Stability gives Bears' defense a sharper sense of confidence
By GENE CHAMBERLAIN
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) Cornerback Prince Amukamara appreciated the give and take with new Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy at Tuesday's practice.
For the defense, as non-contact organized team activities began there was a lot of taking - and then they really gave it to Nagy and his fledgling offense.
"He's an offensive coach and last year coach (John) Fox, I couldn't really talk stuff to because he's a defensive coach," Amukamara said. "And it's like Nagy's offense, so if I get a pick or something ... I like to talk stuff to him."
The idea for the defense since offseason started was maintaining continuity with players and with coaches, even while the head coach had changed.
The addition of a few new pieces hasn't hurt, and now defensive players believe they have what's needed to improve on last year when they ranked 10th overall.
And Nagy is also a believer, even if he and offensive players are getting kidded at practice from Amukamara or defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.
"Right now there's a trust from one another because they've been together," Nagy said. "There's that experience factor, which is good. And they believe what they've got going on with Vic's system.
"When you have that, that's always good. So they just kind of want to grow from any mistakes they made last year, different areas of the game they can improve on, and that's what they're doing right now."
Linebacker Danny Trevathan pointed to the retention of Fangio as a key. Fangio re-signed after his bid to become head coach was denied following Fox's firing.
"I was excited to have Vic back," Trevathan said. "I was kind of nervous about him leaving. I feel like I really wanted him back.
"He's one of our leaders and he's one of the guys we can go to for calls and advice on things."
Keeping the entire starting secondary together was also important. The Bears could have lost starting cornerback Kyle Fuller or his good friend Amukamara as free agents, but retained both.
"So when you have that continuity and the language stays the same, meaning the plays, it just becomes second nature," Amukamara said. "Guys play faster. Guys know what to expect.
"They know how teams are going to attack them and all that is a recipe for success."
Although intact, the Bears secondary has problems to correct. They've made a franchise record low of eight interceptions each of the last three seasons.
"I think personally on the back end it's our job to take the ball away," Amukamara said. "I think we had our opportunities last year and just needed to capitalize on them.
"And I would say that for the most part, just taking the ball away, I think we did a great job last year. I think we were (third) at forcing fumbles and recovering them. So I think this year, just catching them, intercepting it."
Trevathan realizes Smith threatens his job security, but also thinks the extra speed and depth is something the defense lacked..
"We got the right guy to fit our defense," Trevathan said. "He's working his tail off and he fits in with our linebacker group."
Nagy appreciated Smith's quickness defending one pass play on the outside.
A forced turnover a few minutes later had the defense chortling, while Nagy had to address his offense.
"We like that because that's the kind of defense we are," Trevathan said. "We're going to be in your face making plays, but at the same time we're having fun and we're all getting better at the same time."
NOTES: Outside linebacker Aaron Lynch returned to practice after suffering an ankle injury at the April 17-19 minicamp. . After offseason surgery, right guard Kyle Long was able to participate in the offense's installation, but did not take part in scrimmage. Nagy said it's likely Long will stay at right guard. Last year some thought had been given to playing Long at left guard. ... Wide receiver Allen Robinson is still sidelined while rehabbing a torn ACL. Nagy called Robinson "ahead of the game" with his recovery.
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Updated May 16, 2018