Finally, just a couple days away from the Bears training camp! Finally we get one huge step closer to real football. On Friday I explored some of the lingering questions I have about the Bears offense going into training camp and the 2012 season. These are things I will be watching for in training camp and seeing what answers come out. After looking at the offense, I turn the questionnaire to the defensive side of the Bears team, as well as asking a couple of questions didn't necessarily fit with either section. Just like last time, leave your questions, answers and predictions in the comments.
How will Urlacher look?
Brian Urlacher is getting older, obviously, and his contract is up at the end of the season. He ended last year with a knee injury and it caused some concern. How will he bounce back? The way he plays will determine how and what kind of contract the Bears offer their future Hall of Famer. Let's face it, the team knows what he's done for them, what he means to them, and how he played last year. The only thing stopping them from re-upping his contract is his age and durability concerns. I won't sweat it too much if he gets more "veteran days off" than any one else, but how he plays is key.
And the rest of the defense?
Hopefully age hasn't caught up to the team yet. Most pundits think the 2012 Bears could be very good, but that their window could be small to win a title. Too many of their defensive starters are on the wrong side of 30. So I want to see; do they look like they've lost a step?
What about the rookies?
I really want to watch Shea McClellin. Where is he going to fit in? Can he earn a starting spot? Will he make the transition from mid-major to NFL quick enough to be an effective third DE and a vital part of the rotation right away? Furthermore, how will Brandon Hardin make the leap from almost a full season removed from college ball to the NFL and can he become a guy who will help improve the Bears 2011 28th ranked pass defense? I am looking for him to carve out a niche covering the big match-up nightmare TEs, but will that happen for him as a rookie?
How will the depth chart shake out?
Who will start along the defensive line? What will the rotation look like? Who replaces last years snaps from Anthony Adams and Amobi Okoye? Who starts opposite Charles Tillman? Can Tim Jennings hold that spot or will be replaced by one of the free agent additions Jonathan Whilte or Kelvin Hayden?
How will special teams look?
This is something that, in my opinion is quite overlooked coming into camp. There are a lot of unanswered questions and position battles in the third phase. Who will replace Corey Graham? What will our kick returners and punt returners look like? Will Devin Hester continue his role or will it be reduced? Who will return kicks without Johnny Knox present? Where will free agent additions Eric Weems and Devin Thomas be worked in? Will they factor in the return game and to what degree? Will late round picks Greg McCoy and Isaiah Frey earn ST roles?
Who will be the training camp wonder?
You know who I mean, the one guy who everyone has weirdly high expectations for before he disappears into obscurity and he somehow continues to be built up as the next diamond-in-the-rough. If you still don't know who/what I mean, in the past it's been; Mike Hass, Brandon Rideau, Andy Fantuz, Chris Leak, Woodny Turrene, Onrea Jones and Levi Horn, to name a few.
Also, who will be Lovie's "redshirt?"
The guy who, usually towards the end of training camp, goes down with a mysterious, usually seemingly minor injury that lands them on Injured Reserve for their rookie season. Past "redshirts" have been Harvey Unga, Dusty Dvoracek, Henry Melton and J.T. Thomas.