Bears

While Bears held on to football, they just didn’t do enough with it

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While Bears held on to football, they just didn’t do enough with it

The Bears had exactly one turnover through four preseason games, a total of 220 plays. That was an interception of a Jimmy Clausen pass late in the second quarter of the win over the Indianapolis Colts. After averaging a turnover every 35 or so plays in 2014, reducing turnovers was the most stressed point by Bears new offensive coaches this entire offseason, and with issues on both offense and defense coming into the regular season, calling Jay Cutler a “game manager” looks to be high praise, and important.

It’s been only practice and preseason, and Cutler played just 80 total snaps through preseason. Meaning: Cutler played about 1.25 games (NFL teams averaged 64 plays in 2014), so it doesn’t qualify as a statistically significant sample size.  But if Cutler and quarterbacks and offensive players were turning the ball over repeatedly, it would be cause for concern. The fact that they’re not rates as some sort of improvement.

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The other shoe, however, is doing something with the football while you’re not giving it away, and that hasn't dropped for the 2015 Bears. The No. 1 offense didn’t score a touchdown on any of those 80 Cutler snaps.

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The points in the Bears’ 24-0 win over the Cleveland Browns in preseason game four weren’t scored by the No. 1 offense on Thursday, and the shutout wasn’t posted by the No. 1 defense. But coach John Fox in fact made winning in preseason a step in the process of changing the culture of negativity that descended over the Bears through the two years of coach Marc Trestman and GM Phil Emery.

The result was a 3-1 preseason record, the first time since 2012 that the Bears have won three practice games. They didn’t make the playoffs that year, or the two previous times (2009, 2007) but you when rebuilding a culture as well as refitting all three phases of the game, no step is really insignificant.

“I think with a new staff, it’s probably a little more critical because you are teaching new schemes,” Fox said. “So you do try to take advantage of everything, because they are learning something new. They’re going to be competing against guys who have been doing it for a minute in their respective schemes.

[MORE: Impact plays forcing Bears to make difficult decisions with roster cuts]

“This game is only fun when you win. When you’re competitive, you compete with everything, including preseason.”

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Easily overlooked late in a meaningless game was a play made by “Swamp Monster” Terry Williams, the 6-foot, 322-pound undrafted rookie nose tackle (and is that a perfect name for a nose tackle or what?).

Williams started and played the entire game against the Browns and had enough left in his fuel cell to record a tackle-for-loss late in the fourth quarter. Conditioning issues can undo players but Williams, obviously playing for a job somewhere in the NFL, was still bringing it late in a statement that helped his roster chances somewhere.

[ALSO: Willie Young's comeback from Achilles injury continues]

And that could be unfortunately very relevant for the Bears. Eddie Goldman is returning from a concussion (and that return isn’t official or assured until he lines up against the Green Bay Packers). Jeremiah Ratliff is out for three games with a suspension and has missed 54 percent of all games over the past three years with a variety of injuries.

The Bears slid Will Sutton in at the nose and Sutton continued a very solid preseason, playing his way from bubble to lock. But neither Sutton nor Ego Ferguson top 295 pounds, meaning the Bears could be in the market for a stout widebody, even as insurance.

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.