What needs to be seen from the edge rusher group in training camp?
Floyd has a chance to make a huge leap into being a feared pass rusher in the NFL. This offseason, he talked about injuries and concussions, which did raise some eyebrows. For Floyd, you want to see him mentally committed, and not worried about the contact and the physical side of the NFL. If he can show that mentally it does not concern him, the sky’s the limit.
McPhee absolutely has to stay healthy. This offseason he talked about losing weight in an effort to stay on the field longer. If McPhee looks lighter and quicker it is a great sign for his development. If he does not look noticeably thinner, you have to begin to question how committed McPhee is to stay on the field.
For Young, his usage should be monitored. Young has been the most consistent pass rusher of the group over the past three seasons. In a perfect world he is rotating in at only half of the snaps, and McPhee and Floyd are more productive. It will be interesting to see if the Bears are comfortable using him in a slightly lesser role than the year before.
Houston, just as much as McPhee needs to show that he can stay healthy. Houston has missed 24 games since signing with the Bears due to injuries. He is now in the point of his contract where the Bears can cut him, and hardly see a financial obligation to him. If Houston is not healthy this season, he is a prime candidate to be cut, making this the definition of a make or break year.
Acho will have to show his special teams prowess. If everyone is healthy, he is the fifth outside linebacker, and therefore will not see as much time on the field as he has in recent years. However, he will be seeing special teams snaps like he has in the past few years. The team signed Dan Skuta, and Jonathan Anderson and John Timu are inside backers competing for the last couple of spots. The best special teams players will win jobs, and Acho will have to prove his worth in that facet this offseason.
It will be interesting to see what role Skuta sees. Skuta was an outside linebacker last season, but that was in a 4-3 defensive front. Now in the 3-4, does he get some work on the inside? With the injury to Danny Trevathan, he probably should. Versatility for Skuta may be even more valuable than special teams, so if he can cement that role, his chances to make the team improve drastically.
Ekpe and Isaiah Irving will be competing for the practice squad. Which one can emerge or at least give the Bears some optimism for the future?
It will be Irving and Ekpe as the only two with special teams eligibility. Both broke out during their senior years of college, so it will be interesting to see who can ride the momentum into the regular season.