The Chicago Bears are getting ready for training camp in Bourbonnais this week, and as the team hits the practice field, there are still some big questions left for the NFC North champions to answer.
The Bears, who lost in the NFC Wild Card Game last season to the Philadelphia Eagles, are one of the NFC’s Super Bowl favorites this season, and their road to Miami begins on the practice fields of Olivet Nazarene University on Friday.
Before that quest gets underway, here are five questions that the team will need to answer during training camp.
Who the heck is going to be kicking field goals?
As soon as Cody Parkey’s game-winning field goal did the “double-doink” thing against the Eagles, the writing was on the wall that he was not going to be the team’s kicker for the 2019 season.
Instead of going out and signing a big-name, high-priced free agent kicker this offseason, the Bears have opted for a wide-ranging contest to try to fill the void left by Parkey’s departure.
Currently, the top two candidates for the job are Elliott Fry and Eddy Piniero, but the team will surely look to the waiver wire and other sources for an answer to their kicker conundrum.
How will the defense perform with a new coordinator?
After several successful seasons in Chicago, Vic Fangio is now patrolling the sidelines for the Denver Broncos as their new head coach, and the Bears have replaced him with former Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, who has promised to keep in place many of the precepts Fangio operated under while with the Bears.
There shouldn’t be a lot of drop-off thanks to players like Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks, but it will be worth watching whether some of Fangio’s other projects, including Kyle Fuller, will continue to progress at the same impressive clip that they did under Vic’s tutelage.
What’s next in the development of Mitchell Trubisky?
Trubisky had a solid season in his first year under head coach Matt Nagy, but with NFL defenses having an entire offseason to digest film of the Nagy bunch this year, teams will undoubtedly have some tricks up their sleeve to throw a big-time counter-punch at the Bears’ third year signal-caller.
The question for Trubisky will be whether or not he’ll be able to absorb the body blows, and to come back out swinging. He made some solid adjustments at times last season, especially when he was able to get out of the pocket and make plays happen with his legs, but Nagy will certainly want Trubisky to be more productive out of the pocket this season, and he should have the weapons to do it with Anthony Miller, Allen Robinson, and the tandem of David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen out of the backfield.
Speaking of that backfield, how will the workload be divvied up?
The Bears made some big changes to their backfield for the coming year, bringing in free agent Mike Davis and drafting rookies David Montgomery and Kerrith Whyte Jr. to give Cohen some help in the offense.
While the Bears never really used Jordan Howard as the workhorse out of the backfield last season, there are still carries to be given out, and odds are that Montgomery and Davis will shoulder the bulk of that added responsibility. It will be fascinating to see how Nagy gives out those carries, and whether Montgomery can grab the mantel as the team’s premier back.
Will expectations hurt this Bears squad after last season’s bounce back?
The Bears didn’t seem to let the pressure get to them last season, partying after victories, beating the Green Bay Packers to clinch the NFC North, and racking up impressive wins over teams like the Rams and Vikings.
The big question is whether or not the team can do it again with the tough schedule that is given to the defending divisional champion. Teams like the Saints and Rams are back on the docket for the Bears, as are a few AFC powerhouses in the form of the Chargers and Chiefs.
That tougher schedule, along with the expectations of being a serious Super Bowl contender out of the gate, are enough of a challenge for any squad, but could be even tougher for a team not used to the intense scrutiny.