With plenty of questions, the Bears break for the summer
LAKE FOREST – There were inquiries coming into the OTAs about a month ago. They were still there when the team started mandatory mini camp on Thursday. That’s what happens when you’re 3-13 and have made a major change at the most important position on the field.
These questions weren’t going to be answered during a warm month at Halas Hall. They may not even get answered when the weather turns chilly in November or December, either.
But for the meantime, head coach John Fox was at least pleased with his team’s effort during the offseason workouts that ended on Thursday afternoon. Like in 2016, Fox called the practice early as a reward for the team’s efforts during the work on the field and in the weight room, calling it the best of his tenure so far with the team.
“Our players deserved it,” said Fox, who even spared the players from the heat for the short gathering by taking the team inside the Walter Payton Center. “We had good participation for quote ‘voluntary’ workouts. We had great participation, great effort and that was a reward today.”
Now it’s a bit of warm weather hibernation for the Bears as the get about a six-week break before the start of training camp in Bourbonnais. The entire team will report to Olivet Nazarene University on July 26th and it’s then that Fox will have to sort out a number of issues with his still rebuilding team.
Mike Glennon is the starting quarterback, sure, but what about bringing Mitchell Trubisky up to speed? Fox himself hinted at possible special offensive packages that could be used to get the first round draft pick a few snaps in 2017, similar to the strategy Fox used with Tim Tebow in Denver.
Meanwhile, the team has a number of questions when it comes to who will catch the football. Whether Cam Meredith can shoulder the load for a second-straight year or if Kevin White can just appear on the field for 16 games without injury remain a big question.
The same goes for the front seven on defense, especially outside linebackers Pernell McPhee and Leonard Floyd who can provide a solid pass rush provided they stay healthy. With a number of new and unproven personnel, the secondary is as big a mystery as any other position group.
Fox is hopeful that the Bears injury woes – which forced a patchwork team on the field for most of 2016 – can change this coming season. At the very least, he feels more secure in the current core of players than at any point during his three-year tenure in Chicago.
“Continuity helps. As I mentioned before, we’ve got a lot of new guys now, we had a lot of new guys to start,” said Fox. “As I look back last year, we added Josh Sitton right before Game 1 of the regular season, we finished the season – the last six games of the season – with a quarterback that wasn’t even in camp with us.
“So hopefully we’ve built some more depth and guys that understand our systems better.”
Fox along with the fans won’t know for sure if that’s the case until the weather gets much cooler than it was on Thursday. At least some effort and a fuller roster makes him feel a bit better about the team as they head towards a warm summer break.