Chicago Bears Early August Scouting Report
The Bears held training camp from July 25th-August 11th at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, IL and played their preseason opener last Thursday at home against the Panthers. Here's a recap of what's happened the past three weeks:
QB Mitch Trubisky had an inconsistent camp. For all the talk in the offseason about how he knows and operates Matt Nagy's offense a lot better now in terms of making pre-snap reads and diagnosing defenses, he still threw too many interceptions and missed too many throws in practices. Granted, he was facing an elite defense, but you still hoped to see more improvement than he wound up showing. In the preseason opener, he handed off three times and called it a night, and we're not likely to see him do much more the rest of the preseason given Nagy's goal to keep his team as healthy as possible for the season opener.
With plenty of skill position talent and an elite defense backing him, Trubisky doesn't necessarily have to be great to lead the Bears back to the playoffs. But based on his camp performance, it would take a leap of faith to expect a huge improvement from him this season. It would be difficult to recommend drafting him as a fantasy starter, but his running ability (421 yards, 6.2 yards/rush, three TDs in 2018) and "upside" give him fantasy sleeper status.
By all accounts, RB Mike Davis had a solid camp where he showed good vision and displayed his versatility by lining up at multiple receiver positions. But most of the hype has surrounded rookie RB David Montgomery, who showed off the contact balance, vision and elusiveness that he was lauded for after he was drafted. Davis started the preseason opener and had three carries on the opening drive for nine yards, but it was Montgomery who stole the show with three carries for 16 yards (including a seven-yard TD) and three catches for 30 yards (including a screen pass that went for 23 yards).
Everything seems to point to Montgomery becoming the lead back (if not immediately, then soon), but the Bears did not sign Davis just to warm the bench. He is going to play and get his touches, which makes this team's fantasy tailback situation complicated to say the least. We haven't even factored in RB Tarik Cohen yet, though he may not carry the ball as much anymore as the team looks to him more as receiver. If you're going to draft a Bears back, I'd recommend Montgomery, but just keep in mind that this will likely be a committee situation of sorts. And you might want to grab Davis as well if possible, because if Montgomery was to get injured, Davis would be in line to become the bell cow in this offense. In terms of goal line carries, I think Montgomery is more likely to get most of them because of his tackle-breaking ability. Cohen looks like he'll be a flex play at best most weeks because Montgomery and Davis should get most of the carries and it's difficult to project how many touches/targets Cohen will get week-to-week. He could have a huge game followed by a quiet one.
WR Allen Robinson played like a #1 receiver in the playoff loss to the Eagles (ten catches for 143 yards and a TD). Coming off a healthy offseason, he has the potential to be a fantasy #3 receiver in my book, with the upside for more if Trubisky does show big improvement. On another team, he could be a fantasy #2 receiver, but he has so much competition for touches in this offense that it's difficult to project him having truly massive numbers. I've been high on WR Anthony Miller for a long time, and he had an excellent camp, but he suffered another injury when he sprained an ankle on Saturday. The injury may keep him out for the rest of preseason, but Nagy seems optimistic that Miller will be ready for the season opener. Coming off a seven-TD rookie season, I think he has fantasy #3 potential as well, but he has to stay healthy to live up to that projection.
It's hard to project big numbers for the rest of the receiving corps because the ball is going to be spread around so much. WR Taylor Gabriel has become more of a leader as the senior member of the Bears receiving corps, but he may be overtaken for snaps if Miller can stay healthy. WR Javon Wims was very impressive in camp and has the kind of size that most Bears receivers don't at 6-4 215. It also helps that he knows all of the Bears' receiver positions. Rookie WR Riley Ridley missed some time after suffering a hamstring injury in the first practice of camp but has come on lately. His above-average route-running ability has helped him stand out. WR Cordarrelle Patterson will no doubt be involved in some snazzy gadget plays like jet sweeps, end arounds and whatever Nagy can dream up, but likely not enough to be a real fantasy factor. Undrafted free agent WR Emanuel Hall was cut on Tuesday morning after dealing with more injuries in camp.
The team has been very careful with TE Trey Burton, holding him out of practice for a chunk of camp as a precaution after his offseason sports hernia surgery. He started practicing again on a limited basis this week with an eye toward having him ready for the season opener, and it's unlikely that he'll play in the preseason. Coming off a 54-569-6 season, he's a decent fantasy starting tight end if healthy, but even if he is ready to start the regular season, he might need a few weeks to get up to full speed/fitness. TE Adam Shaheen has battled injuries throughout his career and missed some time in camp with a sore back. If healthy, he is always a threat near the goal line because of his height at 6-6, but otherwise he isn't likely to be a consistent fantasy factor.
There understandably were some concerns about this defense's ability to adjust to new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano's scheme after Vic Fangio's departure, but this group was nothing short of dominant in camp. The number of playmakers in this unit is astounding, and the ball hawking ability of S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix could take things up another notch. The dynamic return abilities of Patterson and Cohen give this unit even more value. This is the top fantasy (and real life) defense in the league in my book, and most will agree.
K Elliott Fry and K Eddy Pineiro are fighting for the starting job. Fry finished camp making about 81 percent of his field goals, while Pineiro made about 84 percent of his. In the preseason opener, Fry made an extra point and a 43-yarder while Pineiro missed from 48 and made from 23. The Bears considered trading for Baltimore K Kaare Vedvik, but he was traded to the Vikings. Acquiring a kicker from another team is certainly still on the table here. Bottom line though is that whoever winds up as this team's kicker on opening night, I probably wouldn't recommend him for your fantasy team.
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