One day before Bears players report to Bourbonnais, here are five things I know I want to watch in training camp:
1. Pernell McPhee. We still don’t know just how bad his left knee was last year or how good it is this year after offseason arthroscopic surgery. McPhee did not participate in offseason practices and the Bears’ silence on his condition leaves a lot of room for doubt. First, he has to be on the field. Second, he has to be able to play at 100 percent and stay healthy. While effective last season, his play diminished as he tried to play through the injury and he ultimately needed surgery. The Bears might be a little more careful with their 2014 prize free agent this season.
2. The offensive line. The Bears insist the best five players will play, but how long will it take to find the best five? If they’re playing musical chairs throughout the preseason, that’s a red flag. The Bears need to make some quick decisions on who is ready and who can play. Linemen downplay continuity when it’s not there, but it always seems to be the key to success when they have it.
3. Dowell Loggains. He’s a hoot to watch on the field — a real effusive, vocal coach who will be front-and-center at open practices as the Bears’ new offensive coordinator. He commands the players’ respect in a visible way. And seems to know what he’s doing.
4. The rookies. This year’s draft was the first one in which Ryan Pace and his staff had the entire evaluation cycle to assess prospects knowing what they need and what kind of talent and coaching staff they have. Can Pace’s kind of guy make a difference in the NFL? This rookie class — draftees and free agents — will go a long way toward determining that.
5. Kyle Long. The grounded three-time Pro Bowl lineman has all the potential to be a face-of-the franchise leader — the guy who steps up in adversity, takes accountability, speaks for the team and sets a tone that commands teammates to follow. Most good teams have a guy like that. Long is not keen on being that front-and-center guy, but with the Bears in transition after letting veteran leaders go, he could grow into that role if he wants it.