With training camp just a few days away, the Bears are finally entering the season without a giant question mark at the quarterback position.
Yet that doesn’t mean that things are all sewn up everywhere on the field.
Here are three battles to keep an eye on as training camp begins.
The Bears decided the injury-plagued Mike Brown was too much of a liability at the end of last season and that left a big hole at free safety.
All signs point to Craig Steltz taking over just based on his time spent at the safety position with the Bears. The new-look coaching staff doesn’t seem ready to take a chance on someone new patrolling the defensive backfield early this season.
But the position isn’t going to just transfer by default and Chicago has a number of options if Steltz’s lack of speed starts to become a concern.
The next two players in line could be Josh Bullocks and Corey Graham.
Bullocks arrived from New Orleans where over the final four games of last season he compiled 23 tackles. During his career though, Bullocks has pulled in just 6 interceptions. When Brown was healthy, six interceptions was a goal for a single season, not just a career.
That leaves Graham as the most intriguing choice to move into the starting safety role.
He proved he could cover and tackle last season for the Bears and possessed the speed to range over a lot of ground. His size was a detriment at corner, but a move to safety negates that.
This is one positional battle that has to be decided early on in training camp. Steltz will likely get the early reps but if Graham can impress in the preseason, expect a new, speedy defensive backfield to become the modus operandi in Chicago.
The Bears welcomed Jay Cutler to town with a great deal of fanfare this off-season. There is still a problem though: Who is going to catch the ball?
The now long-term experiment of inserting Devin Hester on offense worked first as a decoy and then as a receiving option, but Hester was never a number one receiver. His skills, though potent, would be better served as a second or third option.
Against lesser coverage, Hester’s agility and speed can shine, and open up the passing game, as they did when he was the decoy on offense. Against the top cover man, the opposition can run at him, his opportunities for success are limited.
The bad news for Chicago is that they are lacking another option to fill that top spot.
Rashied Davis may have big-play ability, but the consistency to be the star play after play has yet to appear. After Davis, the talent drops off pretty quickly, although If Earl Bennett can recover some of what he showed when starring at Vanderbilt (with Cutler as the QB), the Bears might finally see that draft choice pay off.
Given the available options, expect to see Hester continue as the top choice at wideout. But don’t expect things to stay that way if the Bears don’t see the production they would like on offense. This is one battle that will continue to be waged through the first few games of the season.
Speaking of Cutler…
No, Jay Cutler is not in danger of losing his starting job before the season even begins. But he has his own battle this season… against himself.
Cutler ran himself out of Denver based on the way that he handled potential trade talks for another quarterback. That doesn’t say much for his mental toughness.
Welcome to Chicago, Mr. Cutler. You are going to be tested mentally here more than you could imagine.
Chicago fans are expecting a sharp upgrade from what they are used to at the quarterback spot. They believe that the Bears have just acquired the franchise leader for the next seven or eight years.
If Cutler can’t get it done, or doesn’t show well in the preseason games, expect fan sentiment to change rather quickly.
Even without a stellar selection of targets, Cutler is going to be forced to prove that he isn’t just one more disappointment on the long list of failed signal callers for the Bears.
While the question mark may have been erased, the questions still remain. Jay Cutler will need to rise up and answer them.
And that will be one battle that will continue throughout the entire season.