Danny Trevathan

Postcard from Camp: The tests begin in earnest for Roquan Smith

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Postcard from Camp: The tests begin in earnest for Roquan Smith

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Bears aren’t sure when Roquan Smith will make his preseason debut, but anecdotally the eighth overall pick didn’t look overly rusty or anything along those lines during Wednesday’s joint practice with the Denver Broncos at the UCHealth Training Center. 

Surely Smith and his coaches will pick apart some things he did on Wednesday when they watch the film. But Wednesday was Smith’s first padded practice since prior to the College Football Playoff title game, and more than anything, he came away feeling positively about where he stands following his four-week contract holdout. 

“I felt great,” Smith said. “That's the way football is played. That's why I've made my plays in pads. It was great just being back out in pads and getting after it and doing a little poppin’.”

Smith did relay the defensive calls to his teammates and set the front during team drills, though he characterized those responsibilities as “basic linebacker stuff.” Mentally, though, Smith felt sharp and well-prepared for the responsibilities he did have on Wednesday. 

“I remember a lot of the defense,” Smith said. “I had my tablet when I was back in Georgia so I was watching a lot of film and stuff like that. It's not like it's my first time seeing some of the defensive calls.”

From a bigger picture, Wednesday was another step toward Smith winning a starting job. He's win it at some point; that’s why the Bears drafted him eighth overall. 

But how quick he’ll win that job is a legitimate question. Bears coaches need to evaluate what Smith did on Wednesday and have an honest conversation with him about how he feels before determining if they can put more on his plate for Thursday’s practice. This very much is a narrow, daily process. 

Smith could get the nod Week 1, or it could be later than that, depending on how his viewed in comparison to Nick Kwiatkoski. Coach Matt Nagy feels like he, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and inside linebackers coach Glenn Pires have enough time — just barely — to evaluate Smith’s readiness for the Green Bay game. While he may not play in Saturday’s game in Denver, Nagy said he does believe having Smith only participate in one game — which would be next Saturday against the Kansas City Chiefs — would be enough to have him ready for the trip to Green Bay. 

“Just knowing who Roquan is and the way he handles his business, you guys all know who he is and how he works,” Nagy said. “He knows it’s going to be a challenge. … We’re right at that line, in my opinion, so we’ll test it out and we’ll see here in the next couple days slash weeks where he’s at.”

High Praise in Denver

A reporter made the observation to Nagy that Mitch Trubisky seemed to be taking a lot of deep shots in Wednesday’s practice. Nagy’s response might as well be the preseason slogan for his team:

“Yeah, that's never going to stop,” Nagy said. “Not in this offense.”

Wide receiver Taylor Gabriel, who missed practice with a foot injury, caught wind of that quote and excitedly responded on Twitter:

As was been the case in Bourbonnais, the Bears and Trubisky remained as aggressive as ever during Wednesday’s practice even with another team’s players lining up across from them. That collective — Nagy, Mark Helfrich, Dave Ragone, Trubisky, Chase Daniel and Tyler Bray — are still figuring out what this offense can and cannot do with No. 10 as its quarterback. 

How that aggressiveness plays out during next week’s practices leading up to the Kansas City game — for which coaches will put together a true gameplan — will provide a bit of a clue to how this offense will actually operate during the regular season. 

For what it’s worth, Trubisky and the Bears’ offense left an impression on one of the best defensive players in the league on Wednesday. 

“I think the offensive scheme and the players he has around him, he’d be great,” Broncos edge rusher Von Miller said. “He was great last year. He was great in college as well. He’s their franchise quarterback. … He can do a little bit of everything, so you gotta be prepared.”

Calling Trubisky’s 2017 “great” is a stretch, but for what it’s worth, Miller has had to face the Andy Reid version of Nagy’s scheme the last few years, so he may not have been entirely dropping an empty platitude in there.  

More Miller Time

One of the more enjoyable portions of Wednesday's practice was watching the pass-rush drills of the Bears' offensive line against the Broncos' defensive line/edge rushes, and the Broncos' offensive line against the Bears' defensive line/edge rushers. For two teams that've done nothing but hit each other for the last few weeks, this drill had plenty of juice to it. 

For the Bears' pass rushers, it was an opportunity to face an offensive line that had different snap counts and sets, explained outside linebacker Leonard Floyd. Floyd said he was eager to go back and watch the film to see how he did and pick up some tendencies for Thursday's drills. 

On the other field, we got to see Miller and rookie Bradley Chubb rush a few times against the Bears' offensive line, which provided an excellent test for that group. And Miller offered some more praise and an optimistic outlook for the guys he went against, starting with left tackle Charles Leno. 

