And so it begins.
Major questions during Matt Nagy’s first Bears organized team activities
A young quarterback taking his team by the reins and injury questions loom large for the Bears this month at Halas Hall.
By Robert Zeglinski
One more month and the summer “break” begins for NFL teams. Players and coaches can soon go on vacation to tropical locales, and get refreshed for the grind of the season that begins in late July. Unfortunately for the Bears, that period is cut short this year due to commitments in the Hall of Fame game: meaning the team reports to training camp in Bourbonnais a week earlier than usual. From a glass half full perspective, Chicago has more time to freshen up on Matt Nagy’s offense and build chemistry. It just depends on how much everyone values that extra week of relaxation.
Until the Bears can get to their much-needed break, they have 12 practices to churn through in May and early next month. The first practices where veterans and newcomers alike have the opportunity to get in sync for the 2018 season. While organized team activities and mandatory minicamp over the next four weeks are less meaningful than July’s full pad, fully united gauntlet: they’re still foundational periods for a young team.
Unpacking the major storylines from Nagy’s first Bears’ organized team activities with a musical theme.
“I Wanna Be Well” - Injury statuses
The vital idea to remember about team practices in late spring isn’t necessarily who is practicing, but to what extent important players are actually participating. With camp 2.5 months away, and different timelines and severity of injuries, May can offer a clearer picture of how injury recovery is going for several guys on the Bears’ roster.
Who are those recovering players on the Bears roster, you ask?
Look no further than Kyle Long, who was last seen going through three surgeries on his neck, labrum, and elbow this off-season. The 29-year-old guard hasn’t played a full season since 2015 due to complications from a traumatic ankle injury. At this stage of his career, it’s getting to the point where the Bears likely begin thinking about putting a replacement plan in place. Any kind of accelerated Long presence this spring gives him a boost against that sentiment, as it proves he’s starting to get past his injury woes.
Then there’s Allen Robinson. The last time Robinson played in a football game, he tore his ACL in the opening minutes of the 2017 season. The 24-year-old signed a three-year $42 million dollar deal in March to be the Bears’ top skill position playmaker. He signed that deal with the caveat that he, of course, wasn’t in perfect standing with his knee yet. Robinson wasn’t all systems go when the team met in mid-April, but he did vow to be 100 percent ready by training camp. Practice this month should show how far the receiver has come.
To the defensive side of the ball, and less of a concern, is the right knee of Leonard Floyd. Floyd tore two ligaments back in November 2017 and missed the Bears’ last six games of the season.
“Where Is The Love (Rush)?” - Pass rush issues come to forefront
Fun fact: the Bears’ current outside linebacking group, rookies and undrafted free agents included, had a total of 40 games played last season. That’s not 40 starts, but games where they participated for at least one play. Not ideal roster construction.
Yes, right now, Chicago is dangerously thin at edge rusher. They’re relying heavily on the mentioned health issues of Floyd, Aaron Lynch (who hasn’t had a major role since 2015), and journeyman good soldier but minimal difference maker, Sam Acho. After this questionable trio, you’re discussing a 2018 sixth round pick who also hasn’t played a full season since 2015 due to injuries in Kylie Fitts, and a bunch of unheralded players unlikely to make any impact.
“The Man” - Trubisky’s time to shine
Last year at this time, the Bears were adamant that Mike Glennon was their starter .........
After Glennon turned over the ball 10 times in four starts to begin 2017 - including an embarrassing four times on national television against the Packers to end September - the Bears’ had no choice but to scrap their original vision. They handed the keys to Trubisky and never looked back.
All of this denotes that it’s Trubisky’s first off-season as unquestionably “the man” in Chicago. It’s his team and ultimate success that defines everything the Bears have attempted to build. Without hyperbole, if Trubisky falls short, then so does the regime of general manager Ryan Pace. If he excels, this organization has a period of sustained success it hasn’t seen in decades.
Now it’s time to see it in action beyond the biased words of two men tied at the hip to the 23-year-old. Let’s see Trubisky command his offense. Let’s see him be on top of Nagy’s nuanced offensive scheme faster than everyone else. Let’s see the initial stages of him becoming the first true face of the Bears’ franchise since Brian Urlacher. This exercise starts in May, when the entire 2018 roster is gathered for the first time. Through this minutiae, it’s time for Trubisky to show he’s the star the Bears believe he is.