Thu, 20 Jan 2022

4 things we learned from Bears coordinators

Chicago Bears
04 Dec 2021, 00:37 GMT+10

Larry Mayer

Bears coordinators Bill Lazor (offense), Sean Desai (defense) and Chris Tabor (special teams) spoke to reporters Thursday at Halas Hall. Here are four things we learned from those sessions:

(1) Lazor appreciates the experience that Andy Dalton possesses.

The veteran quarterback has played in 149 games with 145 starts in 11 NFL seasons with the Bengals (2011-19), Cowboys (2020) and Bears (2021), passing for 34,552 yards and 222 touchdowns.

"Andy has seen a lot and he's probably, over time, been tricked and fooled like all quarterbacks get at some point, and so we all learn from experience," Lazor said. "Wisdom comes from experience, and so you've got a guy who I don't want to say has seen it all-that's an exaggeration-but has seen a lot. He can foresee some things that are happening, especially if something comes up that maybe we didn't see on tape and didn't plan for."

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Before reuniting this year with the Bears, Lazor had tutored Dalton for three seasons with the Bengals as quarterbacks coach (2016) and offensive coordinator (2017-18).

"One of the great things the quarterback has to be able to do is learn quickly and react and adjust," Lazor said. "Sometimes, something happens on the game field you're not ready for, and it might come up again before you get to the sideline or maybe before halftime. And so I think Andy's experience allows him to be ready to make the adjustment fast, sometimes without the ability to come talk to the coaches."

(2) Desai lauded outside linebacker Robert Quinn, who on Thursday was named NFC defensive player of the month for November, especially for his willingness to still learn and grow in his 11th NFL season.

Quinn earned the first player of the month award of his career after registering 5.5 sacks, 14 tackles, five tackles-for-loss and two forced fumbles in three games. In a Nov. 21 contest against the Ravens, he established a career high with 3.5 sacks and leads the Bears with 11.0 sacks this season, tied for the fourth most in the NFL.

Desai praised the work Quinn has done with outside linebackers coach Bill Shuey and the veteran's "ability to understand everything that we're trying to do for him and with him in the defense."

"He's accepting those roles and he's excelling," Desai said. "The thing that I said to our guys Monday, he's a prime example of somebody who's a vet, and a lot of times based on the personality of guys, they can get stuck in some ways, but he's excelling in everything that we're trying to teach him.

"He's taken it upon himself to keep improving at different techniques that sometimes he may not have done earlier in his career. And it's showing up on gameday in a lot of different ways. Obviously, the first thing everybody is seeing is his sack production. But his run play for us has been really good, and that's a credit to him that he's still kind of engaged in that fashion."

(3) Desai is pleased with how Kindle Vildor has handled his demotion from the starting lineup and still considers the second-year cornerback "an important part of our defense."

After struggling in multiple games, Vildor was replaced on the No. 1 defense by Artie Burns Thanksgiving Day in Detroit. Burns played every defensive snap, while Vildor's only action came on special teams.

"We talked about that I think the week before, where he's got to continue staying engaged and he's been engaged and he's been great," Desai said. "He's been taking many reps, even with the [starters] at times during practice.

"Quite frankly, I probably should have played him more in the Detroit game, and the plan was to play him more from my end and coach Deshea [Townsend's], and it kind of got away the way [with] the game kind of flowed and everything. That sometimes happens. I talked to Kindle right after the game, too, and he understood it. He knows that he's still an important part of our defense that we're going to need. He's been great [in] his approach."

(4) While admitting that he's biased, Tabor is convinced that former Bears star Devin Hester should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

The record-breaking return specialist was recently named one of 26 modern-era semifinalists for the Hall of Fame's Class of 2022. The group will eventually be pared down to 15 in late December and then by the Selection Committee to 10 and then five.

Tabor worked with Hester from 2008-10 while serving as Bears assistant special teams coach under special teams coordinator Dave Toub on coach Lovie Smith's staff.

Asked what made Hester so special from Tabor's vantage point, he said: "It's hard to describe because there's certain players that just have 'it.' And I don't know what 'it' is. It's a word, but it's indescribable. What's funny is when you see 'it,' you recognize it, and that's Devin for me. Like I've always said, when he went back to catch, people weren't going to the concession stand. You wanted to see it. That's why he is so special and, once again, why I think he should be a Hall of Famer."

Tabor discovered what it was like to coach against Hester in a 2014 game between the Browns and Falcons. As Cleveland's special teams coordinator, Tabor sent Billy Cundiff onto the field to attempt a 60-yard field goal on the final play of the half.

"[The Falcons] put Devin back there to return it as most everybody would," Tabor said.

"[Cundiff] kicks the first one, but they call timeout and he ends up a little short on it. Did I get nervous? Absolutely. Did we stay out there and try it again? Absolutely. Did it end up short? It did. And out came Devin. I was standing on the other side saying 'Oh, boy, here we go.'"

Fortunately for Tabor and the Browns, offensive lineman Joel Bitonio was able to wrestle Hester to the ground at Cleveland's 31 after a 75-yard return.

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