Tag Archives: Vic Fangio

Bears Defense Beginning To Reveal Its Growth

By Chris Emma— LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) – Thirty-seven years of coaching experience is more than enough for Vic Fangio to gauge what a defense is or can become. More than any statistic or ranking, Fangio said the eye test is how he judges growth for his unit. “To me, it’s just what your eyes tell you,” Fangio said. “Not what stats tell you.” Fangio is seeing growth for his Bears unit, and the stats agree. The Bears rank sixth in yards surrendered per game, which trails the Broncos, Bengals, Steelers, Panthers and Vikings. They ranked 15th a year ago, 14th in Fangio’s first season back in 2015 and 30th during the disastrous 2014 season. Pro Football Focus sees what Fangio does, ranking the Bears as the NFL’s third-best defense. “No unit has improved like the Chicago Bears have on defense,” wrote Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus. “It still has some issues, but it has been undermined by their offense more than most teams, not to mention injuries. They have some impressive grades in coverage across the entire back seven, while the defensive front has been very stout against the run, even if the pass-rush remains a concern.” With the arrival of Ryan Pace and John Fox in 2015 came Fangio, the touted defensive mind tasked with providing the structure with which a beleaguered unit could grow. The Bears’ defense became a laughing stock before Fangio’s arrival as coordinator. For a franchise that takes pride in a dominating defense, it was downright embarrassing. Pace has restocked the cupboards with talent. Akiem Hicks earned a four-year deal worth up to $48 million, and he has five sacks in six games this season. Coupled with Eddie Goldman, the Bears have a dynamic tandem of rushers. At linebacker, Danny Trevathan has made a major impact alongside Jerrell Freeman and Nick Kwiatkoski, and Leonard Floyd has shown flashes as a premier pass rusher off the edge. But the biggest difference in the defense this season is in the secondary. Kyle Fuller is having an excellent season while evolving as a cover corner. Prince Amukamara has been an upgrade to what the Bears have tried before at corner. Rookie Eddie Jackson has looked the part of an NFL starting safety, and Adrian Amos finally got off the schneid with his first career interception last Sunday and took it the distance. “Those guys [have] been playing their butt off all year,” McPhee said of the secondary. “And our front seven [has] been playing great, too.” The Bears have averaged 24.7 points allowed per game, which ranks 25th in the league. That is largely the byproduct of poor field position – as illustrated by the yardage ranking – but also the unit’s two greatest downfalls, which are giving up the big plays and failing to come through with steady takeaways. Sunday in Baltimore saw a different look from the Bears defense, as it forced three takeaways – including the season’s first two interceptions – against Joe Flacco and the Ravens. Amos came through with the biggest play of the game, picking off a pass broken up by Fuller and taking it 90 yards to the house. Bryce Callahan also took advantage of a pass breakup and returned his interception 52 yards. Both plays proved to be pivotal in a game that otherwise would’ve been lost. It’s what the Bears need to prove their place among the league’s best defenses. Fangio is running the same playbook since he arrived in Chicago, but he’s calling plays with greater trust that 2015. Goldman has seen that evolve since his rookie season. The talent has increased along the way, and so has the cohesiveness with the group. “We got more comfortable with the system,” Goldman said. “We’re communicating better. We just got to get the turnovers.” With the Bears starting a rookie in Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback and the offense not proving capable of posting big numbers, the team is relying upon the defense for a chance at victory. The Bears need to force turnovers, manage the field position and avoid giving up the big play, and they’re looking capable of that task. Growth is occurring right before Fangio’s eyes. Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670 and like his Facebook page.

