Bears' offseason rivalry report: Green Bay Packers

Bears' offseason rivalry report: Green Bay Packers

Most of us are more than familiar with all the changes the Bears have made this offseason. As we continue our three-part weekend series on what moves their NFC North rivals have made, we continue with the biggest rival of all.

The Packers will no doubt be ready and waiting for the Bears in their Week 7 matchup at Lambeau, where John Fox and company stunned the Packers on Thanksgiving/Brett Favre Night. It was the highest moment of the season, bringing the Bears to a surprising 5-6 record, and in the thick of the NFC Wild Card hunt. Things then quickly went downhill, as the Bears dropped consecutive home games to the San Francisco 49ers and Washington Redskins, en route to four losses in the final five games of the season.

When it comes to the Packers, the offseason list of additions and subtractions is usually a short one, as general manager Ted Thompson's reputation for building within and keeping his homegrown products has been a successful formula.

Additions of note (*rookies): TE Jared Cook, *DT Kenny Clark, *OT Jason Spriggs, *OLB Kyler Fackrell, *ILB Blake Martinez, *DE Dean Lowry

Subtractions of note: DT B.J. Raji, DT Josh Boyd, CB Casey Hayward, QB Scott Tolzien, LB Nate Palmer, TE Andrew Quarless

Let's be honest, here, folks. The real impact additions to the Green and Gold will be Jordy Nelson and Eddie Lacy. Bears-killer Nelson missed all of last season after tearing an ACL in the preseason. Just his presence alone could have meant a different result Thanksgiving Night.  His return will make Randall Cobb and Davante Adams better, and will ramp up the fourth and fifth wideout competition between Jeff Janis, Jared Abbrederis, Ty Montgomery, and fifth-round pick Trevor Davis of Cal. And it's once again made James Jones jobless (which he still is). 

And if Lacy's down the 15 to 20 pounds that Mike McCarthy demanded after last season, as reports indicate, Aaron Rodgers is licking his chops again. And the one venture Thompson made into free agency — getting a much-needed target at tight end — will almost certainly pay off in the addition of ex-Titan and Ram Jared Cook, a step up from Richard Rodgers. The one gamble the Packers could take is having to rely upon sophomore Brett Hundley as Rodgers' backup after Tolzien went the free agency route to Indianapolis.

When Thompson traded up ahead of the Bears' second-round pick to select Spriggs, Ryan Pace traded down a second time in that round before settling on guard Cody Whitehair. While the Bears GM denied what it screamed (that Spriggs was the guy he wanted), it's two interesting career paths to watch between the offensive linemen over the next several years. Spriggs seems targeted to take over following the 2016 season for unrestricted free agent left tackle David Bakhtiari (if he doesn't win the job this year). Thompson has to find a way to pay Pro Bowl guards Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang, who are also UFA's after 2016. Popular fullback and special-teamer John Kuhn remains unsigned and may not return in 2016.

The desire on defense is to get Clay Matthews back to the outside, in pass-rush mode. If a combination of Sam Barrington (season-ending injury in last year's opener at Soldier Field) and fourth-rounders Jake Ryan (2015) and Martinez (2016) can hold down the middle, it'll free up Matthews to terrorize opposing quarterbacks again, with 36-year-old (!) Julius Peppers on the other side. Potential Peppers successor Fackrell (third round, Utah State) will study up behind Peppers, Mike Neal and Nick Perry.

The retirement of Raji set up a temporary defensive scramble and backup nose tackle Mike Pennel must serve a four-game suspension. That leaves their door open for top pick Clark (UCLA) to step in right away, with Letroy Guion, Mike Daniels and Datone Jones as bookends.

While Jones and Perry haven't quite lived up to their first-round status, the light seemed to go on for 2014 top pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix as last season went on. Thompson's rebuilding of the secondary continued a year ago by using his first- and second-rounders on Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins, allowing Hayward to bolt. Sam Shields and Morgan Burnett return as the veterans in that group.

