Chicago Bears July Scouting Report
As things stand right now, the Bears will report to training camp on July 28th. The NFL has been pushing for a two-game preseason but may now be willing to settle for one, while the NFLPA wants zero games. Neither scenario would help HC Matt Nagy as he tries to figure out who to start at quarterback. Here's a rundown of the projected depth chart and position battles:
As Nagy said earlier in the offseason, QB Mitch Trubisky is still the starter (for now) and will take the first snap of training camp. QB Nick Foles will compete with Mitch to be the starter. QB Tyler Bray is third on the depth chart. The day that the Bears traded for Foles, I expected him to win the starting job, but now I'm not so sure. Some people have said that a truncated/nonexistent preseason (and potentially truncated training camp) may mean fewer chances for Trubisky to prove that he's improved. On the other hand, it may also mean that it might be easier for the coaching staff to just stick with the incumbent because he's actually been in this offense and worked with these skill position players before when Foles hasn't (though Foles does have experience with some of the offensive coaches). Trubisky has been the one working out with WR Allen Robinson, WR Anthony Miller, TE Cole Kmet, and others this summer, not Foles.
There was an interesting Instagram post from SPEAR Training Center on July 2nd saying that since they started working with Mitch during his rehab from a torn left labrum, "his shoulder is as strong as it's ever been and his mobility, range of motion, and strength have improved significantly." They also said that Trubisky's throwing arm was "structurally imbalanced" from overuse, but now it's balanced and it's resulted in him "throwing the ball extremely well." Perhaps this might help his accuracy and confidence, but it won't help him read defenses and diagnose coverages, two of the things he's struggled with the most. Mitch has also been working with quarterback guru Jeff Christensen of the Throw It Deep Academy throughout the summer. He's been putting in the work. Will it help him when the pads go on? We'll see. If I had to predict the opening day starter right now, I might actually lean slightly toward Trubisky.
RB David Montgomery is the undisputed bell cow back in this offense. Is that a good thing? After a somewhat disappointing rookie season, no one seems to know for sure. Yes, the offense was broken last season, and subpar run blocking meant that there weren't many holes for Montgomery. At the same time though, he didn't exactly show much explosiveness, and he's not a true bruising power back like Derrick Henry. For David to take a step forward this season, he's got to show more decisiveness to the hole, he needs better run blocking, and Nagy needs to get him more involved in the passing game.
RB Tarik Cohen had a weird season last year. He averaged only 3.3 yards/carry on 64 attempts. He had a career-high 79 receptions, but for only 456 yards, which seems almost impossible. How hard can it be to get the guy the ball in space? Well, the ineffectiveness of receivers not named Robinson and the ineptitude at the tight end position meant that opposing defenses were able to key on Cohen and limit his YAC last season. Tarik also admitted during the offseason that he could've done more to prevent his body from breaking down late last year. Going into a contract year, Cohen knows he has to step up his game, and hopefully better weapons around him and better playcalling will help him. Undrafted rookie backs RB Artavis Pierce and RB Napoleon Maxwell will compete for a roster spot.
As we all know, Robinson was the only consistently reliable skill position player on this team last season, but he recently said that the Bears have not contacted him about signing a contract extension yet. This is a problem, a problem that will hopefully be rectified by the time the season starts (if we have a season). Miller finds himself coming off another offseason left shoulder surgery. If you read this space regularly, you will know that I talked Miller up a lot last offseason. Then he got off to a slow start, partially due to maturity issues (i.e. not putting in the proper amount of preparation/work and not paying enough attention to detail). Miller got hot for a few games in the second half of 2019 before injuring his shoulder in the season finale. Earlier this offseason, he mentioned that he's been studying top receivers like Steve Smith and Issac Bruce to try to up his game. The talent and competitiveness to be a star have always been there, it's just a matter of him showing up every day ready to put in work and be more consistent.
There are more questions than answers after Miller on the depth chart. Will second-year WR Riley Ridley be ready to step out of the shadows and become a major contributor? Receivers coach Mike Furrey (yes, the former Lion) seems to think so, telling the media in late June that "I think the biggest growth we're going to see with anybody in our room is going to be Riley Ridley. His preparation, his attitude, his desire, the passion he has to become successful in this game, he loves the process." Furrey also said that Ridley's comfort and confidence should help him, along with learning how to be a pro from Robinson.