Bears Still Struggling To Generate Turnovers

By Chris Emma— LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) – The football floating in the air for what seemed like days, with the Bears positioned to make a play. Cornerback Kyle Fuller was in stride with Vikings receiver Stephon Diggs, while safety Adrian Amos was waiting over the top this last Monday. Opportunity was once again knocking for the Bears. But Amos mistimed his jump, Fuller could only jostle with Diggs and the ball fell to the Soldier Field sod. A Bears defense with lofty aspirations has forced just three turnovers this season and made zero interceptions. A year after recording only eight interceptions and forcing three fumbles – both of which ranked dead last in the league – the Bears are tied for second-to-last in takeaways. “It’s frustrating,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “Obviously, we’d like to get them. We need them as a team. It would help everybody if we could get some, especially if we can get them where it turns the field around and we can give a short field to our offense.” Fangio is widely touted throughout the NFL as one of the game’s best defensive minds. His reputation preceded him before his arrival in Chicago in 2015. With the 49ers, Fangio developed a unit that annually ranked near the top in all categories. The Bears are minus-33 in turnover ratio ever since the start of 2015, when Fangio took over and the John Fox era began. The front office has revamped the defense with new pieces up front and maneuvered in the secondary, but it hasn’t changed the results in the turnover category. The pass rush of Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Leonard Floyd and Pernell McPhee isn’t forcing enough poor throws, and defensive back additions like Eddie Jackson, Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper have failed to make interceptions along with the rest of the team. For nearly a decade-and-a-half, the Bears won games with takeaways in key moments. But they don’t have a Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs or Charles Tillman on this defense. All that Fangio can do is put his players in the right position. He can’t go out and punch the football loose or time that jump right in coverage. The Bears have added better talent on defense, and while injuries have again taken their toll, it’s a group that was expected to impact games. “We definitely got to get better at that,” McPhee said. “That’s a challenge for me and everybody else on the defense. That’s what we’ve got to do — no matter if we (are) the No. 1 defense in the league as far as yardage, we need turnovers. We’ve got to start creating them.” Early last week, the Bears officially made the move from veteran quarterback Mike Glennon to rookie Mitchell Trubisky, with coach John Fox citing the fact that his team ranked dead last in turnover ratio. While Glennon’s eight giveaways were of course mostly responsible, there’s a frustration for how this team has failed to play complementary football. Trubisky is now starting at quarterback, with the Bears needing to help him in all aspects. That includes the defense. “If we could get turnovers, that means we could put our offense in great field position, and we haven’t been doing that,” McPhee said. The Bears have certainly emphasized taking away the football. Once a week, defensive backs coach Ed Donatell presents a video that shows the best points to pop out the football for each week’s opponent. Little details are offered up like which players are most prone to mistakes with the ball and how the Bears can take advantage. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of timing a jump right and making a play. “It’s always a focus,” Hicks said. “It’s always something we want to get better at. We just got to keep climbing.” Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670 and like his Facebook page.

In Search Of Win At Bucs, Bears Focus On Containing Jameis Winston

By Chris Emma— LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) – With the rush coming on third down, the Buccaneers’ Jameis Winston showed his stature among the game’s best quarterbacks. He slipped away from Bears linebacker Leonard Floyd’s outstretched arms and dropped 20 yards back, escaping Willie Young and Floyd again, then weaving by Cornelius Washington. With a path of green to launch, Winston stepped up and uncorked a bomb downfield to Mike Evans, who hauled in the deep ball over the head of Tracy Porter. With the Bears upbeat entering that contest with the Buccaneers last November, it was Winston who sucked the life out of a team grasping to what little hope remained. He toyed with a defense confident it could contain him. Sunday marks Chicago’s third game in Tampa in as many seasons. Once again, the key for this Bears defense is to keep Winston from doing that. “I’m seeing the same player, he’s just a little bit better at everything,” Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said of Winston. Added Bears coach John Fox: “Jameis is improving all the time. He’s getting more comfortable with what they’re doing.” The Buccaneers will open their 2017 season on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium after Hurricane Irma forced the postponement of last weekend’s scheduled contest at the Miami Dolphins. It marks the beginning of a season in which the Buccaneers are being touted as a potential playoff team. After falling just short last season, the Buccaneers drafted tight end O.J. Howard in the first round and paired DeSean Jackson with Evans. Cameron Brate returns to the fold as a key target at tight end. Though running back Doug Martin is suspended to open the season, this offense is more potent than before. That starts with Winston, the first overall pick in 2015 who has emerged as one of the top young quarterbacks in the league. At just 23, his growth is just beginning. “He’s going to be one of the best quarterbacks to ever play this game in my opinion down the line,” Evans said this week via a teleconference. “(I’m) fortunate to have him as my quarterback.” The Bears have gotten a first-hand look at Winston’s development. In 2015, they outlasted Winston’s 295 yards in the air and earned a 26-21 victory. But they fared much differently last season, with Winston going for 312 passing yards and pacing the Buccaneers to a blowout win. Winston has been touted as a tremendous leader – “Nothing like I’ve ever seen before,” Evans said – and he boasts great gifts to his game, but he’s prone to mistakes. Evans, Jackson, Howard and Brate pose as key targets, but it won’t matter if Winston continues his trend with interceptions. He has thrown 33 picks in his first 32 games, an interception on 3.0 percent of his pass attempts. In facing a daunting Buccaneers offense, the Bears’ greatest chance comes with takeaways. Their defense tallied just eight interceptions and three fumble recoveries last season, both which ranked at the bottom of the league. After speaking of forcing turnovers all offseason, the Bears had none in their 23-17 loss to the Falcons filled with regrets. One could’ve changed the dynamic of that opener. The Bears will get their opportunities on Winston, who has thrown the ball on average 34.4 times per game during his first two NFL seasons. But how will they counter? Part of the Bears’ coverage in the secondary is up in the air for Sunday’s game. Cornerback Prince Amukamara has been limited in practice as he works back from an ankle injury. Kyle Fuller has done solid work in his place. After expressing frustration in Fuller a year ago, Fangio has seen a different a different player in Fuller now. Veteran Marcus Cooper will man the other end at corner. The Bears didn’t shadow Falcons star receiver Julio Jones last week and will likely maintain the same strategy against Evans and Jackson. Rookie safety Eddie Jackson will get another tall task in the secondary as he and Quintin Demps prepare to work against the size of Evans and speed threat of DeSean Jackson. The Buccaneers could key in on Eddie Jackson in the secondary and try to make him uncomfortable. “I’ve seen a lot from him that I’ve liked throughout the preseason,” Fox said of Jackson. “Obviously, I thought he performed well. I don’t know how much he got tested last week. He functioned really well and he’s a good communicator. I think he does well in all facets. “He’ll get tested, but overall I’ve been very pleased with his performance.” Fangio will be tasked with putting his defense in the right position against Winston. That will require steady pressure and utilizing the outside linebackers for a blitz off the edge. But ultimately, it comes down to discipline in the secondary. Demps must stay ready in center field to ensure that Jackson isn’t left in a poor spot. Given their many uncertainties on offense, the Bears are relying on their defense to keep the game close and force turnovers to turn the tide. The hope at Halas Hall was that a bolstered Bears secondary could lead to different results for the defense. Sunday provides the next challenge for this new-look defense. Winston is prone to mistakes, but the Bears know well he can beat you so many different ways. “He’s a very confident player,” Fangio said. “I see an excellent quarterback.” Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670 and like his Facebook page.

