Guest of the League
Aurelio Sanchez Memorial League Est. 2007
FFL: Preseason | NFL: Week 1

Pagano puts stamp on Bears 'D' after year out of coaching

Wed May 22 6:30pm ET
By ANDREW SELIGMAN
AP Sports Writer

Players: Cody Parkey, Taquan Mizzell

Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano smiles as he watches his team during NFL football practice in Lake Forest, Ill., Wednesday, May 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)


LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) Chuck Pagano made the most of his time away from the sideline. He's also glad to be coaching again.

The Chicago Bears' new defensive coordinator gets to put his stamp on a unit that emerged as one of the best the past four seasons under Vic Fangio, particularly now that offseason workouts are underway.

''You ask any player that's been let go or put on the street and then been given another opportunity, another team, another locker room, coaches to be around, players to be around, come out here and run around like a kid again - there's nothing better,'' Pagano said Wednesday.

The Bears have soaring expectations and a bit of a chip on their shoulder after a bitter loss to end a breakthrough year.

Chicago won the NFC North at 12-4 in coach Matt Nagy's first season, ending an eight-year playoff drought, only to lose the wild-card game at Soldier Field to Philadelphia when former kicker Cody Parkey's potential winning field goal hit an upright and crossbar.

The Bears are banking on improvement by an offense entering its second year in Nagy's system, and more dominance from a defense that returns mostly intact - with at least one notable change.

Overseeing it now is Pagano, hired in January after Fangio took the head coaching job in Denver.

He spent last year out of coaching, as an NFL consultant working with officials, after leading Indianapolis to a 53-43 record and two AFC South championships from 2012-2017.

Pagano got to go to the Masters, rode his Peloton bike and spent quality time with his family. He made the most of his situation. But he wasn't where he really wanted to be: coaching.

With offseason workouts in process, he feels recharged and ready to embrace the challenge. On the one hand, he inherits a loaded defense. On the other, his predecessor set a high standard.

''He knows what kind of challenge that is, because there's expectations not just from the media and from the fan base but from his own players,'' Nagy said. ''They know what they did under Vic's regime and his coaching staff. So I think that's going to be really neat to watch organically happen, but there's got to be some patience involved there, so that's what we'll continue to talk through.''

Pagano inherits a group led by All-Pros Khalil Mack, Kyle Fuller and Eddie Jackson that ranked third in total defense. The Bears had more takeaways (36) and interceptions (27) than any other team. They allowed a league-low 17.7 points per game and 1,280 yards rushing - the fewest by a Chicago team in a 16-game season. And they tied for third in the league with 50 sacks even though they didn't blitz much.

''We all know how well this defense did,'' Pagano said. ''They love football. They love playing football. We've had great attendance, great participation. They love each other. They just love playing the game. It's been a real pleasure. We've got a long way to go, obviously. But they're doing a great job.''

One thing that has stood out to defensive end Akiem Hicks is Pagano's ability to relate to his players.

''He just understands what they could be thinking, what the possibilities are,'' Hicks said. ''And he can attack those before an issue arises. And he can stop an issue from arising.''

Linebacker Roquan Smith said he has the ''utmost respect'' for Pagano and Fangio.

''Definitely, Chuck's a little more outgoing,'' Smith added. ''He is who he is. We respect that, love it and embrace it each and every day.''

When it comes to scheme, Pagano and Fangio are similar. They both run a 3-4. And they overlapped as assistants in Baltimore, helping mold a defense that ultimately led the Ravens to a Super Bowl championship at the end of the 2012 season.

Pagano said he would be ''foolish'' not to retain some of Fangio's plays. But he's also putting his mark on the defense.

He said his staff has been ''throwing a lot of mud at the wall and seeing what sticks.'' What he's seeing so far is a high retention rate.

''There's gonna be stuff to clean up,'' he said. ''There's gonna be mistakes made. But again, these guys have done a great job to this point.''

NOTE: Two players have changed positions, with Bradley Sowell moving from offensive tackle to tight end, and Taquan Mizzell from running back to receiver.

Player Notes
Michael Roberts Jun 14 2:53am ET

Updating a previous report, the Detroit Lions traded TE Michael Roberts to the New England Patriots in exchange for a conditional seventh-round pick in 2020.

Andre Roberts Jun 13 11:53pm ET

Buffalo Bills WR Andre Roberts may see work in the passing game as the No. 5 receiver in addition to playing on special teams, according to Jay Skurski of The Buffalo News.

Matt Barkley Jun 13 10:53pm ET

Buffalo Bills QB Matt Barkley has the 'safest' role on the roster as QB Josh Allen's backup, in the opinion of Jay Skurski of The Buffalo News.

Cameron Meredith Jun 13 10:33pm ET

New Orleans Saints WR Cameron Meredith (knee) said sitting out OTAs and minicamp is 'mostly a matter of being smart' in order to ensure a healthy training camp.

Geronimo Allison Jun 13 10:13pm ET

Green Bay Packers WR Geronimo Allison is 'likely slated as the slot man' in three-receiver sets, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com.

Fantasy Spin: Allison had a productive start to last season before suffering an injury, and while Marquez Valdes-Scantling may have the inside track on the No. 2 receiver job, the Green Bay passing attack could support three viable fantasy options. Consider Allison a WR4 with upside.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling Jun 13 10:03pm ET

Green Bay Packers WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling has been lining up across from WR Davante Adams in all packages during minicamp.

