With the Bears off this week, their position coaches spoke to the media for the first time since training camp. Here are six things we learned from the defensive assistants:
(1) Outside linebackers coach Clint Hurtt has been impressed with how rookie Leonard Floyd has performed the last two weeks and is confident that Floyd will continue to develop.
After missing two games with a calf injury, the ninth overall pick in the draft recorded two sacks against the Packers and one versus the Vikings. He turned one of his sacks in Green Bay into a touchdown by stripping the ball from Aaron Rodgers and recovering it in the end zone.
"He's been pressing really hard since the season's gotten started," Hurtt said. "So to see him go out there and have the sacks and have the kind of production for the team feels good, because you see the pressure kind of building up on the kid. He's been wanting to get that.
"With a lot of football left to play, you'll see him continuing to grow and develop each day and every week. It's going to be big. Those have been the good things in back-to-back weeks for him."
(2) Having fiery veteran Pernell McPhee back on the field after he missed the first six games while recovering from offseason knee surgery has provided a major boost.
"It makes a world of difference," Hurtt said. "The attitude, the edginess that he brings to the defense, it's infectious. You saw that last year and it has continued on this year. It's just part of who he is. And having him out there, then you have an opportunity to keep guys fresh. Willie [Young] doesn't have to go out there and go play 60-65 plays in a game. You can have Willie and Pernell at the same time, keep guys fresh going out there and keep the pressure on offensive lines."
After being limited to 19 plays against the Packers in his season debut, McPhee was on the field for 24 snaps versus the Vikings and responded by registering a sack and four quarterback hits.
"I think he's moving really well and a lot of that is because of his own hard work," Hurtt said. "He's lost a considerable amount of weight considering what he played at last year. So he's a lot lighter. He's moving better. He's feeling good. Still knocking off the rust. I was encouraged by what I saw in Green Bay. I felt really good about what we saw against Minnesota. I'm just expecting him to continue to get better and better each and every week."
(3) Inside linebackers coach Glenn Pires is pleased with how veteran free-agent acquisition Jerrell Freeman has anchored the Bears defense and become a leader.
"He's playing faster and physical," Pires said. "He's been in the system for [several] weeks and that is very evident and his confidence is very high. He has done a great job of putting all 11 guys together because he understands what everybody is supposed to do. He's a very smart guy."
A tackling machine the past four seasons with the Colts, Freeman leads the Bears with 73 tackles—32 more than any of his teammates.
"He understands leverage," Pires said. "He understands where his help is. He makes fast decisions, and guys who do that are going to be very good tacklers."
(4) The Bears haven't allowed a first-half touchdown in their last three games. But better tackling in the second half against the Vikings enabled them to record their first win in that stretch.
"Giving up big plays is a thing we always talk about," Pires said. "The missed tackles have gone down tremendously for us. I think [last Monday night versus Minnesota] may have been our best game of tackling. That four- or five-yard gain is not going to get us beat. It's those longer ones and that's probably the difference."
(5) With so many young defensive backs on the Bears roster, secondary coach Ed Donatell considers veteran cornerback Tracy Porter an extension of the coaching staff.
"He's been our connection to the players," Donatell said. "It's a very young group other than him. He's very invaluable to us. We lean on him. He's an extra teacher in the group."
Porter, a nine-year NFL veteran, is known for his devotion to studying tape. He helped ice a Super Bowl win for the Saints over the Colts in 2009 by stepping in front of receiving Reggie Wayne to intercept a Peyton Manning pass and return it 74 yards for a touchdown. He later credited the play to the film study of the Colts he did while preparing for the game.
"He's very detailed with it," Donatell said. "He can explain it, what he's looking at. There's no better example than having a player do that. It's better than any teaching I can do."
(6) Donatell sees second-year safety Adrian Amos, a 2015 fifth-round draft pick from Penn State, as an ascending player who still needs to make more plays on the ball.
Though Amos has delivered some crushing hits, he has yet to produce an interception while starting all 24 games the Bears have played since he was drafted.
"He's learning and growing as a player," Donatell said. "He's very professional in all of his preparation. It's very consistent and I just think he'll continue to grow and we'll continue to see good plays from him. We're looking for more downfield ball production. That's the next step with him. We're not there yet, but it's coming."