You’ll be hard-pressed to find a football experience better than winning the game. Just allow Bears players to explain:
The start of training camp is 20 days away, and each day that passes has me thinking about how many different things can unfold in the month that follows. We’re not quite there yet, but we’re getting there … and we will get there.
- I’ve had friends tell me about fantasy football leagues getting together to draft as early as June and July. And while that seems way too early to put together an optimal fantasy roster, we’ll start to see fantasy football content ramp up sooner, rather than later. Jordan Howard will certainly be on the minds of many fantasy GMs, especially those who are also Bears fans. Marcas Grant and James Koh make the fantasy cases for (and against) Howard, a probable second-round selection who could find his way to the fringes of being a first-round pick. The is risk in taking Howard early, and there is a growing fear that his sophomore season will look like that of Todd Gurley, the Los Angeles Rams running back who took a step back after bursting onto the scene as a rookie in 2015 in what turned out to be the team’s final season in St. Louis. I would tell you not to let that enter the discussion when debating what to do at the running back position in the draft, but know that a potential sophomore slump is never out of the question.
- One thing that could help Howard avoid taking a step backward in his development would be the team’s growth in the passing game. If quarterback Mike Glennon can get it in gear early in the season, it could clear up some running room and keep defenses from loading up the box to stop Howard. And if that’s how it plays out, wide receiver Cameron Meredith will likely play a major role in Howard’s success. Dan Durkin of The Athletic dives into the film room writes about how Meredith could emerge as the Bears’ go-to guy. Meredith put himself on the radar in 2016 by leading the Bears in catches and receiving yards by owning the best double-move in the league and being a highly rated deep threat. With Alshon Jeffery leaving for Philadelphia and instability among the receivers below him on the depth chart, Meredith could be on the verge of a bigger season as the focal point of the Bears’ passing offense.
- Josh Sitton was Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded left guard last season, but is expected to make the switch to the right side in 2017. I would be curious to know what kind of effect the position switch could have on Howard and the rest of the offense. The strength of the Bears’ offense is in the interior of the offensive line, with Sitton and Cody Whitehair earning two of the top grades PFF handed out to offensive linemen last season. And while much isn’t expected to change, I’m looking forward to football practices getting underway to see if the dynamic of new positioning changes anything. Of course, Kyle Long will need to get healthy first before we make any judgments on the situation.
- Defensively, Leoanrd Floyd is ready to get things rolling:
hope the world ready for the monsters of the midway we 2 lit this year
— L8F4➰➰ (@Leonard90Flo) July 6, 2017
- While touching on a variety of topics (including his hope that Mitch Trubisky lives up to his draft position), Brian Urlacher seemed to see big things ahead for the Bears’ defense. Apparently, so does Floyd, who enters his second season with the team with high expectations from his fellow pass rushers. Floyd is the latest in a line of Bears defenders who see great things on the horizon for Vic Fangio’s defense. Newcomer Jaye Howard envisions a top-10 defense taking the field, while the revamped Bears secondary wants to bring back the good ol’ days of Bears defense with an increase in forced turnovers. Hopefully, the Bears defense is up to the task of proving how lit it is when the season starts.
- Over at Bear Goggles On, Bryan Dietzler chats with offensive tackle William Poehls, a newcomer to the team who has embarked on a unique journey en route to life in the NFL. Not many players have made the move from playing college football in Montana to a career in the NFL, so Poehls provides a different kind of perspective.
- Did the addition of former Bears receiver Brandon Marshall help the New York Giants form the NFL’s most elite trio of wide receivers? ESPN’s Dallas Cowboys reporter Todd Archer believes the Giants trio of Odell Beckham, Sterling Shephard, and Marshall is the league’s best. With Eli Manning open to slinging the ball across the field, that group seems poised to live up to that billing, especially with Marshall being motivated to show he can still get it done after a struggle-filled final season with the New York Jets. In his first season in Chicago, Marshall earned an 86.0 grade from Pro Football Focus as he gained 1,508 yards, on 118 catches, and 11 touchdowns. And in his first season with the Jets, Marshall was given an 85.1 grade from PFF after a season in which he 109 passes, picked up 1,502 yards, and scored a league-leading 14 touchdowns. If history is destined to repeat itself for a third time, it would suggest Marshall is in for another strong season.