The Bears wrapped up training camp Tuesday in Bourbonnais and will now enter regular preseason mode with their second practice game coming Thursday against the Chargers.
The team has plenty to work on to get ready for regular season action, but there are a handful of concerns I still have regarding the outlook of the team.
Here’s a look at what those concerns are:
Brandon Marshall’s hip health
Most of the talk throughout training camp has been about Marc Trestman, Jay Cutler, the offensive line, and rookie development, but little has been said about Brandon Marshall. After offseason arthroscopic hip surgery, Marshall has been flying under the radar. He was given some rest in training camp after feeling soreness. This cannot be an issue for him this season or else it’ll be a big issue for the Bears.
Earl Bennett and Henry Melton’s concussions
Bennett suffered a concussion in training camp and Melton got dinged with one in the first preseason game against the Panthers. Both of these players should be contributors this season, particularly Melton. Bennett suffered a concussion back in December and it’d be a shame if this became a recurring situation that ultimately led him out of football. The Bears can’t afford to be without their disruptive force up the middle in Melton.
The stability at right tackle
The Bears’ new coaching staff saw enough of J’Marcus Webb in training camp and the first preseason game and moved him out of the starting lineup. Rookie Jordan Mills is being given a look at right tackle, which is a scary proposition if the youngster isn’t ready yet. With Kyle Long anchoring at right guard, there are two rookies on that side of the line. If Mills bombs, veteran Jonathan Scott better offer stability at the position.
The successful implementation of an entirely new offense
Jay Cutler said it. Others have confirmed it. It takes about three years for a quarterback to pick up all the nuances of a new offense, but Cutler doesn’t have that luxury in a contract year. Plus, many other Bears veterans who are on a one-year contract and in a Super Bowl-or-bust season don’t have that luxury. Can the Bears pick up enough of Trestman’s offense to be successful this season? How long will it take them to start “getting it?”
Cohesion at linebacker
Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher anchored the defense for the past 10 years. Even Nick Roach was a steady influence with the team. Exit Urlacher and Roach and enter James Anderson, Jon Bostic and D.J. Williams. Briggs has a lot more responsibility on his plate this year with making the defensive calls and adjustments and working with two new faces on that level of the defense can’t be an easy adjustment. When you work with someone for a long time, you start to pick up on tendencies and you know what each other is doing. I’m not so sure Briggs will pick that up with his new teammates in short order.
Losing Kelvin Hayden could be a bigger loss that many are letting on. This is a passing league and the Bears just happen to be in a passing division with teams like Green Bay and Detroit slinging the ball through the air. And when facing passing teams, the Bears need to be in nickel defense and Hayden’s veteran presence on the field would have been comforting. Second-year player Isaiah Frey had a good training camp but is he really ready to step into the limelight? If he falters in game action, where do the Bears go? Do they slide Tim Jennings into the nickel and bring Zack Bowman into corner? Do they look outside the organization for help?
Depth in secondary
The overall depth in the secondary at both cornerback and safety is a little unnerving. Beyond starting Pro Bowl cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings, there’s cause for concern with backups who have not had much experience outside Bowman (who has had his own struggles at the position). After starting safeties Chris Conte and Major Wright, there’s a whole mess of confusion. Craig Steltz is a veteran but never good enough to contribute on a regular basis. Second-year pro Brandon Hardin missed all of his rookie season and hasn’t played in two years. Anthony Walters is more of a special teams player and quick fill in. You worry about the health of Wright and Conte.