More Aggressive Jonathan Bullard Has Bears Hopeful As He Fights For Starting Job

By Chris Emma— BOURBONNAIS, Ill. (CBS) – After nearly four decades of coaching, Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio knows a thing or two. Despite flashes from then-rookie defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard last summer in training camp, Fangio realized that he wasn’t ready for a key role. A defense still seeking an answer opposite Akiem Hicks at the five-technique would still be waiting. A year later, Fangio now sees what Bullard was missing. “He’s more mentally and emotionally ready for the rigors of playing in the NFL trenches against grown men,” Fangio said last week. “And we’re hopeful. I like where he’s at now. I think his arrow’s pointing up. We’ll see how far it goes up.” It was pretty simple what was wrong with Bullard when he would get out of his stance and hesitate as blockers converged. Assignment football wasn’t clear to him as a rookie, as he wouldn’t explode off the snap at full speed. Rushing against veteran teammates like Kyle Long and Bobby Massie in practice brought challenges for Bullard. He just wasn’t ready for the NFL level. “Now, I kind of get it,” Bullard said. “I know how to expect the blocks to come, why (Fangio) is calling a certain defense. I know how it’s going to come. “I can just go out and play faster.” Playing faster is what will ultimately land Bullard the open starting spot on the defensive line. The Bears brought in veteran Jaye Howard to contend as well, and incumbent Mitch Unrein entered training camp as the listed starter. Bullard has seen his workload increase throughout training camp. The faith from his coaching staff is becoming clear. “It means a lot,” Bullard said. “I’m having a pretty good camp, making plays. I got to keep doing it and hopefully land the job. “I feel that I can play at a high level.” The Bears made Bullard their third-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, a selection that many viewed as a steal at that point in the field. A standout at Florida, Bullard had fallen a bit after many projected he could be a second-round pick. Bullard was and is clearly a gifted athlete, but fine-tuning the mental aspect is a different beast. Bullard knows well what went wrong last season. He’s using that and a sharpened edge to attack at the line of scrimmage. The Bears are encouraged and hopeful in what Bullard could become. Now, his mentality is a lot more simple. “Continue to grow, continue to be the player that they drafted,” he said. “Be able to adjust to the game but play my game with the quick get-off, the quick hands, extension, getting off blocks. So far, so (good). I got to keep pushing and stacking the days, having good days.” Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670 and like his Facebook page.

Despite Reported Rift, Bears Block 49ers’ Interview Request For Vic Fangio

Despite Reported Rift, Bears Block 49ers’ Interview Request For Vic Fangio

By Chris Emma–

(CBS) A month after a reported surfaced detailing philosophical differences between Bears coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, the team has blocked the 49ers’ request to interview Fangio for the same position.

The Bears’ decision, which was first reported by Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee,is notable considering the rift between the two coaches could’ve allowed…

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