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Quotes (11/30): Shurmur, Hunter, Emanuel, Vernon

Head Coach Pat Shurmur

Opening Remarks: Evan Engram (hamstring) and B.J. Goodson (neck) have been ruled out.   

Q: B.J. was a shoulder stinger?

A: Neck.

Q: Did something happen in the last day or two where (B.J.’s) condition worsened?      

A: No, we’ve just been trying to progress it and it hadn’t progressed far enough, that’s all. Nothing’s worsened since the game on anything.   

Q: Do you have special visitors today?

A:  Yeah, we always do on Friday. For home games, we have special guests that come on Friday and Saturday. We try to embrace young people and it’s a special weekend for them. They come, they embrace the team either on Friday or Saturday, and then they’re at the game with us on Sunday.  

Q: When a player like Khalil Mack is on the other side, do you have to adjust your offense as far as timing, getting the ball out, play calling, to account for that? Or do you say, no, we’re going to run what we know is most effective for us to make you stop?   

A: He’s part of the defense, and on offense you’re always trying to do things necessary to attack their defense. When you have an outstanding rusher, you have to do things to pay special attention, so we will. It doesn’t change what we do, we’ve just got to do some things more and some things less.  

Q: When you look at your own offensive identity, do you view it as a team now that is centered around the run and then work off that?  

A: No, I don’t think that. I think our team, we’re starting to develop an offensive line that’s playing better, which allows us to do more things. Couldn’t say that was the case earlier in the year, and that stalls you out at times. It’s safe to say our last three games were our offensive line’s best three performances. I don’t know what our identity is. I think it’s always important to run the ball. There’s a phase of your offense that involves play action, and then you have the drop back game, and then you do all the others things your quarterback can do.  

Q: You don’t think it’s important to have an identity?  

A: I think it’s important to have an offense that can score points and I think you have to be able to score points in many ways.  

Q: How do you feel like the transition to (nose tackle) has gone for Dalvin (Tomlinson)?  

A: I think it’s been good. He’s obviously playing more since Snacks is not here, but I think each week I see improvement.    

Q: How big of an adjustment is that to switch him there?

A: That’s part of what he’s done. It’s a little bit of an adjustment when you’re playing from a three technique to a shade, but I think he’s getting better each week.  

Q: Have you seen a better Nate Solder in recent weeks? 

A: I think the O line, in general, as a group. I think he’s battled throughout the year and he’s played well for us. Along the way, each player and you can always pick out a game and point to a play or two, but we’re really pleased with not only him as a player, but him as a person.   

Q: What did you think of Grant Haley and his increased role?

A: I thought he did a good job. He’s going to benefit by playing more and more, made some plays, there were a couple plays where he was just close, almost. As you go along now, continue to make the plays you make and take those almost ones and make them happen.  

Q: What more do you need out of (Olivier) Vernon?   

A: He’s just like every player on our team. Just keep battling, keep playing to make a difference. He can be a disruptive force, we all know that. I mentioned this, that he got kind of a late start this year, he missed six games because of the injury. He’s been out there playing and battling and making plays, he’s just got to keep continuing to play. That’s the focus for all players. He’s a valued member of our team, and he’s just got to keep playing.

Q: Mike Shula said yesterday, I think it was the first first-down you might have gotten in Philly where it was a check-down to (Rhett) Ellison and he fought through some tackles to get it. He said you guys were trying to stress the difference between getting that first down as kind of a way for your offense to take the next step. What was he talking about, extra effort?  

A: No, converting on third down allows you to keep drives alive. We saw the negative effects of that in the third quarter. We only had 10 plays in the third quarter because we didn’t keep drives alive, six of which were runs and then because of the penalties, we had some long third yardage situations. You see the effects of not converting on them. I’d prefer to convert on a first or second down. I talk to our guys about playing Canadian ball. Let’s convert on second down and eliminate the stress of what third down brings, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing against the rules in terms of converting on second down. I’m assuming that’s what he’s referring to, it keeps drives alive. Then you get more plays and get to all the fun stuff you want to.

Offensive Line Coach Hal Hunter

Q: What’s it been like to get Jamon Brown in the mix?

