Chicago Bears 2018 training camp primer

USA Today

Chicago Bears 2018 training camp primer

The Chicago Bears kick off 2018 training camp with veterans reporting to Bourbonnais on Thursday followed by the team's first practice on Friday, July 21. 

It's been an incredible offseason of change for a Bears team that needed it as badly as any franchise in the NFL. From the coaching staff to the skill players on offense, there's a slew of new names that will be trusted to get Chicago back on the winning track.

Recap of key offseason Changes:

Coaching Staff:

Head Coach: Matt Nagy
Offensive coordinator: Mark Helfrich
Running backs: Charles London
Wide receivers: Mike Furrey
Quarterbacks: Dave Ragone
Offensive line: Harry Hiestand
Assistant offensive line: Donovan Raiola
Tight ends: Kevin Gilbride
Offensive quality control: Mike Snyder
Offensive quality control: Brian Ginn
Offensive assistant: Shane Toub

*Defensive coaching staff has remained intact.

Free agency additions:

Allen Robinson (WR, No. 12)
Taylor Gabriel (WR, No. 18)
Trey Burton (TE, No. 88);
Aaron Lynch (OLB, No. 99)
Chase Daniel (QB, No. 4)
Tyler Bray (QB, No. 9)
 Bennie Fowler (WR, No. 13)
Marlon Brown (WR, No. 81)
Cody Parkey (K, No. 1) 

Draft picks:

Round 1: Roquan Smith (LB, No. 58)
Round 2: James Daniels (OC, No. 68)
Round 2: Anthony Miller (WR, No. 17)
Round 4: Joel Iyiegbuniwe (LB, No. 45)
Round 5: Bilal Nichols (DT, No. 98)
Round 6: Kylie Fitts (OLB, No. 49)
Round 7: Javon Wims (WR, RD 7, No. 83)

Undrafted free agent stock watch:

Andrew Trumbetti, DE Notre Dame (No. 48)
Michael Joseph, CB, Dubuque (No. 21)
Nick Orr, DB, TCU (No. 46)
Ryan Winslow, P, Pitt (No. 6)
Kevin Toliver, CB, LSU (No. 33)
Ryan Nall, RB, Oregon State (No. 35)
Dejon Allen, OL, Hawaii (No. 62)
Cavon Walker, DL, Maryland (No. 78)
Bunmi Rotimi, DE, Old Dominion (No. 74)
Rashard Fant, CB, Indiana (No. 29)
Matt Fleming, WR, Benedictine (No. 2)
John Franklin, III, DB, Florida Atlantic (No. 43)

To see the complete Chicago Bears roster, click here.

Training camp battles to watch:

WR: Kevin White vs. Anthony Miller

OLB: Aaron Lynch vs. Kylie Fitts and Sam Acho

TE: Adam Shaheen vs. Dion Sims

DE: Jonathan Bullard vs. Roy Robertson-Harris and Bilal Nichols

ILB: Roquan Smith vs. Nick Kwiatkoski

Training camp schedule:

Attending practice? Here's what you need to know:

  • Gates will open at 7:30am each day, with the exception of the night practice at Ward Field, when gates will open at 6:30 pm.
  • Please make sure you have registered for your FREE ticket before reaching the gates and you have your FREE ticket ready to be scanned upon entry.
  • Campgrounds will remain open with fan and kid-friendly activities until 11:30 am each day, with the exception of the night practice at Ward Field, when activities will conclude at 10:30 pm.
  • The night practice on August 11 will take place at Ward Field.

Bears training camp will take place once again at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais. The Bears have held training camp at ONU every year since 2002.

Postcard from Camp: Adam Shaheen's ankle injury puts a halt on the solid growth he's made this preseason


Postcard from Camp: Adam Shaheen's ankle injury puts a halt on the solid growth he's made this preseason

Bears coach Matt Nagy wasn’t sure on Monday if Adam Shaheen’s right ankle sprain would keep him from playing Week 1 in Green Bay. If it does, though, it would represent the fourth consecutive regular season game the second-year tight end would miss dating back to last year. 

In a coincidental connection, too, it would mark the second straight year Shaheen wouldn’t be able to immediately build off a strong showing against the Cincinnati Bengals. Last December, Shaheen caught four of five targets for 44 yards with a touchdown in the Bears’ 33-7 win in Cincinnati; he caught all three of his targets for 53 yards against the Bengals in Aug. 9’s preseason game. 

Shaheen suffered a chest injury during that Bengals game last December and was inactive for the Bears’ final three games of the season. Coincidences aside, Shaheen’s ankle injury represents another speed bump in his developmental path, depending on the severity of it. 

But the good news, perhaps, is that Shaheen has made strides this training camp and preseason. We’ll look at one specific play against the Bengals that stands out below. 

To set it up: Earlier this month, Shaheen talked about how he’s improved at reading coverages and how that’s helped him improve as a route runner. That’s something that has come with experience as he enters Year 2 in the NFL. 

