Adam L. Jahns’ “Inside of the Huddle” column on the Bears runs in game-day editions of the Chicago Sun-Times.
Bears coach Matt Nagy didn’t like some of his own plays against the Packers. He didn’t like how they panned out or when he called them.
“The easy ones to say are the third-down calls,” Nagy said. “Those are the easy ones. But for me, I’ll go back to: ‘I just got to be me.’ [It’s] just keep going, just keep playing and keep calling and that sort of thing. And if I do that, I’ll be all right.”
If quarterback Mitch Trubisky looked out of rhythm after the Bears’ first two possessions in the season opener, it’s because Nagy was with his play calls, too.
Trubisky’s learning process also is one for Nagy. It’s a fact of life for the Bears that shouldn’t be forgotten with every player but tight end Trey Burton lacking experience in Nagy’s brand of offense.
“I wasn’t in my exact rhythm that I could have been in and there’s different reasons for that,” Nagy said. “For me, I just feel like that’s my job. I’ve got to do that. I’ve got to be better.
“So when I talk to the team, I want to make sure that I’m real with them, and I tell them I can be better.”
The Seahawks could be the perfect opponent for Nagy when it comes to establishing his rhythm with Trubisky. They’re not close to the same team that won Super Bowl XLVIII against John Fox’s Broncos.
Only three starters from their once-outstanding defense remain, and two of them – linebackers K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner – were ruled out for “Monday Night Football” because of injuries.
It’s become a no-excuses matchup for the Bears, who already were favored. But there still are adjustments that Nagy must make after their season-opening loss, which saw the Bears’ offense settle for three field goals.
“There’s a feeling-out process with your team a little bit, but nothing to where it concerns you,” Nagy said. “I feel really good with where we’re at. We just got to get a little bit better in a few spots, in a few areas situationally. And when we do that, it’s there. You saw it.”
ESPN analyst Louis Riddick definitely did.
“The Bears should have won the football game — period,” said Riddick, who will be part of ESPN’s broadcast on Monday night. “They outplayed the Packers. It’s as simple as that.
“If people want to really start being hyper critical, there’s a lot of other areas that they could direct their criticism when it comes to this football team other than Mitch Trubisky. I promise you that.”
Riddick pointed to 1) cornerback Kyle Fuller’s dropped interception and receiver Geronimo Allison’s 39-yard touchdown against him; 2) defensive lineman Akiem Hick’s struggles with generating an inside rush against a hobbled Aaron Rodgers in the second half; and 3) defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s inability to find an answer for the Packers’ second-half adjustments.
“Just give [Nagy] some time,” Riddick said. “This team is going to be good. We’d be talking about this with a much different tone — and many people would be talking about it with a much different tone — had they just made one more play.
“We’d be talking about it with a checkmark in the ‘W’ column instead of the ‘L’ column. It’s funny how people’s perspectives become much more critical when you lost as opposed to when you won. And all they needed was to make one darn play. One. One pass breakup or one interception, and it’s over. They win the game.”
Having worked closely with Nagy and Chiefs coach Andy Reid as a former personnel executive with the Eagles, Riddick knows offensive adjustments are coming, whether it’s sticking with Howard more or establishing Burton over the middle. It’s what Reid always did from game to game.
The Packers not only used zone coverage against Trubisky, but they did so with six defensive backs often on the field. The Packers’ starting secondary handled all 70 defensive snaps, while rookie cornerbacks Jaire Alexander (49 snaps) and Josh Jackson (46) also played plenty in Week 1.
“The sky is not falling in Chicago,” Riddick said. “The plan is still in place. I expect them to have a very strong performance on Monday night against Seattle. I think that’s a matchup that bodes very well for them.”
It definitely does with Seahawks missing Wright and Wagner. Trubisky should be expected to perform well in his second start under Nagy and against a short-handed opponent.
“It’s smart to be a little bit more neutral, especially in the case of a guy like Mitch Trubisky, who, again, is learning a brand new offense and after having to unlearn everything he learned a year ago,” Riddick said. “You have to give him a little bit of time. [But] I would expect him to come back with a hell of a performance Monday night against Seattle.”
Screens will continue to be a staple of coach Matt Nagy’s offense regardless of the Bears’ struggles with them against the Packers. The Bears believe in their blend of players, especially at receiver.
“You got a couple guys that can block for the screens and you got a couple guys that run with screens,” receivers coach Mike Furrey said. “We’ve got a couple guys in our room who have great vision with the ball in their hands. So one of the things you try to do is find the easiest way to get ball in their hands.”
It didn’t include Kevin White in Week 1. White, who excelled in screens at West Virginia, was on the field for 12 plays, but he wasn’t targeted.
The Bears ran screens for receivers Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller, tight end Trey Burton and running back Tarik Cohen. Allen Robinson blocked or was used as a decoy.
“Right now, we’re letting Kevin just get comfortable with what we’re doing,” Furrey said. “Obviously, he’s a bigger guy and a guy that’s a physical runner when he does have the ball in is hands. But right now, we’re just trying to get him going down field and get him adjusted to this offense.”
It’s Miller time
The Bears don’t envision Miller being a special-teams stalwart for them in the long run, but he’s a rookie and there is an opening to fill on the kickoff team. White apparently can’t do it, even though he’s behind Miller on the depth chart.
Miller was on the field for all six of the Bears’ kickoffs against the Packers. He recorded a tackle by forcing running back Ty Montgomery out of bounds. Miller also played 39 of the Bears’ 70 offensive snaps.
“He’s a physical player; he’s a competitor,” special teams coordinator Chris Tabor said “He plays that No. 2 spot. This was kind of his first game action, and he knows he’s going to continue to get better at that. But he gives us a lot of size and speed at the point of attack there. I like playing him there.”
Do the results from Week 1 change your expectations for the Bears final [win/loss] record this year? In my opinion, even with the loss, I’m now expecting 1-2 more wins than I was before the season. — @Gppharr
A: The arrival of outside linebacker Khalil Mack already changed my expectations. He’s the difference between a good and great defense. But I get your point. The Bears suffered a stunning loss, but it still was encouraging. It wasn’t a blowout like last year’s 35-14 loss at Lambeau Field. The Bears didn’t look overmatched. They looked like they belonged, and that was with quarterback Mitch Trubisky having his ups and downs his first start in coach Matt Nagy’s offense. I stand by my initial 9-7 prediction.
When will Roquan [Smith] start? — @chihustleman
A: I wouldn’t be surprised if he started this week. But my feeling is that his playing time will be based on matchups against the Seahawks, which wasn’t the case in the season opener. In order to contain quarterback Russell Wilson, the Bears need their best athletes on the field. Smith, of course, is one. Smith’s speed and instincts could be very effective if he’s asked to shadow Wilson, who excels when he’s out of the pocket.
With [Tarik] Cohen being used a lot more in Nagy’s offense, what are the chances both he and [Jordan] Howard end the season with 1,000-plus all-purpose yards? — @dmccomber86
A: Cohen was on the field for 40 percent of the Bears’ snaps against the Packers. To me, that’s the floor for his playing time. As expected, Cohen lined up everywhere. He just didn’t produce any explosive plays. He had 10 touches for a total of 41 yards. But those big plays will come for him. Nagy will find ways to unleash his speed and elusiveness. As for Howard, he’s a lock to surpass 1,000 rushing yards if he stays healthy. He also caught all five passes thrown at him in Week 1. Some of them were difficult, too. It was a great sign for him.
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