Chicago Bears new assistant coaches on defense share offseason progress

Townsend talking Jackson, Monachino's method to maximizing Mack and much more

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So here's one nugget from each of our chats with a newcomer to the NFL's No. 1 scoring and takeaway defense:

DBs, Deshea Townsend

Sure, Townsend's new boss, defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, has the Ed Reed connection and clearly knows what it's like to coach a Hall of Fame safety. But Townsend, a two-time Super Bowl champion cornerback with the Pittsburgh Steelers, has also shared a room with a soon-to-be Hall of Famer in Troy Polamalu, not to mention learning as a player under legendary Dick LeBeau.

And it's clear that Townsend shares Pagano's belief regarding the potential of first-team All Pro Eddie Jackson, who's "very similar to Reed."

"The next step for Jackson is just to see how good he can be," Townsend said. "To be a totally physical player. Not just ball skills. How can he take his game to the next level mentally as well? He’s sharp. He’s smart. The next step is making all the calls, lining everybody up in the right place but then just being that dominant presence that he is. Eddie, there’s not many holes that you can talk about. When you talk to him, you can see he can be one of the greatest ever.

"... He’s just a true talent. He’s great in the room. Guys look up to him. For him being a young guy, he still has a lot of respect in the room. Sky’s the limit for him."

ILBs, Mark DeLeone

Arguably no position coach on the Bears defense has a more important — and arguably gratifying — job than DeLeone. He inherited 22-year-old Pro Bowl alternate Roquan Smith, the team's tackling leader as a rookie and Ryan Pace's biggest draft investment on that side of the ball in five years in the GM post. Khalil Mack is the biggest star on the Bears, but Smith is the quarterback of the NFL's best defense, who has a chance to be a serious bargain over the life of his rookie contract. Of course, that assumes DeLeone maximizes Smith to the fullest.

"First of all, outside of the white lines, unbelievable worker," DeLeone said of his new star pupil. "Great person. Wants to be a great player. And then on the field I think he has the skill set where he can do everything. He’s a true three-down linebacker with elite tools, elite skills. Really excited to have a chance to coach him and watching him grow and try to help him as much as I can."

DeLeone doesn't sound daunted by the charge of building on the teachings of renowned LB whisperer Vic Fangio and his longtime lieutenant Glenn Pires.

"If everybody just raises their level a little bit, we can make the defense even better than it was," he said. "Just a little bit. And sometimes when you get a different way of hearing something, it might be the same technique but I heard it one way and now I hear it a new way, maybe that way clicks for me and that changes the whole thing. ... Whatever I can say to make them play fast and make them play hard, that’s what I want to do."

OLBs/asst. head coach, Ted Monachino

It's not exactly breaking news that Khalil Mack keeps opposing offensive coordinators up at night. But when a team has that kind of attention grabber, a weapon who dictates the way the opposition must think, as the Bears do, it's critical to avoid becoming complacent with his deployment and always remain a step ahead. That's why, Monachino explained, the Bears intend to make it difficult to find Mack.

"So with Khalil and being able to predict that they're going to talk about how do we deal with Khalil Mack on every snap," Monachino said, "being able to move him into different spots and being able to show him in different ways and to do diferent things with him, it's going to be really valuable to the defense."

After Mack aligned almost exclusively on the left side of the defense during his four years in Oakland, the Bears began using him on the right when he returned from his high ankle sprain around midseason. The most profound effect might have been on Leonard Floyd, who tallied all five of his sacks in the final nine games and appeared more effective coming off Mack's vacated left edge.

As for Mack, the Bears don't want him freelancing, but they do want to diversify his areas from which to attack.

"There will be opportunities for him to do a variety of things from a variety of different alignments," he said."Freedom, he has a little bit, but variety, he has plenty. There are plenty of things that we're going to try to use him for and to do with him that allow him to showcase the things that he does well."

We're here for a sub-rush look that features Mack aligned inside of Akiem Hicks.

Safeties, Sean Desai

Desai was a Bears defensive quality control coach for the past six years prior to his promotion this offseason to the safeties. He knows, then, about doing the dirty work that doesn't make headlines and the impact it has on the end result.

Desai, like Townsend, vowed that the Bears are going to maintain their tremendous tackling form in the secondary by working at it every day. Yes, the new OTA is more restrictive as far as contact in the offseason, but it doesn't mean tackling should be ignored.

"Obviously, the offseason program in terms of strength is huge for these guys," Desai said. "And then we emphasize it every day with some drill work. You can do it off bags, get creative sometimes. But that’s what you’re emphasizing: tackling starts with your feet and body position and then it ends with your hand strength and your leverage. We can work on all those things.

"It’s OK if you don’t have to work on the point of contact because you’re taking hits off guys — big hits. So you can really work on bags, softer things and get those guys in position to work on their techniques and their fundamentals."

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