CHICAGO (CBS) — For the first time in well over a decade, legitimate Super Bowl buzz will be swirling in the sticky, summer air at Camp Bear-bonnais.
A 12-win season, and an NFC North championship, ended with Cody Parkey’s dink and a doink in the playoffs. The lingering disappointment of that devastating defeat to the Eagles should make it easier for a hungry Bears bunch to fend off complacency. It also tees up (a little too easily) the first of five things to watch for at training camp.
Just kicking it…
The Bears convoluted kicking competition will continue in Bourbonnais. With no clear-cut favorite to replace the banished Parkey.
The two kickers currently on the roster, Elliott Fry and Eddy Pineiro, have attempted as many field goals in a regular season NFL game as I have. We’ll see which untested leg emerges from camp as the starter. It’s unfortunate that a season filled with so much promise hinges on a limited, yet important position.
3rd year Mitch…
A team with serious Super Bowl aspirations can’t have questions at quarterback. But, as Mitchell Trubisky enters his third pro season, and second running Matt Nagy’s intricate system, doubts about whether he is “The Guy” remain. Trubisky can, and must, quiet is critics by mastering the offense, becoming a more consistent passer, and not relying on his legs as much.
Run for the money?
The Bears have upgraded the toys for its franchise quarterback to play with, namely at running back. Joining the human joy stick” Tarik Cohen, is veteran Mike Davis, and top draft pick, David Montgomery.
The departed Jordan Howard may not have been a perfect fit for Matt Nagy’s catch-and-run offense, but you can’t deny the productivity of the former pro bowler. Howard averaged over 1,100 rushing yards in his first three NFL seasons. A backfield behind a solid offensive line will have to duplicate or surpass those numbers, with Montgomery eventually becoming a Matt Forte-like workhorse.
Will the defense rest?
Vic Fangio put the Monster back in the Midway, building a top-ranked defense that led the league in takeaways (36) last season. Of course, the arrival of one-man wrecking crew Khalil Mack had a lot to do with that.
The Bears are loaded with playmakers across the field. But now that Fangio has taken his blueprint to Denver for his first head coaching job, the question is, how will this talented unit respond under new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano? Training camp will be key for Pagano to earn that trust.
Lean and clean…
As in a clean bill of health. For the most part, the Bears dodged a fatal injury bullet last season. Although, who knows how things would’ve turned out if Eddie Jackson and/or Trey Burton hadn’t been hurt for that playoff loss to Philly.
Newly acquired ex-Packer Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is starting camp on the physically-unable-to-perform list. You won’t see too many big dogs playing in meaningless preseason games.
Expect Nagy to stick to his script and rest his starters until Green Bay comes to Soldier Field on Thursday, Sept. 5. Injuries might be the one thing that can derail the Super Bowl-or-bust train, which is ready to roll, full steam ahead.