Bears

Three questions for Bears QBs: Just how good can Mitch Trubisky be?

Three questions for Bears QBs: Just how good can Mitch Trubisky be?

Pre-camp depth chart

1. Mitch Trubisky
2. Chase Daniel
3. Tyler Bray

1. How much of Matt Nagy’s offense can Trubisky handle?

Matt Nagy, Mark Helfrich and Dave Ragone threw a lot at Trubisky during OTAs and minicamp, turning the practice fields at Halas Hall into a sort of offensive test kitchen. The goal was to not only challenge Trubisky’s ability to understand all that information, but to see what worked and what didn’t for the second-year quarterback. That led to some hit-or-miss results during team activities, though a positive sign was how fast the offense played during June’s veteran minicamp when Nagy pared things back and focused less on installation.

Backup Chase Daniel estimated the Bears had installed 10 times the plays Kansas City did back in 2013, when Andy Reid, Doug Pederson and Nagy developed the first iteration of this offense. And by all accounts, Trubisky handled the learning process well — teammates complimented his ability to spit out lengthy play calls in the huddle, and when he got the verbiage wrong, he didn’t get frustrated.

Training camp will be another difficult test for Trubisky in terms of installation and learning, but that’s how the Bears want it. So you might see Trubisky make some mistakes in Bourbonnais, especially with the defense entering its fourth year running Vic Fangio’s scheme. But the most important thing for Trubisky isn’t eliminating those mistakes — it’s learning from them and not making them again.

“We have to set a foundation, we have to set something that all guys are comfortable with, and we’re going to rep the crap out of all those plays, all those protections, everything like that because if we don’t, we’ll never really have a solid foundation to build off,” Daniel said. “When we get into Week 1 (of the) preseason, then we can start adding some more flavor.”

2. Is Chase Daniel the right backup?

Here are two facts about Daniel: He’s thrown a grand total of three passes since 2014, and he has extensive knowledge of Nagy’s offense.

The Bears signed Daniel to, yes, be the guy to come off the bench in case something were to happen to Trubisky. What the Philadelphia Eagles did with Nick Foles after Carson Wentz tore his ACL last year put a spotlight on the importance of backup quarterbacks (think some teams, like the Houston Texans, could’ve used Colin Kaepernick?). Daniel has never attempted more than 38 passes in a single season in his career, and while he’s confident he could do well if called upon, ideally for the Bears the 31-year-old doesn’t have to play much this year.

What Daniel was brought here for was to provide another resource for Trubisky. Not only does Daniel know Nagy’s offense well from spending 2013-2015 with him in Kansas City, but he spent four years with an up-close look at one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL in Drew Brees while with the New Orleans Saints. So far, the pairing of Daniel and Trubisky has been beneficial beneath the Nagy-Helfrich-Ragone trio: During OTAs, Daniel’s knowledge of the offense meant he could show Trubisky checks and reads he may not have seen yet within a play, for instance.

“I think just having experience in the offense and knowing hey, this route is going to come open for this coverage or hey, I know my checks versus certain coverages,” Daniel said. “This offense is very quarterback-centric, it puts a lot of pressure on the quarterback to get in and out of the right play at the right time, and to make the right decision post-snap. I think Mitch is learning that and doing a really good job.”

3. How good can Trubisky be?

This isn’t the only question that matters for the 2018 Bears, but it is the most important. When all the hype about the offseason moves made by Ryan Pace is stripped away, what matters the most is if the Bears have a good quarterback or not.

The Bears are, of course, confident they have a good one in Trubisky. But Trubisky completed only 59 percent of his passes as a rookie and threw as many touchdowns as interceptions (seven) while winning only four of 12 starts. Granted, those numbers came while working with a sub-optimal coaching staff and a sub-optimal group of teammates (though you’d never get Trubisky to say that — he impressed everyone at Halas Hall with how he handled all that losing last year).

We won’t know the answer to this question until sometime this fall, after we see Trubisky operate Nagy’s offense for a few weeks or months. But like OTAs and minicamp, training camp and preseason games will be critical for building Trubisky’s foundation for the 2018 season.

