The end of June signals one thing to NFL fans: the start of training camps across the league. For our beloved Chicago Bears, they are scheduled to host 11 practices open to the public between July 26th and August 20th, so I figured I’d detail a few things I’m most interested in seeing this year at Halas Hall.
First off, I am interested in the progression of Justin Fields.
Though he had the inevitable rookie struggles in year 1, he also made a boatload of outstanding plays, and - at least in my opinion - had the look of a future superstar by the end of the season.
I expect him to take a king-sized leap this offseason, both qualitatively and quantitatively, and it all starts in training camp.
From a qualitative perspective, I want to see greater command of the offense and the ability to just execute the offense. In new offensive coordinator Luke Getsy’s West Coast outside zone-centric scheme, the ability to just manage the game is imperative. This is something that Aaron Rodgers (Getsy’s former tutee) excelled at in 2021. Just take what the defense gives you, and the scheme will generate consistent, effective offense.
I also expect him to continue being a machine throwing the football. Though Fields’ throwing has many technical flaws, he still possessed phenomenal control over the football in year 1. That consistent control over ball placement must continue in year 2.
Hopefully, all of these things manifest themselves during the season as well so he can - at the very least - put up numbers similar to that of Mitchell Trubisky in year 2 (24 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 67% completion percentage).
Secondly, I’m looking for somebody to step up as the #2 receiver.
The biggest question of this offseason has been which receiver will take the role of Robin to Darnell Mooney’s Batman and, as a result, alleviate some of the playmaking pressure off of Justin Fields.
Whether it’s Byron Pringle, Equanimeous St. Brown, or Velus Jones Jr., I want to see somebody take the reigns of the #2 receiver role.
Personally, I am most intrigued by Velus Jones Jr. of the rest. He has the ideal combination of power, speed, and quickness to take on a Deebo Samuel-esque role where he plays all over the field (in the backfield, on the perimeter, winged out alongside a tight end, etc.), which - in this scheme - could pay massive dividends come September.
But despite the importance of Fields’ progression and the emergence of a #2 receiver, the unquestioned biggest thing I want to see from the Bears at training camp is to just play smart and disciplined.
Over the past three seasons, the Bears have played some of the dumbest football you will ever see. Between backbreaking penalties, poor execution, turnovers, bad technique, and turnovers, the Bears were as undisciplined as they come from 2019 to 2021.
It is imperative this changes. It must have started during OTA’s and has to be even more evident during training camp. Yes, practices are the time to make mistakes and grow from them to be better prepared for the games, but that does not excuse mental errors entirely.
I want to see guys playing hard (something that is reportedly already taking place), learning from their mistakes, eliminating all dumb penalties, executing their assignments to the best of their ability, sticking to their technique, and taking care of the football.
This mantra of not beating yourself has been the essence of the Patriot way for the past 20 years, and it has obviously worked out for them in a major way.
I’ve always believed that in the NFL, if you just play hard and play smart, you will win 5-7 games. If you play hard, play smart, and are surrounded by a good scheme, you will win 8-9 games. If you play hard, play smart, are well-coached schematically, and surround a quarterback with some playmaking capabilities with a little bit of talent, you will win 10-11 games.
The Bears fall under the third category. I firmly believe that this team will win 10-11 games this year, make the playoffs, and be in the conversation for winning the division.
Regardless, it’s great to have hope again this year. Last offseason, it felt inevitable that we would be hitting the reset button after the year, but this season, I truly believe we have something brewing. I think we drafted the right quarterback, hired the right coach, and have more talent on the roster than people are giving us credit for.
The last time I attended Bears training camp was in the summer of 2019, when my excitement and anticipation for the franchise quickly dried up in the coming months. I will be attending this year and am as excited as I was back then. Hopefully this year, however, I won’t be disappointed.