Joniak: Bears Full Of Confidence In Their Capabilities

Jeff Joniak
July 24, 2018 - 8:52 pm
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By Jeff Joniak--

BOURBONNAIS (670 The Score/WBBM) -- The Bears continued with their fifth practice of training camp at Olivet Nazarene on Tuesday. Here are the observations of the day.

First impression

We're hearing a lot of important team culture statements about the 2018 Bears. When I chatted with second-year safety Eddie Jackson on Tuesday, his smile widened when talking about this team. Jackson relayed the story that when he and receiver Taylor Gabriel were talking the other day, Gabriel said, "We’re really going to be good."

"You can just see it, and it gets you excited," Jackson said.

This team is going to have fun playing together. First-year coach Matt Nagy insists that players be themselves. Some are quiet and reserved, others have big personalities. It’s a good mix. Most importantly, Nagy believes he has a selfless team and coaching staff.

"We’re built full of guys that don’t care who gets the ball and who gets the respect," Nagy said. "Same thing with coaches. Who cares who calls the plays, who designed the plays, who called the blitz, who called the fake punt, etc. It doesn’t matter. When you build your team around those type of people -- selfless, egoless -- normally you’ll end up winning some games."

Second thought

Whenever the new Bears offense takes root and the players begin to grasp the complexity of it, the yards and points will follow. When its working right, yards after the catch will be big. The running game will be efficient and productive. Red-zone trips will increase, leading to more scoring. The Bears were tied for the fewest red-zone drives in the league with the Jets last season with 33. They completed only 23 red-zone passes, including eight for touchdowns. Fifty runs produced 12 touchdowns. 

Third degree

Outside linebacker Elijah Norris is a great story about looking in the mirror and being honest with yourself. Norris grew up in Upper Marlboro, Maryland and then finished his prep career in Washington D.C., where he averaged more than 20 yards per catch as a receiver. A former basketball and lacrosse player, Norris was offered by 31 schools. Half wanted him to play tight end. He wanted to play defense. He settled on Connecticut. It didn’t go well there for him, so he transferred to Shepherd University about 75 miles outside of Washington after struggling in the classroom.

"I had a big reality check," Norris said. "I was home for about eight months. I really had to look myself in the mirror. I was nothing without football. It all starts with the books. I got myself back on the right track."

That look in the mirror is the reason he's a Bear. Norris, 24, wasn't drafted and actually was ready to take a lacrosse coaching job in North Carolina when the Bears called offering him a contract. He's an interesting player who moves well.

Norris approaches the game like a coach. As a kid, he scribbled down notes in a journal, creating playbooks and plays on Madden. 

"As I started getting into the sport, I loved hitting, running around, catching the ball, causing turnovers," Norris said. "As I got further into the game, I started combining the IQ of the game and athleticism. When I’m in meetings, I’m always taking the extra notes, I’m always asking questions, staying in the coaches' ears, making sure that I know everything and making sure that when I get out there, there’s no mistakes so I can just give it a 100 percent every time I step on the field."

Fourth-and-short

Improved offense and more scoring should lead to more takeaways and sacks for a defense that didn’t play much with the lead in 2017.  In their 11 losses last season, the Bears defense only had one interception, with opposing quarterbacks posting a rating of 107.3. When the defense was playing with a lead last season, they had seven interceptions, 35 pass breakups and 18 sacks -- 12 coming in tight one-score games.

Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play announcer for the Bears broadcasts on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJoniak.