Well, let’s rephrase that: There isn’t really anything to “watch”, since the fans are not allowed to visit the Bears at Halas Hall this summer for training camp.
If the title were to be phrased more appropriately, it would be titled “Top 5 Position Battles To Find Reports Of Through Media Outlets And Social Media About Training Camp”. Yeah, it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.
Disregarding that unfortunate circumstance, there is a lot of very interesting position groups that have a tinge of uncertainty lingering over them.
While these battles might not be as highly scrutinized as last year’s position battles( where the most engaging and interesting group were the kickers), these positions are of equal importance.
Without further adieu, let’s examine the 5 most interesting position battles of training camp.
Let’s just get this one out of the way first, shall we? This is the most important position of not only football but debatably of all sports. Any football team’s offense runs through the quarterback, and lives and dies by it. So for a professional sports team to have such a big question mark at the position is troubling.
In one corner of the proverbial quarterback ring, standing in at 6’2” and 215 lb’s, the Bears have 2017 first-round pick Mitchell Trubisky. While he had flashes of brilliance throughout his career, including an impressive 2018 campaign where he threw 24 TD’s and 12 INT’s, earning an esteemed Pro-Bowl selection and leading the Bears to a 12-4 record. In his case, the highs are sky-high, and the lows are pitifully low.
He has been frustratingly slow in the progression of his quarterbacking skills, attributed to his inexperience at the college level and change of offensive personnel around him. There is a great quarterback in him somewhere, but whether the Bears want to dig through the muck to get to that form of QB is a different story.
In the other corner stands veteran QB Nick Foles, who was brought in this past offseason for a hefty paycheck, amounting to a 3-year, 24 million dollar deal. While expensive, he certainly earned his deal with the resume he has, with an expansive eight-year career that ultimately culminated in a Super Bowl victory when he led his 2017 Eagles to the title. He was brought in because of his playoff experience, his rapport with the Bears offensive staff, and to give Trubisky a competitive push for his job.
While Foles has already hit his ceiling of potential, his best can give the Bears a real shot at the title. Do the Chicago Bears take a gamble on Trubisky’s potential, or play it safe with Foles? This is the question all Bears fans are pondering heading into training camp.
2) Tight Ends
C’mon, you’ve heard the jokes. “Why do the Bears have ten tight ends on their roster, haha”. We’ve heard it time and time again. But putting aside the snark associated with that remark, the question is valid: why do the Bears have so many tight ends on the roster? Because the position was a huge liability last season.
The Bears took a huge gamble with Trey Burton, and he was miserable last season. Adam Shaheen, once revered as “Baby Gronk” (even though he played at a Division ll school), was a failure of a project for the Bears, who they recently traded to the Miami Dolphins for a measly 7th-round conditional 2021 draft pick. And while it’s no question that recently acquired TE Jimmy Graham has all but cemented his spot as the number one TE on the roster, the Bears cannot ignore the concerns of injury and poor play again. It’s imperative that they fill out the position with depth, and the Bears have candidates for that role.
The Bears used a valuable 2nd-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft to acquire Notre Dame TE Cole Kmet. He’s a well-rounded TE who can both block and catch the ball well; he can easily play himself into a substantial role this season.
Jesper Horsted raised some eyebrows last year as well, playing extremely well in the preseason and catching a sweet touchdown in a Week 12 match-up against the Detroit Lions.
All in all, the Bears have some interesting personnel in the tight end room, and it’ll be interesting to see who will catch the eyes of coaches and play themselves into the role in this offense.
No reason for alarm everyone; Eddie Jackson is STILL an All-Pro talent (despite what the NFL Network thought when creating the 2020 NFL Top 100 Players) and is in no danger of losing his job.
The other safety position is a bit more ambiguous, considering Pro-Bowl safety HaHa Clinton-Dix left for Dallas to reunite with his former Green Bay Packer coach Mike McCarthy. That left a desolate void at the opposite safety spot and one that desperately calls for decent talent.
The Bears did their absolute best to do the position justice, signing talented safety Tashaun Gipson this offseason. Well, if they signed him, the position is comfortably filled, right? Not necessarily. Deon Bush has been an up and coming player for Chicago for a couple years now, playing well in place of Jackson and Dix when they were out.
