The Chicago Bears will reunite with former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio in Denver this summer, as word broke Monday that the Broncos will host the Bears for joint training camp practices in advance of their preseason game in August.
The Chicago Tribune's Brad Biggs confirmed the news on Twitter.
I’m told #Bears and #Broncos are indeed expected to have joint training camp practices in Denver provided the preseason schedule matches up. @mikeklis was this earlier. Bears and Broncos did this two years ago.— Brad Biggs (@BradBiggs) February 25, 2020
This is the second time Denver will welcome the Bears for training camp sessions. The two teams held joint practices back in 2018.
Training camp won't be the first time the Bears will see Fangio since his departure last offseason. Chicago pulled off a last-second victory over the Broncos in Week 2 of the 2019 season when kicker Eddy Pineiro booted a 53-yard game-winner with time expiring in the fourth quarter. His kick was set up by the clutch version of Mitch Trubisky, who connected on a 25-yard pass to Allen Robinson on the play before Pineiro's conversion.
Fangio left a lasting impact during his time as the Bears defensive coordinator that reached its peak in 2018 when Chicago was widely regarded as the most ferocious defense in the league. The Bears finished third in yards allowed per game and ended the season with the top run defense. Their 27 interceptions were tops in the NFL, too.
The Cubs have only played three spring training games, and it’s dangerous to use spring results to predict regular season successes/failures. Still, it’s okay to acknowledge Albert Almora Jr.’s hot start in camp.
In two games, Almora is 4-for-4 with a walk, double, home run, four RBIs, and four runs scored. That line is essentially equivalent to a single game in the regular season and could be turned upside down by the end of the week. But it’s a start for the 25-year-old who’s struggled immensely at the plate for the last season-and-a-half at the plate.
First home run of the spring for Albert 💪 pic.twitter.com/GiFUykUjSl— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) February 24, 2020
In his last 177 games (dating back to the second half of 2018), Almora holds a .235/.270/.347 slash line. The advanced stats paint an uglier picture: 58 wRC+, .261 wOBA and 52.2 percent groundball rate.
Last season was the most challenging of Almora’s young career. He hit .236/.271/.381 in 130 games with a 64 wRC+, .271 wOBA, -0.7 fWAR (all career worsts). On top of that, he was involved in a heartbreaking moment early in the season; an Almora foul ball struck a young girl at Minute Maid Park during a Cubs-Astros game in May.
Almora recently refused to blame his 2019 offensive woes on that incident, though it obviously played a part. He did admit he was in a bad place mentally and used this winter to decompress. Almora also used it to make some adjustments to his swing and the changes are clear as day:
Here is a look at one of Almora’s 2019 swings.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) February 24, 2020
He felt he had to be perfect last year in order to be on time. Goal of new setup is to be more consistently on time and allowing him room for adjusting with the pitch.
“It’s more time to react. I’m calmer.” pic.twitter.com/BW7zKMrjKd
Albert Almora Jr. told reporters at the start of camp that his swing would be “visibly different” this spring. Here’s what we saw in his setup in Game 1: more upright, less open, reduced leg kick, less rotational in gather portion.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) February 24, 2020
“I was testing you. You passed,” Almora said. pic.twitter.com/4hKvBPI6tw
As MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian notes, Almora is now more upright in the box and his stance is more closed. His leg kick is less defined, and he’s rotating his front leg far less than previous seasons. In short, he’s more direct to his swing and has more time to react in the box because he cut out a lot of his pre-swing movements.
Almora said Monday he’s far from where he wants to be, pointing out the MLB season is a 200-day marathon. It’s too early to tell whether his simplified approach leads to sustainable success.
Small sample size be damned, Almora’s made noticeable adjustments. That’s the first step in his mission to get back on track offensively.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Cubs easily on your device.