Bears training camp preview: 3 burning questions for the quarterbacks

Bears training camp preview: 3 burning questions for the quarterbacks

With training camp starting in just over a week, CSN Chicago’s Chris Boden and JJ Stankevitz are looking at three burning questions for each of the Bears position units heading into Bourbonnais. Today’s group: The quarterbacks, which have more questions than answers right now. 

1. When will Mitch Trubisky start his first game?

This will be the central question surrounding the Bears until a date is set for the Quarterback Who Was Promised to start. Will it be this year’s season opener? Unlikely, given the constant reassurances that this is Mike Glennon’s year. Could it be sometime in the middle or end of the season? Probably, if Trubisky picks up Dowell Loggains’ offense quickly and the Bears’ offense is mired in mediocrity. Could it be in 2018? Likely, unless Glennon shows something he didn’t with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and earns a chance to stick around for the second year of his three-year contract. The Bears’ ideal scenario is to give Trubisky plenty of time to develop, so when he does become the team’s starting quarterback, he can immediately thrive. That’s why the Bears committed to at least one year and as many as three years of Glennon a month and a half before drafting their quarterback of the future. 

“I’ve made a lot of progress,” Trubisky said back in June. “I’d say I’m getting better every day. I’m getting a little bit more comfortable every day. I’m studying a lot. I’ve put in more work on this playbook than I’ve put into anything in my life. And yeah, it’s coming along great. I’m getting more and more comfortable. I’ve seen strides in different areas every day.”

2. Who’s the backup?

This is a separate question from the first one, even if the answer to it is Trubisky. There are a couple of mitigating factors here heading into training camp — first, the knee injury Mark Sanchez suffered during OTAs, and second, the fact Trubisky as of Monday afternoon still has yet to sign a contract. Sanchez is expected to be ready for the beginning of training camp, and there haven’t been any alarm bells going off about Trubisky yet with still over a week until the Bears’ first practice in Bourbonnais. But who the team’s backup will be on Sept. 10 is a fascinating question: If it’s Trubisky, does that mean the coaching staff feels he’s ready to start? Or if it’s Sanchez (or Connor Shaw, for that matter), does that mean Trubisky may not see game action until November or December at the earliest? 

“A lot has been made of our quarterback situation, whether it’s Mike Glennon, Mark Sanchez or even Mitch Trubisky,” coach John Fox said. “The only guy there that was here a year ago was Connor Shaw. We need to get those guys caught up but we’ve got good competition between guys that are good teammates, good people and they are working very very hard.”

3. What do the Bears have in Mike Glennon?

Let’s put this another way: What if Glennon turns out to be a solid, productive quarterback? It's unlikely a guy who’s only thrown 11 passes since the end of the 2014 season and who wasn’t able to hang on to his job — twice — with bad Tampa Bay teams could be an upper-echelon quarterback, but what if he roughly mirrors Andy Dalton with a low interception total and high completion percentage on a six-win team? Does that earn Glennon another opportunity to start with the Bears, or do they still move on from him after the season to clear the path for Trubisky? This would be a good problem for the Bears to have, of course. On the flip side, how much rope does Glennon get if his numbers are similar to the ones he had in Tampa Bay (59.4 completion percentage, 30 TDs, 15 INTs in 630 passing attempts) and the Bears struggle early in the season? If Glennon gets benched, then we go right back to trying to answer both questions No. 1 and No. 2 here. But the way the Bears have presented their quarterbacks, the Glennon question needs to be figured out before we get any answers about Trubisky.

"I’m here, this is my year, and the meetings are geared around me,” Glennon said. “Am I going to help Mitch as much as I can? Definitely. I’m going to be a great teammate. But my job is to win football games for the Chicago Bears. And that’s where my head’s at.”

Bears training camp preview: Three burning questions for the offensive line

Bears training camp preview: Three burning questions for the offensive line

With training camp starting next week, CSN Chicago’s Chris Boden and JJ Stankevitz are looking at three burning questions for each of the Bears’ position groups heading into Bourbonnais. Friday's unit: the offensive line. 

1. Will Kyle Long and Josh Sitton flip spots, and will it be effective?

One of the more intriguing storylines to come out of the Bears’ offseason program was the possibility of a Kyle Long-Josh Sitton guard swap, with Long moving from right to left and Sitton to left to right. The prevailing wisdom is that Long’s athleticism would be better suited for the pulls needed at left guard, while Sitton has made Pro Bowls at both positions. But is it prudent for the Bears to make this switch with Long still recovering from November ankle surgery and some nasty complications that came after it? He’s shown he’s skilled enough to already make one position switch on the offensive line (from right tackle to right guard), so there’s no reason to doubt he couldn’t handle another so long as he’s healthy. We’ll see where he is next week. 

