CHICAGO BEARS (8-9)
CAMP SITE: Lake Forest, Illinois
LAST YEAR: The Bears made the playoffs for a second time in coach Matt Nagy’s three seasons despite going 8-8 for a second year in a row. QB Mitchell Trubisky got benched in Week 3 in favor of veteran Nick Foles before returning to the lineup in late November. The Bears lost six straight in their worst skid since 2002 and eight of their final 11 outings, counting the playoff defeat. They were the seventh and final seed in the expanded postseason field, then bowed out with a convincing wild-card loss at New Orleans.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: QB Justin Fields, QB Andy Dalton, OT Teven Jenkins, WR Marquise Goodwin, RB Damien Williams, OL Elijah Wilkinson, CB Desmond Trufant, DT Mike Pennel, defensive coordinator Sean Desai.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: QB Mitchell Trubisky, CB Kyle Fuller, LT Charles Leno Jr., RT Bobby Massie, defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano.
CAMP NEEDS: All eyes will be on the quarterbacks. The Bears have been consistent in saying Dalton is their starter since they signed the three-time Pro Bowler to a one-year, $10 million contract in March. That hasn’t changed since they traded up nine spots with the Giants to draft Fields with the No. 11 pick. Even if Dalton starts Week 1, how long he will stay in that spot? Chicago appears to be trying to follow the Kansas City blueprint in which Patrick Mahomes essentially redshirted for his 2017 rookie season behind Alex Smith. But Dalton doesn’t have a track record of success with his current team that Smith did in Kansas City. Another question is whether NT Eddie Goldman will report on time. The talented run stopper opted out of last season because of the pandemic, missed voluntary workouts and had an unexcused absence from minicamp. The Bears also have new a defensive coordinator after promoting Desai from safeties coach to replace retired Pagano.
KEY CAMP COMPETITIONS: The Bears appear mostly set on the offensive line, with C Sam Mustipher, LG Cody Whitehair, RG James Daniels, RT Germain Ifedi, and Jenkins likely at LT. Rookie Larry Borom could push Ifedi. Jaylon Johnson figures to move into the top CB spot with Fuller gone. Opposite him, it could be veterans Trufant or Artie Burns as well as second-year pro Kindle Vildor.
EXPECTATIONS: The Bears looked like they might be propping open a championship window when they won the NFC North at 12-4 in Nagy’s first season. Two disappointing years later, the heat is on GM Ryan Pace and Nagy. Chairman George McCaskey opted to stick with them, citing the team’s culture and how “they’ve handled adversity the last two seasons.” Fields’ arrival gave fans a huge jolt of excitement and belief that the Bears might have the franchise QB they’ve lacked for decades. He was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2019 and Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year each of his two seasons at Ohio State after transferring from Georgia. He comes to the NFL with far more experience than Trubisky, the No. 2 pick in 2017 draft.
FANDUEL SUPER BOWL ODDS: +4800
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