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4 things we learned from offensive coaches


The Bears position coaches spoke to the media Tuesday at Halas Hall. Here are four things we learned from the offensive assistants:

(1) When Mitchell Trubisky returns to game action, he won't be discouraged from running even though he has been sidelined with a left-shoulder injury.

One of Trubisky's best attributes is his mobility, both buying time to throw the ball downfield—like he did on a 36-yard touchdown pass to Taylor Gabriel in a Week 3 Monday night road win over the Redskins—and scrambling to pick up yards and first downs on the ground. 

"I'm not going to coach that out of him," said quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone. "There are things that we talk about within his instincts of, 'Hey, obviously know when to get yourself down. Protect yourself in that situation.' [But] when he is available to play, he's going to play as if he is 100 percent ready to go and there are no mental or physical holdbacks or restrictions.

"I don't think you can play the position if you're thinking about either one of those. Whenever he's available, we expect him to go out there and play at a high level and execute the game plan and play within his fundamentals."

Trubisky practiced Monday for the first time since he was injured on the sixth play of a 16-6 win over the Vikings Sept. 29 at Soldier Field. After sitting out a 24-21 loss to the Raiders Oct. 6 in London, the Bears are hopeful that he will be able to return Sunday when they host the Saints.

(2) The Bears are still weighing their options at right guard where Ted Larsen, Rashaad Coward and Alex Bars are all vying to replace the injured Kyle Long.

Larsen is the most experienced of the trio, having appeared in 129 games with 87 starts over 10 NFL seasons with the Bears, Buccaneers, Cardinals and Dolphins. But he sustained a knee injury after starting in place of Long against the Vikings that forced him to miss the Raiders game.

Larsen returned to practice Monday, but his status for Sunday's game against the Saints remains unclear. Coward, a second-year pro who played defensive line at Old Dominion, performed well after replacing Larsen versus the Vikings and will get plenty of reps this week in practice.

"He'll get a ton of work this week to make sure he's got a good opportunity," said offensive line coach Harry Hiestand. "He's a tough guy. He plays very, very hard. It's super important to him and he's very prideful. He's very determined to keep his guy from making a play, and that's a big part of this."

Bars became an option Tuesday when he was promoted from the practice squad. An undrafted free agent who played for Hiestand at Notre Dame, Bars likely would have been a mid-round pick if he hadn't torn his ACL and MCL early in his senior season with the Fighting Irish.

"He's got experience playing the position for a long time," Hiestand said. "He's gotten a lot of good work playing against our defense from the first quarter of the season, so he's definitely on the right track."

(3) The Bears ground game has not produced as expected, but running backs coach Charles London sees indications that better days are ahead.

"We're close," London said. "There are several runs that we had when we went back and looked that we were maybe a block away here or a cut away here from the back or just one small thing here. We've got to get all 11 guys on the same page, working in the same direction. But [there have been] several runs that we thought were close that we've just got to finish the deal on."

The Bears ranked 18th in the NFL in rushing after gaining 153 yards on 29 carries in a Week 2 win over the Broncos. But the running game has since dropped to 26th after being limited to 114 yards on 50 carries with a long run of just seven yards in its last two games, an average of 2.3 yards per attempt.

London insists that rookie running back David Montgomery has not expressed any frustration about the rushing attack's lack of success. The third-round pick from Iowa State has gained 225 yards and two touchdowns on 69 carries.

"I don't have to say anything to him at all," London said. "He understands the process. He understands it's growing as a player, growing as a team. He's been good from that standpoint. We do have several conversations, but it's just about, 'What can I do to be better? How did you see this? How should I see this?' It's really just him and the line all getting on the same page together."

(4) The return of speedy receiver Taylor Gabriel will provide a boost to the Bears passing game.

Gabriel practiced Monday for the first time since suffering a concussion Sept. 23 against the Redskins. Earlier in that game, he became only the fourth player in Bears history in score three touchdowns in a single quarter of play, catching TD passes of 3, 1 and 36 yards from Trubisky in the second period.

"You're getting a guy back that can stretch the field, a guy that's made some big plays for us in the beginning of the season," said receivers coach Mike Furrey. "It'll be good to have everyone back healthy in our room."

Despite missing the last two games against the Vikings and Raiders, Gabriel still leads the Bears with three touchdown receptions—one more than he had all of last season in his first year with the team.

"His attitude has been tremendous over the past four or five months, and kind of understanding that he doesn't have to come here and be somebody that he was trying to be," Furrey said. "He can come here and just be himself and learn how to play. We didn't ask him to be Superman; just come in here and make plays and be a reliable source for us, and so he's done that."

Senior writer Larry Mayer ranks the Bears' top 10 catches of the season through their first five games.