Bears coordinators spoke to the media Friday at Halas Hall for the first time since the start of training camp. Here are six things we learned:
(1) Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor feels that new Bears starting quarterback Andy Dalton already has a firm grasp of the offense.
Dalton's 10 seasons of NFL experience with the Bengals (2011-19) and Cowboys (2020) have helped him learn the system and take command of the huddle. Teammates have raved about his presence on the field and the confidence he exudes without any cockiness.
"You're talking about a guy who's been through a lot," said Lazor, who served as Dalton's position coach in 2016 and offensive coordinator in 2017-18 with the Bengals. "When you're a quarterback with as much experience as Andy's had, you've been fooled many times by the defense and hopefully learned from it, which I think he's proven he has.
"You've also figured out some things you can do to take control of it. And I think right now everyone is feeling that his experience brings some confidence with it. I think that's rubbing off on a lot of people. He also brings a certain tempo of play, which I think is rubbing off on the offense. I think it's been felt by everyone."
(2) Lazor is focusing on teaching first-round pick Justin Fields the most important aspects of playing the quarterback position in the NFL.
"Part of our job—all of us as coaches on offense—[is to] consider that the quarterback's mind is like a bucket; hopefully a real big one," Lazor said. "But every bucket has a max of what it can hold. So, what we have to make sure we're doing—this is with every quarterback—is put the important stuff in there first. Don't fill it up with too much minutia. If you fill it up with too much minutia and then you go to put the important stuff in, it starts spilling out."
According to Lazor, the "important stuff" involved in playing quarterback includes reading the defense—both pre- and post-snap—and knowing when to call an audible or adjust the pass protection at the line of scrimmage.
Lazor has been impressed with Fields' mentality at training camp, saying: "I have great confidence now after being around Justin in this close a setting that, No. 1, most important, he wants to be great, and No. 2, just as important, he's willing to do what it takes."
(3) Defensive coordinator Sean Desai reiterated what coach Matt Nagy said Tuesday about the defense needing to create more takeaways.
The Bears led the NFL with 36 takeaways in 2018 when they won the NFC North title with a 12-4 record. In finishing 8-8 each of the last two seasons, they generated 19 takeaways in 2019 and 18 last year.
"We're just trying to emphasize the details that we believe lead to takeaways," Desai said. "I think through that and through that process of emphasizing that and getting the focus and the minds in the places that we want them, they'll come. Takeaways come in bunches. There's an energy that's created about that. There's been a lot of up years and a lot of down years in terms of takeaways. But when they come, they'll come."
It's certainly simplistic, but the first step in creating a takeaway is knowing where the ball is at all times. "That's the biggest thing; having vision on the ball," Desai said. "If you can't see the ball, you can't take the ball away. They need to see the ball from wherever it is: the snap, to the quarterback-running back exchange, to the quarterback dropping back at the top of the pocket to releasing it, and then we'll have a chance."
(4) Desai was elated to see veteran nose tackle Eddie Goldman rejoin the Bears after opting out of the 2020 season due to COVID concerns.
The Bears are hoping that Goldman reverts to the form he displayed in 2019 when he was named a Pro Bowl alternate. His return especially provides a boost to a run defense that ranked first in the NFL in 2018 and ninth in 2019 with him and 15th in 2020 without him.
"One, it was great to see him," Desai said. "He's a great person to be around. And it's great to see that he's in shape. So, all that is nice, and he's in the same boat as everybody else. He's learning the playbook.
"He hasn't played in a couple years, so you see that there's a little bit of rust there sometimes. But he's doing a really good job right now. I'm proud of him, and the true story is going to be told when he gets the pads on [early next week]. I think that's, quite frankly, where Eddie has shined in his career."
The cohesiveness the three developed working together last year helped Santos have what was arguably the best season by a kicker in Bears history. Santos broke two team records that were held by Robbie Gould, making 27 straight field goals and converting 93.8 percent of his field-goal attempts (30 of 32). Santos connected on his last 27 field-goal tries of the season, last missing in a Week 3 win over the Falcons in Atlanta.
"[It's] really, really big," Tabor said. "I think it's the first time since I've been here that we had all three guys [returning]. What was really nice Day 1 [is] we kind of dusted the table off a little bit and just started moving real quickly and just refreshed everyone again: 'Hey, how do you like the lean of the ball, what are we going to do here?' It just came naturally to the guys. You can pick up and move more quickly. So, I'm fired up about that."
(6) Tabor lauded sixth-year pro DeAndre Houston-Carson as "the straw that stirs the drink" on special teams.
"He's one of the most intelligent football players I've been around," Tabor said of the 2016 sixth-round pick from William & Mary. "He plays our personal protector for us [on punts] and does a great job. I haven't had, to be honest with you, a personal protector like him since I was in Cleveland and I had Jimmy Leonhard, who's the D-coordinator in Wisconsin.
"DHC sees things and has ideas and studies tape, and he's just a true pro's pro. I rely on that. You get good information from what he tells you."
The Bears took to the fields at Halas Hall on Friday for the second day of practices in front of fans at Dr Pepper Zero Sugar Training Camp.