After starting the final 10 games of his rookie season at left guard, Daniels was moved to center during the offseason, flipflopping positions with Cody Whitehair. Daniels started 23 games over his final two years at Iowa at center and made a smooth transition to the position during offseason workouts.
“He’s a very intelligent football player,” Trubisky said in June. “It comes easy to him and obviously he played it in college, so it’s been a natural switch and it’s been going really well. Cody’s been doing a great job at guard also.”
The Bears are confident that Daniels will continue to excel when they put pads on in training camp for the first time since January. After a year in the offense, they also believe that he’s fully prepared to make the pass protection calls at the line of scrimmage that are part of the center’s responsibilities.
The rookie running back displayed quickness, shiftiness and excellent pass-catching ability during non-contact practices this offseason. But given that his greatest attribute is likely his ability to bounce off defenders and break tackles, the Bears are eager to see how he performs in pads in training camp.
Speaking with Montgomery during offseason workouts, Bears assistant director of player personnel Champ Kelly was surprised to hear the third-round pick say he couldn’t wait for the full-contact practices in Bourbonnais.
“This is a rookie going through his first OTAs and his focus is putting on football pads and doing real football,” Kelly said during a panel discussion at the Bears100 Celebration in June. “He was like, ‘I just want to prove and show people what I can do.’ In my mind I’m thinking, ‘You’ve been doing that every day in practice.’ But in his mind he knows that there’s another level that he has once these pads come on, so that’s an exciting part about that kid.”
Nagy loves versatile players he can utilize in different roles on offense, and no one better fits that description than Patterson, an All-Pro kick returner who has also excelled as a receiver and running back in six NFL seasons. During an offseason interview, Nagy said that the chance to utilize all of Patterson’s talents left him feeling “like a kid in a candy store.”
In 93 games with the Vikings, Raiders and Patriots, Patterson averaged 30.0 yards and scored six touchdowns on 176 kickoff returns, caught 184 passes for 1,872 yards and 10 TDs and rushed for 687 yards and seven touchdowns on 184 carries.
Last year with New England, Patterson started back-to-back games at running back in place of the injured Sony Michel, rushing for 38 yards on 10 carries in a 25-6 win over the Bills and 61 yards and one touchdown on 11 attempts in a 31-17 victory over the Packers.
After Miller underwent offseason shoulder surgery, he’s expected to be ready to practice at the start of training camp. The 2018 second-round pick from Memphis showed his toughness as a rookie, fighting through the nagging injury to lead the Bears with seven touchdown receptions while catching 33 passes for 423 yards in 15 games.
Although Miller was unable to participate in offseason practices while recovering from the injury, he remained fully involved with the offense.
“He’s champing at the bit to get out there,” Nagy said during the team’s full-squad minicamp the second week of June. “He’s done a really good job of staying involved in the meetings. [During practice] he’ll hit me in the back and ask me about a play—was it this play or was it that play—which tells me he’s engaged. So mentally he’s doing good.”
After an impressive rookie season, Smith is primed to have a breakout year in 2019.
The eighth pick in the 2018 draft was named to ESPN.com’s NFL All-Rookie Team and selected as a Pro Bowl alternate after leading the Bears with 122 tackles, two shy of Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher’s team record set in 2000. Smith also registered five sacks, eight tackles-for-loss, one interception and five pass breakups while playing in all 16 games with 15 starts. He added a second interception in the Bears’ wild-card playoff loss to the Eagles
“What’s awesome about him is you can’t really put a ceiling on him,” general manager Ryan Pace said during the offseason, “not only because of his physical traits but more importantly his football makeup—like how good a teammate he is, how passionate he is about the game and his football intelligence. When you combine the physical traits with the football makeup, that’s where it’s hard to put a ceiling on this player.”
Smith isn’t the only promising young first-round selection from Georgia on the Bears defense. Chosen with the ninth pick in the 2016 draft, Floyd will head to training camp looking to build on an impressive 2018 season. He started all 16 games for the first time in his career, registering 47 tackles, four sacks, nine tackles-for-loss, four pass breakups, one fumble recovery and one interception.
Floyd, who was selected as a Pro Bowl alternate, excelled during the second half of the season after recovering from a hand injury that hampered him early in the year. He returned his first NFL interception 19 yards for a touchdown Nov. 4 against the Bills. The 6-4, 251-pounder recorded three sacks in a three-game stretch late in the season, including two of Aaron Rodgers in a 24-17 division-clinching win over the Packers last Dec. 18 at Soldier Field.
Slowed by multiple injuries in three seasons with the Bears, the key for Floyd this summer will be to remain healthy.
Based on his first two NFL seasons, Jackson has an opportunity to become an all-time great if he continues to ascend. The Bears haven’t had a ball-hawking, play-making impact safety like the Alabama product since Mike Brown more than a decade ago.
Last year Jackson recorded a career-high six interceptions and returned three takeaways—two picks and one fumble—for touchdowns. His 41-yard interception return TD last Thanksgiving gave the Bears a 23-16 win over the Lions and was selected as the team’s top play of the season by ChicagoBears.com.
Jackson, who was named first-team All-Pro and voted to his first Pro Bowl last year, has scored five defensive touchdowns, tied for the most by an NFL player in his first two NFL seasons (with the Jets’ Erik McMillan in 1988-89). Jackson has developed into more of a vocal leader as he’s gained more experience, and that likely will continue into his third NFL season.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
The Bears return 10 of 11 starters on defense, with the lone exception at safety where Clinton-Dix replaces departed free-agent Adrian Amos.
Clinton-Dix has appeared in 80 games with 74 starts in five NFL seasons with the Packers (2014-18) and Redskins (2018). He has recorded 438 tackles, 28 pass breakups, 14 interceptions, 5.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, eight tackles-for-loss and eight quarterback hits. The Florida native has three additional interceptions in seven postseason contests.
In reuniting with Jackson—his teammate at Alabama for one season—Clinton-Dix hopes to revert to the form he displayed with the Packers in 2016 when he was voted to the Pro Bowl after registering a career-high five interceptions.
Clinton-Dix has meshed well with his new teammates. “We have something special going on here,” he said during the offseason. “In the locker room there are so many great guys who are down to earth and funny, all have the same passion and also want to win ballgames, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Update: Clinton-Dix will start training camp on the physically-unable-to-perform list due to a sprained knee he sustained late in the offseason program. But Pace indicated last Sunday that it’s expected to be a short-term issue.
It will be interesting to see whether the rookie sixth-round draft choice can pick up in training camp where he left off in offseason workouts. Shelley excelled in OTA and minicamp practices, impressing coaches with his quickness and ball skills.
One of the most intriguing position battles in training camp figures to be between Shelley and veteran free-agent pickup Buster Skrine at nickel back. Both showed the ability to stick with receivers and break up passes in offseason workouts.
At Kansas State, Shelley appeared in 38 games with 37 starts over four seasons. He recorded 165 tackles, eight interceptions—returning two for touchdowns—one sack and seven tackles-for-loss. Shelley started all 12 games he played as a junior in 2017, ranking fourth in the Big 12 with 13 pass breakups while earning honorable mention all-conference recognition. He opened the first seven games last year before sustaining a season-ending toe injury.