Rounding Up Latest Chicago Bears Pre-Training Camp Buzz
Yet again the Bears find themselves in a position over a summer stretch where they're breaking in more than a handful of new faces as massive roster turnover continues.
It sounds hyperbolic, but this summer is more critical than those in recent years—this time the turnover centers on quarterback and premium spots like wideout and defensive back.
So, while other teams might coast through this part of the calendar as training camp approaches, it's big news for the Bears to hear about how new arrivals are adapting and how key rookies or other young pieces continue to prepare for a critical year.
To help wade through this supposed slow part of the year and best keep up to date with the latest around the team, let's highlight the biggest talking points surrounding the Bears.
Andy Phillips Is Ready for a Battle
Funnily enough, we start the news surrounding a slow period with talk about a kicker.
While humorous, the Bears haven't had an easy time of it after ending the Robbie Gould era. And Connor Barth isn't guaranteed to keep a hold on the starting gig the summer—especially if Andy Phillips hits his stride.
Phillips is an interesting story because he's a 28-year-old undrafted free agent who has the talent to earn a roster spot after a strong career at Utah.
"I kind of see this opportunity with the Bears as whatever I can do to make the Bears stronger, whether that's winning the job, whether that's pushing Connor, I'm just here to try to make the organization better," Phillips said, per Larry Mayer of ChicagoBears.com.
So, while kicker will hardly occupy the spotlight when it comes to positional battles this summer, it's one of the most likely to have a change and big impact on the field next year.
Optimism Surrounding Eddie Goldman...
Tackle Eddie Goldman has been one of the hottest topics around the Bears for the past year or so because of his inability to stay on the field.
Goldman, a second-round pick in 2015, has the sheer talent to be one of the better presences at the nose in the NFL. However, he missed a game as a rookie and only appeared in six games last season, battling nagging lower-body injuries.
With camp on the approach, some within the organization at least have a hopeful tune about the Florida State product.
"We missed him and he was, I think, primed to have a good season," defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said, per CSN Chicago's JJ Stankevitz. "So if we can get him back to where he was, and a little bit better, I think we'll have a good player there."
Goldman staying on the field in 2017 would not only give the Bears an idea whether the spot is a major draft need next year, it could provide a spark for a unit with a strong linebacker corps capable of making big plays if a space-eating tackle in front of it does his job well.
...and the Linebackers
Chicago's linebackers enter 2017 with the proverbial chip on the shoulder.
After all, Leonard Floyd had a strong rookie season but couldn't stay healthy. Ditto for Pernell McPhee. On the interior, Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan could have formed one of the better duos in the NFL, yet the former got hit with a four-game ban and the latter went down with a serious injury.
Now the unit has its eyes set on a major rebound.
"Dominate and destroy. Every opponent that we face, and showing the world why we've got these guys in the room. That's my focus. That's what I wanna do and I think what we're gonna do," McPhee said, per Stankevitz's colleague, Chris Boden.
The Bears could certainly use every guy healthy and on the field for an entire season—better play there means a completely revamped secondary won't spend too much time in coverage getting exposed or left alone to stop big rushes.
On paper, linebacker is Chicago's best unit. McPhee clearly has a plan to make it a reality starting this summer.
Kendall Wright's High Hopes
Defense isn't the only unit with high expectations heading into 2017.
The offense received a facelift as well. Besides the changes under center, the wideout corps saw Kendall Wright, Markus Wheaton and Victor Cruz arrive. At tight end, free-agent add Dion Sims brings some much-needed blocking and rookie Adam Shaheen brings a big playmaking ability through the air.
It's still early but Wright is beginning to break away from the pack as a leader.
"I'm going to be whatever they need me to be," Wright said, per CBS Chicago's Chris Emma. "I haven't lost a step like people may think. I can go out there and do as well as anybody out there."
Wright is a natural to lead the new-look receiving unit considering his best years with the Tennessee Titans came under the guidance of now-Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. The coaching staff hasn't shied away from these expectations, either.
"He's got outstanding quickness," head coach John Fox said, per Emma. "He has blended in pretty well with us. He's got good quickness, he's got a good feel for the game. He's had good production in our league, albeit not real recent. I like what I've seen from him."
In a summer featuring plenty of notable names to watch, Wright is clearly one of the most important.
All Things Trubisky
The biggest focal point of the summer, justified or not, will center on the quarterback position.
Chicago has remained adamant that Mike Glennon will go into next year as the starter no matter what, the plan being to see what the veteran has to offer while rookie Mitchell Trubisky gets to learn the ropes from the sidelines.
Some, such as ESPN's Jeff Saturday, aren't in love with the approach. ESPN.com's Jeff Dickerson captured his comments:
“They paid Glennon a lot of money and they are going to try and get that year out of him, but my issue with that—as a veteran—is that if Trubisky shows up and just balls out and is the guy on offense that everyone wants to follow, shows he can be an incredible leader on the football field, and shows he's a great quarterback and is better than Glennon, and then you make that decision that he’s not going to start no matter what ... I think you've done yourself a tremendous disservice.”
There's truth in this, of course. If Trubisky is ready to go, the Bears aren't hurting themselves too much after this year from a cash standpoint thanks to the structure of Glennon's deal.
It does the 27-year-old a disservice when he tries to land another contract with a team, but he's sitting on a generous deal in the first place considering he's hardly played over the last two seasons.
As for Trubisky? He's not letting the fact he has yet to put ink to paper slow his summer approach, per Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times: "I'm not going to miss any practices or anything like that. I'm excited to sign my contract as soon as possible, however that goes down. But I don't see that being held out through training camp; even if it did, I'm going to be practicing and all that."
Though the Bears haven't embraced it publicly, it's hard to imagine they don't let the best man win the job. Trubisky sounds ready, contract or not.
Here's an interesting wrinkle many perhaps haven't considered yet—the Bears could rework the offense in a big way over the summer.
While quarterback, wideout and tight end hog the attention, it's easy to forget the Bears added Michael Burton.
For those who don't know, Burton is a fullback, the supposedly dead position except for a rare offense here or there. The Bears are giving him a shot to see if they should implement more of the position back into the offense and he sounds more than ready, per Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune.
"I definitely think it is important that they kind of want to have a two-back set and they see a role for a fullback, which is obviously great for me. I thought it was a great opportunity (here)," Burton said.
Experimentation like this is nothing short of a good thing for the Bears. If Burton can block and act as a receiver, he adds a dimension to the offense the attack lacked a year ago which could help the new quarterbacks in a big way.
As we mentioned, this isn't a normal slow period as it is for most teams; the Bears making a fullback a player to watch this summer is proof enough of that.