Defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad displayed his intensity and quickness off the line in Monday's practice.
The Bears ended Monday's practice with a two-minute drill where Muhammad put immense pressure on the quarterback, and if players were allowed to make contact, he likely would have tallied a couple sacks.
Muhammad's ferocity in an unpadded practice comes as no surprise to Bears head coach Matt Eberflus. The pair spent four seasons in Indianapolis together while Eberflus was the Colts' defensive coordinator. Muhammad's understanding of the defense has been helpful, but it's his will to go all out each practice that sets him apart.
"The one thing you ask offensive linemen: What do I dislike most about defensive linemen? Obviously, the talent factor is the big one, and the second one is a guy who goes hard every play," said Eberflus. "He doesn't take plays off. That's what Mo does. Mo just goes hard every play, and he's made a career of it. That's what we want all our guys to be. Then, you add the talent piece in there, which Mo has, and then you also add the going hard, it's hard to defend that every single play."
2021 was a breakout season for Muhammad, where recorded 48 tackles, 13 quarterback hits and a career-high six sacks. His fourth season in the NFL was his first as a regular starter.
While Muhammad's production increased last season, Eberflus said he has been the same guy since Year 1 and has always had the ability to be a playmaker. Eberflus is confident Muhammad will be just as proficient in Chicago.
Muhammad's constant effort is no coincidence. The 6-foot-3, 250-pounder learned the importance of a consistent work ethic at a young age and never wavered from that mindset.
"You don't want to have to think, 'I need to go hard.' It needs to be a natural reaction," Muhammad said. "By doing it every day on Sundays, it's just natural, like 'wow, this dude play lights out, he plays hard.' It becomes natural instinct. I think that it actually makes the game that much easier when you do it every day in practice, so that's something I take pride in."
That natural reaction on the field will be easier to see in the coming days as the Bears put the pads on in training camp for the first time Tuesday. Even with a few training camps under his belt, Muhammad still smiles when talking about the first day of pads.
In addition to putting on pads for the first time in training camp, he's also ready to be able to critique himself better on film and continue adjusting to help him towards his most important goal this season: Hit the quarterback as many times as possible. While Muhammad can't necessarily practice sacking the quarterback during training camp, he is more focused on what it takes to get there, then making them count on Sundays.
Another one of Muhammad's goals is to keep learning. While he is already giving his teammates tools to help them pick up the defense quicker, he's still approaching the classroom with a rookie mentality.
"Even with experience, there's still room to learn each year," Muhammad said. "I approach each year as if it's my first year, take notes and stuff as if I didn't know the schemes."
While Muhammad already trusts Eberflus, he's noticed how quickly his new teammates have bought in to the coach's system and style of teaching. It's also been fun for Muhammad to watch Eberflus transition from coordinator to head coach.
Muhammad has noticed that Eberflus is a little more relaxed in the new position. But the former defensive coordinator is still always watching and evaluating. And more importantly, he still gets riled up by the same things: players not running to the ball or not giving maximum effort.
The physical and mental demands of Eberflus are nothing new to Muhammad. He understands his coach's philosophy of seeing a mistake and fixing it right away. While the level of accountability expected from Eberflus is high, Muhammad has seen firsthand how the criticism and coaching can elevate a team if every player is all in.
"You can never take it personal. If you're not taking it personal and you're open to be coached, it's that easy to take the constructive criticism and be able to apply it," Muhammad said. "It's all about having the right mentality and understanding that everything we're doing is to win, and I think that if you're able to not take it the wrong way, you're good. And also, when a coach is giving you what they're giving you and you're taking it in the right way and you're applying it and it works, then it's easy for you to really listen and really just buy in to whatever he's trying to coach or whatever he's trying to get through to you."