Roquan Smith's intangibles leave strong impression at Bears rookie minicamp

Georgia outside linebacker Roquan Smith is selected eighth overall by the Chicago Bears during the NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on April 26, 2018. (Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS)
Georgia outside linebacker Roquan Smith is selected eighth overall by the Chicago Bears during the NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on April 26, 2018. (Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS)

Credit: Max Faulkner

Credit: Max Faulkner

Every event on the Bears calendar this year offers some type of first for Matt Nagy, who had never been a head coach before being hired in January. The learning experiences continue to come in quick succession, the latest being the three-day rookie minicamp that ended Sunday.

"The biggest thing is sometimes it can test your frustration because the details aren't perfect," Nagy said. "But you have to expect that. There's no way that these guys are going to come in here and learn everything that we give them. Even as simple as we keep it, they're not going to learn everything and the details with the splits and the lingo. And so when they do mess it up, (you have) to understand that, to be patient as a coach, and to know that it's not because of effort."

Meanwhile, here are four things we learned:

Roquan Smith made a positive first impression.

The inside linebacker and first-round pick won't be able to showcase his best qualities until players are permitted to practice in pads during traåining camp, and even then there's not much live tackling.

However, Smith's leadership intangibles and football intelligence began to surface as he absorbed the defensive scheme through three days.

"The first day he comes out here and there's — I'm not going to say hesitance, but it's new," Nagy said. "The words are different. They mean different things to him. So once that calculates in his brain ... then he'll be able to play faster. You could see that the last couple of days that he did that."

When Smith was on the sideline during practice, he often stayed close to inside linebackers coach Glenn Pires, who was intent on getting the Bears' top rookie off to a productive start in a defense for which he could end up relaying play calls in games.

"That's a strength of his, and we'll continue to grow with that," Nagy said.

Bilal Nichols recognizes exciting possibilities for him in the Bears scheme.

Nichols' responsibilities at end and tackle on the Bears defensive line will significantly differ in some ways from what he was asked to do at Delaware.

"We were a lot more patient waiting for blocks," Nichols said Sunday. "Here, they want you to knock guys back and then get up the field. That's something that I really like a lot."

The fifth-round draft pick soaked up his NFL introduction over the weekend, including a conversation with former Bears defensive lineman Steve McMichael, which are always, shall we say, colorful.

"He's a very passionate guy," Nichols said. "When you talk to him, you could feel his words. You could feel his energy. You could tell he really loves the game."

Nichols also appreciated the huge black-and-white photo of the 1985 Bears defense that was recently printed on the wall outside the defense's meeting room at Halas Hall.

"When you look at the pictures of that '85 Bears defense, that's something that really hits me," he said. "How ferocious they played. How dominant they were. How they just controlled games. That's how I would love to see the defense I play in."

Each year at rookie minicamp, the coach is asked for any tryout players he noticed. Usually, it's a fruitless line of questioning. Not only are the practices so basic (and without pads) that it's difficult for players to truly shine, but there's also little incentive for the coach to single anyone out.

Well, on Sunday, the third straight day Nagy was asked for a standout, he offered a name: receiver Matt Fleming, a Simeon graduate who played at Division III Benedictine in Lisle.

Fleming (6-0, 180 pounds) is an All-American in track and field. In the 2017 outdoor season, he was a member of the national champion 400-meter relay team and a national runner-up in the long jump. In football last season, he caught a touchdown in eight straight games, totaling 10 in that span.

Fleming was one of 43 tryout players at camp after the Bears noticed him at their local pro day before the draft.

"Not a real big kid, but he made his assignments, did his job, made some nice catches," Nagy said.