Pernell McPhee's season debut last Thursday night in Green Bay was a positive first step that the Bears hope the outside linebacker will build on.
McPhee was limited to 19 snaps in his first action after spending the first six weeks of the season on the physically unable to perform list following offseason knee surgery.
"I thought considering where he was—the guy hadn't played football since whenever he last played last season and never even had a practice with pads on—he went out there and did OK," said defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. "If you were to say you were 'pleased or unpleased," I'd say you're 'pleased.' Was it great, was it to the level he was at? No. But I think the best thing you can say is there's hope there."
Pernell McPhee returned after spending the first six weeks of the season on the physically unable to perform list.
McPhee was on the field in some critical situations against the Packers, including on the goal line. Playing him in those key spots wasn't necessarily part of the plan, but Fangio was confident in the six-year veteran.
"We were trying to rotate [the outside linebackers] as best as we can," Fangio said. "He's on a play count there and as the game went on, we had 90 plays, so it wasn't hard to find him those plays. It just happened to work out that way."
Showing promise: Fangio was also pleased with how another outside linebacker performed in Green Bay. Rookie first-round pick Leonard Floyd recorded two sacks, turning one into a touchdown when he forced an Aaron Rodgers fumble and recovered it in the end zone.
"On that play we had a stunt going on that him and Willie [Young] executed very well," Fangio said. "Leonard was the beneficiary of it and when he got close he did a great job of finishing it. So it was a two-man operation there that they both executed well and Leonard had the wherewithal and the talent to finish. It's one thing to get close; you've got to be able to finish."
The Bears traded up two spots in the first round of the draft to pick Floyd ninth overall in part because they wanted to add speed to their front seven on defense.
"It's valuable," Fangio said. "The faster and quicker and more athletic you are, particularly when you're playing an athletic quarterback like [Rodgers] is, it helps."
A fine line: The Eagles recorded six sacks of Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford last Sunday by blitzing frequently. So does that mean the Bears, who normally don't blitz a lot, should follow suit Monday night when they host Minnesota?
"You have to walk the fine line there; play the style that you're accustomed to playing that you believe is best for the talent on your team and go at it that way," Fangio said. "Philly played them straight a lot, too, and they just did a good job. They played good that game.
"You have to be careful not to get outside of what you do well and what your players are accustomed to doing. If you start trying to do a bunch of new stuff because you saw it work for somebody else, that invariably leads to problems."
Fangio isn't expecting the Vikings to make major changes after suffering their first loss of the season to the Eagles.
"Those guys were 5-0," he said. "I'm sure they'll just get back to basics and try to clean it up that way rather than trying to invent the wheel."
Good move: Fangio applauded the Vikings' decision to trade for Bradford in early September, a few days after starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Bradford ranks eighth in the NFL with a 100.3 passer rating, having completed 112 of 166 passes for 1,214 yards with seven touchdowns and one interception.
"Give Minnesota credit," Fangio said. "They know they have a good team with a good defense. They had the misfortune of losing their quarterback. They go out and make a bold move and get [Bradford] and they haven't missed a beat offensively. He's been getting better and better. Last week they didn't play well, but this guy is capable of leading this team, much like Bridgewater was."