Bears defensive coordinator Alan Williams spoke to the media Saturday after practice at Halas Hall. Here are five things we learned from that session:
(1) Williams has enjoyed working with and getting to know Robert Quinn.
After skipping the entire offseason program, including a mandatory minicamp, the 12-year veteran defensive end reported to training camp on time Tuesday and has participated in each of the Bears' first four practices.
"As a person, just a beautiful man, cares about his teammates," Williams said. "As a player, still just watching tape, he is as advertised."
Quinn returns for his third season with the Bears in 2022. Last year, he set a franchise record with 18.5 sacks, eclipsing Hall of Famer Richard Dent's 17.5 in 1984.
"Just getting to know him right now, and when you see him go through individual [drills], boy, is he bendy," Williams said. "He can get on an edge. We were talking the other day and I was staring at his hands. He's a big man, and then he's a professional. He studies his playbook. He comes in prepared. And then as a leader, guys gravitate towards him. He's quiet by nature, but the guys look to him to lead the way."
(2) Rookie second-round pick Kyler Gordon has shown the ability to play both outside at cornerback and inside at nickel back.
"[He's] twitchy, he can change directions and he has some size to him, and he's a ball magnet," Williams said. "For some reason, he's always around the football. He's around the football, and when he is, he turns it over."
In Gordon's first full season as a starter last year at Washington, he was named first-team All-Pac 12 after establishing career highs with 46 tackles and nine pass breakups while recording his first two interceptions.
Gordon showed his ball-hawking skills on the first snap of team drills Friday, intercepting a pass that deflected off a receiver.
"Tipped ball and he catches it, takes it up the sideline," Williams said. "And he's smart. He gobbles up information. He's one of the ones that you like; has good athleticism but also has the will and the drive to be a good player."
Williams noted that Gordon is embracing the opportunity to line up at both cornerback and nickel back.
"That's a big deal when players want to do what you ask them to do," Williams said. "Some guys are just compliant. They go, 'Hey, coach, I'll do anything you ask me to do.' But when you have a guy that wants to do what you're asking him to do, you're getting a little extra edge in terms of how that guy performs."
(3) Williams reiterated that he wants the Bears defense to be known for the "HITS" principle—an acronym for "Hustle, Intensity, Takeaways and (playing) Smart."
The Colts defense successfully employed the "HITS" principle the past four seasons, with Bears coach Matt Eberflus serving as defensive coordinator and Williams as defensive backs coach.
"We want to lead the world in hustle," Williams said. "Intensity, the pads will come on. You saw the guys get a little chippy today. That's the heat. They're tired, it's Day 4. But we want to be an intense defense. We want to hustle. We want to take the ball away. That's a big deal. We preach that, we practice that. We talk about it. We emphasize it. And, ultimately, we also want to be smart football players. That would be what I'd say our signature, our stamp is."
(4) Williams has been impressed with rookie defensive end Dominique Robinson, a fifth-round pick who didn't play defense until his final two seasons at Miami (Ohio).
"So far, it hasn't gotten too big," Williams said. "Each situation, each install that comes in, he gobbles the install up, the things that we teach him. And then it goes from the classroom to individual to group and then, on the field, you see whatever we're teaching."
Robinson arrived at Miami as a quarterback, switched to receiver in 2017 and moved to defensive end in 2020. Last year ,the 6-5, 253-pounder registered 28 tackles, 6.5 tackles-for-loss and 2.5 sacks.
With the Bears, Robinson is proving to be a willing worker and quick learner.
"It's nice when you have a player that maybe makes a mistake Day 1, you correct it in the meeting, and then Day 2 he fixes it when it comes up again," Williams said. "That's the sign of a guy that's going to be OK, a guy that's a professional. And then, boy, he came in in great shape. You could tell that he worked out in the offseason and really with a purpose. And just the way he runs and attacks each practice, the sky is the limit for him."
(5) Looking at himself in the mirror, Williams sees a much different coach than he was the last time he was an NFL defensive coordinator in 2012-13 with the Vikings.
"I'd hope right now that I'm a little more mature, that I handle situations—adversity—a little bit better," Williams said. "I would think at this point I know football a little bit better. I handle the staff better in terms of interpersonal skills. I would hope that.
"And then the players, I think that I was so intense about every situation. Every situation is not live or die. Right now I think I'm a lot more relaxed, and so they get to know me. They get to know not just coach Williams, they get to know Alan Williams. So when the guys get to know you, I think that they play for you. Not that the guys didn't before, but now they get to see me as a person, not just as a coach."
When a player messed up an assignment in Friday's practice, Williams acknowledged that he reacted much differently than he would have in the past.
"I would have hit the roof before," he said. "Now it's just, 'Hey, this is what we need to do. We'll go over it again.' [Before] I would have jumped the coach and the player. I would have been super stern. Now, it's Day 4, and that was the first time that guy ran that in practice.
"There are going to be some mistakes. The No. 1 thing is, 'Did you make the mistake a hundred miles per hour?' Not that the standard isn't the standard, but we're working to get there. We just want to improve one percent each day."