ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Two days spent practicing with the Broncos in the hot sun weren’t enough for the Bears. They can’t wait to play them Saturday night at Broncos Stadium at Mile High.
“Every snap matters,” quarterback Mitch Trubisky said. “Every practice rep, every preseason game matters.”
Here are five takeaways from Thursday:
Mitch matters 2.0
Trubisky ended his two days of practices with two touchdown passes during full-team drills in the red zone against the Broncos’ starters.
One was a strike to receiver Kevin White over the middle. The second was a jump ball for Allen Robinson in the corner of the end zone.
“Arrow up,” Nagy said of Trubisky. “It wasn’t one good day, one bad day. It was two good days. That’s what his expectations are. That’s what he knows that we want. He’s done that, and we’re not going to stop him.”
Trubisky didn’t throw an interception against the Broncos, though he did come close Thursday when he forced a throw to tight end Adam Shaheen in the end zone. Safety Will Parks broke up the pass.
“It was good for me to see different looks, go out there and try to operate at the line of scrimmage getting in and out of the huddle,” Trubisky said. “Our offense took a step forward these past few days.”
Specifically, Nagy thought Trubisky’s chemistry with tight end Trey Burton and Robinson improved.
“Both their timing is really starting to click with No. 10,” he said.
The success of the Bears’ tight ends started with Burton, who caught passes all over the field against Broncos safeties, linebackers or nickel backs in full-team and seven-on-seven drills. But Shaheen also proved to be tough to handle for the Broncos’ starters over two days.
“I was happy with their performance,” Nagy said. “They’re doing a good job right now of matching up their timing with No. 10. We didn’t do any ‘live’ the last two days, so it’s hard to tell exactly where they’d be in their blocking assignments, but we’re trying to really focus in on that, too.”
With Dion Sims sidelined with a concussion, Shaheen said he’s focused primarily on being the “Y” tight end, but still lined up all over the field.
“He’s really impressive,” Burton said. “He has all the physical attributes you could ever want from the tight-end position. You match that with ball skills and you match that with his knowledge and how fast he’s able to pick things up. You see him making the plays that he makes. It’s no surprise to me just because of how gifted he is.”
Daniel Brown shouldn’t be overlooked, either The responsibilities of Nagy’s “U” tight end seem to fit his skill set.
“You guys know that we really value that position and we want to use them as much as we can,” Nagy said. “So far, I personally feel like [the tight ends] are passing the test.”
For the second day in the row, center Cody Whitehair struggled with his snaps in shotgun. His issues affected the rhythm of several plays.
“You want to make sure that he understands and all the centers understand that you can’t have that,” Nagy said. “It can’t be two inches from the ground, and it can’t be three feet above [the quarterback’s] head because what that does is it immediately takes him off his progression or off the handoff that he might give to the back. So you want those to be darn near perfect, 98 percent of the time, if not near 100. Yeah, there are some struggles right now, but we’re going to stay positive with it. Let me tell you something, it’s not just one guy.”
That’s true. Second-round James Daniels also had his mistakes. But it’s worth noting that Daniels only is focusing on center right now. Whitehair’s snap issues also date back to last season.
“It was a little bit of an issue last year, too,” Whitehair said. “I’m trying to work on it every day pre- and post-practice. It’s different when it’s live, too. You got to get those live reps as well.”
Trubisky adamantly defended Whitehair, mentioning all the calls and checks they’re making in Nagy’s new offense.
“Cody knows I’ve got his back,” Trubisky said. “Cody cares more about this team and this game than pretty much anybody. If you guys knew how much Cody loved this game, this team, there wouldn’t be any questions about it. So I’m not worried one bit.”
Fisticuffs are commonplace in joint practices, and tempers finally flared up during gunner drills for special teams.
But the Bears surely weren’t happy to see receiver Anthony Miller, one of their two second-round picks, get involved, though they love his come-get-some demeanor.
Miller appeared to throw a punch at a Broncos defensive back. Nagy immediately pulled Miller aside.
“You talk about competitors, he might be one of the most competitive people you’ve ever met,” Nagy said. “He’s a young kid. He’s trying to set the tone and let people know who he is, but you’ve got to be smart, too. And so that was really my message to him is just be you, but be you the right way.”
As Nagy talked to Miller, though, another incident broke out involving safety Deiondre’ Hall. After that, Nagy gathered players from both teams.
“As competitive and as much of an ego as you want to have and try to fight somebody, it’s not worth it,” Nagy said. “You know there’s injuries, and it just doesn’t make sense. So I think the best way to handle it [was] just bring everybody together and just tell them that.”
Roquan’s return 2.0
The Bears didn’t change their plan for rookie linebacker Roquan Smith during his second full day of practice since rejoining the team after his contract dispute. His snaps were limited, but he still handled the calls for backups.
Nagy, though, said he liked what he saw from Smith after watching film from Wednesday’s practice.
“The reps that he got I thought there were some plays where he showed some flashes of speed, cutting down angles and the instincts,” Nagy said.