BOURBONNAIS — The Bears made their assistant coaches on defense available Tuesday, one of only approximately 3-4 opportunities the local media gets to meet face to face with the coaching staff each season. We'll be sharing plenty of those insights in the coming days, but here's an early smattering of what caught our ears in particular and how they mesh with what has caught our eye so far this offseason.
Bears OLB coach Ted Monachino, explaining Khalil Mack's rare penchant for consistently standing out in practices without tackling by sabotaging drills: "It’s completely real, and it is just him. It’s the character of the man. It’s the focus and it’s the love of his teammates. It’s all of those things. The one thing I’ll tell you, though, is when he goes out there, he gets all the reps he’s supposed to get. I’m not trying to baby him. He doesn’t want that. He wants every rep he’s supposed to get so he can go out there and work on his craft every snap possible. So this is all good for him and he wants all he can get.
PFW's interpretation: We wrote just last week about Mack making a mockery — and we mean that as the highest of compliments — of many drills. But it's important to continue reminding everyone that Mack wasn't in Bourbonnais last season, and the Bears authored one of the better defensive seasons in recent history. Doesn't it stand to reason that with not only Mack but the next guy we'll mention — who's also in his first Bourbonnais camp — practicing daily and pushing his peers, it could make everyone even better?
Bears ILB coach Mark DeLeone, detailing the depth in his room: "I would say one of the strengths of the inside linebacker position is the depth. From Nick Kwiatkoski, who is a steady guy every single day; to Kevin Pierre-Louis, who’s been in the league and is a serious pro, [and] really athletic; to Joel Iyiegbuniwe, he’s getting better every single day and he’s going to be a really good pro; to Josh Woods, who’s a unique guy, converted from safety to linebacker, has a unique skill set; and then Jameer Thurman, an elite player in the CFL who’s making this transition to the NFL, I feel like, ask me again [for a sleeper] in four weeks. Because all five of those guys are doing really good things, and they’re just going to keep getting better.
PFW's interpretation: This certainly will be an interesting group to watch this preseason. Though much of the focus regarding the team's newfound depth has been on the receivers and in the secondary, DeLeone could have not only the NFL's top ILB tandem but a future starter or two. Remember, Danny Trevathan is in a contract year, and one of the under-the-radar storylines this season will be gleaning whether his successor might already be on the roster.
Bears DL coach Jay Rodgers, on whether Roy Robertson-Harris is poised to erupt this season: "Well, we try to put people in positions to win. And so the traits that Akiem has, and the traits that Roy has are different traits. So you try and tailor their traits into something that’s going to help the team. So, Roy has found a nice little niche in the front where he can be a really good pass rusher and be a really good run stopper and be really good in certain situations. He has aspirations of being a top-notch football player in this league, and he’s got all the ability to do that. And it’s just a matter of time before you start seeing it more on the field."
PFW's interpretation: RRH — among the more versatile players on one of the league's more versatile defenses — is also in a contract year, but it seems to us he's being lost by some in the shuffle with breakout candidate Bilal Nichols. As Rodgers said, "the more you can do, the more you'll get to do," and the more we see RRH wreak affect every part of the game from more than one alignment, rest assured, the more opportunities he'll get — on the field and at the bank.
Bears secondary coach Deshea Townsend, on first-team All Pro CB Kyle Fuller: "He’s a pro. He has some ways about him where he’s going to work himself out. Try technique, see if it works and then fix it on the next play. That’s what it takes to be a pro. He wouldn’t have been around here this long if he didn’t have the capabilities of doing that. That group, they’re good leaders, they talk to the young guys and that’s what it’s going to take for us to get to the next step."
PFW's interpretation: Fuller has been beaten a few times in camp by 2018 seventh-rounder Javon Wims, among others. That sounds like David vs. Goliath, yes? But Townsend's explanation that Fuller, not unlike Mitch Trubisky, according to his offensive coaches, sometimes treats practice as time for trial and error could provide some context. We're extremely excited about Wims' development, but Fuller should just be reaching his prime and didn't get here without his increasingly better understanding over the years of what it requires.