A: I remember him when he was coming out of Louisville, I was at Indy. I really liked him coming out, he played both tackles there, kind of played the open side tackle. He wasn’t quite as big as he is now but he’s a good athlete and he was tough, and that’s two things I liked about him. When he showed up here, he’s a little bit bigger, but he’s a good athlete and he’s tough. He brings a real toughness to the group and I like his athleticism for a 348-pound guy. He’s a smart guy, you tell him once and he gets it right. He was here for a couple days and played for us and hasn’t had one MA (missed assignment) in 60-something snaps, so it shows you he’s a smart guy. He fit into the group really fast. I like his attitude, we like his attitude, all that stuff. This ain’t his first rodeo, he’s got a lot of snaps under his belt from LA, too, so it’s progress.

On Evan Engram’s need to develop as a blocker: Is that something you and the o-line staff work with him on or just the tight end group?

A: No, that’s tight ends. I don’t want to talk about somebody else’s player. I like everything about him, he’s a quality guy, he really busts his ass on the field, but I’ll let somebody else talk about that.   

Q: Has Nate (Solder) played better these last couple weeks?

A:  He’s played really good. The one bad game that he didn’t play good, he had one bad game everybody was beating him up on, that was after he had that unbelievable burner. He had a neck issue and he didn’t practice all week, he walked-through and then he went out there and was a little tentative in the first half. I had a burner when I played in college and if somebody hits you in the head, your whole left arm goes numb and it feels like somebody’s sticking a knife in your back. Then after he got out there and tested the waters the way the game progressed, he actually played better and better as the game went. Then after that, he’s been playing really good. I give him a little mulligan on that one because I’ve been that soldier before. He’s everything I thought he would be as a player, but even more than that. Everything about Nate Solder, I mean he’s a good player. The one thing you do in the NFL as you’re preparing, I see a dozen tackles every single week because I’m looking at other teams play and there’s probably 30, maybe 31 other teams that he would start for, maybe 32 teams. He’s a really quality player. Nobody’s going to play a perfect game, everybody’s going to have a couple bad plays. In 36 years, I’ve never had a player play a perfect game. What he brings to the room, what he brings to the offense, everything about him on and off the field in the meeting room, out of the meeting room – he’s playing really good, playing at a high level, tough, aggressive, he’s exactly what I expected him to be. It’s what I saw on tape all those years at New England.

Q: He had been in one system with one quarterback for so long, do you think it was a little bit of an adjustment period?   

A: Yes and no. It’s just like anything, sometimes when you get in the heat of battle, sometimes you revert back to some other things, sometimes that happens. The one thing that’s always really interesting for the offensive line is the game’s played looking through a face mask. Coaches, we sit back and we watch it on end zone film, people watch it from the stands. When that stuff happens up front, it happens so fast and there’s a guy right there in your face and sometimes you have to make a split second decision, so to say he wouldn’t ever have some muscle memory and revert back to seven or eight years of what he’s done – but I think he’s embraced what we’re trying to do because we’ve got a different system. He’s done it at a pretty high level. The one thing we don’t do to him, we work through all these things to scheme our protections against really quality players, we hang him out. We don’t do anything to help him -- you’re on your own, big boy. We’ll help these other guys but not you.  

Q: From center all the way to right tackle, this is a much different group than you came into training camp with. What do you like about the group you have now with Spencer (Pulley) and (Jamon) Brown and (Chad) Wheeler?  

A: I really miss (Jon) Halapio, he was playing really at a high level when he got hurt, but what I like about (Spencer Pulley) is that he’s smart and he’s tough, and he plays with great effort. He’s a little bit on the light side, he’s not quite as big as some of these other guys but he makes up for it with his tenacity. He’s a really tough guy, a smart guy. He figures out all that substance stuff and gets it straight. We talked about Jamon, what he brings to the table. Chad is slowly but surely, play by play, getting better and better and better. The one thing about the NFL, you say give me a great left tackle, but everybody in this league has got two great rushers and what they’ll do is they’re looking for matchups, they’ll flip guys back and forth all over the place. He gets matched up with a quality player every single week, and he hasn’t given up a sack in the last two or three weeks matched up against really good guys. He fights and he’s tough and he’s smart, he’s improving week by week. Him and this whole group, we’re far from a finished product. We’re making some improvement and working in the right direction, but we are not even close to being a finished product in terms of where we need to go.  

