The first day of the first Bears minicamp belonged to Marc Trestman and the offense. Up-tempo, precise, generally mistake-free.
Maybe it was looking at the tape of the practice sessions. Whatever the reason, the defense that was third in scoring last season appeared to decide that it was time to show these new coaches that the big deal has been them for quite a few years in Chicago.
First it was safety Chris Conte picking off a Jay Cutler pass. Then new safety Tom Zbikowski intercepted a deep throw from quarterback-hopeful Matt Blanchard. Footballs on the ground were picked up by defenders and taken the other way.
“We had a good day [Tuesday] and tried to do that today,” defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said. “It’s all about taking the ball away and getting to the quarterback.
That part of the Bears defense is not new. Indeed, Tucker and a staff that includes holdover secondary coach Jon Hoke, are staying not only with a scheme virtually the same as the one of Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli; they are staying with the same terminology and calls.
The reason is simple. Players forced to think rather than react with instinct play slower, and part of the Trestman goal is to take no steps backward, even at this early stage of practice.
“We want them to hit the ground running,” Tucker said. “I’ve been in a lot of different schemes and a lot of it’s just terminology, so we’re going to take it and try to move it on down the road.”
That includes moving beyond Brian Urlacher, and already the curiosity and questions about the former centerpiece of Chicago defenses have begun to dwindle.
Part of the reason has been the noticeable speed of new middle linebacker D.J. Williams, coming not only from Denver but also from a year in which he missed nine games due to suspensions.
Part of the plan with Williams is to make it clear that Williams is not expected to “be” Urlacher.
“We just talked altogether about being as good as you can be each and every day,” Tucker said, “working on techniques, fundamentals, playing smart, playing fast, playing physical, and keep a focus and keep it narrow so we can get better every day.”