Fantasy Spin: It sounds like Valdes-Scantling has the inside track to the No. 2 receiver job. It remains to be seen if he will take the role and run with it, but the upside that comes with being one of Aaron Rodgers' top targets makes him a WR4 candidate.

Robby Anderson Jun 13 9:23pm ET

New York Jets WR Robby Anderson (undisclosed) did not practice Thursday, June 13, because of an undisclosed injury.

Fantasy Spin: The nature of Anderson's injury remains unclear, but unless it lingers into training camp, fantasy owners shouldn't be too concerned. Anderson started to connect with Sam Darnold on some big plays late last season, and he's a WR3 candidate in 2019 as the top option in the passing attack.

Leonard Fournette Jun 13 9:03pm ET

Jacksonville Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette will be a big part of the passing game with QB Nick Foles in 2019, according to ESPN's Michael DiRocco.

Fantasy Spin: Fournette has just 48 career catches for 487 yards and two touchdowns over the first two seasons of his career. Foles most memorably hooked up with RB Corey Clement four times for 100 yards and a touchdown in Super Bowl LII. Fournette could be a huge steal if he continues to go in the third round of PPR drafts.

Marlon Mack Jun 13 8:23pm ET

Indianapolis Colts RB Marlon Mack is being viewed by head coach Frank Reich as the team's workhorse in the backfield, according to Joel A. Erickson of the Indianapolis Star.

Fantasy Spin: Mack rushed for 908 yards and nine touchdowns last season while adding 103 yards and one touchdown as a receiver. Nyheim Hines should handle the majority of third-down duties in 2019, but Mack could still return plenty of value as a high-end RB2.

LeSean McCoy Jun 13 7:43pm ET

Buffalo Bills RB LeSean McCoy expects to maintain a large role in the offense in his age-31 season in 2019. 'I'm a type of guy, I thrive off of having a big name. So when guys come to my team, they're curious to see, 'How is LeSean McCoy? Is he still a good player?' I mean, I'm a dominant player. I think that speaks for itself. But I'll be in the same role as last year. And I look forward to putting some numbers up and bouncing back from that last season,' McCoy said Tuesday, June 12.

Fantasy Spin: McCoy totaled just 752 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns last season. Both numbers were career worsts as he played in 14 games but made just 13 starts. He remains No. 1 on the Bills' depth chart, but he'll be competing against veteran RB Frank Gore and third-round rookie Devin Singletary. He's fallen into RB4 territory but could prove to be a steal at a mid-round price.

Darius Slay Jun 13 6:43pm ET

Detroit Lions CB Darius Slay hasn't committed to reporting to next month's training camp without a new contract. 'Will I be there?' Slay said in an episode of The Pride Podcast released Thursday, June 13. 'We'll see. Time will tell.' Slay is set to carry a cap hit of $12.55 million in 2019 on the second-to-last year of a four-year, $48-million deal signed in 2016.

Dallas Goedert Jun 13 6:33pm ET

Philadelphia Eagles TE Dallas Goedert has looked ready to make a second-year leap into stardom in 2019, according to Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Fantasy Spin: Goedert, who caught 33 passes for 334 yards and four touchdowns as a rookie after being chosen 49th overall in the 2018 NFL Draft, will remain behind Zach Ertz on the Eagles' depth chart as a sophomore. He could prove to be a viable TE2 in deeper leagues and would be an instant must-add should Ertz miss any time.

David Moore Jun 13 6:23pm ET

Seattle Seahawks WR David Moore has made a huge leap this offseason in his knowledge of the position and in his ability to play multiple spots, according to head coach Pete Carroll on Thursday, June 13.

Fantasy Spin: Moore caught just 26 of 53 targets last season but turned those into 445 yards and five touchdowns. He projects behind Tyler Lockett and rookie D.K. Metcalf on the depth chart, but he's worth a late-round pick as a WR5 as the Seahawks begin life without Doug Baldwin.

Theo Riddick Jun 13 5:53pm ET

Detroit Lions RB Theo Riddick is not guaranteed to make the team out of training camp, in the opinion of the Detroit Free Press' Dave Birkett.

Kerryon Johnson Jun 13 5:53pm ET

Detroit Lions RB Kerryon Johnson finished with 32 catches in 10 games as a rookie in 2018, and the Detroit Free Press' Dave Birkett could see him doubling that production in 2019 if the team decides they don't need to take Johnson off the field on third down.

Demarcus Lawrence Jun 13 5:53pm ET

Dallas Cowboys CB Byron Jones (hip) and DE DeMarcus Lawrence (shoulder) are expected to begin training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

DeSean Jackson Jun 13 5:43pm ET

Philadelphia Eagles WR DeSean Jackson has reportedly built a strong connection and sense of timing with QB Carson Wentz throughout the spring, according to Mike Kaye of NJ.com.

Lamar Jackson Jun 13 5:43pm ET

Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson indicated he may work with noted 'quarterback guru' Tom House over the summer and confirmed he will throw to his teammates in either Baltimore or somewhere in Florida in July.

Travin Dural Jun 13 4:53pm ET

New Orleans Saints WR Travin Dural was waived Thursday, June 13.

C.J. Prosise Jun 13 4:43pm ET

Seattle Seahawks RB C.J. Prosise (hamstring) reportedly left practice with a tight hamstring Thursday, June 13, according to head coach Pete Carroll.