Q: Continuity at the offensive line might be the most important aspect of an offense. With so many changes throughout the year, what’s that been like for you?

A: That’s what the NFL is. Every week, we and me, we’re charged with putting five guys on the field that we can win with. There’s injuries that happen, there’s things that change, and your job is to get guys ready to play, whether you’ve had them for six months or you’ve had them for six days. So again, there is some continuity. The thing about the offensive line is it’s not five individuals. You know that saying about the sum is more important than the individual parts, well that’s what it is. The offensive line’s got to play together. When you’re in sync, right now Nate and Will Hernandez are starting to get in sync, they’re starting to play together a little bit. When (Nate) was in New England, he played with Logan Mankins for about six or seven years, so they knew each other inside and out, so that’s what they’re starting to develop right now. How fast can those guys work together and get in sync, and then the center’s the glue that holds everything (together). There’s always a meeting within a meeting. If you’re in our meeting room, you’ve got Nate and Will sitting next to each other with Spencer right in the middle, then you’ve got over there Jamon and Chad sitting right next to each other. They’re always talking and communicating, talking about stuff as I’m talking trying to communicate to make sure they’re on the same page. Morning, noon and night, we’re in that meeting room.

Q: Chad’s gone against some pretty good guys. This week, you’ve got some pretty good guys.

A: Yeah, unbelievable. This may be our biggest challenge (yet). We’ve gone against some really good players, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a better player than (Khalil) Mack coming off the edge. I mean, that guy can play. He’s got it all – he’s got strength, power, quickness, redirect, he’s a really quality player. I see why you’d give up the boat (to get a guy like that). He’s a good player. And the other guy off the other edge (Leonard Floyd), he’s got athleticism and length and redirect, and it is a real challenge. But it’s that week every week in the NFL, it was that week last week. Philadelphia was talented two-deep. They kept rolling guys in and out and playing them all over the place. In the NFL, one thing we talk about, you’re always going to play against better athletes every single week or he’d be in (defensive line coach) Gary (Emanuel)’s room instead of mine. So how do you combat that? You better know what the guy’s going to do before he does it. You better study him, you better know what he’s going to do, you better understand the defensive scheme and what they’re going to bring at you, you better attempt to play with more toughness, more energy, more fight and more grit, all that old school stuff. Sometimes that stuff can overcome talent. Now when you have talent and you have that stuff, that’s when you’ve got an all-pro player. How are we going to block those guys? We’re going to try to outwork them, out-tough them, out-technique them, try to understand what they’re going to do before they do it, and hope that might be able to overcome the discrepancy and a little bit of athleticism and talent.

Q: How much do you have an idea or estimation whether they will use them on the right or left? One side you have Nate, you’re going to leave him on an island. The other side you have Chad, who might be a better matchup, but you’re probably going to use help, right?

A: Last week they started (Michael) Bennett off against Nate Solder. He couldn’t get home, so what did they do? They flipped him over and played him over the right guard. They’ve never played him over the right guard. They’re going to find the right matchups, and you’ve got to know what they’re trying to do with the matchups. When they put two guys together, they’re doing something, how are they going to match it up? Everybody’s got to watch those guys, just like I’ve told the tackles. They’ve got to be prepared to go against both, they’ve got to study both. Going back to the Houston game, they’re going to move J.J. Watt and (Jadeveon) Clowney all over the place to try to get the right matchups. You have to be ready for that. But some of these guys prefer from a certain side, that’s kind of what their nature is and they sometimes are a little reluctant to move to a different side. You’ve just got to be prepared for it. Again, you’ve got to trust your fundamentals, you’ve got to trust the system, and you’ve got to try to outwork and outplay them.

Defensive Line Coach Gary Emanuel

*Q: We haven’t talked to you I don’t think since the Snacks (Damon Harrison) trade. How did that affect your group?
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A: We’re happy with the guys we have on the team right now, we’re just moving forward.

*Q: How much of that was the confidence you guys had in someone like Dalvin (Tomlinson) being able to step into that spot? What have you seen from him over the last few weeks?
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A: Whenever you make a change, you always feel confident in the guys you have there in the program, so we feel very confident about Dalvin and Dalvin’s been doing a great job with doing the best he can do. 

