Chicago Bears newsletter sample: ‘Ask Hub’

October 7, 2018

Hub Arkush took your questions in his Friday ‘Ask Hub’ column, which first appeared in our exclusive Bears newsletter. Want to be the first to see this type of story in the future? Sign up today and get your first month of the best Bears coverage anywhere free.

How is Roquan playing/progressing? Petera076@gmail.com

He is playing very well and will play better.

I was a bit concerned with his first start vs. the Seahawks when he got run over in the middle of the line twice early in the game, but it didn’t happen again after the first quarter and I haven’t seen it happen since. There will always be concern with his lack of bulk, but I don’t see it being an issue going forward as he learns how to overcome it.

He definitely is the athlete he was billed as and is already making plays as a run-and-hit defender.

No matter what position rookies and youngsters play, the biggest key to their assimilation to the NFL is getting comfortable enough with the playbook and what they’re seeing for the game to slow down for them.

It seems to have slowed down noticeably for Smith just between Games 1 and 4, but he obviously still has a way to go with that.

Right now he is benefiting greatly from the play around him of Mack, Hicks, Goldman, Robertson-Harris, Floyd, Trevathan and Lynch and there is no real pressure on him to make big plays.

It’s the perfect position for Smith to be in — and he’s taking advantage of it.

Do you think this Bears pass rush can get within 10 sacks of the franchise record for sacks in a season? @PopeReaper

As I’m assuming you know the Bears hold the all-time record for sacks in a season, and it wasn’t the ’85 Bears but in fact the 1984 team that notched 72. This club has 18 through four games so averaging 4½ per game they are on pace for ... how about that, 72.

The question shouldn’t be can they get within 10, it’s can they break the record.

Unfortunately it’s just way too early to say. You worry about the schedule, injuries, every week opponents have more tape of what they’re doing and new plans to try and combat it, etc.

But I will say this: this group is so young that its definitely going to better in every phase of the defense 5, 8 and 12 weeks than it is right now. So, I think the answer is absolutely the Bears can get to 62, and at least for now, there’s no reason not to shoot for 73.

What do you view as the ceiling for Bilal Nichols as a player? He seems to get disciplined penetration when given chances. @MDourlain

Nichols’ ceiling is extremely high right now. He is a young man with a chance to be a really good football player. I don’t want to get hyperbolic, but stardom isn’t out of the question.

Remember, he came from the equivalent of a Division II program at Delaware and while scouts were aware of him, nobody got too excited until he got to the Senior Bowl and held up really well against the kids from the big schools.

What’s exciting about Nichols is his unusual blend of natural strength and great athleticism, and he has a body type that will allow him to line up almost anywhere in a ’30′ or ‘40’ front.

Right now he’s a relatively lean 6-4, 290 pounds, and I don’t see any reason the Bears can’t put 10-to-20 pounds of muscle on him in the weight room and he could become a dominating force. The kid just turned 22 a couple of weeks ago, so he’s probably still a couple of seasons away from really growing into his body.

He seems to be a very bright young man with a great attitude and tremendous desire to be great. What more can you really ask for in a fifth-round draft pick?

If everything goes right, Nichols could be special, but remember everything almost never goes right.

Do you think that Mitch’s performance was a fluke? Do you think that he can repeat it? @razoredge37

Obviously you’re talking about the Bucs game, and no, nothing about it was fluky.

When you ask if he can repeat it, you mean will he ever thrown six TD passes in a game? Actually that answer is probably not; it just doesn’t happen very often.

But I think what you’re asking is can he play that well again, and the answer is absolutely yes.

We’ve known pretty much since Trubisky got here that he has excellent tools and natural gifts, not the greatest arm I’ve ever seen but a really good one, excellent athleticism and unusually good accuracy on the move.

What you just never know with these kids until they do it on the field is whether they can feel the game, play instinctively, see things that most players don’t, and then do they have the constitution to slow the game down and play it without fear or hesitation.

In my limited one-on-one time with Trubisky, I’ve been really impressed by his confidence without being arrogant, competitiveness and work ethic.

I think he has the ability to have a lot more great games for the Bears, but we’re still a long way from knowing if he has all the intangibles to repeat it regularly.

What are you looking for coming out of the bye week? Specifically in the OL, use of Howard, and improvements in play calling? @McCauley_Ro

I’d like to see the defense come out rested, refreshed and play its best game of the season in Miami. That will tell us if they are growing, how confident they are and that they’re learning how to be pros and that the slight break didn’t take anything away from their momentum.

I don’t know how close Leonard Floyd is to being able to play completely un-clubbed, but I’m really anxious to see that because I think he’s capable of the kind of breakthrough season Vic Beasley had in the Falcons Super Bowl season, and of course watching the continued development of Roquan Smith, Eddie Goldman and Roy Robertson-Harris.

Charles Leno played very well against the Cardinals and not so well against the Bucs, but Kyle Long has gotten better every week and was great against Tampa.

James Daniels looked pretty good in his most extended work so far against Tampa and may be ready to crack the starting lineup soon, while Cody Whitehair seems to be settling back in at center.

Bobby Massie has been good for the most part but the whole group has to do a better job of blocking the straight-ahead run stuff between the tackles

Howard has been hit far too many times before he gets to the line of scrimmage, and most of what he has been able to do he’s done on his own.

Once the Bears unlock that part of their game, the whole offense immediately gets better.

Nagy had by far his best game plan and play-calling effort vs. the Bucs. He just needs to continue adjusting as he gets a better feel for what each of his weapons is capable of.

Does Toliver have the size and skill to become a legitimate starting corner for the Bears long term? He seems like a nice undrafted find. @vnzdn1

Kevin Toliver was a 5-star recruit coming out of high school who was a bit of an underachiever at LSU.

At 6-2, 192, he has outstanding size for the corner and can add another 5 or 10 pounds of muscle in the weight room next offseason without giving up any quickness or speed.

He battled injuries in college and never really became the player they hoped he would be, with some scouts questioning his attitude and football character. There were concerns that because of his great natural ability, he might not have the best work ethic.

I haven’t had a chance to get to know the kid at all so I’m just reporting what I’ve learned from scouts, but the Bears certainly liked what they saw enough in Bourbonnais to keep him on the 53, and we have to assume the work ethic and attitude haven’t been a problem.

Ed Donatell is one of the most accomplished secondary coaches in the league, so he’s in the right spot.

Toliver has outstanding gifts; whether or not he has the mental makeup to take advantage of them remains to be seen. When a youngster with great tools lands with a group like these young Bears on defense and sees other players developing and having success, it can be contagious.

That appears to be what’s happening right now with kids like Goldman, Robertson-Harris, Floyd and Bryce Callahan.

Hopefully we’ll see it from Toliver as well.

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