Bears

Bears not alone with 0-3 woes, but loss to Seahawks offers one key upside

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Bears not alone with 0-3 woes, but loss to Seahawks offers one key upside

SEATTLE — Sometimes the absence of pain can be taken as pleasure, and a loss that could have been a humiliation somehow looks better because it wasn’t completely embarrassing. But Sunday’s 26-0 loss felt at times like a fourth preseason game, with a backup quarterback throwing to wide receivers who would start only in a fourth preseason game (Eddie Royal excepted).

Maybe some overall perspective first:

If you’re a Bears fan needing something to feel upbeat about, how do you think folks in Detroit feel about their Lions, projected to be pretty good, who are also 0-3 and that’s with Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and most of the players that matter? What do the Lions have to look forward to? The Baltimore Ravens are 0-3 and they have Joe Flacco (and Marc Trestman as their offensive coordinator). The New Orleans Saints are 0-3 and they (mostly) have Drew Brees.

Injuries aren’t an excuse but in the Bears’ case, they certainly are a reason. “As I said last week, ‘We’re 0-2,’” head coach John Fox said. “We’ll get better. We will get some guys back hopefully at some point. We will be a little bit more whole. There are enough guys in there that we can generate enough good football to win games.”

One reality is that the Bears might even have played fairly well over their first three games and been 0-3. But ultimately they did not, and the loss to the Seattle Seahawks left unanswered what kind of team the Bears really are.

Or maybe it did answer that without Jay Cutler, Alshon Jeffery, Jeremiah Ratliff and maybe Kevin White, the Bears cannot compete in the 2015 NFL with anybody much good.

[MORE BEARS: Linebackers strong but worn out thanks to offense]

All things considered

If there were nothing constructive in the loss at Seattle, the situation would be far, far more dire. But one of the treats on game days is standing by to do my segment of our Postgame Live show that features Lance Briggs, Dan Jiggetts and Jim Miller. And when three former NFL players with long histories of straight talk are talking about positives that they observed in Sunday’s game, then it’s a pretty sure thing that something had transpired on the plus side.

The main one Sunday night was the arrival of a pass rush without coordinator Vic Fangio needing to go into a panic mode, which he abhors anyway. Pernell McPhee played like the franchise linchpin he was signed to be (two sacks, two tackles for loss, four quarterback hits), and Jarvis Jenkins (two sacks, 10 tackles, two for losses and two quarterback hits) was the kind of impact down-lineman (for a game, at least) that Fangio had in San Francisco with Justin Smith.

“It starts with the interior. If the inside gets rush, that opens up the outside. We got good rushes in the first half and that’s when (Seattle) had to start clamping down. That’s 3-4 defense," Jenkins told CSNChicago.com. "You could see that with Vic Fangio in San Francisco with Justin Smith and those guys. It’s got to start with the D-line.”

And the D-line gets Ratliff back from suspension this week. Fox might not go in for candid public critiques of his players but neither does he usually say something is when it isn’t, and “I think we’re making headway,” he said. “I think we made headway in some phases of our defense. But we still have a long way to go.”

Not that it necessarily counts for anything, but the attitude is right. Defensive tackle Ego Ferguson followed Jenkins’ first sack with a bit of trash-yelling and 12th-man baiting of the Seattle fans in the south end zone.

“Hey, that’s what it’s all about,” McPhee said. “We gotta make up our minds that we are a defense people are going to be scared of. That’s how we have to play the rest of the year.”

[MORE BEARS: Jimmy Clausen can't trigger offense in shutout loss]

But over on offense

The results with Jimmy Clausen were about what should have been expected, maybe a little bit worse, but better quarterbacks than Clausen have struggled against the Seahawks in Seattle, and getting Oakland in Soldier Field is potentially a more manageable assignment than Sunday’s.

But the Bears cannot entertain thoughts of progress when they have 10 possessions and punt 10 times (if you want a positive, at least they went through a game without a turnover for the first time this season).

