WHO: Chicago Bears
WHEN: July 20-21
WHERE: Bourbonnais, IL
HOW: Flew to O’Hare, rented a car at Hertz, drove the 75 or so minutes to Olivet Nazarene University
So what I’ve found is that people want the most, and best information from these camps. And what I’ll try to do in this space from each one I go to is give you five things to take. Let’s go …
First, the Bears are over the moon with the potential of their tight end group, going back to the spring. Sophomore Adam Shaheen looks like he’ll grow into a matchup nightmare, and veteran Dion Sims has been steady. And ex-Eagle Trey Burton was brought in with a very specific role in mind, and hasn’t disappointed in that “U” move tight end spot. How will it all work? Think about how the Eagles used Zach Ertz, Brent Celek and Burton last year in a scheme similar to the one new head coach Matt Nagy is putting in.
Second, the new offense (we’ll get to the details in a bit) will absolutely be tailored to Mitch Trubisky, and Nagy and I got to that in a roundabout way. In discussing his open-mindedness (which we detailed in the July 23 MMQB), I asked him a pretty simple question – Where’s the craziest place you’ve stolen a play from. He did answer, and we’ll give you that below. But in getting there, he mentioned he’d taken from what Urban Meyer did at Utah (to make Alex Smith comfortable), from Texas Tech (to acclimate Pat Mahomes), and most recently from North Carolina. Translation: Building the offense is going to be about finding a comfort level for Trubisky, as it should be.
Third, Tarik Cohen is a different player than Tyreek Hill. He even plays primarily at a different position. But the same way the Chiefs had their fun in deploying Hill the last couple years, Nagy will give defenses fits in the way he uses Cohen. He’s among the best in the league at being creative with guys who excel in space, which means guys like Cohen and Burton will benefit.
Fourth, Leonard Floyd looks like a monster. If he stays healthy, the Bears think he’ll be one. And put Akeem Hicks in that category too.
Fifth, it’ll be interesting to see how much longer it takes to get Roquan Smith in. The ex-Georgia star has instant impact written all over him, and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was invested in that pick, having let his enthusiasm for the player spill over back at Smith’s Pro Day before the draft and in the team’s draft meetings. Now, the Bears just have to get him signed. Add the absence of veteran signal-caller Danny Trevethan (hamstring) to Smith not being here, and you’ve got an early hurdle for Fangio in building his unit.
“OH I DIDN’T KNOW THAT”: OK, so the craziest place that Nagy (and Andy Reid) stole a play from over the last few years? “New Hampshire—we had some coaches that were on the New Hampshire staff,” Nagy said. “I don’t know if Chip [Kelly] was still there, I don’t think he was. But they do a double-reverse throwback to the quarterback screen. It’s not a normal play. It’s a special play. Check out the Pro Bowl two years ago—we threw it the first play of the game. And Alex threw it over Tyreek’s head, first play. That was the play. It’s just a fun play.”
STORYLINE TO WATCH: The aggression of Matt Nagy’s attack, and the confidence his offensive guys already have in it. Pro Bowl guard Kyle Long and I were talking about the Oregon offenses he played on as a collegian—his senior year, the 12-1 Ducks broke the 50-point barrier in seven of 13 games. And Long didn’t shy from the comparison, one that’s bolstered by the fact that Mark Helfrich was the coordinator for both. “It was almost as if the (Oregon) coaches had more than 24 hours in a day to prepare,” Long said. “And they did such a tremendous job scheming, installing the stuff and detailing it, and I think that’s something coach Nagy is obsessed with. And it’s really reflected in the way guys are approaching their day-to-day routine, their installs, and their film sessions.” Long said it made those Ducks feel unstoppable. We’ll see if these Bears feel that way come fall.
TOP POSITION BATTLE: Aaron Lynch vs. Sam Ocho at LOLB. The Bears need edge pressure, and the first piece of getting it will be keeping freakish former first-rounder Leonard Floyd healthy. Second will be finding his bookend, and Lynch and Ocho are the front-runners for that job.
OFFBEAT OBSERVATION: The gigantic water tower off in the distance of the practice field that reads “Bourbonnais: Summer Home of the Chicago Bears”. The trend of late has been for teams to move their camps back to their facility—largely because the massive amount of resources teams have at home have become so vital to each club—and the Bears are going through an expensive overhaul of Halas Hall back in Lake Forest, so there’s certainly a question there of whether they’d eventually stay there for the entire summer. And it’s as if the water tower here looms as a reminder of how important having the Bears here is to this community in a cornfield.
PARTING THOUGHT: At one point during out conversation, GM Ryan Pace told me at least once per workday, he sees something from Nagy and his staff that makes him pump his fist, and think, “Yes!” And one reason why? He sees some Sean Payton (he worked with Payton for nine years in New Orleans) in his new coach. “They (both) have a confidence and a swagger to them that’s infectious. When they walk in the room, it’s ‘OK, we got this.’ It’s how they both carry themselves. And it’s not a big ego or anything like that, it’s just a real natural confidence to them. And it comes with both of them having played the position too. It’s the one position where it’s pretty important, if you’re coaching it, to have played it, so you can see things through the eyes of the quarterback when you’re asking him to do certain things, knowing what’s difficult and what’s not. And you see Matt, as each day goes by, get a better understanding of [Mitch]. It just feels like there’s a very natural fit of this offensive style to Mitch’s skill set.”
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