Optimism about the Chicago Bears in July? Just hear me out…
— @CLTVSportsFeed (@CLTVSportsFeed) July 17, 2017
We’re in the middle of July, and while the pads won’t be on for another few weeks, there is a lot to look forward to once things get rolling in Bourbonnais. Yes, the Bears are coming off a madly disappointing 3-13 season, but the team has major training camp battles throughout the depth chart.
GM Ryan Pace made the Bears one of the most active teams in the offseason, so here’s hoping some of that activity in the winter and spring turns into productivity during the summer and fall.
- If there is one group that drives my optimism for 2017, it might be the highly touted offensive line. Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune previews the group, Pro Football Focus holds the offensive line in high regard because of strength in the interior, but the group still has a lot to work through this summer with new offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn in charge. Chicago is shuffling the interior, swapping Kyle Long and Josh Sitton – both of whom missed time in 2016 because of injuries. Meanwhile, tackles Bobby Massie and Charles Leno Jr. will head into camp hoping to fight off the inconsistencies that made the bookends a position of concern last year.
- Defensively, the Bears have nowhere to go but up – especially after getting run over late in the season after Danny Trevathan went down with a season-ending injury. Tightening up the holes on that department starts up front with the defensive line, which Dan Wiederer of the Tribune previewed going into the 2017 season. In a sense, the Bears will have two new starters along the 3-4 front with free agent Jaye Howard as a newcomer and nose tackle Eddie Goldman returning after playing just 197 snaps in 2016. Howard had some productive years with the Kansas City Chiefs before injuries last year unraveled his season, while Goldman has been an above average player by Pro Football Focus’ grading standards when he has made it on the field in each of his first two seasons. Along with Akiem Hicks (who is playing for a new contract and has the biggest agent in football on his side) the first line of defense should be improved in 2017 – especially if the they can stay healthy.
- A different kind of battle will take place on the other side of the ball, where veterans looking to re-establish their name (and value) go up against young players looking to prove their worth to their coaches, teammates, and starting quarterback. Larry Mayer writes about the wide receivers in his latest preseason position preview. The Bears don’t have a clear-cut No. 1 receiver, which is unfortunate for starter Mike Glennon and developing backup Mitch Trubisky. However, there is no shortage of options if you’re looking for a player with a pedigree who can provide a surprising breakout. Kendall Wright, Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle, and Markus Wheaton each have skills that could play up with an increase in targets.
- Training camp isn’t starting until July 26, but Dan Wiederer of the Tribune reports that Bears rookies are getting a head-start on their teammates, as they are expected to start showing up on Wednesday for a week of focus on off-the-field work, such as strength and conditioning. It’s a new wrinkle in the preseason plan, which will hopefully help the team toward its goal of finding something that helps with their injury prevention program. The Bears have 15 rookies in camp, including 10 undrafted free agents.
- Take a look at the Color Rush uniforms the Lions will wear when they face the Bears on Saturday (that’s right, Saturday!) December 16:
— Detroit Lions (@Lions) July 17, 2017
- As we noted in Saturday’s Bullets, Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys were already awaiting word of a potential suspension stemming from an alleged domestic violence incident that happened in July 2016, and some recent news might not help matters. ESPN reports that Elliott was involved in a late-night bar incident over the weekend. The NFL is looking into the matter, and the Dallas Police Department has already issued a statement.
- Doug Pederson admirably played the role of Brett Favre’s backup during the late 1990s, and went to back-to-back Super Bowls in 1996 and 1997 on the strength of two of Favre’s peak seasons. Now a head coach for the Philadelphia Eagles, Pederson says his teams “probably have more talent” than the Green Bay Packers’ Super Bowl teams. Say what? “I look back at my time in Green Bay as a player when we were making those playoff runs and those Super Bowl runs there, and do we have as much talent on this team than we did then? We probably have more talent, right?” Pederson told ESPN’s Tim McManus. Cross-era talent comparisons are never easy, but those Packers teams were loaded with high-end talent and a top-notch coach. Pederson’s words have set him (and his team) up for quite the season, or quite the fall if things don’t go as expected.