A look at the Bears’ biggest questions during what would normally be OTAs
The quarterback battle between Nick Foles and Mitch Trubisky is on hold until training camp, and the team’s prized free-agent acquisitions won’t get a chance to acclimate beyond videoconferences. But here’s what’s worth asking as they prepare for the 2020 season.
This would normally be the Bears’ first time back on the field after a long layoff, and they’d be eager to get to work after the thudding disappointment of last season. But Organized Team Activities will take place on Zoom because of the coronavirus pandemic, and it’s likely the team won’t hold any practices until training camp starts in late July.
But since this is normally a key point in the lead-up to the regular season, here are seven crucial questions facing the Bears:
If the Bears had been able to hold OTAs, what’s one thing you’d be watching?
Since it’s nearly impossible to make any determinations about an offensive line in noncontact practices, it’d be the receivers as they try to establish a pecking order. And among that group, Anthony Miller is under the most scrutiny. The Bears traded up to take him 51st overall in 2018 and he has exceptional speed, but they’ve gotten mixed results so far. There’s a clear path for him to be their No. 2 receiver, but he’ll have to earn it with a stronger grasp of the playbook.
Which player is most hurt by the lack of on-field work this offseason?
Robert Quinn. He has been at his best when he’s played as a hand-in-the-dirt defensive end, but the Bears play a 3-4 defense and will use him at outside linebacker. He has complained about that in the past but said he’s on board. The field work would’ve been helpful in smoothing out his acclimation.
What is Mitch Trubisky’s biggest challenge during virtual OTAs?
With the starting quarterback job appearing to be Nick Foles’ to lose, Trubisky needs every possible opportunity to show what he can do on the field. It’s a tough break for him that the competition is essentially on hold until training camp.
How has Nick Foles impacted the Bears without playing a snap?
His arrival has re-energized the Bears. Last season was such a slog, and Trubisky didn’t do anything to give his teammates hope. Having a legitimate quarterback battle gives the team a spark. That goes for coach Matt Nagy, too, who is surely buoyed by the possibility of Foles overtaking Trubisky.
I’m most interested to see this what this new assistant can do for the Bears ...
Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. This was truly a bizarre staff renovation, by the way, as the Bears addressed their biggest positional issues by hiring coaches who were out of the NFL last season. Lazor is the most intriguing because he’ll have to hold Nagy accountable in a way that Mark Helfrich apparently couldn’t. Nagy has vowed to revamp his playbook this season, and it’s Lazor’s job to make sure he follows through on it.
Will Matt Nagy’s play calling change?
Yes. Nagy is too smart and resourceful to stay the same. He will reinvent not only the offense, but himself. That starts with a fierce commitment to the ground game. Nagy set a franchise record low with seven rushing attempts in a blowout loss to the Saints. The Bears had fewer than 25 run plays in nine of their games. They were third-worst at 3.7 yards per carry. Nagy knows it’s imperative to change that.
After Allen Robinson, who will be the Bears’ top playmaker?
David Montgomery. He has to be. The Bears need him to live up to what they envisioned when they drafted him: a dynamic player who can roll up 100-plus yards from scrimmage every week between his roles as a rusher and receiver. That versatility is a big part of why they thought he was an upgrade over Jordan Howard. His rookie season was a good start at 1,074 total yards (83 percent of it on the ground), but the Bears need more in 2020.