A week from today, the Chicago Bears will report to Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, IL for their training camp. Hopefully, for the Bears, this will be the start of a much-needed turnaround after their highly disappointing 3-13 2016 season. There are plenty of new faces along Chicago’s roster, and numerous battles that will be worth watching leading up to the start of the 2017 regular season. There were some offseason moves that many fans agreed with, while some moves left a bitter taste in most people’s mouths. It is during this camp where we will see if these acquisitions will be the first step in the right direction for the Bears, or if these decisions will pull the franchise back even further. Here’s the top stories heading into this year’s training camp.
Guards Kyle Long and Josh Sitton, and center Cody Whitehair will solidify the interior of the Bears’ offensive line, and anchor the line as a whole. The bookends up front are a different story. Tackles Bobby Massie and Charles Leno Jr. can both find themselves fighting for a spot in the starting lineup in training camp. Chicago did sign two new offensive tackles, Tom Compton and Bradley Sowell, this offseason. Compton, a six-year veteran, played in 60 games during his career, but only started in 10. As for Sowell, he’s started in 21 games during his first five years in the NFL, which includes nine starts with the Seattle Seahawks last season. Seeing what Massie and Leno Jr. will do to keep their spots in the starting lineup will be interesting.
No. 2 Running Back
It’s safe to say that Jordan Howard has cemented his spot as the team’s No. 1 running back, but who will be the Bears’ secondary ball carrier in 2017? Jeremy Langford was Chicago’s second-leading rushing in 2016 with only 200 yards, but did score four touchdowns. Ka’Deem Carey followed up the rear with 126 yards of his own. This offseason, the Bears signed Benny Cunningham and drafted rookie Tarik Cohen, who both may have more of an impact as returners on special teams and as third-down backs. This camp just might be the make-or-break point for both Langford and Carey. There’s a great chance that one of them may not make the 53-man roster.
Zach Miller’s Health
When healthy, Zach Miller is a valuable threat in the Bears’ passing game. Unfortunately, Miller suffered a broken foot that landed him on injured reserve late last season. For insurance, Chicago added veteran Dion Sims and drafted rookie Adam Shaheen. Sims is, at best, an average pass catcher with better blocking skills. Shaheen is a product of a Division II school (Ashland), and his enormous frame (6-foot-6, 277 pounds) is a perfect fit for the NFL. But, will Shaheen be able to adjust to the NFL’s speed after playing Division II ball? Without a doubt, Miller will be the starter if he completely bounces back from his injury. If for some reason he doesn’t, the battle between Sims and Shaheen will be a must-watch.
Who Will Be Starting Cornerbacks?
The Bears were so unsatisfied with the play at cornerback in 2016, they signed two free agents this offseason. Both Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper will definitely be in the thick of things when it comes to the battle for a spot in the starting lineup. Though both of these players are not considered elite corners throughout the league, they will give four-year veteran Kyle Fuller a run for his money. Fuller was denied the fifth-year option on his rookie contract, and could play himself out of a job before the start of the regular season.
All Eyes on the QBs
Mike Glennon was the Bears’ biggest free-agent acquisition, signing a three-year, $45 million contract after the release of Jay Cutler. A month later, Chicago surprisingly traded up in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft and selected Mitchell Trubisky. It’s been said several times that Glennon will be the starter come opening day, but every movement made by the former Tampa Bay Buccaneer will be closely watched. The same can be said for Trubisky, who has had only one year of experience as a starter while at the University of North Carolina.
Shuffle on Wide Receiver Depth Chart
With Alshon Jeffery, the Bears’ biggest playmaker at wide receiver, out of the picture, who will fill that void in 2017? The primary answer is Kevin White. However, having played only four games in two seasons still puts doubt in the minds of fans regarding White’s durability. Cameron Meredith’s emergence from last year gives plenty of optimism for the Bears’ passing game, as well as the new pass catchers that were added to the roster this offseason.
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Victor Cruz is the biggest name among the receiving corps, but will he be able to return to the level that made him one of the biggest offensive threats in the league from a few years ago? Markus Wheaton and Reuben Randle will more than likely be battling for a spot in the slot along with Cruz, while Kendall Wright could be biggest competition for White and Meredith on the outside. The order of the wide receiver depth chart has a variety of possibilities, and probably won’t be fully evident until late in the preseason.