BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – The Bears have a new defensive coordinator in Chuck Pagano, but their emphasis on generating takeaways remains the same as it was under predecessor Vic Fangio.
That was evident in Sunday’s training camp practice when the defense turned two potentially big plays by the offense into turnovers.
First, All-Pro safety Eddie Jackson sprinted from the middle of the field to the sideline to intercept a long Mitchell Trubisky pass intended for receiver Anthony Miller. Later, defensive back Sherrick McManis executed a “Peanut Punch” that would have made former teammate Charles Tillman proud, forcing and recovering a Javon Wims fumble.
“What Chuck and our guys are preaching is going after that football and punching it out,” said coach Matt Nagy. “Everybody knows about the Peanut Punch with Peanut Tillman and that’s carried on, not just from this year but from years in the past. I think the production has shown with our defense, especially last year. We were very opportunistic and we want to keep that going.”
Last season the defense helped propel the Bears to the NFC North championship, leading the NFL with 36 takeaways and 27 interceptions.
Let’s get physical: After non-contact workouts Friday and Saturday, the Bears held their first padded practice of training camp Sunday.
“For our first day out here with pads on, I thought it was a pretty good day,” Nagy said. “It’s good for the guys to just get used to having the helmet on and the shoulder pads.
“I thought the defense ran around pretty fast; they did a good job. Offensively, I felt just okay. We expect a little bit better, but the ball was on the ground a few times, We’ll learn from that and we’ll talk to those guys to make sure we have to have that next play mentality. I’m sure they’ll come out tomorrow pretty amped up and ready to go.”
Good to thump: The Bears were eager to see rookie running back David Montgomery perform in his first padded practice and the third-round pick from Iowa State didn’t disappoint.
“It was nice to be able to hand the ball off and just see some of the vision that he has,” Nagy said. “We’re not at that step yet where it’s live and it’s real. It’s still good to thump and let those guys go.
“Some of the drills we were doing early on in practice were just shadowing drills and not fair to the offense or defense. But I’m really looking forward with him to really being able to evaluate when we go live in practice and then when we get to the preseason.”
OK with decision: Jackson’s interception of Trubisky came after the Pro Bowl safety made an excellent read and an even more impressive break on the ball.
Asked to evaluate Trubisky’s decision and throw, Nagy said: “It was a double move and Eddie has got some phenomenal range, some of the best range I’ve ever seen. For Mitch, I’ll go back and watch the tape. But he probably would have given the ball a different trajectory. The ball hung a little bit. I’m OK with the decision. It’s probably just a different style throw.”
Nagy has no problem with Trubisky throwing deep as long as there’s a play to be made and he’s not forcing the issue.
“The mentality for him is always going to be touchdown-to-checkdown mentality, so it’s staying aggressive,” Nagy said. “Last year he didn’t have that library. This year he knows where to go with the football—at least a lot better than last year. So it’s not going to be on the same level as last year being as aggressive. It needs to be calculated.
“If you’re going to take a risk with a downfield throw, you’d better have a good answer as to why you took it. He threw that ball to start the team period against a pretty good free safety. He made a good play. Trust me, Mitch has that next-play mentality, and he’s going to work hard at rebounding back from those type of plays.”