Fox and Friends".

“Well, I think that’s good. I don’t think people should be staying in locker rooms. But still, I think it’s good," Trump said. "You have to stand proudly for the national anthem, or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.” 

This is an issue that isn't going away anytime soon. Fortunately, Trubisky appears ready to shoulder the heavy burden and potential strain a social issue like this can bring to a locker room.