The Bears position coaches spoke to the media on Monday. Here are five things we learned from the defensive assistants:
(1) Danny Trevathan has cleaned up his game.
Early-season worries about Trevathan's play have subsided. After nearly giving up a game-winning touchdown in the season opener against the Detroit Lions, the nine-year veteran has stepped up in coverage.
Against the Titans, Trevathan recorded six tackles and was able to keep up with receiver Corey Davis and break up what looked to be a surefire deep completion. However, Trevathan has been on the upswing for a full month.
Inside linebackers coach Mark DeLeone believes that the Week 6 matchup against the Carolina Panthers marked a turning point for the veteran.
"He didn't play good against Detroit," said DeLeone. "He knows that. We all know that. If you take that game out, you just look at the season. He's gotten better every single week. He made strides prior to that, but this past four-game stretch, he's playing lights out. And I'm really, really proud of him [for] the way he has taken ownership in this defense, and the way he's playing right now is inspiring. "
DeLeone said that the 30-year-old Trevathan has done the necessary work to keep his body in playing shape. As with several older players, the coaching staff has aimed to keep a lighter workload for Trevathan during the week.
"It's not a secret that he hasn't been practicing on Wednesdays," said DeLeone. "You guys see that on the injury report. I think taking care of his body. I think this is a guy who every single day does something to take care of his body and has just been a pro, and he's cleaned it up."
(2) Robert Quinn's role has expanded.
The team's highest-profile offseason acquisition announced his presence in style in Week 2, recording a strip-sack on his first play for the Bears. Since then, Quinn's stat sheet has been unremarkable.
"Had a lot of opportunities to make some plays," said outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino. "He hasn't been able to finish. For a guy that is into extreme ownership, that's on me. It's my responsibility to get him enough opportunities that he can close out and finish some of those plays. I know that he is focused on better results as well as I am. [There is] not a better pro in the building."
While Quinn has typically been in for around half of the team's defensive plays when healthy, he saw a massive step up in usage against the Titans. Quinn appeared on 75 percent of defensive snaps, up from his previous season-high of 58 percent in Week 5 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Monachino believes that the second half of the season will present more opportunities for the linebacker.
"There's no one with higher expectations of Robert Quinn than Robert Quinn," said Monachino. "He wants to make all those plays."
(3) Mario Edwards Jr. continues to impress.
As a late addition, it took a few weeks for Edwards to get integrated into the defense. However, for the past several games, the defensive end has made a strong impression on his new position coach.
"I think everybody would agree, including myself, he needs to play more," said defensive line coach Jay Rodgers. "I'd like to see him get more reps, and that's got to be a conscious decision by me to put him in the game in certain situations. The sack he had yesterday was a normal first or second down situation. He did a hell of a job."
Despite usually playing on 25 percent or less of defensive plays, Edwards has made an impact. On Sunday, he recorded his second sack of the season. Rodgers sees high potential in the former second-round pick.
"He's tough," said Edwards. "He's rugged. He prepares. He practices hard. He only knows one speed. And what you do in a walk-through or practice is showing up in games. So when he gets his opportunity to do what he's supposed to do, he just makes those plays."
(4) Kyle Fuller came oh so close to pick-six.
On the first drive of the game, Fuller nearly picked off Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill. With under 30 yards of open field in front of him, Fuller might have scored a touchdown if he could have secured the ball.
Defensive backs coach Deshea Townsend said that Fuller was in position to make the play.
"He could not have put himself in better position," said Townsend. "With his top shoulder, he had his top shoulder down and great angle. He just has to finish it. That's what we need right now. We have to be tempo-setters. We talk about setting a tempo in our room. That would have been a big-time play for him."
Fuller has only recorded one interception this season, though he has broken up seven passes.
(5) Akiem Hicks' increased usage isn't intentional—but it isn't an accident either.
Rodgers has a deep rotation to work with on the defensive line, but Hicks has gradually turned into a constant presence on the field. Over the past two games, Hicks has played on over 90 percent of snaps, despite being the oldest starter on the defense.
Rodgers said that decisions around Hicks' playing time have been made collaboratively.
"It's an open dialogue," said Rodgers. "Every single series, I check with him to see how he's feeling, and I know when there's times where [I say], 'Look, I know you want to play but we need to step back and let the other guys in there, so you're ready to go for the series after that.' He wants to play every snap."
Hicks has recorded seven tackles-for-loss in addition to 3.5 sacks. As long as he's productive, Rodgers expects to get the most out of the defensive tackle.
"This is a different year," said Rodgers. "There is no guarantee from a game week-to-week now. So the best players are going to be on the field from the beginning to the end. He just happens to be the one guy that loves to play all the time. You know, you see a lot of really good play from him."