By Ryan Bukowiecki (@ryanbski)
A big weekend is coming up for the Chicago Bears as the franchise will celebrate its centennial anniversary at the Bears 100 Celebration Weekend in Rosemont. It will be an epic gathering of former and current players and a feast of all the the senses for fans.
No doubt this will be a great time for any Bears fan, but its more like a send-off party for the team. After this weekend, the team will have to put celebration aside as they set foot to accomplish a successful season that builds off their memorable 2018 campaign.
In little over a month from now the Bears will be gathering for training camp and the anticipation of football in 2019 will surely hit a fever pitch.
Hopefully over the course of the weekend, besides all the great stories and nostalgia, fans will also get more information about the current team before camp gets started. As far as this writer is concerned, I’d ask the following questions of key players, coach Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace should I get a mic in their face.
Mitch Trubisky — In what areas are you specifically trying to improve from last season?
Without a doubt, quarterback Mitch Trubisky is a huge unknown heading into this season. Plenty of hope and optimism are carried on the aspiring franchise QB’s shoulders, but his consistency and development at the game’s most important position are still a mystery.
If Trubisky is able to take another step forward, much like the one he had a season ago, then the Bears should have a real weapon and leader on their hands. At some point during his first two years, Trubisky has definitely shown every single tangible skill a QB can display on the field.
Off the field, reports are Mitch may be even more of a contributor with reports of his dedicated work ethic and leadership skills. All he is missing is taken that final step of being a consistent performer. I would love to hear what Trubisky thinks are some of the areas he needed to work on to take his game to the next level.
Matt Nagy — How will the running game change with the additions of the running backs and swapping Cody Whitehair and James Daniels on the offensive line?
Coach Nagy brought with him a modern and versatile passing game the likes of which have not been seen by the Bears in its history. Conversely, Nagy’s running game was very pedestrian for his being seen as such an offensive guru. In his time at Kansas City, the Chiefs were efficient both on the ground and through the air en route to becoming one of the top offenses in the league.
This area of the team will have to improve if the Bears are to do the same overall, and the Bears themselves understand that seeing as they went out to acquire three running backs in the off-season in Mike Davis in free agency and both David Montgomery and Kerrith Whyte from the draft. In OTAs the Bears shifted attention to the offensive line and moved James Daniels to center and swapped Cody Whitehair to left guard.
All these moves will have an impact on the run game. The skills of the running backs corps can be argued now as being more similar to what Nagy had in KC with the likes of Kareem Hunt and Spencer Ware.
Swapping on the offensive line gives more potential to the unit overall because Whitehair is more of a mauler, which is ideal at guard, while Daniels has a higher ceiling at center than guard. Questions about the run game have to be answered during training camp because that is a key area that needs improvement heading into the regular season.
Khalil Mack — How much of a difference will it make for you and your season with a full off-season, training camp and preseason in Chicago?
Just about three months from now will mark a year since the Bears made a franchise-changing move in trading for one of the top pass rushers in the game in Khalil Mack, whose play in 2018 spoke for itself and clearly made the significant acquisition worth every penny.
Mack was brilliant for most of the season aside from missing a few games due to injury, the first in his career. Probably the most vivid memory was his take-over in his Bears debut in Green Bay, where he dominated the first half getting a sack, fumble strip and recovery, and finally a pick-six. It was an epic performance that came just a week after the trade and an off-season where Mack sat out OTAs as well as training camp.
All the Pro Bowler could do was workout on his own last off-season while mired in the stalled negotiations with Oakland that would proceed his trade. It is a different story this year, Mack will be a full participant and the question will be how it pays off for him. Linebacker Roquan Smith, the Bears first round pick from a year ago, also missed training camp and OTAs, the same question could be asked of him too.
Ryan Pace — What are the chances that the Bears kicker for next season is currently on the roster?
As positive as this off-season has looked, one area that doesn’t look right still is the kicking position. Clearly the Bears are trying to work through this problem but at what point does the team start to feel comfortable with a guy and say he will be our kicker this year? Training camp and the preseason looks to be when the real heat of the competition will take place.
Grabbing a veteran is still a possibility, especially once teams cut down their rosters in August. But will that be the path for the Bears? Would they want such uncertainty to linger throughout the entirety of camp and the preseason?
Perhaps Pace feels like they have their guys already lined up and competing for the spot. If that’s the case he’d be doing himself a favor in expressing that as soon as possible.
Ryan Bukowiecki covers the Chicago Bears and professional football for WARR