5 takeaways from talking with Matt Nagy at the NFL combine

What did the Bears head coach have to say?

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But ask Nagy about in-season football evaluations and it might get you somewhere.

The reigning Coach of the Year met the media at his second NFL combine Wednesday, and here are five of the more interesting takeaways:

The run game

Nagy reiterated what he said often during the season, that the onus lies first and foremost on him and his coaching staff to figure out the NFL's 27th-ranked ground game in terms of yards per carry. He officially put to bed the Bears' not-so-seriously kicking the tires on Kareem Hunt and basically conceded that he, his staff and Jordan Howard are still in the discovery period of their relationship.

"We were all figuring out together, including Jordan, how we're going to make this thing go," said Nagy, admitting a volume runner like Howard fitting into a diverse offense like Nagy's requires continued adjustments for all parties.

Nagy also briefly pulled back the curtain to shed some light on his RB profile in the Bears scheme and how there's an interesting mix in this draft class but perhaps not a lot of complete backs.

"In this offense, you want to be able to have a guy that has really good vision that can make guys miss," Nagy said. "And at the same time, there's that balance of being a hybrid being able to make things happen in the pass game too, but yet to where you're not one-dimensional. That's not easy.

"There are a lot of backs in this draft right now that are one-dimensional. There are some that are hybrids, and there are some that are really just scat guys."

Perhaps the convergence of the Bears' precious draft capital — an NFL-low five picks, none in the top 85 — and Nagy's view that this class isn't loaded with complete backs provides Howard a new lease on life? Or perhaps not.

Mitch and Matt

Now that he's a Pro Bowl alternate with a year steeped in Nagy's system, what's next for Mitch Trubisky? Nagy explained that the young quarterback's evolution continues by mastering pre-snap recognition, and now there's a "library" with which to study.

"He can now be better at the other part of that – seeing what the defense is showing. Once we get to that point, I think what you’ll see is you’ll see the ball out a little bit sooner. You’ll see him being able to make more plays. But that takes time. That’s not something that just happens in the first year."

Reminded that Trubisky did start 12 games as a rookie, albeit in an outdated Dowell Loggains offense, Nagy explained the benefits Trubisky should enjoy this offseason by watching his own film, not Alex Smith running the 2017 Chiefs offense.

"We get to see how [we] can get better with our feet, how can we be better with our vision," Nagy said. "Are we looking at the same thing on the defensive side? And then, the other part of this too that gets lost is that every other player on this offense now comes into Year 2 with us and they now all know now what’s going on on the offensive side. So now we can start playing ball. That’s what I think we’ll ultimately be judged on."

Defensive changes

Since we last visited with him, Nagy and new DC Chuck Pagano have completed their defensive staff. Nagy was asked what gives him confidence that Pagano can make the NFL's No. 1 unit even better. Refreshingly, he said that there are no guarantees and credited Fangio for his outstanding work. But he also provided parallels between Fangio and his successor, including their experience, the clout that comes with it and the schematic carryover.

Still, there will be changes.

"He has an aggressive mentality, which you know I like," Nagy said. "But you’ve got to be smart with it, and that’s going to be fun. So just like we were starting out in training camp and OTAs last year with some newer terminology, the defense will doing that. But Chuck has a great balance with his staff of making sure that it’s not too much to where our guys can play fast."

One potential nugget Nagy might have let slip came when he was asked about the rising value of nickel corners. The Bears arguably have the best one hitting free agency, and though Nagy didn't mention Bryce Callahan by name, he highlighted some of the key traits in a slot player — blitzing and tackling, strengths of Callahan's — in addition to cover skills.

Developing young playmakers

Nagy raved about the rookie season of Anthony Miller, who led the Bears in receiving touchdowns despite battling through a painful shoulder dislocation much of the year. From his knowledge of offense to confidence to versatility, Miller's play on the field matched — if not exceeded — what the Bears saw on his Memphis film.

Ryan Pace confirmed that Miller underwent shoulder surgery in the offseason and is making progress, though no timetable has been set for his return. Miller could be limited to begin the offseason, but "we'll get that right," said Nagy, adding Miller's next charge is continuing to be a more disciplined student of the game.

Nagy also said "I love where we're at right now" at the TE position, one many have surmised could get attention with reserves Ben Braunecker and Daniel Brown out of contract and the jury still very much out on Adam Shaheen.

"Getting Adam back (from his foot injury) toward the end of the season last year — it was unfortunate when it happened in preseason, but I'm really looking forward to him and doing some good things."

O-line cohesion

Finally, Nagy gushed over the work of renowned O-line coach Harry Hiestand and the continuity the Bears can look forward to after extending RT Bobby Massie and restructuring RG Kyle Long. He mentioned the luxury of having the flanks secure contractually as the Bears prepare for a season in which they'll prepare for a stout schedule, including a loaded AFC West brimming with top edge rushers.

"We fully understand some of these bookend defensive ends that we’re going to be seeing here in the future and the direction of speed and talent that goes on on that front, so you better have those edges protected," he said. "We have two guys right now that we feel really good with on the edges. Credit goes to Ryan and his guys for building that unit there now. And then also for Mitchell, it’s that trust factor for him, that confidence in knowing all the communication that goes on on that front line of how to do things. So I’m looking forward to it."

Pro Football Weekly