Five takeaways after the first five days of Bears training camp
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BOURBONNAIS — The Bears’ first day off of training camp Wednesday comes at a good time in coach Matt Nagy’s plan.
“We come back with three good days of pads,” Nagy said. “I know they’re really excited for that.”
But before Nagy and his players get to that, let’s look back at the first five days of camp at Olivet Nazarene University:
Picking on Trubisky
Quarterback Mitch Trubisky threw interceptions in four of the first five days of camp. Some sloppy, rainy conditions early on were a factor, but, overall, Nagy is OK with those mistakes.
Trubisky not only is learning a new offense, but Nagy and offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich are implementing run-pass options and other concepts. As Nagy often says, they’re “testing the waters.”
“He’s kind of in the flight simulator right now,” Nagy said. “He’s testing things out. We’re testing things out. We’re trying to see where he’s at [with] so many routes in this offense vs. so many different looks. We’ll put it all together that first game.”
Some perspective is needed, too. A few years ago, a ubiquitous storyline from camp was Jay Cutler’s interception-free run of practices. He was praised for it. It was the dawn of a new Jay; only it wasn’t.
Trubisky’s interceptions in camp shouldn’t overshadow the success he has had. He has continued to display a nice touch on his passes, particularly when he’s on the move.
Better yet, the offense appears to make sense to Trubisky.
It can be complicated for all involved, especially for the tight ends and wide receivers, but on several occasions, Trubisky could be seen correcting his teammates before and after plays.
Changing the scenery
From Allen Robinson to Marlon Brown at receiver and from Trey Burton to Colin Thompson at tight end, every skill player has gotten a chance to play with Trubisky or backup Chase Daniel. Running back Tarik Cohen has even caught passes from third-stringer Tyler Bray in camp.
At some point, the constant rotations will end. Robinson, Burton, Cohen and other starters will settle in for more advanced work with Trubisky.
But those rotations are part of the learning process for all players right now. Nagy wants it that way. Kevin White seemingly has benefitted from it. He has been targeted plenty throughout camp by Trubisky and Daniel.
“Right now, there’s zero game-planning going into this thing,” Nagy said. “It’s, ‘Everybody learn everything,’ and then what we do as evaluators and coaches is we see who does what well.
“There might be somebody that runs a route really well but can’t run another route to save his life, so we don’t do that. We put those guys in the right spots, and then we try to time it up with the quarterbacks.”
Running in place
Trubisky’s arm and Nagy’s array of formations and route combinations have dominated camp, but Jordan Howard’s minimal workload is deceiving. It’s the result of the installation of run-pass options.
“When you get into this RPO stuff, a lot of the time the ball is thrown and a run is called,” Nagy said. “So that’s going to naturally happen.”
There are plenty of exciting characteristics about the Bears’ offense. It’s diverse and aggressive. The Bears also want to be innovative. But it’s misleading to label it a finesse offense. Howard will be prominently featured.
Nagy said that more run plays are coming in camp. At some point, maintaining the legs of the receivers and tight ends will become a priority for him.
But Nagy also promised that his camp would be physical. For that to happen, more run plays must be called.
“You guys are going to start seeing some pads and some live action coming up here,” Nagy said. “We’ll be able to run the ball more, and the defense will be able to get in there and start tackling.”
The youth movement
Rookie linebacker Roquan Smith’s holdout has officially entered disconcerting territory.
With every team reporting for camp this week, he’s one of four top draft picks left unsigned along with Jets quarterback Sam Darnold (No. 3), Browns cornerback Denzel Ward (No. 4) and Bills quarterback Josh Allen (No. 7). The Browns signed quarterback Baker Mayfield (No. 1) late Tuesday.
Agents from the Creative Artists Agency, a powerhouse group in the NFL, represent Darnold, Ward, Allen and Smith. CAA also represents Steelers safety Terrell Edmunds, the 28th overall selection who agreed to terms earlier Tuesday.
Despite Smith’s absence, others from the Bears’ heralded 2018 draft class have earned headlines during camp. Receiver Anthony Miller (No. 51, second round) has stood out since the first practice.
“You can see he’s a playmaker,” Nagy said. “He plays with some confidence.”
Nagy said outside linebacker Kylie Fitts (No. 181, sixth round) has stood out with veteran Aaron Lynch sidelined by a hamstring injury. He has had to remind Fitts to keep off his quarterbacks.
“Whenever you get to the quarterback, it always helps with confidence,” Fitts said.
“But you can’t win one and lose the rest. You get that confidence and come back on the next rep with the same energy.”
Being the best
Some of the best players in camp have been the Bears’ top guys, not a splash-in-the-pan undrafted rookie or a veteran on a one-year deal. It has been players the Bears are counting on in Week 1 against the Packers.
Whether it’s breaking up passes in one-on-one drills or intercepting Trubisky in team drills, cornerbacks Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara have been two of the most consistent performers.
When asked, Nagy named defensive lineman Akiem Hicks and Amukamara as the leaders on defense. He also said he has enjoyed the banter with Amukamara, who is an incessant trash-talker.
“It’s hard for me to not get involved and love what Prince does,” Nagy said. “He’s going to chirp a little bit now, and I love that part of it.”
Bears camp live show: Tuesday, July 24
Want your Bears training camp update without delay? Each day of summer practice, Sun-Times beat writers Patrick Finley, Adam Jahns and Mark Potash will share exclusive insights on the practices and interviews live at 1 p.m. daily through August 12. Catch their live analysis and ask questions on Twitter: @suntimes_sports or follow Sun-Times Sports on Periscope to be notified of each live report.