Five Things to Watch for at Chicago Bears Training Camp:
Guys, football is back and I couldn’t be any more ecstatic about it. Even writing about the Chicago Bears, I am still able to type energetically. This is the perfect time to hit refresh from the previous season and come into the new one with blanket optimism because 31 other fan bases are in the same boat. Here are the five things on my mind when approaching Chicago Bears training camp.
1. Time Mitchell T gets with the No. 1 Offense
If you have followed our talks on the #TFAPod you would know I’m a firm believer that Glennon will see work on the field most of the season and Mitchell Trubisky’s time will come in 2018. That said, you better believe I’m looking to see how much time MT gets with the No. 1’s in the offense come preseason. Why? Well for starters this has been Glennon’s job even with Pace and Co. trading the farm to get Trubisky at No. 2 in the 2017 NFL Draft. John Fox and the coaching staff have not shied away from the fact that Mitchell has never run an NFL-caliber offense and will have a lot to learn.
Glennon is easily the clear-cut choice in my mind. The only hiccup I see is if Glennon starts making mistakes early. The fans and the city of Chicago could start rumbling, and Fox might be forced to give reps to the rookie. Reps would not necessarily translate into playing time, but Fox and his staff are on the hot seat. A couple solid games from Trubisky, mixed with stellar plays at Bears training camp, and fans might pack their pitchforks for regular season games in case things go awry with Glennon.
2. Dowell Loggains Offense
This is year two for Dowell Loggains and he pretty much has the keys now. Cutler’s out at QB. Their darling WR Alshon Jeffery is in Philly. Jordan Howard, their stud RB, is entering only his second year in the NFL. I want to see what “sets” he runs — 11 vs 12 personnel, will he used a split back field, etc. This offense can’t get much worse than a year ago when it ranked in the bottom tier in every statistical category. Loggains has a prototypical game-manager now in Mike Glennon. Over his career, he’s gained 11 yards, on average, per completion. In 2014, we got a 13-game sample from Glennon and he attempted over 400 passes, had 2600 yards and 19 TDs. His numbers aren’t sexy, but if he can limit turnovers I think he can keep the Bears in games.
3. WR2 & WR3 Battles
The WR battles at Bears training camp should be really fun. Let’s go through the list of the motley crew after Cam Meredith, shall we? First, we have Markus Wheaton. You may remember him as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ reject slot receiver who had the opportunities to excel with injuries and suspensions in 2016, then ended up on the IR himself. Next is former first round pick Kevin White who has played in FOUR games total in his short career. Then we have former Tennessee Titan Kendall Wright, who exploded onto the scene with Loggains in 2013 only to fade away after Loggains left. Finally, we have the salsa-man himself, Mr. Victor Cruz, who couldn’t find a home with 30 other teams for months after the New York Giants cut him, until the Bears came in with a veteran-minimum offer. The guy I mostly have my eyes on is Kendall Wright. He’s played in Loggains system before at Tennesee. In the two years in that system, he had 243 targets and his only 1,000-yard receiving season. The other three years he saw a total of 198 targets, battled numerous injuries and dealt with two different offensive coordinators. This is a situation for fantasy purposes I want to see play out, but Wright could be a lotto ticket. He’s currently going undrafted in most leagues.
4. Who the heck is Jordan Howard’s backup?
Anyone know who Jordan Howard’s backup is — when you learn please let me know. The Chicago Bears secretly have one of the most crowded backfields in the NFL when you think about talent pool. Former Michigan State RB Jeremy Langford would be the favorite, you would think. Then I remember his dismal 118 yards on 31 carries through the first three games of 2016. He didn’t see double-digit carries in any game until Week 17. There’s rookie Tarik Cohen out of NC A&T (that’s North Carolina Agricultural & Technical) who some think can make an immediate impact. Benny Cunningham, the former Los Angeles Rams scat back, joins Ka’Deem Carey for what I assume will be passing down duties. Howard struggled to catch the ball even back in college, so unless that shapes up there’s significant value to be had here.
My favorite guy in the backfield to monitor will be Cohen. His 5’6″ , 178 lb. build might not invite fear on paper, but when you watch the film (see above) on this guy you can see why the Bears might have been excited to draft him in the fourth round. GM Ryan Pace has been on the record comparing Cohen to Darren Sproles, the scat back traditionalist. His innate ability to catch the ball and a solid Bears training camp should implement him as the number two RB. I want to like Langford, I do. His 2015 he showed some promise, but I wonder if that was just a “flash-in-the-pan” season. I wonder how many Chicagoans even remember he’s still on the roster. He’s been staying relevant with Jewel-Osco appearances in Chicagoland Suburbs.
5. Front Seven Health
As much as it pains me to say it, Jay Cutler wasn’t the sole plague of the Chicago Bears. They’ve been battling the injury bug on the defensive side of the football for years now, it seems. Just in 2016, they had five defensive lineman and two linebackers on IR. First round pick Leonard Floyd, and DTs Willie Young and Eddie Goldman battling questionable and doubtful tags throughout the season. This has been a problem for the Bears since Vic Fangio took over at defensive coordinator in 2015. Their front seven has severely struggled because of it. In the past two seasons, the Bears have ranked in the bottom half of the league in total defense and rush defense. I remember the days when the Bears had a dominant front seven every year. I’m sure the Bears thought little would change with Fangio, considering San Francisco was a top five rush defense each year he was in charge. Granted, injuries do play a part, so we can’t ignore that disclaimer. This is a Fangio defense with all of these players being “his guys.” If they can make it through preseason with limited significant injuries, this should be the Bears best defense under Fangio to date.
For more updated news, notes, and analysis, on the Chicago Bears training camp, check out Bears.com and follow the team writers as they break down the above issues and many others.
You can find me on Twitter at @RyanAlexander_W for little tidbits on fantasy football or anything sports related in general. Especially DFS. See all the great work the team is doing on our TFA Training Camp Series here. Follow The TFA Podcast and The DFS DegeNation Podcast Presented by the @FF_Authority on iTunes, Stitcher and Twitter.