LAKE FOREST — 26-year-old LT Charles Leno, an elder statesman on one of the NFL's youngest rosters, is one of the few Bears old enough to remember the excitement that accompanied Chicago's previous regime change.
After Leno's 2014 rookie campaign, the Bears fired Marc Trestman, billed just one season earlier upon his hiring as an innovative offensive mind with fresh ideas, and hired John Fox, the grizzled veteran with a defensive background and an antiquated offensive philosophy.
Three years and 14 wins later, Chicago again hit the reset button, opting for another rookie coach and QB guru, more similar to Trestman, in Matt Nagy.
So, what's different about the latest change, which by all accounts has again brought with it a palpable energy for an organization that's too often struggled to generate excitement — especially on offense — during Leno's tenure?
"We've got an offensive coach now," Leno said Wednesday prior to hitting the field for the second of three minicamp practices before the offseason concludes. "And we've got somebody who can put up points, put points on the board. We've got somebody who's gonna be calling plays for us, and it's just a really good feel, speaking of the offensive side of the ball first, it's just a real good feel for us."
Leno didn't say this specifically, but reading between the lines, it'd appear that the offense's scoring decreasing in three consecutive seasons under Fox didn't feel so great. Again, our words, not Leno's, but moving on from a timid approach that allowed defenses to dictate the action might also contribute to Leno's rosy new outlook shared by many of his offensive cohorts.
"It’s an attacking offense," he said, echoing the description given minutes earlier by QB Mitch Trubisky, who called it a "wide-open attack" that fits the players well with myriad options, including RPOs (run-pass options), quick-hitters and vertical chances.
Make no mistake: Nagy's dragging of the Bears into the 21st century of NFL offense brings challenges.
Leno had a difficult time with one particular question from the media Wednesday, an inquiry regarding the specific obstacles for an offensive lineman in a scheme that has plenty of pre- and post-snap adjustments.
"I kinda get where you're coming from," he said. "There's checks on some plays, there's not checks on some plays. But like I said before, if you listen to the words that speak to you in the offense, it simplifies everything for you. So once you hear it, you're like, 'OK, I got it. This speaks to me. This speaks to me, this doesn't.' You don't have to worry about the ones that don't speak to you, just listen to the ones that speak to you and you can roll from there."
Fortunately for Leno, whatever issues he had understanding a question Wednesday hasn't carried over to the practice field, where he and his teammates are ahead of schedule.
"For myself," said Nagy, "this was a big test to see, and a gauge to be able to feel where the offense was going to be and they’re where we thought they would be and probably slightly above the line in regards to that. ... We pulled it back the last two days, they’ve played faster and there’s been some really good things on offense."
The new Bears offense clearly speaks to its players. It's evident from Trubisky's progress in practice — "his anticipation throws today, it was one of his better days," Nagy said — to the big smiles from Leno, Trubisky and Tarik Cohen when discussing it.
"The way coach Nagy teaches us, anything — like, we draw up a play, and then we go over the looks that can stop that play, and then we go into the looks that we do to stop them from stopping us," Cohen said. "I feel like it’s one step above in this offense. We’re always thinking about how we can be stopped and then how we can beat that."
Coming from an offense that often felt like it was determined to beat itself, the newest round of excitement at Halas Hall is certainly understandable.