Bears

#BearsTalk Pick Six: What are the important storylines for veteran minicamp?

#BearsTalk Pick Six: What are the important storylines for veteran minicamp?

This week’s mandatory three-day minicamp at Halas Hall  closes out the Bears’ official off-season program. Once practice concludes Thursday afternoon, the players are on their own for six weeks before reporting to training camp in Bourbonnais Wednesday, July 26, with the first practice expected a day later.
 
Here’s are a six-pack of storylines CSN's Chris Boden and JJ Stankevitz will be especially keeping their eyes on:

1. Roll Call

Only three of the Bears’ 10 Organized Team Activities over the past three weeks were open to the media. A good portion of the roster was out on the field each day we were allowed to witness the workouts at Halas Hall. 

But there were other times a handful of key players were either nowhere to be seen, or off to the side working with the training staff. How much from a group that includes the likes of Josh Sitton, Hroniss Grasu, Markus Wheaton, Zach Miller, Eddie Goldman, Jaye Howard, Leonard Floyd, Pernell McPhee, Willie Young and Eddie Jackson will be taking part, from individual drills to 11-on-11? If not every day, any days? And is it because of the coaching staff is playing things cautiously, due to the bad injury track record the past two years, or from setbacks, or something new? 

We won’t get definitive answers on that from John Fox, who’s said the primary objective is to get everyone ready to go by training camp, or the regular season. Mark Sanchez, Cam Meredith, Danny Trevathan and Kyle Long are not expected to be taking part when the offense and defense line up opposite each other. And based on the forecasted temperatures in the 90’s, it wouldn’t be a surprise to reduce risk by working out inside the Payton Center.
— Chris Boden

2. Mike Gennon’s command of the offense

By all accounts, Mike Glennon hasn’t wavered in taking command of the Bears offense since Mitch Trubisky was drafted in April. His “this is my year” line was a public declaration of the approach he’s taken with his teammates, which has been roundly praised before and after April’s draft. This week will be Glennon’s last opportunity to build on-field trust with his teammates before July, but he’ll likely use the six-week summer break to keep building relationships off the field, too. 
— JJ Stankevitz

3. ”Tru” at No. 2               

It’s hard to think Ryan Pace and the coaching staff will stray from their plan to begin the season with the second overall draft pick sitting third on the quarterback depth chart. But with Sanchez sidelined, Mitch Trubisky at least has an opportunity to make them think otherwise. No, he won’t be going up against an angry opponent’s number-one defense that’s scheming to rattle the rookie. But you’d have to think Dowell Loggains (and Vic Fangio) will try to push and challenge the quarterback of the future, who’ll get consistent work with teammates projected to be higher up the depth chart. Should he impress, it won’t change minds of the position pecking order heading to Bourbonnais, but Trubisky showing he’s a quicker study than expected could at least open the door slightly more to that possibility. 
— Chris Boden

4. Where does Kevin White fit?

Among the “ifs” on the Bears’ roster — and there are many — Kevin White may be the biggest. The 2015 No. 7 pick has only played four games in the last two years, but if he can be the guy the Bears (and plenty of draft analysts) thought he was coming out of West Virginia, he’ll go a long way toward replacing Alshon Jeffery. The importance of veteran minicamp for White is mostly just getting him reps, even if pads and contact aren’t involved, as he continues to build his way back from those two leg injuries. 
— JJ Stankevitz

5. The first thing for the secondary

For a secondary with four offseason additions — cornerbacks Marcus Cooper and Prince Amukamara, and safeties Quintin Demps and Eddie Jackson — OTAs have mostly been important for developing trust and chemistry within the unit. This is a group that will be tasked with creating more turnovers than last year’s total of 11 (tied for the lowest in a single season in NFL history), and the process of developing that takeaway-focused mentality began during the offseason program. For the new players and the holdovers from last year, learning everyone’s strengths and weaknesses now will help get this group on solid footing heading into training camp in July. 
— JJ Stankevitz

6. The “baby” Bear       

So Cam Meredith and Zach Miller have injuries they’re working their way back from, Kevin White still has to prove himself going into Year 3, and the last thing you want to do is put Jordan Howard through any more work than needed before Sept.10. Now’s a good time to start seeing how 5-foot-6 waterbug Tarik Cohen can be utilized, whether it’s coming out of the backfield, split out wide or in the slot. This offense needs weapons and diversity even when everyone is healthy. Cohen has the potential to supply that, provided he can evade and outrun defenses at the NFL level like he did at North Carolina A&T.  (And by the way, he wouldn’t like being called baby Bear. It’s used for these title purposes only. He’s used his size as a chip on his shoulder to become a fourth-round draft pick.) 
— Chris Boden

Puppy Pick 'Em Puppy Walter makes his Week 7 picks for Bears-Saints

Puppy Pick 'Em Puppy Walter makes his Week 7 picks for Bears-Saints

When the Bears announced their 2019 schedule, we decided to have some puppies reveal the opponents. Now, we have taken it a step further. We have a puppy that will make weekly picks for the Bears games.

It is Week 7!

