Joniak's Journal: Bears Coaches Get In On The Fun

Matt Nagy and Dave Ragone threw to receivers at camp Monday.

Jeff Joniak
August 06, 2018 - 6:44 pm
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BOURBONNAIS (WBBM Newsradio) -- After a big Hall of Fame weekend in Canton, Ohio, the Bears are readying for their next preseason game, this one against the Bengals in Cincinnati on Thursday.

First impression

We continue to learn more every practice about first-year coach Matt Nagy. There's a competitive fire burning in this man. He loves it. There's an old-school gritty toughness about him that marries well with his modern offensive thinking and concepts as the play-caller. He's feisty yet calm. He's firm yet warm. 

Nagy holds everyone, including his assistants and himself, accountable. At all times, he’s a teacher -- instructive, not destructive. He likes a good challenge. And he’s a hands-on football coach, which was reflected in his quarterbacking the one-on-ones with receivers and defensive backs Monday and asking quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone to throw as well.

"I didn’t know exactly how much we were going to do that," Ragone said. "Then I saw Coach drop back and throw a go ball, and I go, 'I guess we’re on.' He threw some great ones. It was fun."

It stirred their mutual competitive juices.

"The last time I had thrown at a real DB ... the last time I was at an NFL camp, so 10 years basically," Ragone said. "It gets you going now. You know you are teaching something obviously to your guys, but it gives you an appreciation because when you are doing it you better show a good example."

It made me think about how much better both Nagy (a former Arena League quarterback) and Ragone (who was on the rosters of the Texans, Bengals and Rams) would be after spending so many years coaching and now teaching fundamentals and concepts to quarterbacks.

"You understand defenses better," Ragone said. "You understand the emphasis of the quarterback position better, pushing the tempo, where your eyes are supposed to be at pre-snap, where they’re supposed to be post-snap. When you’re a coach, you know the plays inside and out. You know why they are in there. You know what they are designed for. You know who you are looking at. Mentally when you are a player when you’re young, some of it just clutters together. So, you just kind of go back there and you are kind of hoping. When you know it, it’s a clearer picture."

Ragone sees a lot of those qualities starting to emerge in quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who will make his preseason debut Thursday.

"He’s executing plays that are not just the 101 level, but the next level," Ragone said. "Obviously, not everything’s down, but he’s making those steady improvements. Every day is kind of a new day for him in terms of taking it to the next step, and he’s challenging himself and I think he’s done good with that so far."

Second thought

Trubisky has had two good days back-to-back. He flashed his ascending knowledge of what he sees, what he checks out of and what he checks into on any given play on a snap Monday. He checked out of a play and went deep to rookie receiver Anthony Miller, who ran a great route and away from the defensive back for a big gain. It was aggressive anticipation and accuracy all wrapped in one, and the time if coming for Trubisky and the Bears when the thinking will stop and they'll just play naturally in the new system.

"It’s clicking," Trubisky said. "I’m feeling that anticipation. The offense is starting to slow down. The installs have become smaller and smaller. We just become more specific with what we’re running day-to-day, week-to-week. I’m able to process faster, and that allows me to play faster and get out of the huddle with a faster tempo, and I just go through my reads and I know exactly where the ball needs to go."

Third degree

Receiver Allen Robinson is killing it right now. Bears receivers coach Mike Furrey referenced how Robinson is so football smart, almost like a quarterback in terms of his knowledge. The Bears are quite pleased with where Robinson is at in his recovery from knee surgery and his ability to be a game-changer. 

"He’s an alpha," Furrey said. "He is. It doesn’t matter. When you have that alpha mentality and you have the knowledge that he has to play the game, you can get open and big body people to get the ball. It’s pretty impressive."

While Nagy has characterized Robinson as more of an introvert, Furrey’s learning that it’s more of a locked-in attitude and desire to be great. Robinson is all business and getting on the same page with Trubisky.

The chemistry is brewing for those two. It's also brewing for Trubisky and Miller, who has arguably the best player in camp. I would love to know how many touchdown catches he’s made in camp, whether it be catch-and-run plays or throws into the end zone.

Fourth-and-short

I ran into former Bears cornerback and return specialist Jerry Azumah at training camp Sunday evening. He said some players stopped to ask him if he was Roquan Smith, who it appears bares some facial resemblance to the former Pro Bowler. Azumah got a pretty good chuckle out of that one. It was wishful thinking as Smith, the Bears' first-round pick, remains unsigned three weeks after camp started.

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