Player X looking good in camp is on the same cliché’ level as “It’s not about the money” or “we need to play better”. Wait a free agent is really turning heads against the second team? No way! What! The starting QB has only thrown one interception for the whole camp!? By no means is training camp a place where dreams are made of, but nor should expectations be tempered either. It’s like this nice bland place, where most of the roster is established and frankly, they are trying to get their timing down, especially on offense. Sure, they are looking for rookies, and other acquisitions to push for roster spots, because those 53 roster spots are inherently valuable. It’s not like the NBA, where the 10th-15th guys on the bench never play, really.
Coaching changes can work
The biggest concern obviously is the Bears offense becoming at least competent, and frankly, they should be able to top out at middle of the road, which isn’t as good as a dozen or so other teams, but damn better than the bottom dozen. You’d be surprised what at least pushing the score barely into the twenties can do for a team, instead of loitering in the teens. Without getting full of bravado and making absurd claims and hot takes like I’m on Twitter, the Bears new coaches will be the biggest reason for at least a decent jump in offense.
The new faces in the QB room and on the O-line, have been involved with this type of offense, or worked with Nagy at one point. Plus, they are known quantity in coaching circles. Like, actual people have heard of them. (Former Oregon Ducks Coach Mark Helfrich was over his head at OC, and old QB coach Dave Ragone was a bit young. The latter has been moved to passing game coordinator, which is a nice jump.)
“Tight Ends are like Queen’s on a chessboard”
The biggest eyeballs in camp have been on the impending QB battle, and we will get to that in a second. Realistically, it’s one position group that received major upheaval, that will turn the tide for the offense and it’s those Tight Ends. Well, every team has Tight Ends you say. No one says you have to draft and use them, but if you have a good one, they give defenses absolute fits pre AND post snap. I’ve said before, it’s like a queen on the chessboard. Especially one that can run block, AND gobble up yards downfield.
Not named the 49ers, which other two teams have stud tight ends, and actually employ for nearly half their snaps, and score tons of points? Why it’s the Chiefs and Eagles, friends. Wait, isn’t that Matt Nagy guy a former Chiefs employee? As is Eagles coach Doug Pedersen. (for you Gen Xers, that’s Brett Favre’s backup QB in the 90s). Anyone in that small coaching tree are acolytes of the West Coast offense. You know, the one Bill Walsh ran with the 49ers in the 80s? Yeah, that guy. The old West Coast used Tight Ends. (For a disclaimer, the “Greatest show on Turf did not. Remember Roland Williams? Exactly.)
“The new Bears Tight Ends are YUGE. Believe me.”
The Bears have former superstar Jimmy Graham and young Notre Dame grad Cole Kmet in the fold now. We’ve had plenty of time to pick at their warts, but they will be a solid improvement over Jesper Horsted, bless his heart. Graham is past his prime, but can still produce solid numbers. Being stuck with the Seahawks in the mid-decade didn’t help, as that offense features heavy run calls, and or bombs to Tyler Lockett-esque type of receivers. Same for the Packers, who I can’t recall heavily featuring a tight end in the past three decades.
Shameless plug for a Domer obviously, but Kmet is a stud. “Oh, but he’s not fast enough” Okay, my bad, he’s still moves well for 6’6” 260. I mean c’mon, we all can’t be Kellen Winslow, Sr. (not the masturbator sex predator son, Kellen Winslow II). Kmet was a top 100 recruit overall in his class, which means he was arguably one of the best athletes in the country. Nagy has already complimented his football IQ, especially with minimal practice time. He sure as shit won’t be a bust. At the worst, his floor is Kyle Rudolph of the Vikings, a fellow second rounder, and I’m fine with that, but Kmet is a touch faster. He’ll tease a Pro Bowl or two down the line. Basically, they better have both those dudes out there in 12 personnel, at least 40% of the time.
“Rex is our Quarterback”
These guys will help the QB’s out, as Mitch was sort of okay when Burton dressed up as a half decent tight end in 2018. Also, there presence will allegedly will unlock Tarik Cohen, who kind of tips off defenses that he is basically a receiver when he is out there, but so it goes. It’s tough to see QB battle unfold in camp, because we don’t know what plays coaches have drawn up for them, nor do we know how much free reign DC Chuch Pagano has to mess with them. Nagy said they really grade on film, and save the coaching points for then.
*It’s not a great thing that no teams have a preseason, which would really help out the returning players on the O line. Juan Castillo has a great reputation around the league, and has worked with Nagy and his inside zone schemes, so things should improve there. Should.
Let’s wrap this up….
Regardless of all of this, the Bears have the makings of an easy top 10, if not top 5 defense. By that metric it means DVOA, not the old school “yards allowed” and points “allowed, even though those are valid markers. Hicks is healthy, Bilal Nichols should take a huge step, Robert Quinn has some gas in the tank, and Eddie Jackson should be back to roaming at free safety, and not playing down in the box. Jamal Adams he is not, but to each their own.
Finally, can Ryan Pace dig for gold in the latter rounds, or what? Eddie Jackson. Sort of Jordan Howard, etc. Seriously. All those years of being a pro personnel director are showing their teeth in a good way. This guy can mine for edge of the roster talent. Now, about that first round……