LAKE FOREST – Lovie Smith is coming to town.
The former Bears head coach will bring his Houston Texans to Soldier Field on Sunday in a Week 3 matchup against the Bears. Smith will be coaching an NFL team at Soldier Field for the first time since his Tampa Bay Buccaneers visited Chicago in 2014.
Sunday’s matchup will feature two coaches from the same coaching tree, who run defenses with similar philosophies. New Bears head coach Matt Eberflus is a longtime acquaintance of Smith’s. Eberflus first met Smith two decades ago when he was the defensive coordinator at Missouri. He visited St. Louis to learn from Smith, who was the defensive coordinator with the Rams.
Many of the concepts he learned from Smith, and later from mentor Rod Marinelli (who served as Bears defensive coordinator under Smith), remain a part of the Eberflus’ scheme today.
“He’s been a head coach for a long time and he’s been steady that way and really good,” Eberflus said. “I just appreciate that from him and what kind of man he is, too, just from hearing from coach Rod and everybody else, coach [Tony] Dungy, all of the guys I have contact – with more just what they say about him.”
After Illinois fired Smith near the end of the 2020 college football season, Smith signed on as defensive coordinator for the Texans. Houston fired head coach David Culley in January after just one season and eventually landed on Smith as Culley’s replacement.
Both Smith and Eberflus run a defense that is derived from what Tony Dungy ran as the head coach of the Bucs and Colts, and which Dungy learned as a Steelers assistant in the 1980s. The Tampa 2-style 4-3 defense has modernized itself with the times over the last 20 years, but it remains the same scheme, in principle.
“We believe in the four-man rush,” Eberflus said. “We believe in dropping seven, having seven guys in coverage and having our four-man rush get pressure and that’s what we believe in. We will pressure at at times, certainly situationally and on first and second down, but that’s been our philosophy.”
Injury updates: Roquan Smith did not participate in practice Wednesday. The team listed Smith out with a hip injury. Smith played in both the team’s first two games. He did not appear to suffer an injury during Sunday’s loss to the Packers.
Also sitting out practice Wednesday was tight end Ryan Griffin (achilles), receiver Velus Jones Jr. (hamstring) and safety Dane Cruikshank (hamstring).
Center Lucas Patrick was no longer wearing a club on his right hand, but did still have a brace on his thumb. During the short portion of practice that was open to members of the media, Patrick snapped the football for the first time since injuring his thumb in late July.
In Houston, starting quarterback Davis Mills is dealing with a thumb injury on his throwing hand but he was a full participant in practice Wednesday.
Kmet, Mooney not worried: Tight end Cole Kmet and receiver Darnell Mooney aren’t worried about their lack of production in the passing game. The Bears’ passing game has struggled as a whole. Quarterback Justin Fields has attempted only 28 passes in two games.
Mooney has caught all of two passes for four yards. Kmet has yet to catch a pass this season.
“Look, we’re working through it,” Kmet said. “I am going to remain optimistic like I always am about it. And we’re just going to keep working every day and keep grinding through it.”
Kmet had a nice training camp and appeared to be a top target for Fields in the preseason. Mooney clearly had the best connection with Fields of all the receivers during camp. That hasn’t translated to regular season success, though.
Mooney spent some extra time out on the field after practice Wednesday working on routes with Fields.
“[I] don’t need to worry about it too much,” Mooney said. “The team believes in me. Players believe in me, so whenever my opportunity will be there, I’ll take advantage of it.”