Five things we learned from talking to Bears assistant coaches Wednesday:
The Bears signed edge rusher Robert Quinn to a five-year, $70 million deal in March but have yet to see him go full-bore.
Coach Matt Nagy said this week that Quinn was being eased into action after handling a personal issue. He has worked with his position group but not in team drills during training camp.
“Rob’s on his own program a little bit,” outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino said. “He’s got his own set of requirements that we’ve got to get done with Rob first, and he is exactly where he needs to be. He’s had a few things come up and based on those things, we’ve got to continue to bring him along slowly. He’s in the ramping-upphase.”
That’s not particularly assuring, given that the season opener is 3½ weeks away. Getting him ready has become a priority.
“What we need to see from Rob before [Sept.] 13 is a fully healthy Robert Quinn that is ready to pop out of his skin on game day,” Monachino said. “We’re all building in that direction right now, from the head coach all the way through me.”
The Bears have limited star outside linebacker Khalil Mack in practice, too, but frame that as more of a veteran courtesy.
“As soon as we can plug them back in,” Monachino said, “I think we’ll have exactly what we’re looking for out there.”
Jaylon Johnson is facing a ‘baptism under fire’
Rookie Jaylon Johnson remains the Bears’ long-term answer at cornerback opposite Kyle Fuller. Artie Burns tearing his left ACL on Tuesday, though, might have hastened Johnson’s timeline.
But does he have enough time to earn the starting job before Week 1? The second-round pick has been limited in practice after recovering from surgery on his right shoulder in early March. With no exhibition games this year, practice is the only chance Johnson has to make an impression.
‘‘We’ve gotta get him out there — he’s just gotta play, and he’s gotta compete,” defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said. “Right now, unfortunately, it’s not going to be in preseason games. It’s going to be in situational football, practice reps. If we have live periods, whatever that is, we’ve gotta see him play. And then it’s gonna be baptism under fire for all these young guys.”
While slot cornerback Buster Skrine jumped outside for a bit Tuesday after Burns got hurt, Kevin Toliver will be Johnson’s chief competition. The Bears admire Toliver’s athleticism — he performed well last year against the Packers and Cowboys — but are still waiting for him to master the mental game.
‘‘That’s the part of the game that separates you,” defensive backs coach Deshea Townsend said. “And that’s up to him.”
The safety battle will be close
While Deon Bush received attention for starting a fight with an unnecessary tackle Tuesday, the Bears are noticing Tashaun Gipson’s veteran savvy.
“He understands leverage and he understands how to use his strengths and his tools, whether it’s in man coverage or whether he’s playing the deep part of the field, using his experience to benefit him,” safeties coach Sean Desai said of Gipson, who has 23 interceptions in eight seasons. “And I think that experience is really what has shown on the field these last few days.”
In his fifth season, Bush has become more comfortable in his own skin.
“I think a lot of it has been with his own personal growth and maturity and being comfortable in the system and being confident in himself,” Desai said. “And seeing that he’s athletic enough to go make some plays. And trusting that.”
Javon Wims stopped being stubborn
Before camp, wide receivers coach Mike Furrey singled out Riley Ridley as the pass catcher with the chance to make the biggest leap. On Wednesday, though, he turned his attention to another former Georgia player: Javon Wims.
The third-year wideout played 45% of the offensive snaps last year but caught only 18 passes. In camp, Furrey said that Wims “has taken some of the deficiencies that he’s been a little bit stubborn about” and fixed them.
The 6-2 Wims, he said, has finally learned to keep his body low throughout the pass route rather than stand tall and box a defender out like a rebounder.
He also stopped being “too cute” against press coverage, Furrey said. Rather than going through a litany of shimmy-shaking, he’s now making compact, violent motions to get down the field.
“I’m telling you, he’s added that to his game — and that’s been something that he’s been really stubborn about over the last couple of years,” Furrey said. “Because ‘I’m bigger than everybody, I can just out-man them,’ — that doesn’t work in the NFL.”
Furrey reiterated the Bears are bound to cut a talented receiver before the season starts.
“The guys recognize that,” he said. “And I think that they’ve taken that, and they realize every day that they have to show up and go to work, and they have to push themselves and get better every day.”
They’re still watching Eddy Pineiro
After the Bears preached competition the last two offseasons, they decided to let Eddy Pineiro go through training camp as the team’s only kicker. Special-teams coordinator Chris Tabor said the decision to cut Ramiz Ahmed last week was the result of a “numbers game” — the Bears had to get their 90-man roster down to 80 players.
Taking away Pineiro’s competitor doesn’t jibe with Tabor’s assertion that the Bears “haven’t arrived at that position at all.” If Pineiro doesn’t perform in camp, he said, the Bears could still look elsewhere.
“You expect him to make kicks,” Tabor said. “You want him to make every kick, but history has shown that doesn’t always happen. But his expectation is to be a really good player for us. And if that doesn’t get satisfied, just as with any other position, you have to do what’s best for the team.”