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Bears mailbag: Opening week of training camp, roster battles and plenty of receiver talk

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In this week’s mailbag, we’ll take a look at Mitchell Trubisky’s expectations for 2019, roster battles, receiver talk and much more.

NFL: JUL 27 Bears Training Camp Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The opening weekend of the 2019 Chicago Bears training camp has come and gone. We are now just one day away from the Hall of Fame game and eight days away from the team’s preseason opener against the Panthers. For as slow as the off-season felt, things appear to be picking up in terms of the timeline to the regular season.

Over the next five weeks or so, we’ll see four preseason games, roster cut downs and the team start to game plan for Week 1. With that being said, I would caution anyone trying to get ahead of themselves because there’s plenty to watch for over the next few weeks. Those include roster battles, the offense’s Year 2 development and of course the kicking situation.

For more on this week’s mailbag, let’s dive in.

I’m not sure placing Top 10 expectations on quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is a fair thing to do in Year 3, personally. While I do believe he needs to take a sizable step this year (and fully expect him to do so), being among the 10 best at the position in today’s NFL is not an easy thing to do.

I would focus more on numbers and how well the offense is doing overall. I’m not going to expect performances like he had against the Buccaneers and Lions last year, but I do think in order to take the next step, consistency is the key. Whether that consistency is in week-to-week, or even quarter-to-quarter performance, or his lower body mechanics as a whole.

If Trubisky puts up around 4,000 pass yards, close to 30 passing touchdowns, a completion percentage around (65%) and keeps his touchdown to interception ratio better than a (2:1) figure, I think that should be considered a success and all this team should need to make a deep run.

I would also caution anyone against the thought that a good or bad year will have anything to do with his future. General manager Ryan Pace invested heavily into Trubisky and ultimately tied his entire tenure to his quarterback. That isn’t going to be something that will be easy to give up. Bears fans just have to hope that his “steady incremental progress” is enough to make them Super Bowl contenders starting in September.

Full disclosure- I have not been at camp this year. So when I speak on this subject, keep in mind that I’m simply going off of reports and talking to people I trust that are actually at these practices.

With that in mind- The Bears paid Buster Skrine too much money in overall guarantees for him to not at least win the starting nickel job out of the gate. Now, that’s not to say that rookie Duke Shelley won’t find a way to win that job by the end of the year. That’s also not factoring in an injury on the outside, that could force one of the two outside to start in place of one of Kyle Fuller or Prince Amukamara.

When I’ve spoke to people watching camp practices, all of them have said that Skrine has looked like a true veteran and a quality fit for this defense. I’ve also been told that there are some questions to how well Shelley will adjust as a tackler in his first year at the NFL level. Obviously we’ll know more once they start playing games in the preseason, but even for as much as I like the rookie, we may want to pump the brakes on giving Skrine’s job away before Week 1 rolls around. The Bears think highly of both players, but Skrine is the veteran and well-seasoned at that. This is also a team who views themselves as a Super Bowl contender, so they’ll always go the safer route and that’s usually the veteran unless Shelley severely outplays him.

Even so, don’t be surprised if you see the rookie getting snaps in nickel and dime looks. Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano loves to use multiple defensive backs, which could open up opportunities for more than just the starters on regular occasions.

I’d say right now the Bears currently have five players at the position that are locked into roster spots. Those include: Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller, Cordarrelle Patterson and Riley Ridley. I would also say that Javon Wims is about as close as it gets to locking down a spot as well. So, right there, you’re looking at six players for one position. That’s a common number to take into the season, but they could keep another player with as deep as this group is.

That leaves Marvin Hall, Emanuel Hall, Tanner Gentry and lesser known name like Jordan Williams-Lambert (like this team needs another hyphenated name). The reason I point out the former CFL standout in Williams-Lambert is because head coach Matt Nagy mentioned him by name as a player they really like. He has yet to practice much, but that’s expected to be a short-term issue.

If the team opts to keep a seventh receiver, I’d say that the rookie Hall has a lot of work to do. He’s been on and off the field due to health and when he’s been out there, he hasn’t done much. If I had to put money on a final receiver making this roster, it would be Marvin Hall.

Pro Football Weekly’s Hub Arkush made mention on 670 The Score earlier in the week that the Bears could have upward of five players that will be cut and claimed by different teams. I tend to agree with him and it wouldn’t shock me if at least one of those is receiver.

Both the Halls and even someone like Thomas Ives or Williams-Lambert could catch a team’s eye. Maybe even enough to draw a future late-round draft choice. If I had to guess, one of the Hall’s will likely be a prime target, but like you pointed out, the Bears are stacked at the position. Whether others want to admit it or not, the better the team is, the more attention their players attract. We saw that in free agency with Adrian Amos and Bryce Callahan and we could see it next month once players are cut and teams start to place waiver claims.

Also worth noting that the Bears could be in a position to leverage one of the pass catchers for an upgrade at kicker, if things don't pan out in their current competition.

I would classify Sherrick McManis firmly in the “reliable veteran” category. Not only does he have the ability to spot-start in the nickel, he has also been working at safety and may still be the team’s best special teamer.

McManis may not get a ton of love at face value, but he still has plenty of value to a team in need of players exactly like him. He’s a veteran leader that can moonlight in multiple roles and those are invaluable players to have on a Super Bowl caliber roster.

I would absolutely assume that Nagy will keep Patterson under wraps for the majority of the preseason. Much like he did with Tarik Cohen last year.

Now, that’s not to say that Patterson will have anywhere the same role that Cohen did, but the former Patriot is also someone who has vast value in a multitude of places. Not only is he the best kick returner in the game right now, he’s big and has the ability to play both receiver and tight end.

I would assume that Nagy will use him for 10-15 snaps per game on the offensive side of the ball. I would also expect him to be used in a similar fashion in which the Patriots used him in 2018. Each week will be different due to match ups, but there’s a good chance Patterson’s value will be overlooked when the 2019 season concludes because his numbers and snap counts won’t pop out on paper.

I’m not sure who the “we” you are referring to are, but I won’t count myself in that group.

Don’t get me wrong. I like Leonard Floyd. I thought he was a better player last year than his numbers showed and that people gave him credit for. With that being said, I also believe that he’s best served as a “do everything” type edge rusher and not purely a pass rusher.

Every year it seems like we hear someone new praising Floyd in the off-season and preseason. Then the regular season rolls around and he’s about the same caliber of player. Well-rounded and impactful, but not the superstar that some expected him to be when the team traded up to No. 9 overall in 2016.

At least in terms of my “realistic” expectations for Floyd in 2019, here are mine: 6-8 sacks, an uptick in pressure and a continued value against the run.

If he’s able to do that and they can get production from players like Aaron Lynch and company behind him, they’ll be in very good shape. It’s also worth keeping in mind that Pagano absolutely loves to bring pass rushers from unorthodox positions. Which could mean more sacks from players like Roquan Smith or even defensive backs.