In the 37 days between the start of training camp and the completion of their final preseason game, the Bears watched some of their most high-profile players get injured, a top draft pick head for surgery and their quarterback settle into a new offense.
After going 3-1 in the preseason, what do we know about the Bears now?
It depends whom you ask.
With the season opener on the horizon — against the Packers, no less — the Sun-Times’ Adam Jahns weighs in on the team’s most pressing questions.
1. Entering the opener, the Bears are trending . . .
ADAM L. JAHNS: Horizontally. Is that possible? The offense was stagnant in the preseason, and the defense regressed against the Bengals after good moments against the Colts. The injury situation at receiver is disconcerting, but if Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal and Marquess Wilson return to practice Monday, then things look better. The same can be said about rookie defensive tackle Eddie Goldman.
2. One thing we learned during the preseason . . .
JAHNS: That Shea McClellin can be a different player, given a different opportunity at a new position and some confidence. His rise to signal-caller at inside linebacker has been something to watch. Plenty of lumps are ahead for him, but this staff seems intent on giving him the opportunities to get them.
3. Jay Cutler will be . . .
JAHNS: Fine. John Fox called Cutler efficient this preseason — that’s a new word for him — and genuinely seems OK with his play. Cutler still will have his turnovers, but coordinator Adam Gase’s scheme and calls will try to limit them. Look for more rollouts.
4. The defense will be . . .
JAHNS: A weekly work in progress. Everything is in flux for the new 3-4 defense. Some starters in Week 1 won’t be starters in Week 3, Week 5 and so on. There are just too many questions, from rookies starting to Shea McClellin in the middle to Jared Allen at outside linebacker. But the scheme will be creative. Coordinator Vic Fangio will unleash more blitzes in one week than Mel Tucker did in a full season.
5. Biggest strength . . .
JAHNS: Depth at running back. Jay Cutler said that this is the deepest group of running backs he’s had since joining the Bears in 2009. And we agree with him. Forte, Jacquizz Rodgers and rookie Jeremy Langford each add different qualities to the mix. Langford can be a game-breaker.
6. Biggest area of concern . . .
JAHNS: The secondary. The Bears are looking at four new starters in the secondary, if you include nickel back Sherrick McManis. The depth is razor thin. The Bears need cornerback Kyle Fuller to be the player they think he can be and veteran safety Antrel Rolle to show off his old Pro Bowl skills at times.
7. Consider me . . .
JAHNS: Cautiously optimistic. Or less pessimistic. Or whatever. The Bears aren’t as bad as some think they are, and they’re not as good as some fans want to dream. The bottom line is that John Fox wants to win now — he is 60 — and will coach this team in that fashion. Based on Fox’s history, the Bears will win some games you think they should lose.
Follow me on Twitter @adamjahns