So should you watch for in Bourbonnais and then in the five preseason games (only three of which Trubisky will likely play in)? Keep this general frame around those games and practices: If Trubisky makes a mistake, that’s okay, so long as he doesn’t make the same mistake twice.

Is Jordan Howard underrated in fantasy football?

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USA Today

Is Jordan Howard underrated in fantasy football?

Jordan Howard has accomplished some pretty amazing things to start his career. Most notably, he's the only running back in Chicago Bears franchise history to finish his first two seasons with more than 1,000 rushing yards, including 1,313 yards as a rookie, good for a team rookie record.

Still, Howard has been the target of criticism this offseason because of his questionable set of hands. He was plagued by a case of the drops last season and he's been labeled as a guy who can't catch the ball heading into 2018. Combine that with the player nipping at his heels -- Tarik Cohen -- and the overwhelming theory advanced by analysts is that he'll give way to Cohen on passing downs.

This presumption has made its way into the world of fantasy football, too. Howard is rarely if ever mentioned as one of the first running backs that should be drafted this summer and in a recent player vs. player showdown on Pro Football Focus, 49ers starter Jerick McKinnon was selected as a more appealing fantasy starter in 2018.

It’s close, but I give the nod to Jerick McKinnon. Howard’s troubles in the passing game are very real and it’s clear the Bears want to focus on that more this year. Meanwhile, McKinnon was handed a fat contract and has little competition when it comes to carries.

McKinnon, a career backup, was signed by San Franciso to be Kyle Shanahan's feature running back. He has a real chance to be a stud in fantasy circles, but should he be valued over a guy like Howard who's proven to be a contender for the NFL's rushing crown?

All of this offseason chatter will serve as great motivation for Howard who has to prove, first and foremost, that he can be a three-down back for coach Matt Nagy in the Bears' new offense. If he has a consistent training camp as a receiver and carries that momentum into the preseason and regular season, those fantasy players who draft McKinnon or another less-proven player over Howard will long for a redo.

15 Most Important Bears of 2018: No. 8 - Eddie Goldman

15 Most Important Bears of 2018: No. 8 - Eddie Goldman

Eddie Goldman is entering the final year of his contract this season and in order to cash in on a big payday, he'll need to stay healthy and make good on his top-tier potential. 

If he does, he'll become a very wealthy man and the Bears defense will have an even better year than its top-10 finish a season ago.

Goldman, 24, came to Chicago via the second round of the 2015 NFL draft and quickly became a household name among Bears fans. He started 12 games that season and finished with a surprising 4 1/2 sacks, a total that was more productive than his college scouting report predicted. He was pegged as a breakout star for 2016, but injuries ultimately derailed his second season. He played only six games that year (started five) but still flashed a surprisingly productive set of pass-rush traits; he finished 2016 with 2 1/2 sacks.

This past season represented something of a mixed bag for Goldman. He started 15 games and quieted some of the injury concerns that started bubbling around him, but his production dipped. He managed only 1 1/2 sacks. That said, he set a career-high with 27 tackles, nearly doubling his output as a rookie.

Still, Goldman wasn't a dominant force in 2017. He finished the year ranked 69th among interior defenders with a 76.3 grade from Pro Football Focus. Despite being healthy and available, it was the lowest season grade of his career from PFF.

Nose tackle is arguably the most critical position for any defense running a 3-4 scheme. It's no exception in Chicago. Goldman will set the table for linebackers Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith and the more bodies he can consume or attention he can draw from offensive lines, the more room second-level defenders will have to work. It's not just about filling up the stat sheet for Goldman. If he clogs running lanes and collapses the pocket consistently, he'll be worth every penny of a big contract extension despite lacking numbers.

The Bears need Goldman to bring his A-game in 2018, especially as a pass rusher. Chicago resides in arguably the most talented quarterback division in the NFL and for the defense to make those quarterbacks uncomfortable, Goldman has to apply pressure up the middle. He's proven he can do it, as evidenced by his rookie year production. But he's been on a steady decline in this area of his game since then and there's no room for more regression in 2018.

Players entering contract years tend to bring extra motivation to the field and there's no reason to expect anything less from Goldman. If he can combine his rookie year production with last season's availability, he could end up with the most well-rounded year of his career en route to leading the Bears' defensive line on a late-season playoff push.