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Bears defensive position coaches weigh in


Bears defensive position coaches shared their thoughts with the media earlier this week at Halas Hall. Here are six of the most interesting nuggets from those interviews:

(1) Defensive tackle Akiem Hicks finally received the recognition he long deserved last year when he was voted to his first career Pro Bowl. But the honor hasn't altered his mentality.

"He hasn't changed one bit since the first day he got here [in 2016]," said defensive line coach Jay Rodgers. "He's been playing with a chip on his shoulder ever since he got here. He brings that nasty to the defense. He brings that physical mentality all the time. Practice, games, meeting rooms—it doesn't matter—he's that way all the time."

Hicks recorded two tackles, one sack, one tackle-for-loss and two quarterback hits in last Thursday night's 10-3 season-opening loss to the Packers. The 10 points matched the fewest that Green Bay has scored in star quarterback Aaron Rodgers' 22 career starts against the Bears.

Hicks has produced impressive numbers on the field, registering 24 sacks in 49 games with the Bears. But his importance to the defense extends well beyond the stat sheet.

"He's not the kind of guy who's just going to let things slide," Jay Rodgers said. "If he sees something going on, he's going to be the lead guy in getting things right. He's very valuable, as well as his athletic traits."

(2) Outside linebacker-turned-defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris also performed well against the Packers, picking up where he left off in the preseason.

Robertson-Harris sacked Rodgers on the game's opening possession, and it looked like the 6-5, 292-pouncer deserved at least half a sack on another takedown of the Green Bay quarterback later in the contest that was credited fully to Hicks.

"I see a guy who wants to be a good football player," Jay Rodgers said of Robertson-Harris. "He hasn't been worried about the depth chart since I got here; just keep grinding, just keep working. Whether you're on the third team or you're on the first team, at the end of the day you're going to be evaluated on what you do. That's what I see from him is just a guy that comes to work every day."

Robertson-Harris signed with the Bears in 2016 as an undrafted free agent from UTEP. He was switched from outside linebacker to defensive end in 2017 and has been fully committed to the move ever since.

"He's got to buy in," Rodgers said. "He's got to want to do it. There are some guys who can't do it, some guys who don't want to do it. I've had plenty of those guys over the past 10 years. But you have to be committed to it and know that your coaches and the defensive staff and the personnel trust you to be in those positions.

"There's a lot of things that go into playing defensive line that you don't get when you play outside, and he's done a really good job of working on that stuff."

(3) The belief that outside linebacker Leonard Floyd is primed to have a breakout season was reinforced by the 2016 first-round pick's performance in the season opener.

Floyd registered four tackles, two sacks, two tackles-for-loss and two quarterback hits against the Packers. Playing with a cast on his broken hand early last season, Floyd didn't generate his first sack until the Bears' ninth game.

"He's making the progress that he should," said outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino. "He's a guy who is completely in-tuned to what he does well and what he doesn't do well. He has taken to coaching, he has taken to film study. He is a work in progress. He's not all the way there yet. But he's going to be everything that we always dreamed he would be."

(4) All-Pro outside linebacker Khalil Mack didn't record any of the Bears' five sacks against the Packers, but it was impossible to tell from his demeanor.

"He's such a great teammate," Monachino said. "All he did was celebrate with his teammates the whole game. There was never one ounce of, 'I'm not getting mine, they're getting theirs.' There's never any of that with him.

"He's a great pro. He loves being a Bear. He loves his teammates. They were all able to celebrate together a number of times the other night, and just like all of us, he's unsatisfied and not happy that we didn't do enough to win the game defensively."

(5) Inside linebackers coach Mark DeLeone believes that starters Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith bring out the best in each other.

"Danny sees the way 'Ro' approaches every day and the way he practices and plays, and Danny raises his level for that," DeLeone said. "Then I think Ro is like a sponge around Danny as far as seeing the way Danny prepares, seeing the way Danny takes care of his body, and Ro tries to do those same things.

"I think they mesh well together on and off the field. They're good friends, all that stuff, and they play great together."

(6) Cornerback Kyle Fuller is playing with extreme confidence after tying for the NFL lead with seven interceptions and being named first-team All-Pro last season.

Fuller led the Bears with six tackles and broke up two passes last Thursday night against the Packers.

"That's what you have to have at this position," said secondary coach Deshea Townsend, who played 13 NFL seasons as a cornerback with the Steelers (1998-2009) and Colts (2010).

"[Cornerbacks have to be] a confident player—borderline almost cocky—because you're out there by yourself. You have to believe in yourself when you play and that belief comes with how you prepare. And how [Fuller] prepares when nobody's watching allows him to go out on the field and be confident."