And even a bad team should be able to do better than five second-half possessions with four ending as three-and-out’s and the fifth a four-play possession. The last time the Bears were shut out was a 15-0 blanking by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with the Bears also rolling out a backup quarterback — Henry Burris — who threw four interceptions among his 19 attempts. Clausen wasn’t that bad, at least.

Special teams were, however. The Bears are using starters on coverage (including linebacker Sam Acho, safety Antrel Rolle) and gave up three 60-plus-yard returns in the span of barely six quarters, including the kickoff-return touchdown Sunday in a play that clinched the outcome, given the obvious limitations and shortcomings of the Clausen-led offense.

Chicago Bears Training Camp: Veteran and rookie report dates

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USA Today

Chicago Bears Training Camp: Veteran and rookie report dates

Chicago Bears training camp is right around the corner with the first practice (non-padded) scheduled for July 21. 

Bears veterans and rookies will report a few days ahead of that first session to acclimate themselves to their new (for some) surroundings. Rookies report on July 16, with veterans coming three days later on July 19.

All eyes will be on QB Mitch Trubisky and the potentially high-flying offense under coach Matt Nagy. Training camp will take on extra importance because of the plethora of new faces on the roster and coaching staff as well as the installation of a completely new offensive scheme. It's critical that Trubisky builds chemistry with wide receivers Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and Kevin White, all of whom he's never thrown a regular-season pass to. Add Trey Burton to that mix and a lot of miscues should be expected in the preseason.

The rookie class is led by linebacker Roquan Smith, who remains unsigned. With less than 30 days until rookies are required to report, a greater sense of urgency -- even if it's not quite a panic -- is certainly creeping in. Assuming he's signed in time, Smith should earn a starting role early in training camp and ascend to one of the defense's top all-around players. 

The Bears have higher-than-usual expectations heading into the 2018 season making fans eager for summer practices to get underway.

Leonard Floyd picked as potential Pro Bowler in 2018

Leonard Floyd picked as potential Pro Bowler in 2018

The Chicago Bears need a big season from outside linebacker Leonard Floyd. He's the team's best pass-rush option and the only legitimate threat to post double-digit sacks this year.

Floyd joined the Bears as a first-round pick (No. 9 overall) in 2016 and has flashed freakish talent at times. The problem has been his health; he's appeared in only 22 games through his first two seasons. 

Floyd's rookie year -- especially Weeks 5 through 9 -- showed a glimpse of the kind of disruptive force he's capable of becoming. He registered seven sacks and looked poised to breakout in 2017. Unfortunately, injuries limited him to only 10 games and four sacks.

Despite his disappointing sophomore season, NFL.com's Gil Brandt has high hopes for Floyd in 2018. The long-time NFL personnel executive named Floyd as the Bear with the best chance to earn a first-time trip to the Pro Bowl.

CHICAGO BEARS: Leonard Floyd, OLB, third NFL season. Floyd had seven sacks as a rookie in 2016, but missed six games last season due to a knee injury. He's a talented guy who can drop into coverage or rush with his hand on the ground and should play much better this season. He also has become much stronger since coming into the league.

The Bears will be in a heap of trouble if Floyd doesn't emerge as a Pro Bowl caliber player. There aren't many pass-rushing options on the roster outside of Floyd aside from Aaron Lynch and rookie Kylie Fitts. Neither edge defender has a resume strong enough to rely on as insurance.

It's a critical year for Floyd's future in Chicago, too. General manager Ryan Pace will decide whether to pick up Floyd's fifth-year option in his rookie contract next offseason. If he plays well, it's a no-brainer. If not, Pace could be looking at two straight first-round picks (see: Kevin White) that he's declined the extra year.

We're a long way from that decision. Until then, the Bears' season may sink or swim based on its pass rush. It begins -- and ends -- with Floyd.