Chicago Bears July Scouting Report
The Bears will hold training camp at Olivet Nazarene University from July 25th through August 11th. Here's a camp preview:
QB Mitch Trubisky starts, with QB Chase Daniel backing him up and QB Tyler Bray as the third-stringer. Trubisky goes into 2019 with very high expectations, expectations that apparently have him as one of the most popular bets to win NFL MVP in Las Vegas. He has a better grasp of head coach Matt Nagy's offense now, and that should lead to bigger and better numbers. What is my honest opinion of him? Well, for starters, I think the intangibles are there. When QB Jay Cutler was playing here, fair or not, people always wondered just how much he really cared. No one asks these sorts of questions about Trubisky. His leadership ability, moxie and drive to get better have been there from day one. His sense of humor (i.e. last season's Ditka outfit and ugly Christmas sweater) shows that he doesn't take himself too seriously, but he does take the game seriously.
On the field, my main concern about him is his deep ball accuracy. Short and intermediate, he is usually accurate, but he had his problems last season throwing deep, especially over the middle. Bears fans will remember when Trubisky missed WR Anthony Miller deep in Miami and when he overthrew WR Taylor Gabriel deep at home against Seattle, both of them potential big gains/TDs. Those are the types of deep shots that he needs to hit with more consistency to take his game to another level. He also does take some unnecessary risks throwing into coverage at times, but that can improve with experience. After last season ended, Nagy wanted Trubisky to improve his ability to read defenses pre-snap at the line of scrimmage. From Nagy's comments during OTAs, Mitch has definitely improved in that area, and that should help him a lot going forward.
Rookie RB David Montgomery and RB Mike Davis come into camp as the top two backs, with RB Tarik Cohen being used more as a receiver than as a true tailback and rookie RB Kerrith Whyte trying to make the team. Who will start? Montgomery has all the tools (i.e. contact balance, vision, agility and hands) but hasn't done anything in pads yet, and Davis has such a limited NFL sample size that it's hard to say what he'd really be capable of as a lead back. If I had to guess, I think Montgomery is more likely to become the starter than Davis because of his complete skill set, but camp and preseason will play a big role in deciding this position battle. Nagy needs to continue to think up ways to get the ball into Cohen's hands, because there are some games where he just doesn't get enough touches (including of course the playoff loss). Whyte has great speed and will have to impress as a return man and in limited opportunities as a tailback to have any chance at making the final roster.
Last offseason, WR Allen Robinson was still working his way back from a torn ACL. This year, he's had a healthy and productive offseason that should help him take a big step forward in 2019. Robinson, Gabriel, WR Javon Wims and WR Marvin Hall all flew to California to build chemistry with and catch passes from Trubisky back in March. Robinson started to come on toward the end of 2018, culminating with a ten-catch, 143-yard performance in the playoff loss to the Eagles. Because the ball tends to be spread around in this offense, Robinson isn't likely to ever put up the type of numbers that WR Brandon Marshall did when he played here, but if he can stay healthy, he should be in line for a nice bump up from his 2018 stats.
After Robinson, the depth chart looks a bit murky. Gabriel and WR Anthony Miller should be next up, though it's unclear at the moment who will play more opposite Robinson. Miller is the type of competitor who wants the ball all the time. As I mentioned back in April, I'm expecting big things from him this season, but that will depend partly on his health. After offseason shoulder surgery, the Bears hope that Miller will be ready for camp. Rookie WR Riley Ridley showed good hands and route running in rookie minicamp and should have a role to play, though how big that role is will depend on how he looks during camp/preseason.
WR Cordarrelle Patterson is likely to more of a gadget guy than a receiver with a regular role. Wims got some time with the starters during OTAs because of Miller's surgery and could get more playing time if he can be as impressive this preseason as he was last preseason and in last year's regular season finale. Marvin Hall, if he makes the team, would likely mainly be a special teamer. Undrafted free agent WR Emanuel Hall has blazing speed but had sports hernia surgery in the offseason and could be a candidate for IR.
Health is the big question mark for this group. TE Trey Burton's status for camp is uncertain after offseason sports hernia surgery, though Nagy is optimistic that he'll be ready. If healthy, he'll play a big role in the offense as an outlet over the middle for Trubisky but shouldn't necessarily be counted on to put up huge numbers because of how much the ball is spread around in this system. TE Adam Shaheen is healthy at the moment but has had trouble staying that way during games. When he is on the field, he provides a nice, big red zone target but not much in the way of run after catch ability. TE Ben Braunecker is mainly a blocking tight end and special teamer. Because of the question marks at this position, undrafted rookie TE Dax Raymond has a decent shot at making the team if he can impress the coaches with his versatility and receiving skills over the next few weeks.
One notable headline here is that C James Daniels and LG Cody Whitehair have switched places this offseason. Daniels is a natural center, and that's where he starred in college at Iowa. Combine that with the fact that Whitehair has had occasional shotgun snap issues, and this is a move that makes sense.
How will this defense perform in 2019 after losing defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and replacing him with Chuck Pagano? No one knows for sure, but this unit should be too talented to take a big step back. How will the defense look different? More blitzing and more disguising of coverages seem to be common themes from what some have said. Most of the starters are back, so the focus is likely to be on the newcomers, namely nickel CB Buster Skrine and S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Their ability to tackle has come into question from some, but Skrine brings more experience and durability than nickel CB Bryce Callahan and Clinton-Dix brings more ballhawking ability than S Adrian Amos. They should both benefit from playing with more talented teammates than they had last season. If Skrine struggles, rookie CB Duke Shelley was impressive in rookie minicamp and could be a candidate to get some playing time. Even if there is some regression from this unit, it should still be a top-five fantasy DST in my eyes, especially with Patterson and Cohen bringing the possibility of some special teams TDs.
This position is a giant question mark. Will either K Elliott Fry or K Eddy Pineiro win the starting job? What kind of wacky stunts will Nagy pull during camp to evaluate them? Will the Bears ultimately ditch both of them and sign another team's kicker after roster cuts start? Can the team somehow swing a trade for 49ers holdout K Robbie Gould? Can the Bears just bring K Kevin Butler out of retirement? I met him late last year and the guy looks like he can still play...
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