Matt Nagy

As Bears report for offseason program, how will Matt Nagy handle change at Halas Hall?

As Bears report for offseason program, how will Matt Nagy handle change at Halas Hall?

Fourteen weeks after cleaning out their lockers following their brutal playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, Bears players will return to Halas Hall on Monday for the beginning of the team’s offseason program. Coach Matt Nagy said he expects full participation from players in the coming weeks, which will culminate in three rounds of OTAs in late May and early June as well as a veteran minicamp June 11-13. 

Plenty has changed since Cody Parkey’s double-doink dumped the NFC North champions out of the playoffs sooner than anyone in Lake Forest expected. For starters: Players can finally enjoy the amenities provided to them by the renovation of Halas Hall, including a new locker room, weight room and various other state-of-the-art accoutrements after a year of being “inconvenienced” by construction, as Bears chairman George McCaskey put it. 

“It will be as good as any facility in the league,” McCaskey said last month at the NFL annual meeting. “And that’s what we want. We want our guys to have the best facilities because we want them to have peak performance. One way to do that is have the best facilities possible.”

Or, as Ryan Pace — whose fingerprints were all over the renovation plans — said: “When you walk in there, it’s a game-changer. … It’s going to maximize our players. I think it’s going to be a situation where they don’t want to leave.”

It’s not just the facility that’ll be different, of course. While, largely, the Bears’ division-winning core is back in 2019, there have been a few changes. Gone are key defensive pieces in Adrian Amos and Bryce Callahan, while Jordan Howard was shipped to the Eagles. Well-respected locker room presences and depth pieces in Benny Cunningham, Josh Bellamy and Sam Acho aren’t back. Parkey, of course, won’t be around, while three kickers without NFL experience (Redford Jones, Chris Blewitt and Elliott Fry) will be. 

Prominent new additions Cordarrelle Patterson, Mike Davis, Buster Skrine and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix will have to acclimate to their new surroundings and assimilate into a locker room with a strong established culture. More importantly: A new defensive coaching staff, save for defensive line coach Jay Rodgers, will begin implementing and installing Chuck Pagano’s system into a group that was the league’s best defense in 2018. 

But the perhaps the biggest challenge for Matt Nagy and the Bears in the coming weeks will be setting the tone for a team that accomplished so much in 2018, only to fall painfully far from their ultimate goal. 

“Within our Halas Hall, our players are going to realize and they're going to feel it from our staff and from myself that last year is gone,” Nagy said. “It was the same thing for us last year, I told them I don't care anything about what happened in 2017. I don't care, this is a new year. So, when I stand out there and I hold the trophy and I tell you, this is why we're here, you've got to believe it. Not sure that everybody believed it at the beginning of the season last year. Now when we get in there April 15th, every one of those guys in that building is going to believe it.”

The Bears’ belief in winning a Super Bowl will be the undercurrent to everything that goes on at Halas Hall between now and the end of veteran minicamp in mid-June. As Nagy said, that belief didn’t exist a year ago, when so many players in the building had only experienced losing in Chicago. 

Nagy, too, said he told players in their exit interviews after last season that they’d be returning to a team that’s now “the hunted” in the NFL. Expectations can be a burden, but if everybody in Halas Hall has a genuine belief those expectations can be met, they don’t have to be a burden. 

“Now we go into our first meeting April 15, 90 percent of our players now know how we work as a staff,” Nagy said. “They know what I’m saying. Now I need to connect the dots with these guys in having them realize that this is no longer 2018. This is 2019 and we gotta start all over again and how do I do that and we have good people and good players on the team, good coaches. Again, trust. Trust the process. Trust where we’re at and know there’s a lot of hard work ahead of us.”

Vegas predicts Bears take slight step back in 2019 win total

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USA TODAY

Vegas predicts Bears take slight step back in 2019 win total

Apparently, it’s never too early to start betting on the NFL.

Las Vegas sportsbook operator CG Technology unveiled their win total predictions for all 32 teams next season, and they see a tougher road ahead for the Bears in 2019.

The over/under on next season for Chicago is 9.5 wins, tied for the sixth-highest in the league.

Vegas has the Bears a half game ahead of the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings at the top of the division (nine wins each), while the Detroit Lions bring up the rear at seven wins.

Last year, Mitchell Trubisky and company opened up with a 6.5 win total, which increased to 7.5 before the season started because the Bears traded for some guy named Mack.

After winning the NFC North with a 12-4 record, their win total prediction was sure to improve, but Vegas doesn’t quite see them having the same breakout year in Matt Nagy’s second season.

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Bears notes: Are James Daniels, Cody Whitehair headed for a position swap?

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USA Today

Bears notes: Are James Daniels, Cody Whitehair headed for a position swap?

PHOENIX — Matt Nagy hinted Tuesday the Bears could have James Daniels and Cody Whitehair swap positions on the interior of their offensive line, moving Daniels to center and Whitehair to left guard. 

