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5 things we learned from Bears offensive coaches

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Bears position coaches spoke to the media on Monday. Here are five things we learned about the offense.

(1) Expect Jimmy Graham to exceed his touchdown total from last season.

Graham had his most productive game of this season on Sunday. He caught six passes for 60 yards and two touchdowns. Early in his tenure with the Bears, Graham has proven to be a reliable answer to last season's red zone woes.

Tight ends coach Clancy Barone explained why Graham is so valuable in short-yardage situations.

"That's kind of been the M.O. of his career, you know," Barone said. "A lot of it is he's athletic. He has very good hands. He has a great wingspan, so [he has] a very good catch radius, and he's had a lot of time on task doing that."

Graham's three touchdowns in the first three games already match his season total from last year and beat his mark from 2018. With 13 more games to play, Graham seems to be on the path for his best year since 2017 with the Seattle Seahawks.

With the addition of Graham, Demetrius Harris and Cole Kmet, the Bears now have three tight ends measuring at least 6-6. With all that length at the position, Harris and Kmet may emerge as red zone options as well.

"I think all of our tight ends have that certain skill set," said Barone. "Right now, it's been Jimmy that has been—for whatever reason, his number has been coming up on those plays. But he's such a great competitor and post-up option for us down there."

(2) Nick Foles has two skills that set him apart.

It's well-known that quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo is familiar with Foles, having worked with him in Philadelphia in 2017 and Jacksonville last season. With Foles seeing his first action in a Bears uniform, DeFilippo elaborated on the skills that have allowed Foles to step into high-pressure situations throughout his career.

"There's a couple things Nick has a really good ability to do that separate him from a lot of other quarterbacks," said DeFilippo. "Number one is to play the game one play at a time. He literally has a blank chalkboard in his mind when he goes to the line of scrimmage on every snap. That's a quality, to me, that you need to have to play this position."

DeFilippo praised Foles for stepping right into the job and attacking downfield. He highlighted how Foles reacted to the controversial decision to overturn his would-be touchdown throw to Allen Robinson II on his first drive.

"He just goes back out and plays," said DeFilippo. "He just goes right back out and plays and has tremendous short-term memory."

DeFilippo didn't just talk about intangibles. He also speaks highly of Foles' field vision.

"Number two is the way Nick can see the field," said DeFilippo. "He does a great job of learning from his past experiences. Nick has been on a bunch of different teams and been coached by a bunch of different guys and gone through a bunch of different plays, so I think he does a really nice job of taking those experiences that he's had in his past, putting it in the back of his memory bank and being able to use that information to help him execute the plays that [are] being called at that certain time. That's a rare quality to me."

(3) Running backs coach Charles London feels good about his options, even without Tarik Cohen, who tore his ACL against the Falcons.

When London saw Cohen stay on the ground after his fourth-quarter collision with Falcons running back Brian Hill, London knew that something bad had happened.

"He's not the type to really lay down there and flop around," said London. "He's a tough guy, so when he didn't get up, I know it was probably something pretty serious. It's a huge loss for our room. It's a huge loss for our team. I thought he was playing well. He brings a lot of leadership. He brings a lot of energy to the room, so it will be missed."

London believes that his position group will adjust to Cohen's absence, leaning on David Montgomery and Cordarrelle Patterson, who London believes has made significant strides in the past few weeks.

However, there's a good chance that the Bears will still have a three-running back rotation.

"I think you'll probably see a little more Ryan Nall out there," said London. "Ryan's a pretty versatile player. He's done a lot for us. He does a lot on offense, a lot on special teams, so I expect him to contribute more as well. It will be a collaborative effort."

(4) Offensive line coach Juan Castillo is leaning on his veteran tackles to improve.

The offensive line has shown improvement in some areas, notably in the run game. However, Castillo is still pushing his veteran unit to improve. He has been working with left tackle Charles Leno Jr. on finding consistency.

"I think that's what you've seen from him, the consistency," said Castillo. "He's been playing square. We do mix up our sets, and he does a really good job and has really good feet."

Castillo has the offensive line begin practicing a half-hour earlier than the rest of the team to help instill the right technique through repetition. He believes this will benefit right tackle Bobby Massie, the biggest and most experienced player on the offensive line.

"With Bobby, we were just trying to get him to play square initially, to stay square," said Castillo. "It's hard to get beat inside or outside when you play square, so that's what we are working on. Now he's starting to play a little squarer, and we're working on the next step. The next step is the timing of the hands, and then once we get the timing of the hands, we start switching up some of the sets."

(5) Darnell Mooney had his "welcome to the NFL" game.

Mooney has come on strong as a rookie, catching eight passes for 93 yards and a touchdown in his first three games. Against the Falcons, he was on the field more than any receiver other than Robinson.

The increase in playing time did not necessarily translate to bigger numbers. His two catches for 19 yards were career lows (admittedly a small sample size) and he failed to bring in two catchable throws that would have been big gains. Receivers coach Mike Furrey said some of Mooney's issues are part of a normal transition to the NFL for a receiver who has been able to rely so much on his elite speed.

"You get speedsters in this league," said Furrey, "and you can't hide your speed. And so cornerbacks aren't just going to stand up there flat-footed at the line of scrimmage and let you run by them. So when you just speed release, that's not going to work in the NFL."

Furrey has praised Mooney's maturity, but believes there is no replacement for exposure.

"I've said it before, he really has the mindset and the demeanor of a guy who has been in this league for three or four years," said Furrey. "The thing right now is he's got to experience the game."

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