The Chicago Bears enter training camp with as many questions as answers in 2013.
In 2012, they became just the fourth team since 1978 of the league to start the season 7-1 and not make the playoffs, as they finished 10-6. That led to the firing of head coach Lovie Smith and most of his staff.
Under Smith, the Bears always seemed to be struggling to score points. The team replaced him with offensive guru Marc Trestman, whose most recent stint was in Canada with the Montreal Alouettes.
Trestman figures to install a more quarterback-friendly West Coast offense with a lot of assistance from offensive coordinator/line coach Aaron Kromer. Kromer comes to the Bears after serving as the offensive line coach for the Saints.
Former Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator Mel Tucker has taken over for Rod Marinelli, who declined an offer to return. Tucker has learned the Bears system, but will certainly put his stamp on the team as well.
Although they return much of their roster, the Bears aren't without questions there either. Many players—including starting quarterback Jay Cutler—are in the last year's of their contracts.
For the 2013 Bears, it's time to either produce or move on as they're at critical junctures in their careers.
Training Camp Schedule (courtesy of the team website)
Friday, July 26: 9-11:30 a.m.
Saturday, July 27: 9-11:30 a.m.
Sunday, July 28: 9-11:30 a.m.
Monday, July 29: 9-11:30 a.m.
Tuesday, July 30: No practice—closed to the public
Wednesday, July 3: 19-11:30 a.m.
Thursday, Aug. 1: 9-11:30 a.m.
Friday, Aug. 2: 9-11:30 a.m.
Saturday, Aug. 3: 6:45-8:45 @ Soldier Field-Family Fest
Sunday, Aug. 4: No practice—closed to the public
Monday, Aug. 5: 3:15-5 p.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 6: 9-11:30 a.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 7: 9-11:30 a.m.
Thursday, Aug 8: No practice—closed to the public
Friday, Aug. 9: No practice—closed to the public
Saturday, Aug. 10: No practice—closed to the public
Sunday, Aug. 11: 3:15-5 p.m.
Monday, Aug. 12: 9-11:30 a.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 13: 9-11:30 a.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 14: Break camp
Aug. 9 at Carolina
Aug. 15 vs San Diego
Aug. 23 at Oakland
Aug. 29 vs Cleveland
As of this writing, the Bears have 89 players listed on their roster on the team website, one short of the 90 allowed at training camp.
By the end of August, that number will be cut down significantly as they'll be left with just 53 players.
With a new coaching staff and general manger Phil Emery in his second season, it will be interesting to see how the Bears make their cuts. In all, they'll have to let 36 players loose.
For complete analysis of the entire roster click here.
The Bears have more questions than most teams do entering camp.
With a veteran roster and a new coaching staff, the Bears could go any number of directions. There are questions about whether Trestman and Cutler will get a long, both in terms of personality and scheme. That is just the tip of the iceberg with the questions surrounding the Bears' offense.
Defensively, the Bears have a veteran group that they're trying to make younger on the fly. They have a couple new young linebackers who could help, and are banking on some young defensive linemen and defensive backs to make sure the unit keeps performing at an elite level.
For complete analysis of the Bears' burning questions click here.
While the Bears have more returning starters than most teams, their training camp won't be without it's fair share of battles.
The Bears have fewer than five starting spots—depending on how you break it down—up for grabs, with the competitors being a combination of veterans and young players.
However, they have a number of key reserve roles that could become very important as the season progresses.
The Bears have quite a bit of quality depth at linebacker, safety and receiver. Those battles could turn out to be very interesting. They don't have quite as much depth at cornerback, but there should be a fight for the nickelback job there.
For complete analysis of the Bears' biggest training camp battles click here.
Over the last couple of seasons, the Bears have done a good job of bringing high-caliber athletes into their camp.
This year, they drafted a very athletic group and welcome one of the most intriguing collections of undrafted free agents in recent memory.
Their draft picks Kyle Long, Jon Bostic, Khaseem Greene, Jordan Mills, Cornelius Griffin and Marquess Wilson tested out well physically. There's no question they have the talent to play in the NFL, it will be up to the coaches to help them along and up to themselves to work hard.
Much like their draft class, the undrafted group the Bears brought in is also very talented. Very few of them lack in either size or speed, which should make them interesting to watch.
The expectations for this Bears' draft class are high and it's possible that they have a diamond in the rough who wasn't drafted.
For complete analysis of the Bears' rookies and undrafted free agents click here.
As the Bears enter training camp with a new coach, there are very few jobs that are safe.
Emery made sure he added a lot of competition at tight end and receiver. They have quite a few offensive linemen and defensive linemen battling for jobs in camp as well.
For most players on the bubble, it will come down to their ability to play multiple positions and compete on special teams. With the number of high-level athletes they've added over the last couple of years, they should have some interesting battles.
For complete analysis on the Bears' bubble watch click here.
With a relatively new front office and an almost entirely new coaching staff, it's a little more difficult to project who will make the Bears' final cut in August.
With so many talented athletes, the most telling thing will come when they put the pads on and start hitting. Some speedsters slow down with the weight of shoulder pads, while other slower players have the strength to maintain their timed speed.
The team could also find players to be not who they thought they were and bring in more competition as camp progresses.
It's hard to say how the Bears will look in August, but it's a good time to make an educated guess on who will still be with the team when they open the season.
For complete analysis and projections of the Bears' final 53-man roster click here.