“You want flexibility,” coach John Fox said. “You don’t want as much flexibility as we had to use a year ago because we had to play so many guys due to injury. But we’re messing around with (Sitton) and Kyle both playing opposite sides, whether one’s on the left, one’s on the right. We’ll get those looks in camp, we got plenty of time.”

2. Can Charles Leno Jr. capitalize on a contract year?

Leno has been a pleasant surprise given the low expectations usually set for seventh-round picks. He started every game in 2016, checking off an important box for John Fox — reliability. Whether Leno can be more than a reliable player at left tackle, though, remains to be seen (if the Bears thought he were, wouldn’t they have signed him to an extension by now?). He has one more training camp and 16 games to prove he’s worthy of a deal to be the Bears (or someone else’s) left tackle of the future. Otherwise, the Bears may look to a 2018 draft class rich in tackles led by Texas’ Connor Williams and Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey. 

“I know if I take care of my business out here, everything else will take care of itself,” Leno said. 

3. Will Hroniss Grasu survive the roster crunch?

A year ago, Grasu was coming off a promising rookie season and was in line to be the Bears’ starting center. But the Oregon product tore his ACL in August, and Cody Whitehair thrived after a last-minute move from guard to center. If the Bears keep eight offensive lineman this year, Grasu could be squeezed out: Leno, Long, Whitehair, Sitton and Bobby Massie are the likely starters, with Eric Kush and Tom Compton filling reserve roles. That leaves one spot, either for fifth-round guard Jordan Morgan or Grasu. The Bears could try to stash Morgan, who played his college ball at Division-II Kutztown, on the practice squad and keep Grasu. But Grasu doesn’t have flexibility to play another position besides center, which could hurt his case. 

Bears training camp preview: 3 burning questions for tight ends

Bears training camp preview: 3 burning questions for tight ends

With training camp starting next week, CSN Chicago’s Chris Boden and JJ Stankevitz are looking at three burning questions for each of the Bears’ position groups heading into Bourbonnais. Thursday's unit: the tight ends.

1. Will Zach Miller make the 53-man roster?

Miller didn’t play a single down from 2012-14, and has missed seven games in two seasons with the Bears, but he’s been productive when on the field: 110 targets, 81 receptions, 925 yards and nine touchdowns. But the Bears signed Dion Sims to an $18 million contract and then drafted Adam Shaheen in the second round of the draft, moves that seemingly put Miller in a precarious position heading into Bourbonnais. Not helping Miller’s case is the Lisfranc fracture he suffered last November, which kept him sidelined through OTAs and veteran minicamp in May and June. He’d be a valuable player for the Bears to keep around, but at the same time, training camp could be a perfect storm for Miller to be among the cuts.

“They’re going to cutting it close for training camp,” coach John Fox said of Miller (and Danny Trevathan) in June. “But right now they’re right on target and that’s kind of what we expected all offseason.”

2. What can we expect from Adam Shaheen?

Shaheen was among the bright spots during May and June, hardly looking like someone who played his college ball at Division II Ashland while going against NFL defenders. But those were just shorts-and-helmets practices without any contact, so it’d be premature to project anything about Shaheen off of them. The real test for Shaheen will be when he puts the pads on in Bourbonnais and gets his first experience with the physicality of the NFL after a few years of being head and shoulders — literally — above his competition in college. It’s unlikely Shaheen will live up to his “Baby Gronk” hype in Year 1, but if he handles training camp well, he could be a valuable red zone asset for Mike Glennon as a rookie. 

“You don’t know until you put the pads on,” Shaheen said. “That’s what I’m excited for.”

3. How productive can this unit be?

Between Sims — who had a career high four touchdowns last year with the Miami Dolphins — and Shaheen, the Bears have two new, big targets for an offense that tied for 24th in the NFL with 19 passing touchdowns a year ago. If Miller sticks around, this group would have enviable depth. But even if he doesn’t, the Bears liked what they saw from Brown last year (16 receptions, 124 yards, 1 TD in six games). There are fewer questions about the tight ends heading into training camp than the receivers, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Glennon leans on this unit, especially early in the season.