Bears offseason review: Pieces in place for Justin Fields to take the next step

The Bears made enough progress in the offseason program to warrant optimism, but that’s still an old story at Halas Hall. Training camp, the preseason and the regular season will tell the tale of Year 2 under GM Ryan Poles and coach Matt Eberflus.

SHARE Bears offseason review: Pieces in place for Justin Fields to take the next step
The Bears signed DeMarcus Walker (95) to a three-year, $21 million contract in free agency, but could add more help at edge rusher before training camp begins on July 26.

The Bears signed DeMarcus Walker (95) to a three-year, $21 million contract in free agency, but could add more help at edge rusher before training camp begins on July 26.

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Bears beat writer Mark Potash answers seven key questions facing the Bears after the conclusion of the offseason program. Training camp practices begin on July 26 at Halas Hall in Lake Forest.

How did Justin Fields look during OTAs and the mandatory minicamp?

Like a quarterback ready to take a big step forward at some times — and like a quarterback of a struggling NFL offense at others. The marked improvement the Bears are looking for was mostly imperceptible in the confines of non-padded practices with no contact. To his credit, even Fields stayed off the hype train — a pretty good sign in itself.

What does GM Ryan Poles need to address before Day 1 of training camp?

The pass rush. The Bears still lack a proven edge rusher and figure to add someone before camp begins. But don’t expect a big name. The best candidate on paper is Yannick Ngakoue, who has had eight or more sacks in each of his seven NFL seasons. But he’s also has been on five teams the past four seasons, which flies in the face of conventional NFL wisdom — if you have a productive pass rusher, you don’t let him go. Ngakoue also hired agent Drew Rosenhaus and likely wants a long-term deal. The timing doesn’t appear right for Poles to splurge, but stranger things have happened.

The most promising part of offseason practices was …

Not getting hung up on position battles to create competition. The Bears didn’t waste time having first-round pick Darnell Wright beat out veteran Larry Borom for the right tackle job — they just gave it to him. In fact, the entire offensive line is set heading into camp. Rookie cornerback Tyrique Stevenson won’t have to beat out Kindle Vildor — it’s his job to lose. That’s a significant step forward for a team that believes in its evaluation of young talent.

This concerned me the most about offseason practices …

Chase Claypool did not participate in the final three weeks of the offseason program with a soft-tissue injury. And Darnell Mooney wasn’t even on the field. Both are expected to be full-go for training camp, but if you’ve followed the Bears for any length of time, you’ll have to see it to believe it. This team has to stay healthy.

The position battle I’m most excited to see during training camp is …

Justin Jones and Andrew Billings vs. rookies Zacch Pickens and Gervon Dexter at defensive tackle. There’s room for all of them in the defensive line rotation, but how quickly the rookies get the majority of the snaps will say a lot about how big of a step the Bears’ defense can make this season.

What player has the most to gain between now and Week 1?

The Bears’ infatuation with rookie running back Roschon Johnson has been an interesting offseason storyline. But it looks like he’ll get every chance to beat out Khalil Herbert and/or D’Onta Foreman for a key ball-carrying role on offense.

Who rules the NFC North now that Aaron Rodgers is gone?

The Vikings, but that’s by a flip of the coin. There could be a four-way tie at 8-9 the way things are looking.

The Latest
The longtime NBA executive, who was the Bulls general manager from 1969 to 1973, also helped found the Orlando Magic.
Vance went heavy on mentions of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio — and his humble Appalachian roots documented in ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ — on the third night of the Republican National Convention.
After three piping plover chicks died in the span of five days, the Sun-Times spoke with wildlife experts to understand the risks the young creatures face.
Illinois National Republican Committeeman Richard Porter berated the scandal-plagued Florida congressman for trying to embarrass former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy during a television interview.