Bears

Upon further review: Less need for WR to Bears at No. 7

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Upon further review: Less need for WR to Bears at No. 7

The prospects of either Alabama’s Amari Cooper or West Virginia’s Kevin White running routes opposite Alshon Jeffery is something that quarterbacks Jay Cutler and Jimmy Clausen would relish every bit as much as offensive coordinator Adam Gase. One, probably White, is apt to be available when the Bears’ turn on the clock comes at No. 7 of the first round.

If the wide receiver is the significantly higher-rated player on the draft board at that point, general manager Ryan Pace and the Bears can be reasonably expected to honor their board and make the call.

[MORE: Bud Dupree over Vic Beasley for Bears at No. 7?]

But Pace has been part of a draft — 2006 — that he considers a major key to the New Orleans Saints’ Super Bowl championship. In that draft, the Saints landed wide receiver Marques Colston in the seventh round, 252nd overall and eventually the Saints’ all-time leader in virtually every receiving category.

Pace will not wait until the seventh round to grab a wide receiver. For one thing, barring a trade, he doesn’t have a “7,” having used the seventh-round pick to help get rid of Brandon Marshall in the trade to the New York Jets.

But he is clear on both his philosophy and on his take on the 2015 draft class:

“Impact players on offense or defense, they’re available at different points in the draft,” Pace said on Wednesday. “This is a deep receiver class, though.”

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Analysts have posited that as many as five or six wide receivers could be selected in the first round, particularly in the wake of the impact receivers from the 2014 draft had in their rookie seasons (Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham, Kelvin Benjamin, Brandin Cooks, all in the first round).

A similar number could be gone in Round 1 again this year. And the Saints, with Pace involved, traded up in the first round to get Cooks. But prospects like Jaelen Strong from Arizona State and Breshad Perryman from Central Florida may be still on the board when the Bears’ second turn at No. 7, in the second round, choose to find Marshall’s replacement.

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.