Next: Minnesota Vikings

Postcard from Bears camp: Not a great Mitch Trubisky day but another good one for rookie CB, plus Peter King’s look at the ’18 Bears

Postcard from Bears camp: Not a great Mitch Trubisky day but another good one for rookie CB, plus Peter King’s look at the ’18 Bears

 BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – Dear Tolliver clan:
I think most of you were there at practice today in your “Toliver II 33” T-shirts, including the three little guys in their “K. T. II Cousin” T’s. That’s pretty amazing support for an undrafted rookie free agent cornerback out of LSU, so you know I just had to intercept another pass for you guys, after the two yesterday. This one was off Tyler Bray throwing a ball to Anthony Miller, a rookie wide receiver who’s playing like anything but a rookie. Miller has amazing speed and is catching balls all over the field and having fun with the crowd. He stopped short of the end zone after one long catch, fans started yelling for him to score, so he backtracked fast and broke the plane of the goal line. Fans loved it.
Anthony made a diving catch 45 yards downfield off a throw from Chase Daniel (I won’t say against whom) and Mitch Trubisky and I think half the offense sprinted downfield to give him high-fives. Lotta energy on that side of the football. 
And we had some great defensive moments, too. Prince Amukamara broke and nearly intercepted at Mitch pass to Kevin White, and Bryce Callahan broke up one to Josh Bellamy one play later.
Meanwhile, the fans loved just about everything, this being the first practice the public could watch. They were even cheering completions in drills, especially Tarik Cohen, who seems like everybody’s favorite. They loved it (and so did the players) when tight ends coach Kevin Gilbride was up tight on guys to simulate press coverage and got faked right off his feet by Trey Burton working his release. But it was all in good fun, and Trey is a tough cover for us DB’s, let alone a coach.
Speaking of “coach,” coach Nagy said some nice things about me after practice, saying I’d flashed a few times and gotten turnovers, and “we stressed takeaways on defense and having interceptions is important. [Kevin’s] done that now the last couple of days. Kevin’s a big kid. He’s a tall, rangy, lengthy corner that really almost looks like a safety. So for him to be able to move around out here, it’s about getting confidence. So any time he gets some interceptions, you’re going to build confidence.”
Coach Nagy said he needs to see me do it in pads, and we go in pads tomorrow for the first time. The hitting’ll really start then.
[signed] Your favorite family cornerback,

Wanted: QB accuracy
Improving on the 59.4-percent completion rate he posted as a rookie was a prime directive for quarterback Mitch Trubisky, but Saturday’s session was not a step in the right direction. Trubisky completed less than half of his throws in two 7-on-7 sessions that normally favor the quarterback and receiver. His accuracy rate was no better in the first full-team session but in the second he completed eight of 10, two for touchdowns.
Whether the issues were throwing accuracy, route-running or combination of elements wasn’t easily apparent, and coach Matt Nagy did not seem concerned.
“There’s going to be a lot of mistakes made out here; that’s what training camp’s all about,” Nagy said.
*                          *                          *
Sick bay
Guard Kyle Long, coming back from multiple surgeries, was given the first of his scheduled days off on Saturday. Veteran Earl Watford stepped in at right guard. Linebacker Danny Trevathan remained out with a hamstring issue, as did cornerback Sherrick McManis.
More concerning was the absence of outside linebacker Aaron Lynch, who injured a hamstring in Friday’s relatively light practice. It marked the third time this offseason that Lynch has been sidelined with injuries, following ankle and hamstring problems through OTA’s and minicamp.
*                          *                          *
It could happen….
Legendary NFL writer Peter King, who joined NBC Sports full time this year after nearly 30 years with Sports Illustrated, dropped by training camp as part of his annual “North American tour” and sat down for chats with this writer, which was a chance to recall some good times and stories as far back as Platteville. Peter and I did a little podcast that includes some Brian Urlacher, Mike Ditka and other tales, as well as Peter’s assessment of the Bears’ situation.
Interestingly, Peter does not rule out a season with as many as 10 W’s, despite being in one of the NFL’s toughest divisions with a first-year combination of coach-quarterback-system.
It could happen…..


Training Camp Daily: Peter King Talks Bears Upside


Training Camp Daily: Peter King Talks Bears Upside

Training camp Daily: Peter King joins the Under Center Podcast on Day 2 of practice in Bourbonnais. King and John "Moon" Mullin talk Trubisky year 2, Trubisky comparison, Bears upside this season and Urlacher's Hall of Fame Induction.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded link below: