Bears defensive coordinator Sean Desai met the media Thursday for his weekly press conference. Here are four things we learned from the session:
(1) Desai was proud of outside linebacker Khalil Mack for returning to last Sunday's game in Cleveland after sustaining a sprained foot.
The perennial Pro Bowler exited in the second quarter but came back to start the third period and played the remainder of the game, recording his second sack of Baker Mayfield early in the second half.
"It shows his greatness and his toughness and what his teammates and what this defense means to him, and that's a credit to him," Desai said. "He's a tough player and he really cares about being out there with his team in a game like that. So, that's a full credit to him, and I'm proud of him to be able to do that."
Mack has started all 16 games in six of his first seven NFL seasons, missing only two contests in his first year with the Bears in 2018.
(2) Desai is pleased but not surprised that outside linebacker Robert Quinn is beginning to have the bounce-back season he envisioned.
After leading the Cowboys with 11.5 sacks in 2019, Quinn mustered only 2.0 last year in his first season with the Bears. The 11-year veteran is off to a strong start, already doubling that total with a team-leading 4.0 sacks in the first three games.
"He's a consummate veteran," Desai said. "He's told [reporters] he wasn't happy with where he was last year, and so he's improving it—and that's a credit to him. He's not complacent and he's never been complacent. He practices hard, he takes hard coaching. [Outside linebackers] coach [Bill] Shuey's done a tremendous job of communicating with him and given him the points that we as a defense felt he needed to improve on, and he's taken those and you see the results on the field."
(3) Desai has been impressed with the progress being made by rookie nose tackle Khyiris Tonga, a seventh-round pick from BYU.
With veteran nose tackle Eddie Goldman sidelined with a knee injury, Tonga started last Sunday against the Browns and registered five tackles while playing a career-high 29 snaps.
Desai described the 6-4, 338-pounder as "a big, thick presence down the middle of the defense" who's "been getting better each week."
"That's the good thing, because as a rookie you just never know how quickly the guys will develop, and he's taken it on and he's embraced all of the coaching that we're giving him. [Defensive line] coachoach [Chris] Rumph is doing a good job with him, and I think he's going to continue to get better."
At 25, Tonga is older than most NFL rookies. (He served a two-year mission before enrolling at BYU). "He's a mature individual, and maybe that comes with age or personality," Desai said. "But he's a mature person and he likes to get coached hard.
"He's taking the coaching and he's real humble and hungry to get better. He's like a sponge. He's just trying to get feedback from everybody on what he can do, how he can improve, and then he's getting adjusted to the speed of the game. That's a real thing for a lot of rookies when they play, especially when it's down there in the trenches, things happen a lot faster for them. He's improving, you saw that this last week."
(4) Desai was happy to welcome veteran inside linebacker Danny Trevathan back to practice Wednesday for the first time since the start of the regular season.
Trevathan was placed on injured reserve Sept. 1 with a knee issue, prohibiting him from playing in the Bears' first three games. They now have three weeks to decide whether they're going to return him to their 53-man roster.
"It was great to have him back on the field," Desai said. "His energy is contagious. He's one of the leaders of this defense; has been for quite some time. Now, it's just a matter of getting him ramped up and getting him in football-playing shape. He's done a good job of working on the side, getting his body ready. It's always fun to have a guy that's back that has some stripes on the wall."
Desai has liked what he's seen from Trevathan's replacement, veteran Alec Ogletree, and hinted that Trevathan won't just be handed the starting job once he returns.
Asked if Ogletree will still have a role on defense when Trevathan comes back, Desai said: "I'm not sure if that question has the assumption that one guy's starting over the other. We're going to evaluate all our positions just like we do every week and we try to put the best combination of guys and keep the freshest guys on the field for as long as we can. So that will be a decision when we're ready to make it, we'll make it as a staff.