What we heard & what we think as Bears open training camp

SHARE What we heard & what we think as Bears open training camp

Bears GM Ryan Pace and coach John Fox speak at training camp. (AP)

BOURBONNAIS — General manager Ryan Pace kept his introductory comments brief, and coach John Fox went straight to questions.

The new Bears seem to be all business.

“[Training camp] is going to be competitive, it’s going to be physical and we can’t wait to get going,” Pace said.

Here’s what we heard and what we think after Pace and Fox met the media Wednesday at Olivet Nazarene University.

Jay Cutler

What we heard: Unlike last year at this time, Fox is fully in Cutler’s corner. Cutler is no longer a no-name robot, as Fox often says about his evaluations, but a player he wants to work with on and off the field. He earned Fox’s trust last season, when he had a career-best 92.3 passer rating.

“I will say this: At the conclusion of the whole season working with Jay, I was very impressed,” Fox said. “So I feel way more confident about him, as well as I do about a lot of guys, coming into Year 2 than I did Year 1 — Jay included.”

What we think: Cutler remains the Bears’ best option at quarterback, and the team hasn’t been in a position to get a better one. Two years have passed in the Pace era without the selection of a quarterback in the draft.

Instead, the Bears have shown more faith in Cutler by promoting Dowell Loggains to offensive coordinator after Adam Gase left for the Dolphins. He has earned the faith, too. Cutler played well for Fox and showed that he’s a better teammate than outsiders want to believe.

From a financial standpoint, Cutler’s once-hefty contract becomes a pay-as-you-go deal after this season. The Bears can say goodbye without dire salary-cap implications.

But why would they? If Cutler excels this season while leading a young offense, the team’s confidence in him only will grow.

Leonard Floyd

What we heard: The rookie outside linebacker’s weight-gain plan is going well. Pace didn’t have Floyd’s exact weight, but he said 240 pounds remains a “realistic weight” for him to play at.

Pace, though, stressed that Floyd’s coveted explosiveness, speed and athleticism won’t be lost to extra pounds.

“We never want that to diminish,” Pace said. “As time goes on, we’ll be able to zero in [on his weight] even more.”

Fox continued to shrug off concerns.

“He’ll gain weight,” Fox said.  “They all do.”

What we think: Floyd’s weight is a work in progress just like he is as a player. The Bears will experiment with different weights and plans as Floyd gets in his lumps. The Bears are equipped to do that, having modernized their approach to health and fitness under Pace.

But it’s wise to keep Floyd’s best attributes in mind. His stock rose in the draft because of his speed and athleticism. He’s the type of player coordinator Vic Fangio thought his defense was missing last year. It’s best that the Bears keep him that way.

Inside linebackers

What we heard: Pace believes new inside linebackers Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman established a chemistry during the offseason program that will take off during camp. Pace described them as close friends who will lead the defense.

“They’re both natural leaders and naturally vocal guys,” Pace said. “It’s not forced. It’s very easy for them to be that way.

“We kind of knew that a little more about Danny because of the relationship John had with him [with the Broncos], but Jerrell has exceeded expectations as far as the natural leader that he is.”

What we think: The Bears’ defense will be better because of Trevathan and Freeman. They are significant upgrades over Shea McClellin and Christian Jones, the two starting linebackers at this point last year. It’s not even close in terms of production, experience and overall ability.

Running backs

What we heard: With Matt Forte gone, Fox said he’s looking for all his running backs — Jeremy Langford, Ka’Deem Carey, Jordan Howard and Jacquizz Rodgers — to stand out during camp.

“That’s why we build competition,” Fox said. “That’s why we’re here at camp.”

What we think: The Bears want to be a run-first team, but that doesn’t mean they need a No. 1 back.

Forte became expendable because of his age, but also because the team believes success can be found in featuring different types of runners. Langford is the speedster, while Carey and Howard can be bruisers.

But time will tell if three truly is better than one. Forte’s void is undoubtedly difficult to fill. Just ask Cutler. He candidly said that you can’t replace Forte in terms of knowledge and experience.

Playoff hopes

What we heard: Making the postseason always is the goal, but Pace was direct in his assessment of his team.

“From a personnel standpoint, we’ve just got to keep putting good drafts together, and we have to see how this draft unfolds,” Pace said. “We’ve got to stack good drafts. We’ve got to be accurate in free agency. I feel good about where we’re at right now, but truth will be told as this plays out.”

What we think: Pace keeps things in perspective. He’s not offering false hope. Can the Bears make the playoffs this year? Sure. But he knows the Bears need more and have many questions.

But there are signs of hope for the Bears under Pace. The best? Every draft pick from Pace’s first class but one (offensive tackle Tayo Fabuluje) is penciled in as a starter as practices begin Thursday.

Follow me on Twitter @adamjahns.

Email: ajahns@suntimes.com

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