7 things we heard from Bears coordinators on Thursday
Colleen KaneColleen KaneContact ReporterChicago Tribune
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The Bears coordinators spoke with the media Thursday at Halas Hall as their units prepare for Sunday’s game against the Cardinals in Glendale, Ariz. Here are highlights from those sessions.
1. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said rookie linebacker Roquan Smith played well in his first NFL start Monday against the Seahawks but has room for improvement.
Smith, who missed much of the preseason because of a 29-day contract holdout and a hamstring injury, played 89 percent of the Bears’ defensive snaps in the game.
“He had a couple missed tackles we didn’t like,” Fangio said. “And it goes back to another thing. He missed basically all of training camp. We started playing a coverage there at the end of the game. When we put it in and worked on it the most, he wasn’t there in training camp and he didn’t execute it like we wanted him to at the end of the game, which allowed some of those completions.
“That’s more on me than him because I should have realized that he wasn’t there when we worked on it and made sure he was honed up on it. But I really liked the way he played. He had some really nice plays. Good tackler. Obviously he can run, and we’re thrilled to have him.”
2. Fangio said he thinks outside linebacker Aaron Lynch will keep improving with more time on the field.
Lynch, who played for Fangio in San Francisco, missed the preseason with a hamstring injury, but the Bears kept him on the roster, citing their history as part of that decision. He had two tackles and a sack Monday.
“I don’t think me being with him in the past was a major part of that decision,” Fangio said. “Even if I wasn’t here, we would’ve kept him. When he was out there, which wasn’t a lot, obviously you do see his potential and what we’d like to get from him. He just has to stay healthy.
“He’s slowly rounding into shape. He really didn’t do much in training camp. So he’s still rounding into shape, both in efficiency of execution and just his body being in shape. Hopefully he’ll keep improving, and I think he will.”
3. Fangio credited cornerback Prince Amukamara’s offseason work on improving his ball skills for helping him nab his first interception since 2015 on Monday.
“He’s worked extremely hard on it,” Fangio said. “He’s caught a million balls, whether it be from a JUGS machine or a person. (Special teams coordinator) Chris Tabor’s taking credit for his interception last week because Chris has a good arm and we had him throw ball drills last week to the guys, so he wants a piece of that credit. But Prince has worked very hard on improving his ball skills.”
4. Offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich said wide receiver Allen Robinson is “really starting to build chemistry” with quarterback Mitch Trubisky.
Robinson, who tore his ACL in his left knee last year, had 10 catches for 83 yards on Monday.
“We had a couple of route-depth things we’ll clean up,” Helfrich said. “They were simple things that he watches on film and goes, ‘Oh, yeah.’ Knucklehead type stuff. I think he’s confident now. You never know with that kind of an injury how a guy is mentally approaching things, and that’s a huge, huge hurdle to get over, (to say), ‘Hey, I’m good.’ And that’s big.”
5. Helfrich said he saw growth in quarterback Mitch Trubisky “not carrying the crap with him, so to speak, going forward.”
He liked that Trubisky was able to put his bad plays, including two interceptions, behind him quickly, and he called Trubisky’s second interception on a tipped pass “just a weird play.”
“The guy was at the line of scrimmage,” Helfrich said. “It wasn’t like he was 6 yards off the ball or in that little gray area of when you’re going to fit the ball between or over the top. It’s not like he tried to feather it and threw it to the corner or the safety. It happens. These dudes are big and they’re taught to do that, and the guy made a great play, on both ends, the tip and the catch.”
6. Helfrich called the Cardinals’ blitzes “unique” and said “they’re really good at it.”
“They bring it,” Helfrich said. “It’s impressive how well they cover out of it. You know they’re bringing it and the fans know they’re bringing it, and they get it done. So again it’s an all-hands-on-deck type of deal. You have to protect. You have to play in rhythm. You have to throw in time. The routes have to be crisp and urgent. And play cleanly.”
7. Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor was complimentary of punter Pat O’Donnell’s performance over the first two weeks, which included a net average of 41.8 yards.
“He’s changed some things, his footwork and those types of things,” Tabor said. “My hat is off to him. He’s a guy who’s been in this league a while. We asked him to tweak and change a few fundamentals, and he’s gone all in. To me that’s a sign that he’s a pro’s pro. I’ve been real pleased with where it’s at.
“He knows, though, that this game is the next big one for him. You’re only as good as your next one, so we need him to play well, especially with the Kirk kid (Cardinals punt returner Christian Kirk).”