Bears

Bears training camp preview: 3 burning questions for the cornerbacks

Bears training camp preview: 3 burning questions for the cornerbacks

With training camp starting later this month, CSN Chicago’s Chris Boden and JJ Stankevitz are looking at three burning questions for each of the Bears’ units heading into Bourbonnais. Today’s group: The cornerbacks. 

1. What will two new vets bring to the defense?

When Stephon Gilmore and A.J. Bouye’s price tags skyrocketed, Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper were signed to one- and three-year contracts, respectively, then Tracy Porter was released. Pro Football Focus ranked Cooper 113th out of 120 qualified cornerbacks in coverage last year, though he did pick off four passes. Amukamara had sort of the opposite season of Cooper last year, not intercepting a pass but providing steady coverage. Neither player is likely to be a permanent fix at cornerback, but for a defense with a relatively heavy veteran presence, each fit the Bears’ plans for 2017. 

“(Amukamara)’s just kind of that veteran, savvy consistent pro, and sometimes there is a lot of hidden production from him because he’s got his guy covered and they just don’t throw at him,” general manager Ryan Pace said back in March. “… Cooper is a raw player that I think is still ascending. He didn’t play corner until late in college and when you watch him each year he’s gotten better and better the more he’s gotten opportunities. He has really natural ball skills. It’s very easy for him to make a play on the ball.”
 
2. Can Kyle Fuller hit the reset button in his last shot with the Bears?

Ryan Pace confirmed back in April that the Bears will not pick up the fifth-year option on Fuller, who so far looks like a big swing and a miss by the Phil Emery regime. Fuller missed the entire 2016 season with a knee injury and isn’t a safe bet to be on the Bears’ opening day roster, though defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said back in May he’ll be given an opportunity to be part of a “competition.” Still, the start of the 2014 season — when Fuller had three interceptions in his first three games — is well in the past.

3. Will the Bears regret not dipping into an ostensibly deep draft pool of cornerbacks?

This is a question that won’t be answered for a few years and is partly contingent on the development of both Mitch Trubisky and Adam Shaheen. But it’s an interesting one to consider, given how strong this year’s class of college cornerbacks was (PFF analyzed it as being “the strongest in the past decade”). Eighteen cornerbacks were drafted in the first three rounds, 11 of whom came after the Bears drafted Shaheen with the 45th pick. But Pace stuck to taking the best player available on the Bears’ draft board, which meant snagging four offensive players with the team’s five picks.  

“I think it’d be difficult for us to say, man, we got a man graded this high, but ah man we really need defense, let’s step down here and take this player,” Pace said. “I think we’d regret that decision.”

Kyle Long knows he messed up, and is ready to do what it takes to put the fighting incidents behind him

Kyle Long knows he messed up, and is ready to do what it takes to put the fighting incidents behind him

Kyle Long understands the position he’s put himself in. 

It wasn’t a week to remember for the Bears’ starting guard, who got into two separate fights over the span of three practices. Despite the relatively small likelihood he would have played, as punishment, Long was subsequently left off the team flight to New York for their preseason game against the Giants. 

“Obviously, what I did was absolutely unacceptable,” Long said after Tuesday’s practice. “As a human being, as a teammate, without question what I did was uncalled for. It was so far over the line that it was on me to handle that internally, and speak to the people that I needed to speak to.” 

Everyone around Halas Hall chalked up Long’s first scuffle with Akiem Hicks as nothing more than training camp frustrations. “Let’s clarify this: Everybody has a temper,’’ Hicks said. ‘‘Everybody gets upset. If somebody spills their coffee, you’re gonna get upset.

It was the second fight — one that saw Long remove undrafted rookie defensive end Jalen Dalton’s helmet, hit him with it, and then toss said helmet off the field — that forced the Bears’ hand. 

“It reflected poorly on the organization, the city, and the offensive line room,” he said. “That was never my intention. Moving forward, I intend to make living amends.”

Long wouldn’t go into much depth about the reason behind either fight, only mentioning that he “got a little frustrated, and it boiled over.” Talking with media after practice, he stressed the importance of publicly clearing the air before he, or the team, could move forward. 

“I think it's important and I know that the fans have a very close eye or touch on the pulse of the team of what's going on,” he said. “If I’m a fan, the last thing I want to hear about is a fight at practice. It's a distraction from what we're trying to do, which is go out and get ready for the Packers eventually and go put together some wins in the football season.” 

Before the whistle, Long’s had one of the best camps of a career that’s now going on seven seasons. The three-time Pro Bowler said that he hasn’t been this healthy since his rookie year, and that he’d “put this camp up there with any of them [he’d] be apart of.” With the air cleared and all parties on the same page, both Long and the Bears consider the fights a closed case. 

“We’re past it,” Matt Nagy added. “Now it’s not about talking anymore. For us, it’s about everybody showing what we can do. It’s showing by your actions, whether that’s being a good football player or being a good person. 

“I always tell my kids, ‘Don’t talk about it; be about it.’ So it’s time to start being about it.”

Bears now tied for best odds to reach Super Bowl from NFC

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USA TODAY

Bears now tied for best odds to reach Super Bowl from NFC

The Bears haven’t shown what their 2019 starters can do yet this preseason, but the oddsmakers in Las Vegas seem to be on board with Matt Nagy’s plans for the upcoming season.

The money is coming in on Chicago to win the Super Bowl, and the most popular sportsbooks shifted the odds for the Bears to win the conference.

They’re now tied for the best chances to reach the Super Bowl from the NFC at both MGM and Westgate, according to CBS Sports.

Both books see the Bears and Saints as favorites at 5/1 odds, while Westgate views the Rams and Eagles as equally likely.

MGM is much higher on the Packers’ chances, and both have the Vikings in the top seven.

The path to a Super Bowl berth is never easy, and Chicago will have as difficult a path as any team with two other contenders in the division.

Every single team on the odds list appears on the Bears 2019 regular-season schedule.