Meet the new guys: Five things gleaned from talks with Bears coaches
With three draft classes in the fold and several more free agents signed, the Bears are general manager Ryan Pace’s team more than ever.
This week, players begin on-field organized team activities with their coaches. On Tuesday, practice is open to the media.
With plenty to learn about the Bears’ makeup, here are five things we gleaned about five new players from recent talks with coaches:
Quarterback: The Bears won’t temper their high expectations for Mike Glennon.
The Bears want to be patient with rookie Mitch Trubisky’s development. It’s an organizational mandate. Trubisky will get his share of snaps in practices, but nothing will be rushed. The team won’t stray from the sit-and-learn situation they’ve put him in for now.
Starting with Pace, the Bears truly believe Glennon has the potential to be a starter.
Lost in all the Trubisky talk during rookie minicamp was offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains’ positive appraisal of Glennon.
Loggains liked Glennon coming out of North Carolina State in 2013. But he also had favorable reviews of Glennon’s play as a rookie for the Buccaneers.
“He had NFL tape, so you got to watch and see, ‘Hey, this guy is a starting quarterback in the NFL,’ ” Loggains said. “[It’s] his ability to handle a lot of different things. He’s extremely intelligent. His size helps him a lot because he can see everything. He’s really good in three-step [drop-backs]. He can play under center. He can run all the play-action stuff. For a guy as long as he is, his movement skills are sneaky. He can do all the [naked bootlegs] and do those different things. You’re not limited offensively [with] what you can do.”
The Bears would welcome a tough decision between Glennon and Trubisky going into 2018.
Quarterback: There’s a good reason why Mark Sanchez is on the roster.
Sanchez’s signing always was based on what he can provide the young quarterbacks off the field.
The Bears see coaching qualities in Sanchez. They believe he can be a great resource for Glennon as a starter and Trubisky as a high first-round pick.
Just ask quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone, who was the first coach to explain Sanchez’s role. Ragone described him as “a great asset.”
“[It’s] his ability to relate things from a personal side and a professional side, and you can see the interaction he’s already had with Mike and Connor [Shaw],” Ragone said.
“Those are invaluable. He’s been through a lot in a nine-year career. He’s a very talented individual, but . . . he’s got a lot of those experiences to draw on. He was a top-five pick in a big media market.”
Running back: Rookie Tarik Cohen’s physical makeup and skills could change the offense immediately.
Beyond starter Jordan Howard, new running backs coach Curtis Modkins thinks Jeremy Langford, who has been limited in the offseason program, can regain his form from his productive rookie season. Last year, Langford struggled with a high right ankle sprain.
Cohen, though, adds a new dimension to the Bears’ offense. He enters the NFL as a more polished receiver than Howard and Langford did.
At North Carolina A&T, Cohen had 98 receptions, including 62 in the last two seasons. Howard (24) and Langford (39) combined for 63 catches in college.
“[Cohen] has really good hands, and he can run routes,” Modkins said. “We just have to get him to conceptually understand coverages — what do I do when this happens, what do I do when that happens.”
At 5-6, Cohen is also different from the top two backs.
“Sometimes you get hidden behind guys when you’re small,” Modkins said. “But, overall, when you’re a good football player, whether you’re 5-8 or 6 feet, you find ways to be successful. And this kid has found ways to be successful his whole career.”
It starts with his personality, which is also different. Cohen is more outspoken, whereas Howard and Langford are typically private.
“I love [Cohen’s] personality,” Modkins said. “He runs, he practices and he walks around the building like he has a chip on his shoulder and something to prove, which a lot of us small guys do.”
Wide receiver: Markus Wheaton’s work habits — particularly with his shoulder rehab — have impressed.
New wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni called Steelers star Antonio Brown, whom he coached at Central Michigan, to learn more about Wheaton. Brown and Wheaton were teammates for four seasons.
“I’m tight with Tony,” Azzanni said.
What do the Bears have?
“[Wheaton has] brought a good level of professionalism to the group,” Azzanni said. “He’s very diligent in his work.”
For now, Wheaton’s work involves ensuring that his shoulder is healthy. He had surgery in January for a torn labrum.
“He’s sitting in that training room every morning, making sure that shoulder’s good from last season,” Azzanni said. “At 6:30 a.m., he beats me in here. So you can tell [which] guys care, and it’s important to them.
“He was in my office the other day — ‘Coach, can we go through coverages?’ — as the rookies were coming in [for minicamp]. [He’s] just always wanting to work and do extra.”
Defensive line: The Bears took a leap of faith on Jaye Howard.
Good players are usually available in free agency for a reason. For Howard, it’s his health.
The Bears signed Howard less than two weeks after the Chiefs cut him with a failed-physical designation. In December, he was put on injured reserve because of a hip injury, which required surgery.
The Bears were willing to look past Howard’s current condition in favor of what he can still be when healthy. After signing, Howard continued his rehabilitation in Orlando, Florida, before joining his new teammates the last few days at Halas Hall. He’s unlikely to do much in OTAs.
“He’s been trying to work out all the rehab stuff, so he’s been at one place for a while,” defensive line coach Jay Rodgers said. “[But] he’s got a lot of experience. He’ll be able to come in and compete for a job just like everybody else and contribute. That’s what we’re asking from him.”
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