Why Matt Nagy’s offense will help the Bears’ defense ‘kick some more butt’

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Bears defensive end Akiem Hicks celebrates a sack of Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford in the Bears’ 17-14 victory at Soldier Field. (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)

Nearly every time a Bears offensive player speaks, the praise pours in for coordinator Vic Fangio’s defense. Take what quarterback Mitch Trubisky said during minicamp Wednesday:

‘‘They’re giving us a lot of different stuff, showing us a lot of good looks, and they’re really competitive,’’ he said. ‘‘They’re making us better. For us to be able to compete with them and even win some drills gives us a lot of confidence.’’

But for as much as Trubisky, coach Matt Nagy and others highlight the value of facing Fangio’s defense, something similar is afoot on the other side.

A fairer fight is emerging that might pay off for a defense that has lofty aspirations. Nagy’s offense, with its run-pass options (RPOs), various formations, frequent motions, screen calls and so on, is testing it.

‘‘There’s so many dang moving parts,’’ defensive lineman Akiem Hicks said. ‘‘It gives us fits in practice, so I think that’ll help.’’

It helps because members of the defense — one that returns nearly every starter — want to be challenged after finishing 10th in yards allowed and ninth in points allowed last season.

Then-coach John Fox helped rebuild the defense, but his rudimentary approach to offense rarely enhanced its preparations. That was particularly true after Trubisky took over last season.

Nagy, meanwhile, presents Fangio’s defense with modern looks — ones in line with what some of the NFL’s best offenses feature — to contend with daily.

‘‘It’s really hard on us, but it makes you better, and that’s what you want,’’ secondary coach Ed Donatell Said. ‘‘It’s all applicable to this league. We’re going to see stuff like it.

‘‘There’s trends — the formations, the motions and the RPOs. I love it because it helps me calm down and feel secure going into Sundays. It will help us prepare and make us a better defense.’’

Fangio said the types of option plays Nagy uses can be particularly challenging for defensive backs.

‘‘Green Bay has been running these types of plays for a long time, just not to the abundance that now more teams are doing it,’’ Fangio said. ‘‘We’ve all seen where the quarterback gets the ball under center and throws it out real quick to a receiver because the DB is way off.

‘‘Now they’re just doing that out of the shotgun, but they’re running routes with it, whereas under center you can’t do it. [It’s] quick routes. I don’t want to say [it’s] a problem, but it’s different and it’s new. You have to adjust to it.’’


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Nagy’s offense also features better players to face in practice. Tight end Trey Burton has been difficult to cover, and receiver Taylor Gabriel’s speed is challenging.

The offense will become more formidable when receiver Allen Robinson is added to it fully during training camp. Nagy also is using running back Tarik Cohen and tight end Adam Shaheen differently in their second seasons.

Put all those players in a creative scheme orchestrated by Nagy, and it’s obvious why the Bears’ defense feels under attack.

‘‘Seeing those principles in practice are awesome for us,’’ Donatell said. ‘‘You can’t create that, the speed and explosion that they put in front of us.’’

Nagy’s aggressive approach offensively also has resonated with defenders.

‘‘We’re working together,’’ Hicks said. ‘‘You’ve got to have your offense. For us, I think the biggest difference is having an offense that’s going to score in the first half.’’

It’s only June, but facing the Bears’ offense has Hicks thinking of game days.

‘‘We played really well last year,’’ he said. ‘‘As long as we polish up our ends and make ourselves a little bit better and then have the offense contribute to keeping us off the field and keeping us fresher, I think we’ll come out there with a good attitude and be able to kick some more butt.’’

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