The Chicago Bears have lingering questions to answer. Training camp is the same for them as it is for the other 31 teams in the NFL. Making it through healthy is considered a win as major injuries claim a number of players greater than zero every year. Aside from that (and winning, duh!) the Bears have some specific issues to either address or quiet the chatter on this season.
Lingering Questions for the 2019 Chicago Bears
Tru Be or Not Tru Be…the Franchise
The most obvious and crucial of lingering questions to be answered: is Mitchell Trubisky a franchise quarterback? There have been a number of breakdowns about the expectations for the third-year signal-caller. At the heart of those, though, is trying to answer that fundamental question.
Chicago has a championship-caliber defense. The offensive weaponry is as loaded as it has been since the 2014 season that ended with a 5-11 record. The special teams…well we’ll get to that in a bit. If Trubisky does not make ‘the leap’ this season, nothing else will matter.
Over the last half of the season, Mitchell Trubisky saw a spike in his overall grade – are even brighter times to come for the young signal-caller? pic.twitter.com/fGHtaWsgEL
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) April 7, 2019
Reports out of OTAs have been positive, but that is not going to quell a rabid fanbase that sees number 10 as the weak link in their title aspirations. A slow start could turn the clamoring into outright protests. If Trubisky showcases improved decision making and consistent accuracy, not only will critics hush, they could be celebrating a Lombardi Trophy.
Should young Mitchell stagnate or (even worse) regress, general manager Ryan Pace will have a lot of tough questions to answer. He traded up to get Trubisky, ahead of the 2018 NFL MVP in Patrick Mahomes and a promising passer in Deshaun Watson. He, as much as the city itself, needs his guy to be the guy for this team.
Trusting the Support
The Bears offense is loaded, as stated above. But there is the lingering question, what if their best is not enough? Allen Robinson, for a multitude of reasons, only has one 1,000-yard season to his name. Trey Burton is recovering from sports hernia surgery and Adam Shaheen has had little impact in his brief career. Taylor Gabriel is what he is and Anthony Miller is just entering his second season.
What if the ground game sputters? The Run DMC trio looks good on paper, but how will they perform? Tarik Cohen is a high-use gadget player. Mike Davis is a journeyman who, even in his best year, was a backup with two starts. David Montgomery is a rookie with 515 carries over his last two collegiate campaigns.
45.0% of the deep passes thrown his way were hauled in as Allen Robinson ranked 9th in that category last season pic.twitter.com/VW1s0oAPki
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 3, 2019
That is a lot of uncertainty for this group that should be leaned on more in 2019. Jordan Howard may have been a poor fit in Matt Nagy’s scheme, but his worst year was nearly double Davis’ best. Cohen might be the most dangerous player on the team, but his workload will always be split between rushing and catching the ball. Montgomery had better acclimate himself quickly.
There is talent in this group. But there is a lot riding on a unit that is a lot of part-timers and unproven youngsters. Gabriel is a prime example; a player who adjusted well to his newfound starting role but still left a lot to be desired. This could easily be a letdown season for this team if the skill position players prove they have lower ceilings than anticipated.
Coach ‘Em Up
Most articles regarding new Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano are how the transition from the prior staff has been smooth. Media and players alike have commented on how the defense looks mostly the same, just tweaked to be more aggressive. There are wrinkles we will not see until the regular season kicks off, but it would be a shame if it results in regression.
What is truly concerning about all the good feels around this defense’s prospects is that it is based largely off a one-year sample. 2011 with the Baltimore Ravens was the only time Pagano has been a defensive coordinator in the NFL. That organization is like the Bears; they typically field formidable defenses. How much of that was because of Chuck?
Matt Nagy: "I know there’s buzz about us, and I get it, but we haven’t done anything.” #Bears
— Adam Hoge (@AdamHoge) June 12, 2019
Pagano is not alone amongst Bears coaches in having something to prove. Nagy set the bar pretty high for himself after waking this offense from hibernation last season. The biggest thing for him is finding that perfect run-pass balance for this group. This is ultimately dependent on players, though. Chicago had nine games where they averaged less than four yards per carry.
Fans should be optimistic Nagy will figure it out. He was able to reel in Trubisky when things seemed to get away from the quarterback. This year, with a better feel for the team, he can make those adjustments quicker. That counts for attempting to get him back on rhythm rather than going into a shell. Then again, if he often has to cover for Trubisky this year too, the Bears will have more lingering questions.
Kicked to the Curb
No way this piece about lingering questions could be completed without mention of the circus that the Bears search for a kicker has become. At one point there were eight legs at rookie mini-camp. Those eight were then subject to ‘Augusta silence‘, a self-explanatory practice. The number was whittled down to three and currently stands at two.
Already a lot going on and that is before you read the stories from camp and realize they may not have the guy yet. It is almost inconceivable that an issue that effectively ended their season could linger this far into the off-season. With no clear cut solutions, this could linger into and through the preseason.
During Bears practice, with 25 alumni & their guests watching, all 3 kickers were called onto the main field to try a 42-yard FG.
1. Right post
2. Wide left
3. Wide right
HC Matt Nagy, what went through your mind?
“Whatever went through your mind went through my mind.”
— Rich Campbell (@Rich_Campbell) June 11, 2019
Many fans are clamoring for a return of former Bear Robbie Gould, and it would seem the kicker himself is up for it. The snag comes in the form of his currently being under contract with the San Francisco 49ers. Pause on trade thoughts should come to fans’ minds when they remember his final year and subsequent exit. Unless he is released, a reunion seems unlikely.
To be fair, this was the subject of many public debates before it ever got started. Cody Parkey helped fuel the conversation with a daytime television appearance and his being waived kicked it into full gear. Now, it seems fans will have to wait at least a little longer to find out if the team has found the solution. There is still time to get it figured out, but to still be at square one hurts.
Bears Have Lingering Questions
Training camp has not opened up just yet but the Bears already have some lingering questions to answer. Is Trubisky that guy? Will this defense be Chuck Strong? Perhaps they go for it on fourth-down and try for two every time. Sure, there are players feeling the heat. But these coaches and the general manager are also feeling the squeeze.