Apparently you can teach old 4-3 defensive ends new tricks.
Lamarr Houston and Willie Young started as the outside linebackers and had a measure of impact against what were the Cleveland reserves. Houston forced a first-half fumble that was turned into the lone Bears touchdown of the first half, and was credited with three solo tackles, one for a loss.
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Houston has played, successfully in a 3-4 scheme as a member of the Oakland Raiders. Young, however, is playing in a stand-up stance for the first time in his career and possibly playing himself off a bubble and onto the roster. On top of that, he is coming back from a season-ending Achilles tear that idled him for most of the offseason prior to training camp.
But “there’s probably more crossover [at defensive end] than people think, whether you’re talking about Jared Allen or Willie,” said coach John Fox. “The game is played probably 70 percent of the snaps in nickel anyway, so it’s really a four-down front.
“He’s an explosive guy from what we saw from tape last year. Just getting him back confident and how that feels to push off from and explode off of is just normal for any player coming off an injury. I’ve been pleased with what we’ve seen.”
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Young had two solo stops plus a sack and a quarterback hit.
“It’s always fun when you can go out there and take snaps,” said Young, making his way back from a season-ending Achilles tear. “It’s been a long road for me thjis year but now I’m back up and running… . However you want to grade me, you can do that.”
The news surrounding Chicago Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson has been nothing but positive as the team kicks off training camp on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais.
First came coach Matt Nagy, who said Robinson is physically and mentally ready to go after the receiver's recovery from a torn ACL last September. Then it was quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who said Robinson is getting back to his playmaking form.
"He got healthy and he's starting to look like the old Allen Robinson," Trubisky said Thursday. "He has great hands, we know he will go up and get it.
"He can be a really special player for us."
Trubisky described Robinson's traits, ranging from his ability to create separation to his knack for the acrobatic catch, with giddy excitement. In fact, Trubisky used the word 'excited' several times when discussing the Bears upcoming season.
Chicago kicks off training camp practices on Friday, with the first padded session slated for July 21. Robinson will finally have a chance, on the field, to turn excitement and anticipation to performance and production.
The Chicago Bears won the offseason. At least, that's what the national opinion seems to suggest.
General manager Ryan Pace may not have read all the news clippings, but he offered his thoughts on the job he and the front office accomplished since January 1.
"It's been aggressive, a lot of work has been done, very exciting and energizing," he said at Bears training camp from the campus of Olivet Nazarene University Thursday. "There's a lot of new pieces and it's really neat to see the assets come together."
Pace and his team certainly did do a lot of work. The Bears made headlines in free agency with the signings of Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Trey Burton, three players expected to provide a huge boost to the Bears' passing game.
In addition to what he did on offense, Pace exercised his option with the transition tag placed on Kyle Fuller and matched the Packers' offer for the ascending cornerback. It was a big-money deal that showed players in the locker room he's willing to reward hard work and effort. It also showed the fans that he wasn't going to let the Packers steal a homegrown talent.
It didn't stop there. Pace strengthened the defense even more with the selection of linebacker Roquan Smith in the first round of April's NFL Draft and gave the offense yet another weapon in the second round when he traded up to select Anthony Miller, a receiver who could challenge for a starting job as a rookie.
Yeah, it's been an aggressive few months.
And let's not forget the biggest change of all: Matt Nagy.
Pace's tenure as Chicago's GM will likely be defined by the last few months. He invested in his hand-picked quarterback and made his first "real" coaching hire after a few years of experience on the job. He'll sink or swim with those two decisions. He knows it, and he went all-in this offseason.