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4 things we learned from Bears position coaches


Bears position coaches spoke to reporters Monday at Halas Hall. Here are four things we learned from those sessions:

(1) Running backs coach Michael Pitre believes that rookie Khalil Herbert's even-keeled demeanor enabled him to excel in his first NFL start.

With David Montgomery on injured reserve with a knee injury and Damien Williams on the reserve/COVID-19 list, Herbert rushed for 97 yards and one touchdown on 19 carries in Sunday's 24-14 loss to the Packers.

"He's consistent every single day," Pitre said. "He's the same guy every day when he comes to work. He comes to work every day with the mindset of being a great teammate. Yesterday was no different. He just got some more opportunities and took advantage of the opportunities he was presented."

Herbert has performed well in each of the Bears' last two games. Sharing carries with Williams in a 20-9 win over the Raiders Oct. 10 in Las Vegas, he rushed for 75 yards on 18 carries.

"He works hard, he's got some great guys in the room to learn from, and then most importantly the guys up front are doing a great job blocking for him, being able to create opportunities for him and create lanes," Pitre said. "That's the biggest thing is those guys, those tight ends and receivers, all other 10 guys on the field doing their jobs and allowing him to do his job."

(2) Quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo feels that the greatest progress Justin Fields has made involves his second- and third-level throws.

DeFilippo cited Fields' long pass to Marquise Goodwin Sunday against the Packers as an example of the rookie quarterback's growth. Goodwin drew a 26-yard pass interference penalty on cornerback Isaac Yiadom on the play, resulting in a first down at the Packers' 1. Two snaps later, the Bears took a 7-0 lead on Herbert's 1-yard touchdown run.

"I think when he cut that post loose yesterday and saw that with the safety cheating over towards the left hash, that was a real, real play," DeFilippo said. "I think his second- and third-level progressions have gotten better and better each week. So, that to me is the No. 1 thing that sticks out."

With the Bears trailing 17-7 entering the fourth quarter, Fields engineered a 10-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. He completed 5 of 5 passes for 64 yards, capped by a 5-yard TD to Darnell Mooney.

"It was huge," DeFilippo said. "We knew obviously our guys were playing hard and we were in it. We just knew we needed a drive to get us going. We just kept saying on the sideline, 'Hey, one play at a time. One play at a time.' For him to keep his patience there, for a young guy, I thought was great. And he needs to keep doing that for sure."

(3) Outside linebackers coach Bill Shuey was impressed with how Khalil Mack prepared for Sunday's game while being unable to practice all week due to a sprained foot.

"He's always diligent in his preparation," Shuey said. "But he understands that when he's fighting through something and he's not going to be able to take the reps in practice, he knows to put in a little extra time. He's got to look at things a little bit differently. And quite honestly, he's got to make sure he's taking mental reps, which is not something that he normally does a lot of."

Mack didn't allow the injury he sustained two weeks earlier in a win over the Lions to prevent him from producing against the Packers. He recorded his team-leading sixth sack of the season on the game's opening possession, forcing Green Bay to punt when he dropped Aaron Rodgers for a nine-yard loss on third-and-10.

A superstar playing through pain is a great lesson for young players, and Mack seems to be more involved with mentoring them this season.

"He's been more vocal than I've seen him in the past," Shuey said. "I was in that room for the past couple years and just watching him now, I see him taking more of a leadership role with those young guys, inviting those opportunities and embracing where he's at at this stage of his career, the opportunity to pay it forward with some of the young guys.

"He's been great with all that. But as we all know, words are one thing; actions are another and those guys are watching what he's doing. He's setting a good example from that standpoint."

(4) Offensive line coach Juan Castillo felt that fill-in starter Elijah Wilkinson was solid against the Packers at right tackle but can be even better.

Wilkinson stepped in at left tackle in the season opener against the Rams when veteran Jason Peters exited with an injury and was inserted at right tackle versus the Raiders when Germain Ifedi hurt his knee. With Ifedi placed on injured reserve last week, Wilkinson made his first start of the season Sunday.

"Elijah is a physical young man, but very athletic," Castillo said. "I'm kind of excited to see how he's going to keep doing. I think the hard part for him is, he's been right, he's been left, he's been right, he's been left. Now, he'll get to settle in for a few weeks on the right side.

"I thought he was solid yesterday, but I think he can be even better than that because he's a good athlete. And if there's going to be a fight, you'd like for him to be right next to you, because he's that kind of guy. He's got a little nasty streak in him."