"He’s been a consistent left tackle for a long time, it doesn’t matter who he plays against," Miller said. "In a great division with a lot of great pass rushers, he’s solid week in and week out. Bobby Massie is solid as well, Kyle Long is solid as well. They’ve got a great offensive line and a great young quarterback. They should be pretty good this year.”

Sick Bay

Gabriel (foot), cornerback Prince Amukamara (groin), tight end Dion Sims (concussion) and outside linebacker Aaron Lynch (hamstring) notably missed practice. Lynch has been injured since the first practice of training camp, and Nagy admitted on Sunday he had some setbacks but is “back on track and he’ll be ready to go.” 

Quote of the Day

Danny Trevathan returned to Denver for the first time since celebrating his Super Bowl 50 win, and offered this when asked of his favorite memories of playing on the practice fields here:

"Picking off Peyton (Manning)," Trevathan said with a massive grin. "Getting my name yelled out a couple times, who is this guy, who's 59, get him off the field. But just creating memories you know? Getting on Peyton's nerves ... seeing Peyton start practice over, seeing DeMarcus (Ware) and Peyton talking up close one on one, just little stuff like that you remember. Guys working hard to get to a common goal."

Danny Trevathan on Roquan Smith: 'He's got some catching up to do'

Danny Trevathan on Roquan Smith: 'He's got some catching up to do'

Danny Trevathan has battled injuries during his first two seasons as a Chicago Bear, starting only 20 of a possible 32 games since 2016. In fact, Trevathan has only two seasons in his six-year career that he's suited up for all 16 games.

That's why it's concerning when the veteran leader is sidelined so early in training camp with a hamstring injury, one he was able to return from on Monday.

"I'm happy it happened early as it did," Trevathan told reporters after practice. "Now I'm just working my way in and trying to get better.

"I feel like I'm always ready, but you know you have to be smart with it and they're [Bears trainers] doing right the right thing around here. It's going to help me throughout the whole season."

Trevathan is expected to be part of a dominant inside linebacker duo with first-round pick Roquan Smith, who missed another practice Monday due to his contract dispute.

"He's missing out," Trevathan said of Smith's absence. "But he's a smart player and he'll come back in and I'll help him get caught up."

The holdup in Smith's contract negotiation centers around the NFL's new tackling rule, one that allows the league to suspend players who initiate contact with their helmet. Obviously, the rule has a much greater chance of impacting a linebacker like Smith, and if he gets suspended at any point during the length of his contract, the Bears could attack his guaranteed money.

Trevathan's hit against Davante Adams last season is the kind of play the NFL wants to avoid in 2018.

"I understand the rule," Trevathan said when asked about the new tackling policy. "I was an example of the rule.

"They [NFL] made it real clear of what they want and I'm gonna do my part as a player. We gotta do what the league wants us to do right now or that's money out of our pockets."

Trevathan said he's confident Smith and his agents will find common ground with Ryan Pace and the Bears soon, especially after the organization fought for him last year during his suspension.

"I'm sure him and his agent will work that out. Ryan Pace and them, they were on my side about the hit against Green Bay, so I'm sure they will work it out. It's just about details within the contract.

"I was happy that they were on my side. They know what type of player I am. I'm just trying to make a play. Just to have them on my side goes to show this organization was trying to fight for me."

Still, time is of the essence for Smith if he's to make an impact early in the season. Trevathan said the Bears are hungry to be the NFL's top defense in 2018 and in order to get there, Smith has to be on the field.

"There's a lot of stuff you can't get unless you're out there on that field working with the guys next to you and communicating with the person that's going to be in with you.

"He's got some catching up to do but we'll get him caught up to date. It's no problem."

Lynch, Trevathan still sidelined at Bears camp

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USA Today

Lynch, Trevathan still sidelined at Bears camp

The Chicago Bears fielded a top-10 defense in 2017 and expectations for 2018 may be even higher for a unit that is returning almost all of its key starters.

One of the few offseason additions on defense was outside linebacker Aaron Lynch, who defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has familiarity with during his time in San Francisco and who he hopes will emerge as a pass-rushing complement to Leonard Floyd.

Unfortunately, the Bears have yet to see what that pairing looks like during training camp. Lynch remains sidelined with a bum hamstring. He, along with Danny Trevathan, who's also battling a hamstring issue, missed Monday's practice.

Other Bears to sit out include rookie LB Joel Iyiegbuniwe, LB Kasim Edeball, TE Ben Braunecker and rookie CB Kevin Toliver.

Chicago's linebackers have been beaten up by injuries so far in camp, something that may have contributed to the release of undrafted rookie OL Jeremi Hall. It's unlikely the Bears will keep that roster spot open and they could look to add another linebacker to the training camp roster.

Kyle Long and Allen Robinson were given scheduled rest/maintenance days. Both key starters are recovering from injury and will continue to be monitored throughout the summer.