ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Coach Matt Nagy was hours away from watching film of the Bears’ practice Wednesday against the Broncos. But he felt what happened.
“We got better; they got better,” Nagy said. “You get some different looks defensively; they get some different looks offensively. I’m glad we did this.”
That said, here are five takeaways from the Bears’ first day of joint practices with the Broncos at the UCHealth Training Center:
Quarterback Mitch Trubisky isn’t a star yet, but he’s certainly an attraction. With practice open to the public, Trubisky stuck around to sign autographs as he did every day at Olivet Nazarene University.
“Mitchell, you’re my favorite player,” a young boy in a No. 10 jersey screamed.
Trubisky put on a solid show for that fan, too. Nagy specifically thought he played well against the Broncos’ starters in seven-on-seven drills.
“Man, he threw some really good balls,” Nagy said.
Trubisky made an exceptional throw to tight end Trey Burton in the corner of the end zone.
“He had a good day,” Nagy said. “It was refreshing to play some different looks. It really is. You just go through day by day a lot of the same coverages with our defense, and now you get something totally different on how maybe they play a specific formation.”
During one full-team drill, Trubisky went 4-for-4 with completions to Burton, wide receiver Allen Robinson, Burton again and tight end Adam Shaheen (a possible sack if there was live hitting).
But it wasn’t a perfect day. There were several overthrown passes that Trubisky surely would like back. The first-team offense settled for a field goal in its red-zone drill against the Broncos’ starters.
Nagy also said that the “anticipation part” of certain throws and plays remains a work in progress for Trubisky, though it didn’t help that center Cody Whitehair’s snaps were off at times.
“Being able to do what we call ‘card’ throws, throw the ball on time, throw it early and trust it,” Nagy said, “we’re trying to practice that right now.”
Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller, meanwhile, is a surefire star attraction.
That was obvious as he pumped up Broncos fans in the red zone or when he danced to the music as he waited his turn in one-on-one drills.
Some members of the Bears’ offensive line also made it a point to shake hands with Miller after one-on-one drills. They included right tackle Bobby Massie, who was beaten by Miller with his patented spin move.
Miller didn’t exactly “wreck” the practice as Broncos coach Vance Joseph said he has done in the past with his own team, but the Broncos’ entire defensive line presented a challenge.
“Going against this team for five years in Kansas City, I know what they have on that defensive line,” Nagy said. “They got some men over there on that side. So for us, what a great challenge for our offensive linemen to be able to be tested by some of the best in the league.
“You look at No. 58, Von Miller, and you’ll get better by playing him. You may get worse, but you want to try to get better, too, and test yourself. I thought our guys did a good job.”
When the Broncos review their practice film, they’ll surely see some potential “sacks” of Trubisky. But Miller sees bright days ahead for the second-year quarterback.
“With the offensive scheme and the players that he has around him, he’ll be great,” Miller said. “He’s their franchise quarterback. You’ve got to not let him scramble and not let him complete passes. That’s the same game plan every week unless you’re playing, like, a fast guy, which Mitch is fast and can run. He can do a little bit of everything, so you’ve got to be prepared for everything.”
Fitting right in
Rookie linebacker Roquan Smith stepped out of individual drills early in practice to get his shoulder pads fixed by the Bears’ equipment staff.
“One of my pads was acting up a little bit,” Smith said.
But it was a minor blip during a busy day for Smith. It was Smith’s first padded practice because of his 29-day contract impasse, and the Bears didn’t limit him much.
Smith handled the calls with the backups and also covered wide receiver Demaryius Thomas in the red zone during seven-on-sevens.
He said his conditioning will improve, but, overall, he held up well.
“I felt great,” Smith said. “That’s the way football is played. That’s why I’ve made my plays in pads. It was great just being back out in pads and getting after it and doing a little popping.”
Fighting words only
Last year, the Broncos’ joint practices with the 49ers featured several fights in two days. It was a different story against the Bears.
“I thought that the biggest issue you run into with these are sometimes tempers can get going, and you get some fights,” Nagy said. “I thought it was really impressive by both teams, coaches, players, everybody, to keep the tempo exactly where it needs to be without anything stupid.”
There were some close calls, though. Wide receiver Josh Bellamy and safety Eddie Jackson got into verbal squabbles that were quickly ended by their position coaches.
Feeling miles high
Practicing in the mile-high altitude didn’t appear to affect the Bears too much. Linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski, for example, said his lungs felt fine.
“Once you get going into the heart of practice, I didn’t feel anything,” he said.
Linebacker Danny Trevathan, though, felt plenty, albeit sentimentally.
Playing against the Broncos brought back fond memories of facing quarterback Peyton Manning in practice early on in his career after the Broncos drafted Trevathan in the sixth round in 2012.
“Picking off Peyton!” said Trevathan, who started for the Broncos in their victory against the Panthers in Super Bowl 50. “Getting my name yelled at a couple of times: ‘Who is this guy? Who’s No. 59? Get him off the field.’ It was creating memories. Getting on Peyton’s nerves, seeing Peyton start practice over.”