The Chicago Bears are entering the final leg of their offseason work before training camp looms in late July. Players will be off for over a month at that point, so it’s the last opportunity for coaches to get some answers before they start formulating their plans for the summer. A common misconception is that these practices in shorts don’t mean anything. Based on recent events, that is far from the truth.
Several interesting things have happened over the past few weeks from voluntary minicamps to Organized Team Activities. Some of them are encouraging, and others are alarming. There is a strong likelihood the upcoming mandatory minicamps will shed some light on these situations. Here are the questions fans need answers to the most.
Chicago Bears have several questions to answer this week.
Where is the offensive line at? Especially Teven Jenkins?
It is never comfortable when the offensive line is unstable going into training camp. Right now, the Bears can safely say only two of their five starting spots are set, with Cody Whitehair at left guard and Lucas Patrick at center. Left tackle alternated between Larry Borom and Braxton Jones last week while Borom rook over at right tackle. That left Teven Jenkins, the team’s 2nd round pick from last year, demoted to the second-team offense. That isn’t something fans want to hear about somebody viewed as essential to this team’s future success team. These next three practices will determine if the demotion was temporary or if it is a sign of what’s to come.
Is Kyler Gordon healthy?
It is easy to say that coaches might be staying cautious, but it’s worth noting that the Bears’ top draft pick has missed multiple practices with undisclosed issues. It isn’t clear if they’re personal or health-related. Most likely the latter. Nobody ever wants to see a young player already deal with injuries this early into his time with a team. Such issues have already haunted Chicago in the past. See Marc Colombo, Chris Williams, and Kevin White for prominent examples. The team doesn’t seem too concerned about it yet. Then again, they weren’t worried about Jenkins last year until he got back surgery. So this is something worth watching.
Can anybody step up besides Darnell Mooney at wide receiver?
This is the great fear of many in the media. The Chicago Bears have one proven receiver on the roster in Mooney. Everybody else is a maybe at best. Byron Pringle had a decent 2021 in Kansas City, but he won’t have Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce drawing away so much attention from him this year. Velus Jones has loads of potential, but he had one good receiving season in college. It is hard to know how much he can offer as a rookie. Everybody else, like Tajae Sharpe, Dante Pettis, and Equanimeous St. Brown, are castoffs that never made it with other teams.
Where is the Roquan Smith contract situation?
Recent updates suggested that momentum would likely pick up during the summer between the Bears and their star linebacker about an extension. It makes sense. Poles has more time to focus on such things with the primary roster-building periods over with. Roquan Smith is the undoubted future of the Bears defense, even if the current regime didn’t draft him. His numbers have been Pro Bowl-worthy across the past four years, and he will be indispensable to what the new coaching staff hopes to achieve. That is why locking him up before the season would make the most sense for all parties involved.
How quickly is Justin Fields gaining comfort in the new offense?
This is the question Chicago Bears fans will be hovering over constantly. There were glimpses of hope last week when Eberflus stated the young QB had an excellent practice on Monday. However, that enthusiasm was quickly checked two days later when the defense rebounded. It is another reminder that Justin Fields is starting from scratch. It will take time for him to start showing true progress. The good news is he is getting almost every rep in practice. Everything from his timing to his footwork has improved. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he had a good showing or two this week.