Bears safeties coach Sean Desai had confirmed that Deon Bush has a real shot of grasping the starting spot opposite of Jackson. Looks like this battle is not going to be as cut and dry as Bears fans originally thought.
This is easily going to be one of the most entertaining position groups to watch in training camp. The Bears were content to let Prince Amukamara, who signed with the Las Vegas Raiders this offseason, walk after a disappointing 2019 campaign. Prince simply didn’t play with the same enthusiasm and electricity that he displayed in a remarkable 2018 season, where had 3 INTs and a sizable 12 pass deflections. Thus, Prince took to the road, and the Bears have a concerning hole to fill opposite All-Pro cornerback Kyle Fuller. Luckily, they have a truly diverse room of corners who all have different skill sets that all have a shot at claiming that secondary corner spot.
When mentioning corners, you couldn’t start without talking about Bears 2020 2nd- round draft pick Jaylon Johnson, a truly dazzling corner out of Utah. Before suffering a torn labrum last September, Johnson displayed a knack for getting to the football, recording 4 INTs in 2018. He was regarded as a first-round talent before his unfortunate injury.
While he definitely is one of the favorites to win the starting job, the other true contender for the spot is Kevin Tolliver, a fan-favorite among Bears fans since his impressive 2018 training camp. He towers over many receivers at 6’2”, he is very technically sound, and he has a knack for making plays on the ball. He’s a physically gifted corner who played well when asked to relieve other cornerbacks in past years and has certainly earned the trust of the Bears coaching staff.
Other solid contenders include recently acquired, former Steelers cornerback Artie Burns, who was solid for them over four years; Bears 5th-round 2020 draft pick Kindle Vildor, 2nd-year pro-Duke Shelley, Stephen Denmark, Michael Joseph, and others. All these players have diverse skill sets that could contribute to a stellar Bears defense in many ways, and it’s going to a fun ride watching these guys give it their all out there.
5) Wide Receivers
Let’s all admit it, Allen Robinson is the most underrated wide receiver in the NFL. The Pro-Bowler has a monstrous physical frame, can battle any elite corner one and one and win, and has phenomenal catching and run after-the-catch ability. Also, a PSA to the Chicago Bears organization: EXTEND ALLEN ROBINSON. Ahem. I digress. The Bears have an incredible talent holding the title of the number one wide receiver, something the Bears did not truly have for a long time. The question is, who will be the Robin to Robinson’s Batman? Who will take hold of the number two wide receiver, and best compliment Robinson’s talents on the opposite side of the field?
The Bears have four very talented wide receivers behind Robinson, all who have a legitimate opportunity to seize the spot. We start with a speed demon in Ted Ginn Jr., a 13-year NFL-vet who has accumulated over 5700 receiving yards and 33 TD’s over that period of time. He is a fleet-footed receiver who has the potential to score at any moment and is a threat to take the top off of a defense. This would divert attention away from Robinson somewhat, as Ginn would command the respect of opposing defenses because of his speed.
Another strong contender is 3rd-year pro-Anthony Miller, a dynamic and explosive player who has a lot of promise. After a surprisingly good rookie year, where he caught 7 TD’s, he regressed somewhat, only catching 2 in 2019. However, his regression was in-line with the rest of the offense, who all severely regressed last year. The Bears are expected to bounce back in a big way, and Miller is a prime candidate to really jump off the screen this year. He’s definitely a player who fans advocate for to get that second wide receiver spot, and he can prove it in training camp this year.
Another contender for the spot is a physically opposing receiver in Javon Wims. Wims is in his second year with Chicago and has only improved since joining the team. He’s a big receiver who has excellent hands, deceptive route running, and a decent amount of speed as well.
He hadn’t really got the opportunity to display his skills consistently in regular-season games, since Taylor Gabriel had gotten the starting nod over Wims the last couple of seasons. He’s a player with exceptional talent, and can really be a force to be reckoned with if it’s realized.
Last but not least, the Bears have 2nd-year receiver Riley Ridley, brother of Atlanta Falcons stud Calvin Ridley. Though he only got sprinklings of playing time in his rookie campaign, his talent was clear just from that small sample size.
He is a sneaky underdog to up-end the rest of the receivers and seize the spot if he shines in camp. Watching these talented receivers battle the talented cornerback group will be a sight to behold.
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