The minute their shortened practice ended Thursday, Bears veterans went to their lockers, then their cars and raced off to vacation. It was Indy 500 Day.
In their wake, the Bears left plenty of questions to debate before the start of training camp in late July.
Sun-Times expert Patrick Finley breaks down the best and worst of the Bears’ offseason program and what to expect when the team sets up camp in Bourbonnais. (You can read Mark Potash’s breakdown here.)
What was the Bears’ biggest accomplishment this offseason?
Maintaining continuity. That started with Matt Nagy’s hiring of Chuck Pagano, who has pledged to keep his defense similar to that of new Broncos coach Vic Fangio. The addition of plug-and-play defenders Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Buster Skrine helped in that regard, as did getting full participation from veterans — including star outside linebacker Khalil Mack — in voluntary organized team activities and the mandatory minicamp.
What is the team’s biggest flaw heading into training camp?
With tight end Trey Burton recovering from sports-hernia surgery, the Bears have been forced to lean on a third-year player who has missed 17 of 36 games (Adam Shaheen), a backup with seven career catches (Ben Braunecker), a converted tackle (Bradley Sowell) and four undrafted free agents (Dax Raymond, Ian Bunting, Jesper Horstead and Ellis Richardson). It’s fair to wonder about Burton’s health, given the mysterious circumstances of his original injury. Nagy said he hopes Burton will return in time to start training camp. They need him.
How will the Bears solve their kicking problem?
The whole derby has been beyond bizarre. Still, I don’t believe their Week 1 kicker is on the roster — and he might not be until teams around the league make cuts after the last preseason game. I don’t see the Bears signing anyone significant before training camp. A reunion with Robbie Gould seems, at least for now, unlikely.
What was the most memorable moment of the offseason?
Parkey’s “Today” show appearance was as surreal a moment as the Bears will have this decade. A close second: the ensuing eight-man kicker competition the team held during rookie minicamp with hopes of replacing him.
Have your expectations changed for Mitch Trubisky in 2019?
They’re a bit higher, mostly due to circumstance. He has benefitted from a full offseason throwing to a now-healthy Allen Robinson and from gaining further knowledge of the offense. The return of his entire offensive line is huge, and Montgomery is an upgrade over Howard in the passing game. Trubisky will continue to improve. I’m not sure about another Pro Bowl.
Which newcomer is most likely to impress in training camp?
I predict that Montgomery will lead the team in carries. He’s explosive, confident and has shown the pass-catching versatility that Nagy craves in his offense. It’s hard to evaluate running backs before players can actually hit in practice, but Montgomery thus far has justified the Bears’ use of a third-round pick on him.
How did Nagy handle his second full offseason?
Honestly. In keeping with his “Be You” mantra, Nagy has been unafraid to talk openly about the kicking challenges facing his team. In a league in which coaches often mutter “next man up” and refuse to address the most obvious issues, it’s refreshing to see Nagy address the elephant in the room.