Camp fires burning: Bears have more questions than answers

With the quarterback issue unsettled, running back David Montgomery’s injury last week threw the Bears for a loop. Without a good running game, neither Mitch Trubisky nor Nick Foles is likely to thrive.

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Chicago Bears v Green Bay Packers

Bears running back David Montgomery (32) could miss the season opener against the Lions after suffering a groin injury in practice last week. He is out 2-4 weeks.

Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

With the Bears’ Sept. 13 opener looming, the Sun-Times’ Bears beat writer Mark Potash examines the state of the Bears at training camp:

The Bears quarterback situation is …

What it is. Without preseason games to at least simulate game speed, without live tackling, it was unlikely either quarterback would pull away, so it’s not surprising the quarterback derby appears muddled to the naked eye. David Montgomery’s injury is the biggest impediment to the process. Without a good running game, neither Mitch Trubisky nor Nick Foles is likely to thrive. 

Who will start at running back?

Tarik Cohen is ill-fitted for a David Montgomery-like running back role, but he’s the next man up and unless Montgomery is out for longer than expected, the Bears might go for a running-back-by-committee solution, which includes incorporating Cohen, Cordarrelle Patterson, Art Pierce and Ryan Nall. That’s not ideal for the opening game or two of the season, but introducing a running back into the offense at this stage is likely to be problematic. There seems like a lot to learn. 

Matt Nagy’s biggest challenge is …

Putting the entire offense together. With Allen Robinson and Montgomery out, the quarterback situation unsettled, three new tight ends, a work-in-progress offensive line and no established wide receivers, Nagy doesn’t even have one position group he can hang his hat on. Getting all of them in sync in less than two weeks seems like a daunting task — but then again, we haven’t seen the Lions defense in training camp, either. They might have their own issues. 

What problem have the Bears solved in training camp?

We won’t know until a month into the season if the Bears have solved any of their issues. But the tight end corps is one issue they addressed in the offseason that seems almost certain to be improved. The Bears will get the ball to the tight ends — Jimmy Graham, rookie Cole Kmet and even blocking tight end Demetrious Harris. But it remains to be seen if they will have room to run in an undeveloped offense. 

What problem looms?

The running game. Establishing a consistent run game was going to be difficult even with Montgomery healthy. If Montgomery misses regular season games, the Bears will be challenged to replicate the skills that made him such a “perfect fit” for Nagy’s offense. And it bears repeating: if the Bears can’t run the ball, this offense very likely is doomed to struggle. 

Who has impressed you the most?

In a training camp setting with virtually no tackling and not much hitting, a little Roquan Smith still goes a long way. The third-year linebacker looks bigger, faster and better in coverage and hasn’t done anything to dispel the notion he’s ready for a breakout season. 

This rookie stands out …

Tight end Cole Kmet is clearly the one rookie who looks like he’ll make the biggest impact, though training camp can always be deceiving. But don’t sleep on cornerback Kindle Vildor, the fifth-round pick who has gotten a lot of first-team reps with Jaylon Johnson out.

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