Bears Training Camp Report 8/1/19
The Bears were "back on the grass," at Olivet Nazarene University, after their day off. The last practice I watched was on Sunday. During 7 on 7, Mitchell Trubisky looked sharp and was putting the ball right on his receivers. Allen Robinson, David Montgomery, and Javon Wims were all impressive. As soon as 11 on 11 started, the pass rush took over. The Bear's front line is legitimately a pack of dogs that can hunt the quarterback. The pass rush hindered Trubisky, but that excuse only goes so far. On some of the cleaner looks, Trubisky made some beautiful throws, and he made some questionable ones. The defense dominated the day. The offense didn't look horrible by any means, but they need to take the next step if they plan on going to the Super Bowl. Sunday's practice left me with a few concerns that I focused on today.
The good news is, the offensive line made some adjustments. Today in camp the offense competed with the defense. The pass rush was still present, but Trubisky worked from a clean pocket much more. Today Trubisky took a step in the right direction, completing a majority of his passes. In the Red Zone, Mitchell was impressive. Trubisky threaded the needle a few times and hit Javon Wims for a touchdown in the corner of the endzone. I even heard Nagy yell "good read," after Trubisky hit Gabriel for a walk-in touchdown. The offense looked better than they did on Sunday, but they still weren't great. I counted three dropped passes, and one turned into an interception. If you want to spin it, the drops were well-thrown balls by Trubisky. What is most impressive about the offense is their combinations of sill positions. They can play big(Wims, Sowell, Braunacher, Robinson, Patterson), fast (Gabriel, Cohen, M. Hall, Burton), and then their old reliable(Robinson, Miller, Gabriel, Burton, Montgomery). The way Nagy mixes up the personnel is going to confuse the opposition. It's even more convenient that a majority of players will play multiple positions. Defenses having to adjust to personnel and position switches will give Nagy more options to create mismatches.
After watching a couple of practices, it's clear the defense will not regress. You've heard it all, and I will miss Vic as much as anyone. To quote Coach Nagy, "I like what we're doing on defense." It's true, Pagano is a more aggressive coordinator, and he will send a fifth rusher more often than Fangio, but it won't be as extreme as you think. The Bears front four is ridiculous, and Pagano knows there's no reason to blitz extra guys if four are getting to the quarterback, unless the situation calls for it. In training camp I've noticed he uses more stunts like the one in the video shown below.
As you can see the outside backer(Aaron Lynch), drops into a shallow zone and the inside backer(Roquan Smith) stunts the B gap. This allows the defense to get numbers on one side of the offensive line, creating similar pressure to a five-man rush. That play call was Vic, but I've seen similar stunts in camp. Pagano has been mixing it up on the line, putting players in different spots. Offensive lineman will have to adjust protection, which can cause missed assignments, or leave someone who was supposed to be double-teamed single-blocked.
On the back end, Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara look the same, and Eddie Jackson Keeps getting better. Skrine looks like he will get the starting job over the rookie Duke Shelley. Either way, they both don't bring the same level of play that Callahan did when healthy. The safety use was what I was most interested in seeing. That is supposed to be Pagano's specialty. With Haha Clinton-Dix in the lineup, the Bears are extremely versatile. Clinton-Dix can play center field, and let Jackson play underneath. That wasn't an option with Adrian Amos. Jackson's ball-hawk abilities are misleading. Jackson and Mack are similar in a sense that, they're both so good at one thing, that the other things they do well aren't as appreciated. They are both outstanding against the run. Jackson can play a little closer to the line of scrimmage this season, most likely resulting in more forced fumbles. Jackson and Dix can be used interchangeably, and the disguises that come from it will bait opposing quarterbacks into making bad throws.
Vic Fangio brought the defense back, and for that Chicago should forever be grateful. He made the Bears defense a force, but there were times I wanted to see more risk-taking. Pagano brings that element, and I don't want to put the cart before the horse, but the Bears defense may take a step forward this season. From Sunday to today, the Bears have cleaned some things up. The offensive line looked ok, and competing against an incredible defensive front will do nothing but help prepare for the regular season. The defense isn't regressing. There are parts of the offense, and Mitchell Trubisky that look impossible to defend. It's all about consistency at this point. The offense needs to take the next step, playcalling included. If it does, the Bears will be hard to beat in 2019.