The 2019 Chicago Bears will begin preparation for the 2019 NFL season in Bourbonnais next week as the team reports to training camp on July 25th with the first practice scheduled for July 26th.
They will look to build on a 12-win season and an NFC North Division title in their first year under head coach Matt nagy. With a majority of their 2018 starters returning there are some concerns about the team heading into training camp.
Here are the five biggest storylines for the Bears as they head into Bourbonnais:
Can the team stay healthy again?
Last season, the Bears were one of the healthiest teams in the league as less than three starters finished the season on injured reserve. The two most significant injuries in 2018 were to guard Kyle Long and slot corner Bryce Callahan who both spent time on injured reserve.
Callahan was unable to return due to a broken foot, but Long was back for the season finale in Minnesota and the playoff game against Philadelphia. Health was key to the team’s success as in previous seasons, the Bears struggled to keep key players healthy. In 2016 and 2017, the team had two more defensive starters finish the season on injured reserve.
If the Bears can stay in 2019 again, their continuity on both offense and defense will lead to repeated success.
Can David Montgomery fill the void left by Jordan Howard?
The Bears addressed their running back issue this offseason by trading former Pro-Bowler Jordan Howard, signing Mike Davis, and drafting Iowa State running back David Montgomery.
Montgomery is viewed as a dual-threat back who can be effective both as a runner and as a pass-catcher. Last season, the Bears offense lacked unpredictability due to their personnel not being duel-threats.
The goal for Montgomery in Matt Nagy’s offense is to help put the offense in manageable down situations while also being a big-play threat. If he can rush for over 800 yards while also being a reliable pass catcher, Montgomery will be the back the Bears envisioned when they drafted him.
Chuck Pagano’s influence on the Bears defense.
In 2018, The Bears defense was one of the best and most exciting to watch in the league. They led the league in turnovers and were top five in the majority of defensive categories. Their success led to defensive coordinator Vic Fangio being hired as the Denver Broncos head coach. To replace him, the team hired former Colts head coach Chuck Pagano.
Pagano was a successful defensive back coach and coordinator with the Baltimore Ravens from 2008 to 2011 as the Ravens defense was one of the best in the league. During his with the Ravens, they made deep playoff runs in three of those four seasons. The defense will have 10 of their 11 2018 defensive starters returning and eyes will be on Pagano to see if the defense can perform at the same level or even better than 2018.
Who will be the team’s kicker in 2019?
The 2018 season ended prematurely due to kicker Cody Parkey’s missed 43-yard attempt in the playoff game against the Eagles. The entire off-season has been spent on finding his replacement as at one point the team had eight kickers try out. The team will head to training camp with two unexperienced kickers on the roster in Eddy Pineiro and Elliot Fry. Both will battle it out in training camp and the preseason. General manager Ryan Pace has struggled to find a reliable kicker since the departure of Robbie Gould before the start of the 2016 season.
Whether it is Pineiro or Fry, their success is vital to the team. If a missed field goal leads to a loss this season, Bears fans will be livid. There is also a good chance that the team could still sign a veteran kicker such as Mike Nugent or Phil Dawson before the start of the season against the Packers.
Can Mitchell Trubisky take the next step?
All eyes will be on third-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky this season as he will be the main reason for the Bears’ offensive success. In 2018, Trubisky passed for 24 touchdowns and 12 interceptions as his play was sporadic throughout the season. With another year under Nagy’s offensive scheme, many are expecting him to improve on his 2018 numbers and join the elite club of NFL quarterbacks.
Nagy’s offense has been built around Trubisky as the offense has quality players at each of the skill positions. Last season, the Bears were fortunate to win several games in which they score fewer than 20 points. This season, they will play some of the league’s best offensive team and will need to score more points. The Bears offense and the team as a whole will go as far as Trubisky goes as many will look towards him if the team wins or loses.