“It’s a big part of this offense as a receiver, recognize the coverage and where you need to be,” Shaheen said. “How you get there is everything.

“… There’s a little more not-so-much focus on, like, a perfect square cut. It’s more, like I said earlier, against this coverage you need to be in that hole at the right time. You might just be in that hole just pulling a defender another way to open up your teammate. That’s a big part.”

That growing savviness was on display in Cincinnati on Aug. 9. Specifically, this play:

Shaheen runs a drag over the middle on third-and-four but encounters linebacker Hardy Nickerson (red circle) standing in his way.

Instead of keeping strictly to the route and trying to run through or beneath Nickerson (yellow arrow), Shaheen faced up to the Bengals’ linebacker, did an inside-out juke move and goes to Nickerson's outside shoulder (blue arrow).

Shaheen is then able to use his strength and athleticism to gain leverage on Nickerson and work his way into the open field. 

The whole play took all of two seconds to develop, and by the time Chase Daniel releases the ball, Shaheen has a step on Nickerson. The result is not just a first down, but a 29-yard completion. 

“Some routes are locked in, and other ones we’ve got a little wiggle room to work,” Shaheen said. “Those ones are obviously very good to see a linebacker over there because you know you can really have an opportunity to get the ball and work him.”

Those little things will continue to grow Shaheen’s game with more experience. The potential is there for Shaheen to play a significant role in the Bears’ offense in 2018 — provided he’s healthy for the start of it. 

Construction and nature of Bears pass rush adds to potential impact of Leonard Floyd hand injury

Construction and nature of Bears pass rush adds to potential impact of Leonard Floyd hand injury

Measuring the impact and domino effect of Leonard Floyd’s fractured right hand suffered in the weekend win over the Denver Broncos is next to impossible at this juncture simply because what Floyd’s effectiveness will be in a cast isn’t remotely clear. Coach Matt Nagy noted Monday that players have functioned with a “club” for a hand but the Bears need more than Floyd just playing.

The injury, which required surgery, affects Floyd’s fingers, and irrespective of the specific injury, those requiring casting and club-like encasement have dramatically affected effectiveness in even the game’s top pass rushers: Clay Matthews in Green Bay (2013); Jason Pierre-Paul with the Giants (2015); J.J. Watt in Houston (2016).

Nagy used the word “relief” in talking about Floyd’s situation; good word choice. Because the Bears have lost elite linebackers to season-ending thumb or wrist injuries (Bryan Cox, 1996; Brian Urlacher 2009).

But any diminishing of Floyd’s effectiveness projects to a potential catastrophe for a Bears defense wanting to start fast and help an offense that will be learning to stand fully upright through its first season under Nagy. Pass rushers, particularly speed rushers, need their hands. And fingers.

The reason is more than simply Floyd. It’s the construction of the Bears defense and its rush options. Because in the Bears’ case, numbers can obscure the true nature – and degree of vulnerability – of the Bears’ pass rush.

The defense posted 42 sacks in 2017, ranking an eminently respectable tied for seventh despite being without a single defender with more than Akiem Hicks’ 8-1/2, and better than Arizona (17th) with Chandler Jones (17 sacks), for example.

That is both good news and bad news.

The good news is that a top-10 defense was not based on one individual rush terror – a Matthews, Watt, Von Miller. Consider it a rush-by-committee, with Floyd, Hicks, Sam Acho, Pernell McPhee, Willie Young or any of more than a half-dozen threats capable of delivering one of the single most devastating defensive plays other than a takeaway.

But that is also the bad news. Because the Bears lost McPhee, Young, Lamarr Houston and the players who produced more than one-third (14-1/2) of the 42 sacks.

This is more than a simple headcount issue; it’s an integrated-whole problem. The Bears had so many potential impact rushers, their scheme was able to bring pressure from different places and players. The rush may not have had one elite pocket disruptor, but it did have quantity to the point where double-teaming any one created opportunities that non-elite rushers exploited.

Acho benefitted from Young benefitted from McPhee benefitted from Hicks benefitted from Floyd benefitted from... You get the idea.

The point is that no Bears rusher was, or now, is, capable of exerting consistent dominance by himself, as great pass rushers do. Dan Hampton benefitted from Richard Dent, but Hampton was a Pro Bowl rush threat before Dent arrived. Watt had 20 1/2 sacks in 2012, before the Texans drafted Jadeveon Clowney, and 20 1/2 in 2014 when Clowney only played four games.

The Bears situation is not necessarily a crisis; the whole being greater than the sum of the parts is by definition the antithesis of crisis. But the Bears lost a significant number of those parts. Liken it to the Bears having a great offensive line and losing a couple of starters: The remaining starters could the better members of the “great” group, but unless the lost players are replaced with talent equal to or greater than the losses, the chances of the group achieving anywhere near what it was when it had all its components are slim.

Hicks is coming off a career year. But the Bears did little to replace Houston, McPhee and Young, who contributed both to Floyd’s development and his production. Now the pass rusher drafted to be a linchpin of the Bears defense has a significant impairment.

So does the entire defense.