Bears

Bears’ quest for LB help will create difficult draft decisions

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Bears’ quest for LB help will create difficult draft decisions

INDIANAPOLIS – With the 11th pick overall in the 2016 draft the Bears would typically be in excellent position to add a defensive playmaker, among the top objectives of GM Ryan Pace and coach John Fox this offseason.

Based on information from the NFL Scouting Combine and myriad sources, the consensus area of greatest need – admittedly not the first factor in determining a draft selection – has been linebacker, ostensibly inside linebacker, where the Bears went through five different starters in the course of 2015.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bears fans!]

The Bears will not take an inside linebacker based solely on need. But even though several linebackers in the upcoming draft are projected to have talent grades justifying that 11th pick, complicating factors abound:

Myles Jack, UCLA: Missing most of ’15 with a knee injury meant being probed and twisted and everything else at the Combine, but the “problem” for the Bears is that he may be (pun intended) jack-of-all-trades, master of necessarily one at the NFL level. “I’ve heard safety, ‘Mike,’ ‘Sam,’ ‘Will,’ inside ‘backer. Some teams joked about running back… . I’ve heard it all, pretty much, in the back seven.”

Reggie Ragland, Alabama: Ragland ran an official 4.72 seconds in his 40-yard dash, not elite-level time (Ray Lewis ran 4.58, Brian Urlacher 4.57 and Patrick Willis 4.51, by comparison). But teams at the Combine, which include the Bears, generally project Ragland in the spot those Pro Bowl’ers filled in various 4-3 and 3-4 schemes. “They see me as a Mike and making the calls,” Ragland said. “A lot of teams like me playing off the edge but they’d love to see me being a true Mike and making all the calls.”

Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame: His knee injury in the Fiesta Bowl game compromises everything. One report that he was walking at the Combine without a brace was not furthered by medical evaluations that suggested he will not play at all in 2016. But MMQB's Peter King spoke with one NFL GM who said of Smith,“ No chance he won’t play at some point, and play well." Trumping that, however, is Smith himself stating in his media session, I’ll be back 100 percent. We just don’t know when.”

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.