Walter's choices in Week 7 are a chance to go to Mardi Gras or a celebration of St. Patrick's day in Chicago. Bears fans should be excited about his decision in Week 7... and now we're all looking forward to St. Patrick's Day again!

The 12-week old dachshund was hand-selected by the scouts at NBC Sports Chicago and hails from One Tail at a Time rescue. He came from a shelter in Alabama and was transported to Chicago.  At just 7 weeks old and without his mom, he beat a deadly virus and spent some time in the doggie ER, where he healed and became strong again. 

Now, Walter is ready to rumble between the well-manicured lines of Sweetness Field. He is NOW adoptable via onetail.org and has two adorable sisters named Martha and Millie, who are already adopted. 

Walter will pick the games throughout the NFL season, including the playoffs and we hope that his nose follows the scent to the Bears every week, all the way to that magical game in Miami in February. Narrated by Jason Benetti, play-by-play announcer for the White Sox.  

It is time for Puppy Pick ‘Em presented by Nissan.

To learn more: www.onetail.org

Three keys and prediction: Bears vs. Saints

Three keys and prediction: Bears vs. Saints

1. Get production from receivers not named Allen Robinson. 

Robinson can expect to be followed all game by Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who’s limited opposing receivers to nine catches on 20 targets in his last three games (a sampling of those receivers: Amari Cooper, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, D.J. Chark). So if Robinson isn’t open, it likely will have less to do with his own play and more the play of one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL. 

With that in mind, Sunday will be a significant test for the Bears’ other pass catchers. This team’s offensive identity was supposed to be steeped in an ability to spread the ball around to guys like Taylor Gabriel, Tarik Cohen, Anthony Miller, Cordarrelle Patterson and Trey Burton, but so far this season, the only thing the Bears have proven to do well is get the ball to Robinson. That absolutely has to change on Sunday. 

Miller feels primed for a breakout game after ditching his shoulder harness, while Gabriel is back from a concussion suffered on the final catch of his explosive three touchdown game in Week 3 against Washington. Those two guys need to show up, and the Bears need to better scheme plays for Cohen, who’s averaging 4.5 yards per touch — lower than his average in 2017 with Dowell Loggains calling the plays. 

Robinson still could have a productive day — he’s that good — but the Bears shouldn’t count on it.

2. Hold your own against the Saints’ front. 

The Saints are outstanding at affecting quarterbacks without blitzing, with their 76 pressures ranking second in the NFL — this for a team that’s only blitzing on 22 percent of its defensive snaps. And of those 76 pressures, 63 have come from defensive linemen. 

Marcus Davenport and Cam Jordan have been monsters this year, combining for eight sacks while consistently generating that pressure off the edge. Charles Leno Jr. and Bobby Massie will need need to have their best games of 2019 to keep them away from Mitch Trubisky, but the interior of the Bears’ line will have its hands full, too. David Onyemata, Malcom Brown and Sheldon Rankins all have at least one sack, putting an onus on Cody Whitehair, James Daniels and Rashaad Coward and/or Ted Larsen to keep those guys out of Trubisky’s face.

If not, Trubisky will have a difficult time getting comfortable and going through his progressions, which could lead to some forced/panicked throws...which could be jumped by Lattimore or another one of the Saints' defensive backs.   

3. Get game-wrecking plays on defense.

The thought here is Sunday’s game will be a tight defensive battle, with the game swinging on which team gets a turnover deep in its opponent territory. For the Bears, that means coming up with the kind of game-wrecking play (or plays) we’ve come to expect from this defense. 

Teddy Bridgewater has been sacked on only 16.7 percent of his drop-backs (24th, per PFF), though, with tackles Ryan Ramczyk and Terron Armstead among the best pass blockers at their position in the NFL. It’ll be a fascinating matchup for Khalil Mack, who will need to be at his best to beat the Saints’ best and “sack the football,” as he’s so good at doing. Or maybe Sunday is time for Eddie Jackson to get his first interception of the season (though he’s only been thrown at about two times per game, down from his average of nearly three times per game in 2018). 

However the Bears’ defense does it, they need to do it in a game in which their offense very well could struggle to move the ball. 

Prediction: Saints 13, Bears 9. 

While the Saints will be without future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees, star do-it-all running back Alvin Kamara and reliable tight end Jared Cook, this is a team should have the advantage at the line of scrimmage on both offense and defense (the Bears, of course, will be without Akiem Hicks and might start a greenhorn at right guard in Coward). That advantage matters greatly in close games, in which grinding out a few yards here and there will become critical, especially in the fourth quarter.

And too, Sean Payton has built a strong coach of the year case for how he’s guided the Saints to an undefeated record without Brees. The Saints are playing a strong brand of complementary football, with a ball security-based offense and a defense that’s progressively got better this year (punter Thomas Morstead, for what it’s worth, is outstanding and shouldn’t be completely overlooked). 

So the Saints will arrive at Soldier Field undermanned, but with an advantage at the line of scrimmage and on the sideline. And those will be enough for New Orleans to emerge with a win, sending the Bears to 3-3 in the process. 

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