How much will fifth-round pick WR Darnell Mooney be able to contribute as a rookie? Furrey talked up Mooney's speed, agility, and ability to go up and attack the football. He also had a reputation for being an above-average route runner in college. Slight of frame at 5-10 176, Mooney will have to show that he can hold up physically as well. How much does WR Ted Ginn Jr., going into his 14th season, have left in the tank? Furrey praised Ginn's leadership skills and said that he is still a legit 4.3 speed receiver. Where does WR Javon Wims fit into this picture? According to USA Today's Bearswire, Wims was seen working out in Florida with former Georgia teammate Jake Fromm and looked "very explosive" and "very precise with his route running" according to trainer Jerrand Nesmith. Will WR Cordarrelle Patterson line up more at receiver or at tailback? I don't know, but Nagy needs to get the ball into his hands more. It's always fun to watch a runaway train with a football in his hands.
Yes, as I'm sure you know, the Bears have loads of tight ends on their roster, but there are really only a handful of them that have a real shot at making the team and being relevant. The signing of TE Jimmy Graham was widely panned (including by yours truly), but now it's time to see what the guy has left in the tank. If he's one thing, he's durable, so in theory he's already an upgrade over TE Trey Burton, who was released in the offseason. If Graham can put up something resembling Burton's 2018 season (54-569-6), that would probably be a W for the Bears.
2nd-round pick Kmet has very good athleticism for his size (a 4.7 40 at 6-6 262) and off-the-charts intangibles. The question here is, as a Y-tight end, how much is he going to be utilized as a receiver? That could partially depend on how effective he is at run blocking, which is his main weakness coming out of Notre Dame. If he can run block reasonably well, that should mean more snaps, which should mean more opportunities to catch passes. Even if he's below-average at blocking, he's too talented to not use him as a receiving target, especially in the red zone.
TE Demetrius Harris has mainly been known as a blocking tight end, so his fantasy impact might be limited (though he says he has untapped receiving ability). TE Jesper Horsted, J.P. Holtz, and TE Ben Braunecker had occasional flashes last season, but they'll have to impress in a hurry to make the team. TE Adam Shaheen is still on the roster for now, but he's facing what might be his last shot to stay in the league, and I don't think it's likely that he'll make the final roster. Much has been made of the Bears' lack of "12" personnel usage (one back, two receivers, two tight ends) and lack of success with it. Is it a must for Nagy's offense to succeed? I don't know, but better play from this position group would help no matter the formation.
The O-line is largely unchanged except that G Germain Ifedi is the favorite to take over at right guard. The line was average at best at pass blocking last season but struggled mightily at run blocking, so new O-line coach Juan Castillo has a lot of work to do to get this unit to generate more holes for the team's tailbacks. Better playcalling from Nagy would help as well.
This was a unit that seemed to lack bite when it mattered most last year. When the chips were down and they needed a stop, they faltered more often than not. Going into their second year under D-coordinator Chuck Pagano, the pass rush should be much-improved with the addition of DE Robert Quinn. Having a guy who can consistently get to the quarterback playing opposite OLB Khalil Mack should mean that Mack will face fewer double/triple teams. ILB Roquan Smith has a big chip on his shoulder after facing criticism for his occasional struggles in 2019. ILB Danny Trevathan is back. DT Akiem Hicks is healthy again. 5th-round pick OLB Trevis Gipson has the athleticism and talent to contribute as a rotational edge rusher behind Mack and Quinn. The talent and motivation are there for this unit to become elite again.
The main questions here are in the secondary. Who will replace departed #2 CB Prince Amukamara? The assumption would be 2nd-round pick CB Jaylon Johnson, but CB Kevin Toliver and CB Tre Roberson could have a say in this as well. Who will line up next to S Eddie Jackson? The likely answer is free agent signing S Tashaun Gipson, though S Deon Bush could also be in the mix.
PK Eddy Pineiro will compete with free agent signing PK Ramiz Ahmed for the starting job.
More to come next month!
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