Halas Chat: CB Ricky Manning Jr.

Cornerback Ricky Manning Jr. was average at best filling in for Charles Tillman and Nathan Vasher in the starting lineup last year, but he excelled in the nickel package. Manning talked with BearReport.com after Tuesday's practice at Halas Hall about the defense's performance against the 49ers, blitzing off the edge, and the fact that he and Hunter Hillenmeyer are never on the field together.

John Crist: The third preseason game is the most important for the first-stringers like yourself. Assess how you think the defense did against the 49ers last Saturday.

Ricky Manning Jr.: I think we did pretty good. We had a lot of intensity out there. We played good in front of the home crowd, and I think we came out there and played hard and got a lot of good things done. We got better.

JC: While it looked like you played great against San Francisco, sometimes the game tape can tell a different story. What did you see in the film room this week that wasn't so great and needs to be improved?

RMJ: There wasn't too many things. We actually had a pretty good game, especially that first half. The first half more than anything, we tackled well. We didn't have too many mental [mistakes]. ... So I thought we played pretty well. So minus the takeaways – not getting enough in the first half – I think we did a pretty good job. There is always room to improve, but we just happened to have a real good game in the first half.

JC: Bob Babich is now your defensive coordinator with Ron Rivera gone. Is this scheme still the same as last year, or are there some subtle differences that most football fans would never notice?

RMJ: No, the foundation is set. It's really the same. It's Lovie's defense, Lovie's system, nd that hasn't changed.

JC: You and Hunter Hillenmeyer are never in the huddle together. When you're trotting on the field, that means he's coming off and vice versa. What kind of relationship do you guys have?

RMJ: Yeah, I know. I don't like Hunter too much. He takes my time, takes my reps. He's a ball hog. I feel like I come in and I do a good job because I'm coming in for him. I've got to kind of replace him and just match up a little bit better with the receiver and do my job. Just as it would be done if he was in on the base defense.

JC: You were probably the most effective blitzer on this team last season. When a nickel blitz is called, do you simply tear after the quarterback off the edge or are there some different styles and techniques depending on the call?

RMJ: It depends on the call. Most of the time, I am off the edge. Obviously, the linebackers, I talk a little trash to them because I tell them, "Hey, just watch me, and I'll show you how to blitz." And I practice my D-line moves. I've got my Dwight Freeney spin move and a couple swim moves and things like that. You give them a hard time. It's kind of fun, but I always mess with the D-line, too. I'll say, "This sack is mine. You guys can forget about getting a sack when I blitz." It kind of revs them up. Even though they know I'm joking, they still try to make sure they get there before I do.

John Crist is the Editor in Chief of BearReport.com and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.

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