Bears Training Camp Preview: 3 burning questions for the linebackers

Bears Training Camp Preview: 3 burning questions for the linebackers

With training camp starting later this month, CSN Chicago’s Chris Boden and JJ Stankevitz are looking at three burning questions for each of the Bears’ units heading into Bourbonnais. Today’s group: The linebacking corps.

1. Can Floyd be Beasley 2.0?

At this time a year ago, Falcons fans were anxious that picking Vic Beasley eighth overall in 2015 was a mistake after a four-sack rookie season. Fifteen-and-a-half sacks later on Dan Quinn’s young, fast defense that improved as the season went on, they’re claiming they believed in him all along. There seems to be less doubt about the ninth overall pick from 2016 among Bears fans, but the anxiousness now revolves around Leonard Floyd’s ability to stay healthy for a full season after various aches and pains, topped off by two concussions in five weeks, from which he didn’t fully recover until February.

With approximately eight to 10 additional pounds on his frame, the first step is getting through Bourbonnais and three preseason games. If he can pull it off and miss minimal time, Beasley’s year two numbers might be a bit much, but there’s no reason to think Floyd can’t at least approach it.

“It’s like night and day compared to last season,” said Floyd.  “I’m doing a much better job this year with my weight compared to last year. I came in way, way lighter than I did this year.”

“It slows down, they understand it, they’re not thinking, they’re reacting,” said John Fox about the difference between a player’s rookie and sophomore season. “I expect that, and I’ve seen it already, even in the offseason. He’s a really good talent. I’d rather understate and let him over-produce, but both mentally and physically, he’s gonna take a step.”

[3 burning questions: Defensive line]

2. How much Pernell pacing in practice?

It’s an important year for Ryan Pace’s first big personnel decision. It’s become clear the Ravens chose not to re-sign Pernell McPhee two years ago because of fears about the wear and tear on his legs at the weight he was at. The first half of his first season, McPhee lived up to billing. Since then? Five sacks in 16 games. He seems now to be in the 270-pound range after starting his Bears career in the 280/285-pound range. He’s also coming off labrum surgery, an injury that slowed him once he finally came off the PUP list last season. The important thing will be having him full strength for the season-opening Murderer’s Row in a 19-day span of Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh and Green Bay.

“Dominate and destroy,” were the words that only McPhee can come up with when asked about the pass rush ceiling for the outside linebackers. “Every opponent that we face, and showing the world why we’ve got these guys in the room. That’s my focus. That’s what I wanna do and I think what we’re gonna do.”

3. “Kwit” a quick study?

It would be shocking if inside linebacker Danny Trevathan doesn’t begin the season on the same Physically Unable to Perform list McPhee started on a year ago after tearing the patellar tendon in his knee in November. Nick Kwiatkowski missed almost all of his rookie preseason with a hamstring pull, but started the last six weeks between Trevathan’s injury and Jerrell Freeman’s suspension. And he didn’t look overwhelmed. Now, potentially alongside Freeman’s standout play and guidance, Kwiatkowski must be ready to slide in and take the next step in a way Fox expressed confidence in all the second-year players.

“He’s trying to absorb a lot of things, trying to get his footwork better, his pass rush better, just like all of us strive to every day,” said Freeman.

Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman saved a man's life at an airport

Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman saved a man's life at an airport

Jerrell Freeman played hero at an Austin airport on Sunday.

The Bears linebacker was grabbing a bite to eat before his flight to head back to Chicago for training camp when he noticed a man choking.

Freeman said an older lady tried to perform the Heimlich maneuver on the man but didn't have enough strength. That's when Freeman stepped in, and after a couple attempts, saved his life.

“I grabbed him and tried to squeeze the life out of him,” Freeman told the Chicago Tribune. “You’ve got to push in and up. So I did that and he started throwing up what he was choking on. I asked him if he was all right and he shook his head like ‘No!’

“I grabbed him again and hit him again with it. And when I put him down the second time, his eyes got big. He was like, ‘Oh, my god! I think you just saved my life, man!’ It was crazy.”

Freeman tweeted a picture after it happened:

Freeman, 31, said he had never done the Heimlich maneuver before, but his mom is a nurse and had talked to him about it. He just did what he heard, and thankfully it worked.

Bears training camp preview: 3 burning questions for coaching staff

Bears training camp preview: 3 burning questions for coaching staff

With Bears players reporting for training camp Wednesday, CSN Chicago’s Chris Boden and JJ Stankevitz have been spending the last two weeks looking at three burning questions at each position group. The series concludes with Boden’ s look at the coaching staff.

1. Can John Fox find a balance between necessary snaps, and staying healthy?

Unless he’s practicing this team every day (he’s not) and hitting every day (he’s not doing that, either), a coach really can’t be blamed for injuries. That out-of-his-hands factor has kept his first two years from a true evaluation, yet every team has to deal with them. He and Ryan Pace have been particularly hamstrung (pun intended) by the fact so many key, high draft picks/building blocks and impact free agent signings (see Pernell McPhee, Danny Trevathan, Eddie Royal) have spent significant time on the sidelines. 

Fox tweaked the workout schedule in Bourbonnais with more consistent start times (all in the 11 a.m. hour), mixing in off-days and walk-throughs. Yet there are heavy competitions to sift through, particularly at wide receiver, cornerback, and safety, and projected starters must learn to get used to each other (and the offense get used to Mike Glennon) so that miscommunication is at a minimum. The Falcons, Buccaneers, Steelers and Packers won’t wait for them to get on the same page over the first 19 days of the regular season.

2. How does Dowell Loggains divide up quarterback snaps?

His starting quarterback basically hasn’t played since 2014 and is trying to master a new system, working with new receivers. All while Mike Glennon tries to be “all systems go”-ready on Sept. 10. Loggains is also in charge of developing the quarterback of the future, who never previously worked under center or called a huddle. If Mitch Trubisky isn’t the backup to start the season, Mark Sanchez, who missed all of minicamp with a knee injury, has to gain enough of a comfort level with the playbook and his receivers to slide in in the event of an emergency. These practices usually top out at about two hours, maybe a bit longer. Will there basically be two practices going on at the same time? If so, how can Loggains and the offensive assistants not overdo it for those at other positions?

3. Are Vic Fangio and Leonard Floyd tied at the hip?

The defensive coordinator still oversees all the position groups, but will focus particularly on the oustide linebackers and the prized pupil, Leonard Floyd. Fangio says he liked what he’s seen of the 2016 first-round pick this off-season, once he recovered from his second concussion. But he said all the bumps, bruises, strains, pulls, and bell-ringing didn’t mean anything more than an incomplete rookie grade. At this point, he’d probably like to be joined to Floyd’s hip in Bourbonnais, because that means he’ll be staying on the practice field, learning. “3b” in this category would be Ed Donatell sorting through a long list of young defensive backs to find the right pieces to keep for the present and future, in addition to finding four starters who’ll take the ball away a lot better than they’ve done the past two seasons.