Chicago Bears Training Camp: Five Players To Watch

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August 3, 2015: Flags line the entrance to Chicago Bears Training Camp on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, IL.

By in large, there isn’t a lot that can be learned in the early days of NFL training camps. Contact is limited, pads aren’t on full-time and teams have an obligation to keep their players healthy for when football activities really start to matter. Still, rabid fan bases desperate for any nugget of info pertaining to their favorite franchise closely monitor newswires and twitter feeds for the latest.

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Those of us who cover the teams are usually more than happy to oblige, of course, but more often than not the information shared is mostly inconsequential.

Take the news about Jay Cutler‘s interception-less streak over the course of the first several practices. Is it nothing? Maybe not. Maybe it is an early indication of the limitations Adam Gase and John Fox will impose on Jay to reduce his propensity for turnovers. I think it’s silly to think we’ll have a different Jay than we’ve seen before, but could they be shaping a better Jay for 2015? We can hope.

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When we get to the season though, whatever the players do or don’t do on Sundays has very little to do with what went on during training camp — injuries notwithstanding. 2006 comes to mind for me. Many fans wanted to see Brian Griese as the starter for Chicago while Rex Grossman struggled thru the preseason. What happened from there?

Grossman ripped off one of the better stretches of quarterbacking Bears fans had seen in a long time, starting the year 5-0 while completing 61% of his passes with ten touchdowns versus only three interceptions and an average rating of 102.6. Different player, different time — but you get the point.

Jul 30, 2015; Bourbonnais, IL, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) during practice at Olivet Nazarene University. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

A strong training camp does not necessarily translate into a strong regular season, and vice versa. One foot in front of the other is a good enough progression for me and the longer Jay avoids interceptions, the better we’ll all feel about life as Bears fans. A streak like that has to start somewhere after all and preseason is as good of a place as any, but ultimately it only matters when it matters.

Cutler is only one part of this conversation, but the hubbub floating around lately about his training camp exploits serves as suitable context here. He is NOT one of the players I’ve chosen as my five to watch during camp, he just happens to be the one we’re all most inclined to pay close attention to. It’s a quarterback thing…  and a Jay Cutler thing, I suppose.

My propensity for digression aside, the crux in all of this is the idea that in our impatience to get to the season we rush to make definitive statements about players. This guy is going to have a break out season, this rookie is going to surprise, this aging veteran will be cut by the end of camp.

August 2, 2015: A sign on exit 315 off of I-57 in Bourbonnais, IL points travelers towards Chicago Bears Training Camp

It’s fun, sure, but only marginally less of a guessing game than the predictions tossed about during OTAs and Mini-Camps. With each step taken towards the regular season and with preseason action soon starting, however, the time to draw more concrete conclusions is coming. Position battles will heat up and competition to remain on the roster will become very real for the players on the bubble, fighting for livelihood as much as pride or a love for the game.

Today I’ll give you five players worth keeping a close eye on during this time of the year when viable news is limited and teams practice secrecy just as much as any formation in the playbook. The conventional wisdom regarding Chicago’s prospects in 2015 paints a gloomy picture, but wins and losses are only a part of the equation. Individual player development is the key in building the franchise back up and making it sustainable.

If these players come along and make the impact we hope they can in 2015, the future in the Windy City will look much brighter.

Next: Lets Get the Obvious Out of the Way