Matt Nagy wants Bears to get their edge back, and here are 4 places to start

Bears coach Matt Nagy was in the process of again diffusing blame away from quarterback Mitch Trubisky this week when he stumbled upon a rare public criticism of his players.

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Bears outside linebacker Leonard Floyd had three sacks last year.

Bears outside linebacker Leonard Floyd had three sacks last year.

AP

INDIANAPOLIS — Bears coach Matt Nagy again was in the process of directing blame away from quarterback Mitch Trubisky this week when he offered a rare public criticism of his players.

Asked if he wanted Trubisky to feel like he was being challenged for his starting job, he said every player needed to feel that way.

“If you don’t, you feel content and you play content,” he said. “You don’t have that chip.”

He talked to players during exit meetings about getting it back.

“I’m not going to get into who they are or where they are at —but there are some guys, and they know who they are, that can play with a chip on their shoulder,” he said. “And that’s the part to me that going into this year—I want to see if they have that chip.”

Nagy was careful not to name names. But here are four places — areas where they need veterans to improve — where they can start:

Outside linebacker

After another unproductive pass-rushing year — he had three sacks, bringing his four-year total to 18½ — 2016 first-round pick Leonard Floyd’s $13.2 million option for 2020 sure seems expensive.

If he’s still on the roster March 18, his 2020 contract becomes fully guaranteed. Could the Bears cut him before then? Extend him to lower the cap hit? Let him play a prove-it season?

The Bears appreciate his ability to play the run and in pass coverage. But the outside linebacker across from Khalil Mack must be able to get to the quarterback, right?

Right?

“He’s close in a lot of areas, when you look at the pressures and those things,” general manager Ryan Pace said this week. “He just needs to finish a little better on the quarterback.”

Running back

Tarik Cohen sounded humbled speaking to the Sun-Times during Super Bowl week. The player who arrived at training camp in a Polaris Slingshot said, “Now that we have the noise off of us, it’ll be better.”

Pace didn’t have a good explanation for Cohen’s struggles last season.

“We all need to be better,” he said, “and I know Cohen will be motivated.”

The Bears won’t overhaul the room, so it will be incumbent upon David Montgomery — whom they believe can handle a heavy workload — as well as Cohen and Ryan Nall to improve.

“They all have different flavors and styles,” Pace said.

Wide receiver

The Bears’ top offseason goal at the position is to give star Allen Robinson, who has one year left on his contract, an extension.

Item No. 2? Deciding whether 2018 second-round pick Anthony Miller can be a full-time, reliable No. 2 receiver or whether he’ll continue to struggle with mental errors. For the second consecutive year, he’s recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. The Bears also need speed to replace cap casualty Taylor Gabriel.

The draft could solve both issues. Experts think it’s one of the best ever for receivers.

First-round talent could last into the second round, where the Bears pick twice.

“You talk about, ‘There’s this explosive speed guy, then there’s the big targets and possession guys,’ ” Pace said. “That’s a strength of this draft, for sure.”

Offensive line

The Bears have extended the contracts of three starters since 2017. In 2018, they drafted guard James Daniels in the second round. But only two tackles averaged more penalties than Charles Leno last year, and Daniels struggled enough to force a position switch with Cody Whitehair.

The Bears are betting that new offensive line coach Juan Castillo will help fix bad habits.

“The best part about him is he pushes you like none other, so when you get out to practice and see how hard he works these guys, he’s going to push them to the brink,” said Nagy, who coached with Castillo in Philadelphia. “But at the same time, they are going to know that he would fall on a sword for them. Right? And I think you feel that. I’ve witnessed it.”

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