The following are thoughts on the practices Friday and Saturday, and just generally about the Bears to this point.
- There have been multiple reports about the defense playing with a renewed sense of energy and that’s essential for this group. They certainly lost their swagger in the Chuck Pagano years. Sean Desai’s primary task is restoring it.
- In the swagger department, Kevin Fishbain, in The Athletic, can tell you about “the takeaway bucket — a blue laundry bin that gets wheeled onto the field for a defensive player to dunk the ball in after he takes it away from the offense.” These things are goofy but players rally around them.
- Bilal Nichols was arguably the breakout star of the 2020 Chicago Bears but he might be the actual star of this group of the end of 2021. The best part of this for Desai is Nichols’ emergence should allow them to keep Akiem Hicks on a pitch count for most of the season. (His recent foot issues are just another in a series of injuries common for a declining superstar.)
- Sam Mustipher was asked what he did to put on weight this off-season. His answer? Lou Malnati’s. Sam Mustipher is a smart, smart man. (After the debacle of the last 18 months, Malnati’s will be rejoining DBB as a crucial partner this coming season. More details – and pizza giveaways – to come.)
- From inside Halas Hall there is serious optimism regarding Kindle Vildor. When I asked what that optimism means I was simply told (via text): “They’re not going to get too excited until they see it on the field. But they’re seeing it in practice.” Corner is going to be a weakness for this group. But if their pass rush delivers as it should, this group may be competent enough to hold up.
- The quarterback position has been a real strength in these early days. Andy Dalton has been the stable, veteran presence the Bears expected but he’s also had a ton of zip on the fastball. He’s smart enough to know that the only way he remains the starting quarterback is by playing Justin Fields onto the bench. Fields has all the talent in the world – everybody at these practices sees that – and his ascension is only a matter of time.
- One Tweet from Brad Biggs stood out to me. “Justin Fields to Jesse James is a thing that’s starting to happen more often for the #Bears.” In this offense, the tight ends are the QB’s best friends. Fields seems to be learning that quickly.
- I would have been shocked if Fields out-performed Dalton as this early stage. None of Fields’ athleticism is displayed in these practice sessions. When the pads go on, and Fields is on the move, that’s when Dalton will have to up his game.
- Cairo Santos has finally solidified the kicker position post-Robbie Gould. I don’t miss writing about kickers in July and August.