Vic Fangio was pleased with how starting safeties Adrian Amos and Eddie Jackson performed last season and is expecting both of them to play even better this year.
"They always should be able to improve from one year to the next, especially younger players, and I'm confident that will happen," said the Bears defensive coordinator. "It needs to happen. We need more interceptions and more production out of the secondary."
Last year the Bears recorded just eight interceptions for the third straight season, but they led the NFL with 14 fumble recoveries, increasing their takeaway total from 11 in 2016 to 22 in 2017.
After failing to record an interception in his first two seasons, Amos returned his only pick last year 90 yards for a touchdown in an overtime win over the Ravens. The 2015 fifth-round pick from Penn State also registered two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
"Those were the plays that he hasn't made in the past that were nice to see," Fangio said. "He still has a lot of improvement he needs to make and it's in the subtle things, things that you guys and girls won't really notice, and even personnel guys and some coaches don't really notice that are here. He needs to improve on those."
Jackson, meanwhile, enjoyed a breakout rookie season. After being selected by the Bears in the fourth round of the draft out of Alabama, he recorded 70 tackles, two interceptions, three fumble recoveries and one forced fumble while starting all 16 games.
Jackson scored touchdowns on a 75-yard fumble recovery and a 76-yard interception return in a 17-3 win over the Panthers, becoming the first player in NFL history to record two defensive TDs of at least 75 yards in a game.
Aiming high: It appears that the defense's takeaway total could receive a boost this season from Prince Amukamara, who has intercepted several passes in training camp.
The veteran cornerback, who recently stated in an interview with the Chicago Tribune that he hoped to intercept 10 passes this year, has just seven career picks in seven NFL seasons with the Giants (2011-15), Jaguars (2016) and Bears (2017).
"He said he wanted to get 10 interceptions, so I guess he's trying to practice it," Fangio said. "He has had more picks and has played better [in training camp]. I like the way he's looked in practice. His technique has improved. His football knowledge has improved, being here his second year. They didn't like him in New York. Jacksonville didn't like him. We're glad we have him."
Waiting for Roquan: Fangio vowed to help rookie inside linebacker Roquan Smith make up for the time he's missed regardless of when the Bears' first-round draft pick ends his contract holdout and arrives in camp.
"I would have loved to have him here the first day, but we'll adapt and adjust and get him ready," Fangio said. "He's got good instincts for the position, understands the game. That's always a good place to start."
Asked whether he's worried about Smith being ready to play in the Bears' regular-season opener Sept. 9 in Green Bay, Fangio said: "I'm always concerned about everything. But great ones adjust. We'll adjust."
Hard rule to officiate: Until the Bears play in an actual game, Fangio won't really know how the new NFL rule prohibiting players from lowering their heads and using their helmets to strike an opponent will affect the sport.
"I've shown [Bears players] plays where I think we can definitely adjust," Fangio said. "There are some plays that will be hard to adjust. We'll just have to keep working on it.
"One of the most non-football rules ever put into football was the five-yard illegal contact rule. If coaches from the '60s rose from the dead today, they would want to go back in their grave with that rule. And we've adjusted. I think they'll eventually adjust. I don't know how it's going to look early. Traditionally with these types of rules, you might see more flags in the preseason, but I really do think it's going to be a hard rule to officiate."