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4 things we learned from Bears position coaches

Outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino compared star Khalil Mack to Novocain.

Bears outside linebacker Khalil Mack might be the most dominant defensive force in the NFL since Lawrence Taylor.
Khalil Mack has one sack in his past five games.
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Four things we learned from the Bears’ position coaches in the wake of the team’s 20-13 victory against the Lions:

They’re not worried about Khalil Mack’s production. Mack has only one sack in the last five games, but outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino swears that it’s because of the attention given him, not a dip in performance.

“The one thing we all need to be perfectly clear of is this is a special player,” he said. “People game-plan him. They do things that they don’t do versus other players that they do versus him. He got blocked by every position group on that offense [Sunday] — wide receivers blocked him, tight ends blocked him, running backs blocked him, guards, centers and tackles blocked him. This is a guy that doesn’t flinch, doesn’t get frustrated, he’s a great teammate. Is he still impacting games? Not the way that he would like. Impacting plays? Yes, down in and down out — but I do believe that you gotta give those teams a lot of credit.”

Akiem Hicks’ absence has allowed opposing teams to put more energy into blocking Mack and for quarterbacks to step up in the pocket to avoid the outside linebacker. Teams have been using quicker throws than usual, Monachino said.

“I think he would love to impact the game more with those game-changing plays, but right now he’s looking at it like Novocain,” Monachino said. “He’s going to keep using it, and eventually it’s going to work.”

They clarified why they moved Cody Whitehair. Second-year player James Daniels was “learning on the job” in his first full season at center, offensive line coach Harry Hiestand said. While neither he nor coach Matt Nagy would publicly criticize Daniels’ play, they pointed to his inexperience as a motivating factor for moving him back to left guard, where he played last season.

Whitehair, who played center in his first three seasons, returned to the position Sunday. Hiestand said part of the rationale was to balance out the line’s experience. When Daniels played center, he was to the immediate left of someone with even less experience: right guard Rashaad Coward, a former defensive lineman who made his first career start this year.

Putting Whitehair between them “balances us out and gives us a steadying factor in there,” Hiestand said.

Could Daniels end up back at center?

“Right now he’s where [he] is best for us,” Hiestand said. “But you never know with that.”

They’re excited about Nick Kwiatkoski. Inside linebackers coach Mark DeLeone sat down with Kwiatkoski on Sunday night and Monday morning. His message was how proud he was of Kwiatkoski, who recorded a sack and an interception in relief Sunday. Danny Trevathan left the game in the first quarter when his left elbow bent the wrong way. He’s likely headed for injured reserve.

“It’s hard whenever you lose a guy with Danny Trevathan’s passion and the way he plays the game,” DeLeone said. “From being equipped to handle it, I think we are as equipped as you can be.”

DeLeone said starter Roquan Smith has been “playing good for a few weeks now, at a really high level.”

Their fullback has good vision. Rookie running back David Montgomery didn’t play behind a fullback at Iowa State, so he had to adjust when the Bears installed tight end J.P. Holtz as one.

“It does take some time getting used to a guy because that guy’s gotta see it the way you see it,” running backs coach Charles London said. “J.P.’s done a good job of seeing it from a running back’s perspective, how he fits in each run play. David’s getting a good feel about how J.P.’s gonna block guys and how he’s gonna fit in there.

“It’s something that [Montgomery] likes. It’s been a good changeup for us.”