When he was deciding whether to re-sign with the Bears in March, cornerback Prince Amukamara flew to Chicago to have dinner with new coach Matt Nagy, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and general manager Ryan Pace. He weighed the defensive scheme, the influence of defensive backs coach Ed
Donatell and, of course, the money.
Then he considered the quarterback.
Amukamara’s previous two free-agent deals were for one year: with the Jaguars and quarterback Blake Bortles in 2016 and with the Bears and quarterback Mike Glennon in 2017. If he was going to stay for three years — “I mean, it’s better to lay your roots down somewhere,” he said — he needed to believe in the person under center.
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With Mitch Trubisky, in Nagy’s offense, that was easy.
“I want to win a championship, and having Mitch here, that’s always the start,” he said after the Bears’ second organized-team-activity practice Wednesday. “The quarterback’s always the start, and just having Mitch and seeing his improvement and his effort . . . I’m sure some people saw, but even when Mitch was the backup, Mitch was staying after practice and always working hard. And you love seeing that in a quarterback, especially a backup.
‘‘I’ve always just saw greatness in him ever since then. I think this year he gets to really show it.”
Amukamara isn’t alone. Receivers Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel, who signed this offseason, hope Trubisky can get them a “third contract, or help them get their first ring,” Amukamara said.
“I think if guys came here to win, then, yeah, the quarterback should definitely be the first thing that you look at,” he said.
The second thing is how the team enables the quarterback to succeed. Amukamara has noticed the quickness of the new offense and a creativity that seemed to be absent under John Fox and coordinator Dowell Loggains the last two years. It’s only May, but he has seen enough to be excited about what the
offense can achieve going up against someone else’s defense.
“They’re throwing a lot of different looks at us, and that’s just Nagy’s offense,” he said. “If I was a receiver, I would love to play in this offense just because you get to do so many different things and you get so many different plays. It just looks fun over there.”
That’s a begrudging admission for a defender, but a hopeful one.
It would be easy for a grizzled Bears defense, which returns almost all of its starters and coaches, to try to minimize the impact of Trubisky, three new pass-catching starters and Nagy’s hybrid West Coast-spread offense. Or to grouse, the way defensive players did after Lovie Smith’s firing, about the hiring of an offensive-minded head coach. After all, defensive players are wired to despise elements of a game that’s increasingly focused on scoring and less on violence.
Only that hasn’t been the case. Outside linebacker Sam Acho laughed that, under Fox, the team was taught that jump balls should be caught by defensive backs eager for interceptions. Nagy preaches that receivers should expect to catch them.
Still, Acho concedes Nagy is a perfect fit.
“He’s an offensive coach,” Acho said, “but that’s what we need.”
Through one three-day minicamp and a week of organized team activities, inside linebacker Danny Trevathan also has been impressed by the speed of Nagy’s offense and its new players.
“It’s going to be tough, but those guys, they got the right pieces,” he said. “I like what I see out there. When somebody makes a play, they’re gone. Everybody can run over there. It’s the right fit for Mitch, it’s the right fit for the receivers, the running backs.”