So long, Bourbonnais: Hits and misses from Bears training camp, 2018
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BOURBONNAIS — The Bears left training camp at Olivet Nazarene University in pretty much the same shape they started: still a team to watch with intriguing offensive potential behind Mitch Trubisky and coach Matt Nagy and a veteran top-10 defense under Vic Fangio, with Akiem Hicks leading the way. But with little or no tangible evidence they’ll be this year’s Rams, who made a quantum leap from 4-12 to 11-5 and the playoffs last year.
There’s still a long way to go before the regular-season opener against the Packers at Lambeau Field on Sept. 9, but now that the training-camp portion of the preseason is over, here’s a look at some of the good and the bad:
Thumbs up: The receiving corps
The bar was set pretty low last year, but it’s already easy to see that the Bears have upgraded their weapons for Trubisky. Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Taylor Gabriel and Trey Burton are NFL-quality receivers the Bears did not have last year. Of the holdovers, tight end Adam Shaheen and running backs Tarik Cohen and Jordan Howard at least have shown the potential to be more productive in the passing game in this offense.
Thumbs down: Roquan Smith’s absence
In an era in which only two players held out in the previous four seasons, the rookie linebacker from Georgia — the eighth overall pick — has missed 28 days, 16 practices and two preseason games because of a contract impasse. The Bears have been able to absorb his absence — they still return 10 starters from a top-10 defense. But at this point, whenever Smith signs, he’ll have a major challenge to not only catch up but avoid injuries that have affected previous holdouts.
Thumbs up: Long, Robinson, Floyd healthy
Three of the Bears’ most important players — Kyle Long (neck, shoulder, elbow), Robinson (torn ACL) and Leonard Floyd (sprained knee) — were babied in the offseason, but it appears to have paid off. Long and Robinson, in particular, have been getting scheduled days off, but all three have been able to go 100 percent when they’re on the field.
Thumbs down: Aaron Lynch’s hamstring
Lynch is being counted on to fortify the outside-linebacker position after the Bears let Pernell McPhee, Willie Young and Lamarr Houston go in the offseason. But he suffered a hamstring injury on the first day of practice and has yet to return.
“We’re not concerned,” Nagy said after practice Sunday. “He’s OK with where he’s at. It has drawn out a little bit. There were a few setbacks a little bit ago, but he’s back on track, and he’ll be ready to go.”
Thumbs up: Anthony Miller
The second-round pick from Memphis has been better than advertised. How real is it? Some rookies show out in training camp and shrink when the bell rings, but Miller is not a one-trick pony with a single weakness that can be exploited. On the contrary, he seems to have the size, versatility and instincts that could make him even more dangerous when the lights go on.
Thumbs down: Depth
Though the Bears have upgraded their overall roster, which should lead to an improved performance on special teams among other areas, they are dangerously thin at arguably the three key positions: quarterback, offensive tackle and edge rusher.
Trubisky is backed up by Chase Daniel, who has started two NFL games. Starting tackles Charles Leno and Bobby Massie are backed up by Bradley Sowell (21 NFL starts) and Rashaad Coward (no NFL starts), a second-year undrafted free agent who was moved from defensive tackle to offensive tackle this season. And with Lynch out, starting outside linebackers Floyd and Sam Acho are backed up by Isaiah Irving (no NFL starts) and rookie Kylie Fitts, a sixth-round draft pick.