Bears

Bears step way up in class trying to stop Colts, Andrew Luck

jimmy-clausen-bears-preseason-0822.png

Bears step way up in class trying to stop Colts, Andrew Luck

INDIANAPOLIS – The NFL is about matchups and the Indianapolis Colts are among the more difficult matchups the Bears could have drawn, preseason or otherwise. But it may at the same time be exactly what a still-forming team can use for all three phases of its game.

That was part of the perspective that the Bears took from their 27-10 game one win over the Miami Dolphins. Starters are expected to be played into the second quarter, ideally with more production that the No. 1’s delivered vs. the Dolphins.

“Every team has something to work on in the first preseason game,” said linebacker Christian Jones. “We need to make adjustments and do what we know to do.”

It will not be an easy process. The No. 1 offense is expected to have Matt Forte after the franchise running back was held out of the Miami game as coaches took an extended look at the options for his supporting cast. But Alshon Jeffery will be out again with a calf injury, Kevin White’s injured shin has him down until at the very least well into the regular season, and the Indianapolis game may be a preview of how the offense will have to function without the deep threat of White in the foreseeable future.

[SHOP: Buy a new Bears hat]

“We've got to throw guys into game situations,” said coach John Fox. “We've had one game behind us, we learned some things and we adjust and move forward. It's a very fluid process. It's week-to-week.”

One specific goal will be a start that includes controlling the football for more than a handful of snaps on the first possession like the three-and-out vs. Miami.

“We got better from the first to the second drive [12 plays, 66 yards],” said tackle Jermon Bushrod. “We just need to start the way we know we’re capable of.”

The defense is starting another safety combination, this one with rookie Adrian Amos alongside Antrel Rolle. “[Amos] has been good, looks comfortable back there,” Rolle said. “There's a lot of communication between him and myself and we're only going to get better, that's the plan. He has an outstanding skills set, he hustles, he runs to the ball, he understands the defense and we're going to help each other. It's not only going to be me helping him, it's going to be him helping me, also.”

[MORE: Opportunity knocks for Marquess Wilson]

The safeties and defense overall will need to be a lot of helping against Andrew Luck and what was the NFL’s most prolific passing offense last season (306 yards per game). The Colts thought enough of wideout T.Y. Hilton to sign him last week to a five-year extension worth potentially $66.5 million, and enough of Luck in the passing offense to use their No. 1 pick on speed receiver Phillip Dorsett and acquire longtime Pro Bowl wideout Andre Johnson this offseason.

The defense struggled in the first of the two days practicing against Luck but recovered to respectability on day two, earning compliments from the Pro Bowl quarterback.

“Very impressed,” Luck said. “I was fortunate enough to play under Coach [Vic] Fangio for a year or two at Stanford, which was really fun. Great guy. I learned a lot from him even though he was a defensive coach. Some studs on the Bears: Pernell McPhee, Jared Allen coming off the edge, a bunch of guys. Tim Jennings, I always had a lot of respect for him as a player.”

Special teams allowed the Dolphins a 42-yard punt return and an average of 25.3 yards on three kickoff returns. Both the Bears offense and defense could use all the field position their special-teams units can provide.

Will Mitch Trubisky be this season's Jared Goff?

Will Mitch Trubisky be this season's Jared Goff?

The Chicago Bears have been compared to the Los Angeles Rams as a team capable of a significant one-year turnaround after the many moves by GM Ryan Pace to improve the offense and build around second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky.

According to NFL.com's Adam Schein, the comparisons go one step further. He thinks Trubisky is the best candidate to be 2018's version of Jared Goff:

"I'm infatuated with the Bears' offseason," Schein wrote. "The Bears smartly followed the Rams' blueprint from last offseason: hand the keys to an offensive guru/quarterback whisperer (Matt Nagy) and dedicate the offseason to surrounding your young signal-caller with talent (Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Trey Burton in free agency, James Daniels and Anthony Miller in the draft). Trubisky will follow in Goff's footsteps and take a major jump in his sophomore campaign."

MULLIN: Teammates see greatness in Trubisky

The comparison of Trubisky to Goff makes a ton of sense. Both were drafted with franchise-quarterback expectations but had average rookie seasons. Both played their first year with an old-school, defensive-minded head coach who was later replaced by a young up-and-coming offensive specialist. And both Goff and Trubisky were given high-powered weapons to begin their sophomore seasons with (the Rams signed Robert Woods and traded for Sammy Watkins before last season). 

Trubisky has to turn these comparisons into production, however. The Rams' remarkable 2017 campaign was just that because rarely does a team have such a dramatic turnaround in only one offseason. The odds aren't in the Bears' favor.

Still, there's a surge of confidence and support in and around Trubisky from the coaching staff and his teammates. He's doing everything he can to prepare for a Goff-like season. We'll find out soon enough if his preparation pays off.

Bears counting on a healthy Leonard Floyd in 2018

Bears counting on a healthy Leonard Floyd in 2018

There's a lot of pressure on the Chicago Bears' pass rush this season.

The NFC North has suddenly become one of the league's most talented quarterback divisions with Kirk Cousins (Vikings) joining Aaron Rodgers (Packers) and Matthew Stafford (Lions). Chicago is the only team in the North without a proven veteran under center.

Leonard Floyd is the most gifted pass-rusher on the roster and the onus is on him to become the superstar sack artist Ryan Pace envisioned when he traded up in the first round in 2016 to select him. Floyd, combined with free-agent addition Aaron Lynch and veteran Sam Acho, have to deliver.

“Leonard Floyd has to stay healthy and have a good year,” Pace told The Athletic's Dan Pompei. “Aaron Lynch has to come on. Vic [Fangio] had background with Aaron Lynch, so that gave us a comfort level in signing him. There is upside there. He’s still a young player. He fits the defense and knows Vic. Sam Acho has been a consistent player for us."

Floyd has just 11 1/2 sacks through two seasons, both of which have been marred by injury. He's played in just 22 of a possible 32 games as a pro.

Pace didn't address the team's pass rush until the sixth round of April's draft when he nabbed Utah's Kylie Fitts. It seemed odd at the time that he waited so long to address one of the team's most glaring needs and there haven't been any veteran signings to sure up the group since the draft concluded. The Bears are one injury away from a serious problem at outside linebacker and are relying on a bunch of guys who haven't proven capable of playing a full season in their careers.

"We felt fortunate to get Kylie Fitts in the sixth round, and he has to stay healthy," Pace said. "You are never going to come out of the offseason and say we addressed everything, we’re perfect.”

The Bears invested most of their offseason resources into surrounding Trubisky with playmakers who can help him compete with his NFC North counterparts. The offense will be better.

But if Floyd doesn't have a breakthrough season, more pressure will be on Trubisky to score points -- and a lot of them -- to keep games close in the division. And that's not the kind of pressure the Bears are hoping Floyd creates in 2018.