Make sure you're sitting down when I say this. Stay calm. Alright, are you ready? The Chicago Bears' 2017 regular season finally opens this Sunday. Okay, okay, try not to faint. Yes, as you ask, real football is back and actually counts.
With that in mind, there are a lot of pressing roster and preview questions to parse through for the home opener against the Atlanta Falcons. This Bears might be sneaky good or it might be in one for more rough patch before the skies clear up of dark clouds. Only time will tell.
For now, here are your questions.
With QB play so unknown, it's hard to tell how good the Bears could be. What would you say their record would be with an avg. QB? #AskWCG— Matt M. (@mosconml) August 30, 2017
As much as the hysteria surrounding Mike Glennon and Mitchell Trubisky has grown over the past month, I'm of the opinion Glennon will actually be okay and average while he starts. He's not going to be a quarterback that can go out and win a game for you. He's going to make the occasional backbreaking mistake, simply because sometimes he can't make every throw. But generally, I think he'll be fine in the time he gets under center with the Bears.
What you characterize as average could be of a different standard, so let's say whatever you think a game manager is, is I how see Glennon in 2017. That'll be enough for 7-8 wins considering the talent on Chicago's defense and ground game strengths (as you'll see in my season predictions later this week). So, in a slight adjustment of the question, this Bears team with a star or actual franchise quarterback is a championship contender. I don't think that's bold to proclaim. Almost every piece besides wide receiver and cornerback is in place.
Cross your fingers that Trubisky is the guy down the line in that light.
With the security surrounding a Fox injury report, is it possible that Kyle Long is ineffective or not even playing this year? Seems to have had a set back and the shoulder was never addressed. - Windy Cynic
John Fox's vagueness with the injury report, like most NFL coaches, is well documented. It's utterly fascinating to see the Bears trot out laughable depth charts and roster updates on a weekly basis that makes them think they'll actually gain a competitive edge. There's an element of surprise and simply wasting time here.
On that note, given how little he participated full-go during training camp, I don't think you'll see Kyle Long in Week 1. We probably won't see him start for most of September. The more vague Fox and the Bears are when speaking of players, the less likelihood of game day activation. Correlation equals causation in this case.
Late frustrations in this year's training camp that saw Long spar with a few teammates on the last day of practice were at least partially related to his recovery from his ankle injury and pointed to a delayed debut, at least to me. I don't believe Long has had a noticeable setback here, but that the competitive edge in a slower-than-expected recovery has taken it's toll on his psyche.
The good news is that you will see Long starting this year. Don't fret. He wouldn't have made the active roster and Chicago would have made more preconditioned plans without him (ideally). At what capacity and whether he's 100-percent when he steps in is a different story, though. Remember that he elected not to address said shoulder injury because that is something he could ideally play through while focusing on his ankle.
Based on what you saw in camp, what players' preseason performances have surprised you (in a good and/or bad way)? #AskWCG— Johnathan Wood (@Johnathan_Wood1) August 30, 2017
Better way to phrase that: What players have looked better or worse in preseason games than what you saw in training camp practices? #AskWCG— Johnathan Wood (@Johnathan_Wood1) August 30, 2017
Oh, this is a really good idea for perspective. I'll note three players across positive and negative surprises.
- Kendall Wright, after doing much of nothing during camp from my vantage point, was a revelation during the preseason. I had thought the slot receiver competition was more wide open in regards to Wright and the now-released Victor Cruz, simply because Cruz was performing at a higher level during practice while Wright at times was invisible. Obviously, that wasn't the case at all, as you saw a glimpse of the player Wright can be with the Bears when he made three third-down-and-long catches against the Tennessee Titans. I think he's poised for a big year now.
- Defensively, Roy Robertson-Harris is similar to Wright on that wavelength of not doing much in camp and then relatively exploding during game action. Robertson-Harris often struggled to flash in Bourbonnais this year, especially early, and there was concern that he was still a little too raw to contribute well. Boy did that change with dynamic plays such as his two sacks against the Arizona Cardinals and a blocked punt against the Titans. You can now consider him quality depth and a valued member of a vaunted defensive line rotation, contrary to early summer sentiments.
- He might be the future at the position. He might still be a star. But the preseason was a reminder that the Chipotle-eating Adam Shaheen has a long way to go as an NFL player - which should be no shock considering his transition from the Division II game at Ashland in college. In camp practices, he found no trouble getting open and routinely caught almost every ball thrown in his direction: a good sign of things to come. But in games, even while making the occasional reception, I thought he looked awkward as a route runner, playmaker, as well as blocker, and showed that this is going to be a drawn-out process regarding his development.
