Bears position coaches spoke to the media Monday at Halas Hall. Here are three things we learned from those sessions:
(1) Receivers coach Mike Furrey has been pleased with how wideout Darnell Mooney has continued to grow in his second season.
The 2020 fifth-round pick from Tulane leads the Bears in all receiving categories with 51 receptions for 721 yards and three touchdowns. While Mooney was limited to five catches for 27 yards in Sunday's loss to the Cardinals, he had posted back-to-back 100-yard outings the previous two weeks.
"The way he's evolving as a player, his confidence level now, understanding the game, it's not so much learning the playbook or anything like that, he's got that down," Furrey said. "That thought process is over. Now he hears the call and he's trying to figure out how he's going to get open. What's evolved in his game is when he gets that ball in his hands, now he's trying to take it the distance. That's a growth thing that you go through as a wideout when you get in this league, and he obviously has that now."
In the first two games that veteran receiver Allen Robinson II missed this season due to a hamstring injury, Mooney helped fill the void with five catches for 121 yards and one touchdown against the Ravens Nov. 21 and five receptions for 123 yards in a Thanksgiving win over the Lions.
"I think he's always looked at himself as a No. 1 wideout," Furrey said. "We have two great wideouts between him and Allen Robinson, but Darnell, that's his mindset. I don't think he's worried about, 'Am I the No. 1 or not the No. 1?' I think he was just coming in here to become the best that he possibly can to help this football team win, and obviously he's put that on display over the last three or four weeks."
“What’s evolved in his game is when he gets that ball in his hand, now he’s trying to take it the distance.” Bears receivers coach Mike Furrey on Darnell Mooney
(2) Inside linebackers coach Bill McGovern was impressed with how Roquan Smith performed Sunday after being limited in practice with a hamstring injury that forced him to exit the Bears' win over the Lions.
The 2018 first-round pick from Georgia was all over the field like usual, registering a team-high eight tackles and one tackle-for-loss against the Cardinals.
"He's dynamite," McGovern said. "The way he approaches the game, he's a true and ultimate professional. He did everything to get himself back and get himself ready, and we were thrilled to have him back on the field. He shows up and makes plays on the field."
Smith's ability, speed and determination were especially evident on a play late in the first half when he chased down Kyler Murray, limiting the speedy quarterback to a 2-yard gain on third-and-7 and forcing the Cardinals to punt.
"He's a tremendous player, Kyler Murray," McGovern said. "I think it's Roquan showing his talent level also. He's as good as anybody in the league. For him to get us off the field on third down was a big play for us."
Smith has performed at a Pro Bowl level for multiple seasons. But the fourth-year pro seemingly keeps getting better. He ranks fifth in the NFL with 121 tackles and has also recorded 3.0 sacks, nine tackles-for-loss and one interception. He is the only player in the league with at least 121 tackles, 3.0 sacks and nine tackles-for-loss.
"You can't substitute anything for experience," McGovern said. "He's seeing things more and more, so he's recognizing, he's kind of reading and diagnosing faster and quicker. But he's also finishing plays, which is a big thing where he makes the tackle, he gets the guy down and it's on to the next play."
(3) Offensive line coach Juan Castillo praised rookie right tackle Larry Borom for his work ethic and dedication to honing his fundamentals.
"He's staying square," Castillo said. "The key to pass protection is being square. If you can stay square and be between the quarterback and the defensive lineman, that helps you be more consistent. You say, 'Duh, that's so easy.' But that's hard."
Castillo revealed that he worked with Borom on making some corrections after they watched film of Friday's practice.
"Saturday after walk-through, Larry and I worked for 40 minutes on some technique and fundamental things we needed to get right for the game," Castillo said. "He's that kind of kid. Remember what our position's about; our position is a muscle memory position. And you say, 'Well, what does that mean, Juan?' Well, the more you sacrifice at that position, the more you're willing to work, the quicker certain things become more natural for you, and that's what Larry's done."
A fifth-round pick in this year's draft from Missouri, Borom has excelled while starting the last five games at right tackle. He will continue to fine-tune his fundamentals—over and over and over as Castillo is fond of saying—while honing other aspects of his game.
"You talk about setting and working to that spot, staying square," Castillo said. "He might have done that millions and millions of times at home in the living room, out there. So, what happens here is, now in competition, it becomes natural for him. And then you take 340 pounds. OK, so now the next thing is the timing of your hands. That's what we're working on next. So, it's like a little process."