It was a noticeable change in tone from Nagy about where both those players may best fit on the offensive line. In the days and weeks after the Bears drafted Daniels in the second round of 2018’s NFL Draft, Nagy was adamant Whitehair would stay at center despite Daniels starring at that position while in college at Iowa. Whitehair, while being a steady presence at center for the last three seasons, began his pro career as a guard before a last-minute switch to center after the Bears signed Josh Sitton a few days before the 2016 season began. 

“We’re kind of in the middle of that right now looking at how they played at those particular positions — not just those two, but everybody,” Nagy said. “And so we’re going to stay open to that and if we feel like it’s going to be better to switch somebody we’ll do that, and if we don’t then we’ll stick with where we’re at.”

If the Bears do execute that switch, it would represent the only change to their starting offensive line from 2018. All five regular starters are returning this year, with Daniels and Whitehair being joined by tackles Charles Leno and Bobby Massie and guard Kyle Long. 

Harry Hiestand’s group was one of the league’s best pass-protecting offensive lines, though the Bears frequently struggled to run the ball with any consistent success. Perhaps swapping Daniels and Whitehair could be a way to help generate improvements on the ground. 

Organized Team Attendance 

Nagy said the Bears expect all their players to show up for the team's offseason program, which begins April 15, and into OTAs in May. Only one player — wide receiver Anthony Miller (shoulder) — who expected to participate in the voluntary shorts-and-helmets practices of OTAs. 

Nagy cited that 100 percent attendance as another sign of the strong culture permeating Halas Hall. 

“They’ll be there,” Nagy said. “Again, that’s who we are. I’m not worried about one guy not showing up.”

Comp Pick USA

The Bears haven’t been awarded a compensatory draft pick — given to teams who, essentially, lose more important players than they sign in free agency — since 2009, but that could change in 2020 with Adrian Amos and Bryce Callahan landing sizable contracts with the Green Bay Packers and Denver Broncos, respectively. 

Part of the Bears’ comp pick drought has been because of an aggressive approach to free agency. The team could’ve, perhaps, received a 2018 comp pick after losing Alshon Jeffery to free agency in 2017, but instead signed Mike Glennon, Prince Amukamara, Markus Wheaton, Dion Sims, Quintin Demps and Kendall Wright, among others. 

The other issue has been, simply, the Bears haven’t had many good players recently. And when their own good players did become free agents, the team’s roster wasn’t healthy enough to let them sign elsewhere, nor was their cap maxed out to prevent them from being brought back. 

That changed in 2018, and the departures of Amos and Callahan, as well as guys like Josh Bellamy, Kevin White, Eric Kush and Bryan Witzmann signing elsewhere, could help trigger an end to that comp pick drought. OverTheCap estimates the Bears could receive fourth- and fifth-round picks for Amos and Callahan, though Pace cautioned that the formula to determine the awarding of those picks is complicated and subject to change. 

Still, as the Bears move forward, the top of their roster — Mitch Trubisky, Eddie Jackson, etc. — will get more expensive. And staying competitive while allocating a significant amount of cap space to a few players is massively helped by drafting well. Adding a few comp picks in the future will give the Bears more spins of the wheel as they look to add cheap, productive talent to their roster. 

“We kind of knew going into free agency that was a possibility,” Pace said. “Now there’s things that take place and they’re even talking about tweaking some of the — the equation’s complicated enough. One of the things I think is those guys have to be on those teams for 10-plus games, for example, so you’re never really set until the season unfolds. 

“But it’s something we’re mindful of. I think a lot of the good clubs, you see the Rams doing it, they figure out a way to take advantage of that system and for us the key is to continue to draft well and we’ll be in a position for these compensatory picks.” 

London Calling

While Nagy said he hasn’t made any decisions yet on the Bears’ travel plans for their game in London against the Oakland Raiders, it sounded like he’s leaning toward having his team have a shorter across the Atlantic Ocean. Nagy cited the Kansas City Chiefs’ trip to London in 2015 — when he was the team’s quarterbacks coach — for which the team left the United States for England on Thursday, held a practice Friday and played the game Sunday. 

Other teams have opted to leave earlier and hold more practices in England. It’s worth noting that Doug Pederson — the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator in 2015 — had the Philadelphia Eagles fly to England the Thursday before their Sunday game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium in 2018. 

Nagy said he wants to allow his players some time to soak in London, but that certainly won’t be the primary goal of the trip. 

“It'll be 90 percent football and just a sprinkle (of other activities),” Nagy said. “We're over there on a business trip, that's why we're there. But at the same time it's great culture for the guys to see and be a part of and some guys have never been over there. That's a part of life. If you can balance it and make sure you do it the right way, I'm good with that.”

Lastly, the best thing we saw this week...

… By far was Andy Reid’s Bitmoji, which Nagy shared with a group of Chicago-based media during the league’s coaches breakfast Tuesday morning. Specifically, the Bitmojis we saw were of Reid's character in a Tommy Bahama Hawaiian shirt and him chowing down on a sizable stack of pancakes. 

Nagy, too, has a Bitmoji, and lamented the social media platform not having a visor option to put on his avatar, which looks like this: