Ravens fans know what to expect from their team for the Hall of Fame Game, but the Ravens weren’t the only team preparing for their early pre-season game. The Bears also began training camp early, and Bears fans were just as rabid in reading about their new head coach, their young quarterback and all the roster updates we scour the internet for. Fortunately, I was able to ask Windy City Gridiron five questions regarding their players, training camp and the upcoming game.
1. This will be the first game under Matt Nagy’s tutelage. What can viewers expect from the offensive-minded coach?
Obviously, the first pre-season game of the year will be a lot of basics as far as plays are concerned and we’ll be seeing mostly backups on the field. During the season, I would expect to see a lot of different formations and personnel packages, as Nagy looks to put his spin on the Andy Reid offense. Expect two tight end sets to be a regular feature, similar to the Eagles’ successful use of Zach Ertz and Trey Burton last year. Dion Sims and, hopefully, Adam Shaheen will be playing the more traditional inline “Y” tight end while the aforementioned Burton will play the “U” position during the regular season. I’d also expect some creative screen plays to get the ball in the hands of Tarik Cohen and Taylor Gabriel. Mostly, I expect Nagy to put Mitchell Trubisky and the rest of his QBs in a position to make open throws created by scheme.
2. Who is a dark-horse candidate to make the roster that Bears fans are excited for?
I’m going to say Kevin Toliver, rookie UFA cornerback out of LSU. The Bears committed to Kyle Fuller in the off-season, but there is plenty of room in the secondary depth chart. Toliver is one of those guys that slipped through the cracks of the draft that has the ability to make the 53-man roster and develop into a serviceable player. He’s had a solid camp early on and I think the Bears might have to find an active roster spot for him rather than trying to hide him on the practice squad. It will be fun to see what he looks like throughout the preseason and if he can push a guy like Marcus Cooper off the roster. Chicago released Cooper earlier this year to clear some cap room before re-signing him to a more palatable deal and he’s the one “surprise” cut prediction I’m pulling for.
3. Who on the second team is the candidate most are expecting to break-out?
I think you could find a fairly wide variety of opinions on that question but I’ll point back to Adam Shaheen. A big athlete from Ashland University, Shaheen scored 3 times on a scant 12 grabs in his rookie year. To say it was a surprise the Bears held onto veteran Dion Sims this off-season would be an understatement, but the new coaching staff must not have seen enough on tape from Shaheen to trust a full-time role to him right away. I’d expect Shaheen to start wrestling away more playing time from Sims, particularly down in the red zone where he could be a difference maker.
4. Which rookie should Ravens fans focus their attention upon?
As much as I want to recommend everyone watch interior offensive lineman and former Iowa Hawkeye James Daniels, take a look at Anthony Miller, wide receiver out of Memphis. He’s ultra-competitive and has won high praise from everyone in camp including the defensive backs. Our draft guru for WCG was on this guy from early on in the draft evaluation process and there were audible cheers around Bears fandom when Chicago traded back into the second round to get him. He’s certainly the guy I’m most excited to see in game action and he has a chance to carve out a sizable role in this offense from an early stage. Like the Ravens, the Bears completely remade their receiving corps in the off-season and there is little to no talent returning from 2017 to worry about challenging for targets.
5. Which position on the Bears roster hosts the greatest competition?
Now that’s an interesting question. There’s a good competition between Roy Robertson-Harris and Jonathan Bullard for the starting job opposite Akiem Hicks. Both guys have their fans and truth be told, both guys need to take on a sizable workload if the Bears want to be successful this year. I think Bullard will see more starts but Robertson-Harris will have more impact. If both players can take a step forward in their development, the Bears should have a strong line with Hicks and emerging stud Eddie Goldman forming a solid foundation.