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4 things we learned from offensive assistants

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Bears position coaches spoke to the media via Zoom Wednesday. Here are four things we learned from assistants on the offensive side of the ball:

(1) Offensive line coach Juan Castillo is extremely high on right tackle Germain Ifedi and has lofty expectations for the sixth-year pro.

The Bears offense showed marked improvement over the second half of last season after the line was reconfigured during the bye week. One of the changes involved moving Ifedi from right guard to right tackle, his primary position the previous three seasons with the Seattle Seahawks.

"I don't want to make predictions, but I would not be surprised if this kid made the Pro Bowl [this] year," Castillo said. "As we talk, he's busting his [butt] in Texas in 100-degree weather; works as hard as any guy I've been around."

Ifedi was selected by the Seahawks with the 31st pick in the first round of the 2016 draft. He started all 60 games he played in four seasons, opening 13 contests at right guard as a rookie before moving to right tackle in 2017.

Castillo felt that Ifedi "improved tremendously" when he returned to right tackle midway through last season.

"You can just look at the stats; how many pressures, how many sacks that he gave up when he was playing right tackle," Castillo said. "I know that he hadn't been playing like that at Seattle. But I think he improved. He cut his penalties over half from what he had at Seattle. And I think everybody would say that if you watched the tape, he played square, which was his problem at Seattle, and I think he's just going to get better.

"The kid was a first-round draft pick. He's got some God-given ability, and me as a coach, it's my job to make that ability pay off, and that's what we're going to do." 

(2) Quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo is eager to work with first-round pick Justin Fields in person for the first time at this weekend's rookie minicamp.

The Bears traded up nine spots to No. 11 to select the dual-threat quarterback, who compiled a 20-2 record in two seasons as a starter at Ohio State, leading the Buckeyes to back-to-back College Football Playoff appearances. 

"We'll know a lot more about Justin after this weekend in terms of where he's at mentally and the way he processes and thinks and those things," DeFilippo said. "It's hard to tell over Zoom until you really get your hands on a player."

One basic thing that DeFilippo wants to see from Fields during rookie minicamp is the ability to command the huddle. 

"Show the other 10 guys in that huddle that you have some command and you've been working your butt off on the plays, knowing the cadence, knowing where to go with the football," DeFilippo said.

"It's not going to be a very in-depth installation in terms of the amount of plays, amount of formations, shifts and motions and that sort of thing. But I want to see those building blocks … You start with the cadence, you start with the huddle, you start with knowing your first wide vision, which is everything that you have before you get the ball in your hand: play clock, are we lined up correctly, what's the cadence, is there a kill with the ball; so the mechanics of playing quarterback."

(3) Receivers coach Mike Furrey has enjoyed working with free-agent acquisition Marquise Goodwin, a veteran speedster.

Goodwin, who signed a one-year contract with the Bears April 16, returns to action after opting out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19. He has appeared in 75 NFL games with 40 starts over seven seasons with the Bills (2013-16) and 49ers (2017-19), catching 140 passes for 2,323 yards and 13 touchdowns.

"I see a young man who is a 4.27 [in the 40-yard dash]," Furrey said. "If he's slow on one day he's going to be in the 4.3s. He still has the speed. 

"I think when you go back and look at him two years ago, this young man was set to get ready to take off and become one of the most elite receivers in this league with his skill set—being able to catch the football very naturally, an unbelievable, patient route runner, a very, very smart football player."

Goodwin's best NFL season was his first year with the 49ers in 2017 when he started all 16 games and caught 56 passes for 962 yards and two touchdowns. His most productive single game remains a 126-yard, two-TD performance in a 2018 loss to the Packers in Green Bay.

Furrey has been impressed with how Goodwin has interacted with his new teammates during Zoom sessions. 

"The biggest thing that we're seeing right now in our meetings is how big of a leader he is," Furrey said. "He takes that vocal role of being a leader, and it's been exciting. It's a great addition to our room. It adds veteran depth, but I think that leadership, that role model, that example of how you practice, how you prepare, is something that's going to be a great addition to our room."

(4) Not surprisingly, running back David Montgomery has made a positive first impression on his new position coach, Michael Pitre.

"He's got a high desire to be great, and that makes it easy as a coach coming in here and working with him," said Pitre, who joined the Bears this year after spending the last three seasons as running backs coach and recruiting coordinator at Oregon State. "He's asking great questions in meetings. He's always looking at how he can improve his game and take that next step."

Since being selected by the Bears in the third round of the 2019 draft out of Iowa State, Montgomery has rushed for 1,959 yards and 14 touchdowns on 489 carries and caught 79 passes for 623 yards and three TDs in 31 games.

Last season Montgomery was the only NFL running back to compile at least 1,000 yards rushing and 400 yards receiving. He ranked fifth in the league in rushing with 1,070 yards and eight TDs on 247 carries and had 54 receptions for 438 yards and one TD.

"I wasn't surprised by the production he's had just throughout his career of what he did before he got to the Bears," Pitre said. "But I just think he's looking forward to building off of that and has a lot of confidence moving forward."

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