The 'major point' Eddie Goldman and the Bears are making on defense this year

The 'major point' Eddie Goldman and the Bears are making on defense this year

The Bears’ last four first round draft picks combined to play a total of 24 games last season, and first-round pick Leonard Floyd had half that number alone.

The top three selections in Ryan Pace’s first draft class in 2015 have played in just 33 of a possible 48 games, Eddie Goldman leads the way with 21 of those.

As far as 2017 is concerned, Pace’s offseason moves focused more on roster depth than big splashes that could be written in ink on the depth chart. Based on what his team has experienced injury-wise in his two years at the helm (as those supposed building blocks have mostly been blocking the door to the trainer’s room), it shows the general manager is still counting on them to finally put a full, or at least most of a full, season together.  

This week’s mandatory minicamp Tuesday through Thursday at Halas Hall is the final barrier some of these kids must get through before reporting to training camp six weeks from now. While we wait to see how many of those projected core players take part this week, especially all three days, Goldman is also tired of waiting for health, and beyond that, growth. 

He says he’s fully recovered from the high ankle sprain that limited him to just six games in his sophomore campaign, spending some of the early portion of the offseason continuing rehab at a facility in San Diego. But he still managed 2.5 sacks in that limited time a year ago, and has seven for his career, which is a pretty impressive number for any nose tackle who excels at occupying opposing linemen to clog running lanes. And he’s well aware of how it takes a defensive village to improve on an embarrassing total of just 28 takeaways the last two seasons, including an NFL record 11 last year.

“We’re putting emphasis on the takeaways,” Goldman said after last Tuesday’s OTA in which that side of the ball gets vocal when they forced one in seven-on-seven drills. “When we get them, we’re rallying to the ball helping the way to get to the end zone. It’s one of the major points that Vic (Fangio) is making in the classroom.”

It would be unwise to think that defensive coordinator Fangio’s unit will suddenly morph into Lovie Smith-style production. But Goldman says the problem’s being addressed with regularity, and just like all Bears fans, he’s getting impatient for the never-ending injury bug to run its course. That’s especially true up front as a revamped secondary learns to work together. That also means having all the pass rush components in place as Floyd, Pernell McPhee, Willie Young, Lamarr Houston (and eventually, Danny Trevathan) work their way back from various injuries and surgeries.

“The front seven on any team is always the core," he said. "I feel like we’re meshing, we’re coming together, playing good, and there’s an urgency.”

And as Young recently shared, the defense (which still flirted with top 10 status much of last season before a miserable final three games) wants to take the reins, and take over the team’s identity, as several new offensive components learn to mesh.

“If we do our job," he said, "the offense can do its job more effectively.”

A full season from a healthy Goldman is, quite literally, front and center toward doing that.

Can Deiondre' Hall overcome on- and off-field hurdles to make an impact with Bears?

Can Deiondre' Hall overcome on- and off-field hurdles to make an impact with Bears?

Rookie Deiondre' Hall flashed in the preseason a year ago, leading the Bears coaching staff and fans to believe they found something amidst their trio of 2016 fourth round draft picks. 

He’s hoping to do the same this August after overcoming one physical hurdle, while waiting to see if he can get past a legal hurdle he created for himself.

Let’s start on the field, where, just days after his first NFL interception in the fourth game last season, he sustained an ankle injury in practice, sidelining him for two months. Once his walking boot and scooter were finally put away, he was active for the final four games. But what progress he’d been making on the field was difficult to recapture.

“Just coming off the injury, there was a little rust here and there, but the training staff here’s great and I had to push through it,” Hall said at last week’s minicamp in Lake Forest after he was one of numerous Bears hit by the injury bug, but not one of the 19 who wound up on Injured Reserve. “(I was) getting comfortable with the defense and in myself playing with those guys out there, getting the opportunity in the red zone and making plays. But the injury kinda sucked because I haven’t really had an opportunity to play since Week 5, so I’m not necessarily starting fresh.”

As the offseason unfolded, Hall was informed the coaching staff was going to try him at safety, if not permanently, then as an option for the 6-foot-2, 201-pound Northern Iowa product. 

But Hall’s not totally foreign to the position. He was a free safety his first year in college, then transitioned to outside linebacker/nickel as a sophomore, moved to cornerback as a junior before breaking his hand his senior year, playing through it back where he started at safety. So the decision wasn’t a big deal, especially if it enhances his chances to get on the field. But his preference?

“Defense. Opportunity,” Hall responded. “You get in where you fit in and the more you can do, the better it is for the team. If opportunity presents itself at corner, then I’m at corner. But right now at safety, I’m making strides (there) and keep pushing for that.”

“We’re gonna float him back and forth,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said last month, after the Bears signed free agent cornerbacks Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper in the off-season, while Bryce Callahan and Cre’Von LeBlanc are expected to battle for slot duty and former first-rounder Kyle Fuller and veterans Johnthan Banks and B.W. Webb hope to impress. “He (Hall) had some experience there in college. When it comes down to picking your team and you’re taking nine or 10 DBs, if someone’s got versatility to play both of those spots, that helps, so we’re gonna see if he’s one of those guys.”

But before Hall gets back to work in Bourbonnais, he’ll find out if he has some other dues to pay. Hall was back at his alma mater’s Cedar Falls campus March 26th when he and a former UNI teammate were arrested outside a bar called Sharky’s. Police had responded to a call, and by the time all was said and done, Hall needed to be tased before being arrested on charges of public intoxication, interference (with an arrest), and disorderly conduct. 

The case was continued late last month and Hall’s jury trial is scheduled for July 11th. Pending the outcome, he could face disciplinary action from the team and the NFL. He’s told his side of the story to Bears management and while expressing remorse for putting himself in the situation, Hall says it wasn’t in character and feels confident in what the outcome will be.

“People make mistakes and the truth always comes out,” the 23-year-old said, adding the situation isn’t weighing on his mind or affected his preparation in off-season workouts. “You gotta let people make their own mistakes. I won’t shed light but the truth always comes out, and (I’ve learned) just don’t take anything for granted.”

“My main focus is football and keep pushing to make strides to become good, and great.”

Bears announce training camp schedule

Bears announce training camp schedule

The Bears released their official training camp schedule Thursday morning. After reporting to Olivet Nazarene on Wednesday, July 26, the first of ten practices open to the public will take place the following day. The Bears will be based out of Bourbonnais for the 16th straight season. Training camp will go through Sunday, Aug. 13 before the Bears break camp and finish the preseason in Lake Forest. 

All practices are tentatively scheduled to start at various times during the 11 a.m. hour with the exception of Saturday, Aug. 13, which starts at 12:05 p.m. Those times are subject to change based on weather, and a varying set of schedules that John Fox and his coaching staff have set up, as they adjust to player and training staff preferences in hopes of reducing injuries. 

Also, new this season, fans wanting to attend practices must order free tickets in advance through the Bears website. Fans will not be allowed in without a ticket, and the first 1,000 fans each day will be given various souvenirs. The practice campus will be open to the public with tickets from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Here is the full training camp schedule: