Joniak: Bears Defense Finding Rhythm Under Pagano

The defense is "way past" where coach Matt Nagy thought it'd be at this point.

Jeff Joniak
August 01, 2019 - 4:27 pm

BOURBONNAIS (WBBM Newsradio) -- The Bears were back at practice Thursday after an off day Wednesday. Let's get to the news, notes and observations of the day.

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-- After a day off, the Bears practiced with fresh legs. It showed with some terrific individual performances. The defense continues to impress. Outside linebacker Khalil Mack tipped a Mitchel Trubisky pass at the line of scrimmage and intercepted it, while safety Deon Bush also had an interception. 

-- Questions persist as to how the defense will look under coordinator Chuck Pagano after former coordinator Vic Fangio left to lead the Denver Broncos. Six practices into camp, Pagano is showing a lot of looks, stunting lineman and blitzing a lot. Coach Matt Nagy mentioned the progress of the unit is "way past where he thought they were going to be."

-- Pagano is on the same page with Mack, as they're both "chasing great." It so happens that's Nagy's battle cry this season, and Pagano has challenged his defense to be the best ever. Mack is on record as saying he's playing the game to be the best ever. That reads like good chemistry. Mack gives great effort from start to finish. Others are following him as he gives his all.

-- Tight end Adam Shaheen appeared in practice in full uniform for the first time in several days but only dipped his toe in the water, so to speak. It was part of Nagy’s plan to slowly ease Shaheen back into the mix after dealing with back tightness.

-- Keep an eye on third-year receiver Marvin Hall, who made several nice catches, including one on a deep throw by third-string quarterback Tyler Bray that required making a last-second adjustment to make the catch on cornerback John Franklin. Hall is an explosive athlete with 4.28 speed while carrying 192 pounds on his 5-foot-10 frame. The bulk of his experience has been as return specialist with the Falcons, but he does have 12 receptions and two touchdowns in his career.

-- Nickel cornerback Buster Skrine has played for the Browns and Jets, and his combined record during that time is 42-81. The best team he played on was the 2016 Jets, who were 10-6. His other seven seasons were losing ones. For the first time, he feels he's part of something big. 

-- The kicking competition featured Eddy Pineiro on Thursday as the Bears continued to rotate days between him and Elliott Fry. Pineiro's only miss in eight kicks came from 55 yards. It was just a little short, but his next kick was good from 60 yards. He hit 8-of-9 field-goal attempts on a beautiful day. Fry is scheduled to kick Friday. Both kickers will handle their business at Fan Fest at Soldier Field on Saturday.

-- Three of the five drafted rookies are banged up. It started with receiver Riley Ridley suffering a hamstring injury in the first practice. Now running back Kerrith Whyte Jr. is hobbled by a foot sprain and hamstring injury, while cornerback Stephen Denmark has an ankle injury. 

-- Rookie running back David Montgomery is tough to defend coming out of the backfield as passing routes. He beat Joel Iyiegbuniwe in a one-on-one prove-it drill on a throw by Chase Daniel. After the completion, the defense hit the ground for up-downs. 

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