The Bears on Sunday morning held their second practice in pads. Four interceptions by the secondary were a highlight for the defense, which needs to take a big leap in that department this season. On the downside, they were thrown by Bears quarterbacks, so those hoping for more offense will have to wait another day.
Here are five observations from practice. Keep in mind these are simply a snapshot of players’ work to get better.
1. Again, there was a fumbled center-quarterback exchange with Mitch Trubisky under center.
This issue has life after Trubisky was part of three fumbled exchanges Saturday. He did not speak to reporters Sunday, but Saturday he said the fumbles resulted from a lapse of focus. The Bears will tolerate mistakes in practice—by any player, not just the second-overall pick—as long as they’re corrected and result in improvement. Repeated mistakes, though? That’s more difficult to accept. First-stringer Cody Whitehair was the center on Sunday’s botched exchange. Veteran Taylor Boggs was the center Saturday.
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Trubisky was intercepted by fourth-round rookie Eddie Jackson in 11-on-11 team drills. Trubisky locked on to receiver Rueben Randle on an intermediate out-breaking route, and Jackson broke on it in time to pick it off. (More on Jackson’s play below.)
As usual, Trubisky’s athleticism shines behind the line of scrimmage. Whenever he plays in regular season games, it will be interesting to see what the Bears design to maximize that run-and-throw ability, especially in short yardage and the red zone. The possibilities are exciting.
2. Mike Glennon was smooth behind a clean pocket.
That’s the book on Glennon coming from the Buccaneers, and it’s showing here at Olivet Nazarene University. On a play-action pass during team drills, he connected with Cameron Meredith over the middle with room to run after the catch. Glennon’s feet were smooth and his upper body followed. His rhythm was clean, and it resulted in a chunk play.
Glennon also hit Ka’Deem Carey in stride on a checkdown to the left flat, a pass worth mentioning after he missed a similar one to the left on Saturday.
3. Running back Tarik Cohen is allergic to defenders.
Coach John Fox coined a new word Sunday in discussing the fourth-round rookie out of North Carolina A&T: evadability. Through two practices, it’s clear why “The Human Joystick” is one of his nicknames. He can stop on a dime, and he can do it two or three times in one play. It’s the product of great vision and the type of quick-twitch movement ability general manager Ryan Pace loves.
Cohen’s speed also stands out big time, which is expected in drills that don’t involve live tackling. He could be a very dangerous weapon the Bears’ screen game this year. The challenge for coaches is to develop enough versatility in Cohen so that teams can’t be sure a screen is coming when Cohen is in the game. That means making sure he’s a capable pass blocker and runner between the tackles.
In this setting, at least, Cohen is really fun to watch. He took a screen Sunday and darted through the second level in a blink.
4. Jackson’s interception was an example of the instincts that attracted the Bears to him coming out of college.
He began the sequence by identifying Randle as his responsibility in his half of the field. Then he saw Trubisky open up to throw.
“He was staring him down,” Jackson said of Trubisky. “I just broke and made the play.”
Jackson trusted his instincts, got over top of Randle and made the interception. He didn’t undercut the route, and it’s possible that Randle either could have gotten a hand on it or Trubisky could have put it closer to the target. But Jackson was aggressive at the catch point and made the interception. That’s exactly what the Bears want to see.
5. Nose tackle Eddie Goldman’s bull rush is as good as ever.
Goldman drove Whitehair back in one-on-one pass protection drills, even getting Whitehair sliding backwards before falling. Goldman won with great leverage and strength. That’s a good sign for him a season removed from a high left ankle sprain that cost him 10 games.
Defensive line coach Jay Rodgers said Goldman’s experience through two seasons—even though he was hurt last year—is evident now.
“Eddie is to the point where he can watch film and identify what he did wrong,” Rodgers said. “We always talk about feet. We always talk about hands. We always talk about leveraging people. We always talk about how our get-off has got to be in our pass rush. How our hips need to flip. How our feet need to replace. How we finish.
“He can watch the film and say, ‘Alright, I got beat because I didn’t do this.’ That’s rewarding for me because I don’t have to spend five hours on the little things. He understands the little things. Now he can relate those things to the guy he’s matched up on and say, ‘This is what I need to do against this guy.’ And he can practice it all week and prepare on Sundays.”
In fairness to Whitehair, one-on-one pass-rush drills put the offensive lineman at a significant disadvantage. They have no help, and defensive linemen—especially in the interior—have more space to work with. That said, this matchup between two of the Bears’ best young players is one of the best at any position in camp.