Emma's Tailgater: Nick Williams Breaking Out

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LAKE FOREST, Ill. (670 The Score) -- Back in the spring of 2018, the Bears had a defensive line spot to fill on their 90-man roster and invited a then-28-year-old player who had been out of the NFL to come try out. 

That man was Nick Williams, who had played 26 games with the Chiefs and Dolphins over parts of three seasons but had never recorded a sack. He wasn't on a roster for the entire 2017 season, and yet the Bears saw something in him.

During that tryout, Bears general manager Ryan Pace approached defensive line coach Jay Rodgers and asked if he saw a fit in Williams.

"I said, 'Yeah, we need to sign this guy,'" Rodgers recalled this week. "'I think he would fit what we do. And let's see if he can earn a spot, make a spot on the roster.' And through his own hard work, he got a spot on the roster."

Not only did Williams make the Bears' roster, he's currently the team's leader in sacks with six -- more than Khalil Mack, Leonard Floyd, Eddie Goldman or any of the other big names on Chicago's defense.

"Just a lot of hard work, believing in myself," Williams said. "It's a great organization to play for. Great coaching. And it's just bringing out the best in my game.

"It just speaks to the scouting department, the front office, what they see in players and what they can bring out of players with great coaching. It just speaks to them. They know what they're doing."

Williams, now 29, played in only two games last season but was developing behind the scenes. The work Williams put forth is part of why he's such a popular presence in the Bears' locker room.

Fellow defensive lineman Akiem Hicks has a locker next to Williams and pointed recently to how he works in the weight room. Coach Matt Nagy sees an emerging leader.

"A lot of people look up to him in his role," Nagy said. "Now, he’s producing."

With each of his team-leading sacks, Williams flexes in celebration. It's the reflection of his work and pride to be at this point.

And he's just showing off.

"I got the biggest arms on the team," Williams said. "I just flex on them."

Open field

At the NFL Combine last March, I asked Pace if he was interested in drafting a developmental quarterback.

The idea would be to select an insurance policy behind starter Mitchell Trubisky, a young player who could be developed under the quarterback coaching structure at Halas Hall and potentially emerge either as a starter for the Bears or another team.

Pace's response was tepid.

"If it's the best player, we could, yeah," Pace said.

That sure felt like a no at the time, and the answer proved to be a no. Since Pace arrived as Bears general manager in 2015, the Bears have drafted only one quarterback: Trubisky. 

The Bears' quarterback room since the arrival of Nagy as coach has featured only Trubisky, the second overall pick in 2017, and reserves Chase Daniel and Tyler Bray, who act as sounding boards. The Bears haven't entertained the idea of potential competition for Trubisky.

When news came earlier this week that free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick was participating in an workout in Atlanta on Saturday, it was obvious the Bears wouldn't declare their intentions. The NFL on Thursday announced that 11 teams have committed to attend, and the Bears weren't among them

The Bears could send scouts to Atlanta to see Kaepernick, but it's something they would prefer to keep private. Despite Trubisky's struggles, they're still committed to him and attempting to develop him as their starter.

It's why the Bears didn't consider benching Trubisky late during that embarrassing loss to the Saints on Oct. 20 or at halftime against the Eagles on Nov. 3 when the offense had posted only nine yards. Daniels' place on the roster isn't to compete with Trubisky. The same goes for Bray. And the Bears have no apparent intention of bringing in Kaepernick or any other free-agent quarterback to battle Trubisky this season.

The final seven games of this season will allow the Bears to evaluate Trubisky and solidify in their minds whether he belongs for their long term. 

4-down territory
1.) Danny's impact

Inside linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski stepped in for the injured Danny Trevathan last Sunday by recording nine tackles, a sack and an interception. He was recognized by the Bears this week as their "Sweep the Sheds" honoree, a distinction given to an unsung hero.

A major part of Kwiatkoski's performance, according to inside linebackers coach Mark DeLeone, was how Trevathan has helped him prepare to be that next man up.

A first-year assistant with the Bears, DeLeone has seen Trevathan working closely with the Bears' other linebackers each week -- "like having another coach in the room," DeLeone said -- and that has been the case with Kwiatkoski, the first reserve at their position.

Trevathan is constantly offering his help to players like Kwiatkoski as they work through practice and prepare a game plan.

"It’s just a credit to (Trevathan) and how special he is," DeLeone said.

2.) A-Rob vs. Ramsey

Bears top receiver Allen Robinson has been looking forward to this matchup Sunday for some time.

Robinson will be lining up against All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey, his former teammate in Jacksonville. Ramsey joined the Rams in an October trade from their former team, the Jaguars.

Ramsey is considered one of the loudest trash talkers in the game. While Robinson is reserved off the field, he lets the words fly when he's between the lines.

Robinson is ready to talk it up with Ramsey.

"It’s going to be physical, it’s going to be competitive, it’s going to be fun," Robinson said.

3.) 'Shocking'

Before being drafted by the Bears in 2017, safety Eddie Jackson watched star pass rusher Myles Garrett during their days in the SEC. 

Jackson had a strong impression of Garrett as a player and a person. It's why he found Thursday night so "shocking."

With eight seconds remaining in the Browns' win over the Steelers, Garrett ripped the helmet off Pittsburgh quarterback Mason Rudolph and swung it to strike him on his unprotected head. It sparked a major fight that will certainly lead to severe punishment.

"I never thought he was that type of guy," Jackson said on the Mully & Haugh Show on Friday. 

"I want to see what the league is going to do about that. You got to set an example." 

4.) Cool runnings?

The closest this struggling Bears offense has come to establishing an identity has been when Nagy commits to a run-pass balance by using rookie running back David Montgomery.

With that in mind, the Bears are facing a major concern after Montgomery rolled an ankle in practice Wednesday. His status for Sunday is in question, with Nagy unable to commit to Montgomery playing.

Montgomery has rushed 129 times for 466 yards (3.6 yards per carry) and five touchdowns this season. The Bears are 1-4 when he gets fewer than 15 carries in a game and 3-1 when he surpasses that threshold.

If the Bears are without Montgomery, they would turn to Tarik Cohen, Ryan Nall and perhaps Cordarrelle Patterson as their running backs. But would Nagy trust them enough to maintain balance? That's the big question.
Quote to note:

"That's what's so great about football. Guys put their differences aside and play for one common goal."

-- Bears cornerback Prince Amukamara on how a locker room would welcome Kaepernick

Injury report

RB David Montgomery (ankle) -- Montgomery could be a game-time decision as he manages his ankle ailment.

TE Trey Burton (calf) -- Burton has been riding the exercise bicycle during practice this week, a positive sign. But he's dealing with injuries to his calf and groin, so it's hard to imagine him being a key part of the Bears' game plan.

TE Adam Shaheen (foot) -- Shaheen was a healthy inactive last Sunday, and now he has an injury to deal with. It doesn't appear he will be playing anytime soon.

LB Danny Trevathan (left elbow) -- The Bears spent this week gathering information on Trevathan's status in hopes he could avoid injured reserve. But it doesn't take a doctor to understand the serious nature of his gruesome injury.

LB Isaiah Irving (quad) -- The Bears will likely promote James Vaughters from the practice squad again Saturday with Irving not yet ready to return.

Prediction (5-4): Rams 24, Bears 17

The Bears and Rams entered this season considered favorites in the NFC. It has been a challenging year for both, and Sunday night should determine their legitimacy. The Rams' inconsistencies will be lesser than the Bears' in a fun contest at the Coliseum. 

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.