*Q: Does it fit? Like is that his more natural position playing more of the nose?
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A: Dalvin’s a good defensive lineman. He can play nose, he can play three technique. He just continues to work hard, continues to improve each day out.

*Q: What are the skills that you see from him that make him a fit into the nose tackle spot?
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A: Again, like I said, he’s a good defensive lineman, he plays the run, he does a good job with his hands there on the line of scrimmage, and he can hold the point of attack. 

*Q: You guys got a little bit of a glimpse of RJ McIntosh. What have you seen from him since he’s been healthy enough to be back?
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A: RJ’s a guy who has worked hard to get himself back in shape to play football. He went out there and played and did his job. He plays well with his pad level, he plays well with his hands, he has decent feet, he’s a good athlete, so we expect some good things out of him. 

*Q: What’s the growth been like for him? How do you get him from a guy who’s just coming off the reserve list and then get him ready? How has that process gone? What was your involvement in that?
*
A: Once the medical people released him back to us, he just came out and practiced and continued to work on all phases of the game, working against the run, working with technique, working on his hands, working on his feet, working on pass rush and just continuing his work and improving each time out at practice and that showed in the game.

LB Olivier Vernon

Q: The Bears are fundamentally sound, they don’t make many mistakes, they don’t turn the ball over very much. What type of defensive philosophy do you have to approach a game with like that?

A: You just have to play sound football. You have to come in with a game plan that you have for this particular team and you just have to execute and minimize any mistakes that you have.

Q: Why do you suppose it is that teams have really been unable to take the ball away from them very often because I know you go for it every week you try to get them?

A: They’re just playing really good football. They’re not trying to make any errors and they’re a great football team. They have a good defense, they have a good special teams and offensively they have a lot of good weapons out there and they do a great job of protecting the football.

Q: What did you see from (Chase) Daniels in his game when he beat Detroit last week? What most likely would be your biggest concern for you guys?

A: Just the part of execution wise. One thing is you just have to get back there, you have to make him feel the pressure and kind of force them into making errors. We know he can make plays with his arm and he can also make plays with his feet as well. They have a lot of fast, skilled guys out there that just can make plays when it’s needed.

Q: What do you see from (Jordan) Howard as a runner that makes him difficult to deal with?

A: He’s very explosive. He can make a small gain into a big one. As long as we can just contain him and everybody get to him and swarm to the ball, and try to not have errors out there on the field like as far as missed tackles, and just everybody sticking to their assignments then we should be alright.  

Q: Talking to (Alec) Ogletree, we were talking about (Tarik) Cohen, that little guy, they hide him a lot. Is that the problem trying to find him when he has the ball?

A: He’s like – you can compare to him to like a (Darren) Sproles as far as his explosiveness, his side to side, and being able at his stature hide behind the offensive line and try to make a big play and bouncing it out. He just does a very good job at that.

*Q: Why do you think the pass rush has struggled to get home this year? I think you have one sack; the team has like 10 on the year. What’s been the issue?
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A: Guys are just working together. As far as trying to get back there, we’re putting pressure on the quarterback so I don’t feel like that’s really the issue. We’re not coming down with the sacks so as long as we just try to keep pressure, the sacks are going to come.

Q: I know you missed time earlier in the season, how do you assess where your game is?

A: Never really want to miss time when you’re out there. You work hard before every season coming up and it’s just one little bump in the road and all I can do right now is just the normal game plan, be out there for my team and make the plays that come to me.

Q: Are you totally healthy? Did you come back a little too soon or what?

A: I feel good. If I’m out there, I’m out there so that’s basically it.

Q: I mean it looked like in the preseason you were going great, especially in the games, and then you got hurt it’s like you’re having trouble getting to that same level.

A: [The] Main thing was being out in the beginning of the season, just getting your legs back, trying to get back in conditioning shape because it’s different in football shape, when you’re just doing cardio on the sideline. Getting your legs back is probably the biggest thing so I’m fine.

Q: With your contract, do you have any concern that they would move on from you after the season?

A: Right now I’m focusing on the Bears and whatever happens, happens. All I can do is focus on what I have to do.

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