Considering the general vibe of optimism surrounding the team this year (compared to mass pessimism of years past): Do you think it is more likely that the Bears surprise more in positive ways or in negative ways? Do you see it more likely that the Bears expose other teams this season (I.E. Titans) or that the Bears GET exposed (I.E. Seahawks last year)? - Joker28
I'm going to go on the record and say that the 2017 Bears will still be a bad team. Shocking, I know. In fact, the Bears are still flawed enough to have double-digit losses overall once again.
However, the composition of Chicago's roster offensively (a strong ground game with a bevy of tight ends and a solid offensive line) and defensively (a potentially dominant front seven - health provided), will allow for them to stay competitive against almost everyone on their schedule. This is a hungry roster built around it's defense. They're going to be fun to watch even if maddeningly infuriating in crunch-time situations for when the time calls for the offense to step up - especially against fellow elite defenses. Expect a few "surprise" wins and upsets against heavyweights to help set the table for real optimism and expectations in 2018.
With Leonard Floyds recent foot injury should we still be concerned with his durability or was it a one time thing? #AskWCG— Zachary Lekfield (@_Chillerix_) August 30, 2017
Until he plays a full season unscathed, or at least a majority of one, the questions surrounding Leonard Floyd's durability won't go away. It's the one aspect of his game that can hold him back from being the superstar I believe he's set to become this year. After all, the only NFL sample size we have to work off of with him, is a rookie season that saw him go through two concussions, along with a variety of other ailing injuries such as his shoulder.
Still, I'm not concerned about Floyd's health at this stage in the game.
Sure, there's only so much you can do regarding head injuries in a sport like football. But, Floyd's bulked up to a sturdy 251 pounds to prepare for incoming toll on his body, spent an entire off-season refining his tackling and pass rush technique, and has matured leaps and bounds to prepare for his rise to stardom. The foot injury you're concerned about that happened against Tennessee was simply a matter of precaution.
Floyd is the Bears' defense's best player and potentially best player on the team. It wouldn't have paid off well to lose him for any significant period of time in a preseason game. Simple veteran care taking by the Bears of their most valuable defensive asset took place in that scenario.
The Bears seem to have a deficiency at WR but their RB and TE groups look strong. Are there any examples in recent NFL history of teams having a successful passing attack with an intentional focus on non-WR targets? - Marquess de Sade
The way the Bears have built their offense without much dynamic downfield threats is most reminiscent of two recent teams to me - both of which were mediocre as passing teams.
The first of which was last year's Titans. Tennessee had one of the best offensive lines in football, a two-headed monster at running back in DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, and a Pro Bowl tight end in Delanie Walker. Then, think of the talent on the outside they enjoyed. (crickets) All of this translated to the league's third-best ground game and 11th best offense overall - which would be incredibly successful for these Bears. They were only 25th in passing. The obvious difference is the caliber of play between rising young quarterback Marcus Mariota and Glennon here, though.
And the second team is the early 2010's Houston Texans (minus Andre Johnson). That squad was led by one of the league's formerly best running backs in Arian Foster, which ran a zone blocking scheme with an underrated offensive line, and worked a heavy play action game based around tight end Owen Daniels. I would expect the Bears to employ a similarly-styled offense, especially since Matt Schaub is someone you could possibly compare to Glennon as a passer. A lot of limitations but good enough in the right context.
I thought answering Kevin's question would be an excellent finale to this week's mailbag because "living in the past" can refer to so much when it comes to the Bears.
It could mean sticking with a conservative, veteran's coach that doesn't take chances and is outdated in the modern game in Fox.
It could mean not throwing your young quarterback in Trubisky that's clearly at least on level with Glennon into the fold, for reasons unknown.
It could mean believing "Bear Weather" still exists (or ever existed) as the team gets continually pummeled in the snow and cold conditions any time they arise.
It could mean boasting about a rich franchise "tradition" of a team that hasn't won a championship in over three decades and of which won most of it's prestigious nine championships when the NFL was comprised of many, many less teams.
Honestly, even as they're on the upswing, there's a laundry list of reasonable questions you can ask about how the Bears are still run and why they do the things they do that continually make little sense. There's so much to choose from! The best answer I have for why this happens is a misguided image of hallowed franchise greatness they somehow see in themselves that dissipated long ago. That changes with winning consistency but obviously that hasn't happened for a long time on the lakefront.
That or a shoulder shrug could give an explanation to this Bears' madness as well.
Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for the Rock River Times and is an editor for Windy City Gridiron. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.