In this clandestine modern NFL, there’s something to remember: very little NFL teams show the fans or the media, prior to the start of the regular season, is all that valuable. “Open” training camp practices and preseason games exist to drain every possible nickel out of loyal fanbases. Might you catch a glimpse of a gimmick play or two? Sure. But that’s it.
What is valuable is that which is done in the Cone of Silence, behind a shroud of secrecy, in the shadows even Adam Jahns dare not show up with his 4″ x 8″ notebook. And I have questions about what the Bears will be up to in the darkness.
Question #1: Who is where on the interior of the offensive line?
For years, ever since the arrival of Kyle Long, this space has argued against the organization’s lack of consistency when it came to aligning the offensive line. This team, this summer, needs to select positions for Long, Cody Whitehair and rookie James Daniels and leave them there. Daniels will inevitably struggle early no matter where he starts because Daniels is a rookie and rookies struggle. Put em. Leave em.
Question #2: What’s the answer opposite Leonard Floyd?
If you go to the Chicago Bears’ roster page, you’ll get confused when it comes to the linebacker position. Danny Trevathan is correctedly listed at ILB. Roquan Smith is listed at just LB. Nick Kwiatkoski, rumored to be getting run on the outside, is listed at ILB. Aaron Lynch, expected to be a pass rushing option, just LB.
The Bears don’t need a star to emerge opposite Floyd. And based on their current roster, they don’t really have to worry about it. But with opposing offensive coordinators certain to game plan for Floyd’s potential impact, the team must find pass rush production on the other side from a combination of Kwik, Lynch, Sam Acho, Kylie Fitts…etc. Fans should get a good sense in the coming weeks as to where Vic Fangio and his staff are leaning from a personnel perspective.
Question #3: Are there any sneaky positional battles?
Yes, I’m looking at you, Pat O’Donnell. Pitt’s Ryan Winslow is not an elite punting prospect but one hopes the Bears are not going to give P.O.D. the free pass he’s been given in previous summers.
Where else might one’s eyes drift?
I’m told the Bears (and specifically Harry Hiestand) believe they have some young talent to supplant Bobby Massie at right tackle as early as this summer. Will it happen? Unlikely. But expect a fire lit under Massie’s ass to perform every single day in practice.
Question #4: Can Anthony Miller make it impossible to keep him on the bench?
Ryan Pace did an excellent job rebuilding the Bears’ weakest position from 2017. But it’s Miller – not the pricey Allen Robinson or the speedy Taylor Gabriel – that has exhilarated fans. Miller isn’t going to be a humble rookie, quietly carrying veteran pads to the locker room. He’s brash and vocal; the comparisons to Steve Smith transcend the football field. And he has a good chance to be the breakout star of Bourbonnais. It’ll all come down to his relationship with the quarterback.
Question #5: How long will it all take on offense?
The answer to this question could very well be the difference between a season in the middle of the pack or relevant ballgames in December. If the Bears don’t hit their offensive stride until mid-season it is hard to see them challenging the top of the conference for a playoff position. But if things click this summer and the offense looks good in Green Bay on that opening Sunday night, why not think big?