The Bears begin OTAs on Monday, and Tuesday’s practice will be open to the media. In the next few weeks, we’ll get to observe three Bears OTA practices before veteran minicamp begins June 13. Key Bears players will meet with the media for the first time since last season, and new Bears may get their first chance to talk to reporters in Chicago. We can’t glean a ton until the pads come on in Bourbonnais, and we cannot report all the personnel groupings we see, but here are some of the key story lines we’ll be watching at Halas Hall over the next few weeks.
Glennon in charge
The biggest story line, at least for the first OTA practice open to the media on Tuesday, will be the new Bears starting quarterback. Glennon will meet the media for the first time since Mitch Trubisky was selected No. 2 overall. He’ll have plenty of questions to answer not only about his reaction to the pick, but how he plans to handle simultaneously being the starter trying to prove himself while also working with Trubisky. On the field, it’ll be our first chance to watch Glennon throw in a Bears uniform. We won’t know much about his abilities until the pads come on in Bourbonnais, but we’ll get to see how he handles Dowell Loggains’ offense in OTAs and runs the show with the Bears’ pass catchers.
Leonard Floyd's sophomore jump
It’s possible no player has higher expectations in 2017 than Floyd, who showed a few flashes as a raw, first-year player in 2016.
Floyd should be bigger, stronger and more comfortable in the Bears’ defense. Common refrain to remember throughout OTAs and minicamp is that everyone looks good in shorts, especially a player as athletic as Floyd, but we can at least get a good look at how much better last year’s first-round pick appears heading into Year Two.
Kevin White's Return, Part II
John Fox, Dowell Loggains and Zach Azzanni raved about Kevin White’s work ethic. That’s good to hear, of course, and it’s unfortunate what the 2015 No. 7 pick has had to go through, but it’ll be another “prove-it” situation for White, who clearly has a chip on his shoulder and doesn’t want to be a bust. We’ll be able to see how much speed he still has following another surgery and where he’s at with his route running and rapport with Glennon.
Mitch meets the vets
Rookie minicamp was challenge No. 1 for Mitch Trubisky, but this is a giant leap of talent. On the one hand, Trubisky will be working with a better group of receivers than the undrafted rookies and minicamp tryout players, but he’ll also be going against an NFL defense. Granted, it will likely be the third team, but it will be key to see how he handles facing them. We’ll also be focused on how Loggains distributes reps among the quarterbacks, something he acknowledges will be a challenge.
Year 3 in Chicago for McPhee
Vic Fangio wants to see the Pernell McPhee the Bears had for the first half of the 2015 season, a game-wrecker who made impact plays in the backfield. Knee injuries and then a shoulder injury late last season have hindered Ryan Pace’s first big free-agent signing’s time with the Bears. He should be healthy enough to participate in some fashion this spring, unlike last year, and his leadership and abilities can make a big difference for the ‘D’.
What can you do in Year Two?
Floyd probably has the highest ceiling for what he’s capable of in his second NFL season, but what about the other key players from what appears to be a solid draft class? It’s asking a lot for Jordan Howard to improve upon a 5.2-yard rushing average as a rookie. How will he handle being the star of the offense? Cody Whitehair quietly had a very good season at center. Considering it was his first season at the pivot, he should continue to ascend. Can Jonathan Bullard win a starting spot? Can Nick Kwiatkoski hold down the fort at inside linebacker until Danny Trevathan returns? How will Deiondre’ Hall and Deon Bush factor in the competitions in the secondary? We’ll learn a little more in the next few weeks about the 2016 Bears draft class.
Kevin White’s injury and Alshon Jeffery’s suspension opened the door last season for Cameron Meredith, who led the team in receiving. With Jeffery in Philadelphia and questions about White in his return from a broken fibula,
Meredith will have high expectations as a potential breakout player again for the offense. The staff loves his skill set and believes he has room to grow at the position. He’ll get his first main practice reps with Mike Glennon this week.
Cornerback battle begins
The most noteworthy competition in terms of names familiar to Bears fans will be at cornerback. New guys Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper are expected to be the starters, and their first practices as Bears will be story lines to watch, too. Cre’Von LeBlanc, Bryce Callahan, Kyle Fuller and Johnthan Banks have all started games for the Bears, but there’s only one starting spot left to fill. Veterans B.W. Webb and Sherrick McManis will make their case, too.
Who starts next to Demps?
Another year, another competition at safety. We know Quintin Demps is one starter, and he is a massive upgrade over what the Bears have had in the back end over the past few years. But he’s also turning 32 next month, so the Bears would like to see if one of their young players can step up. Adrian Amos was supposed to be last year’s standout at safety. Harold Jones-Quartey has shown flashes. Deon Bush is a fourth-round pick who could be primed for a Year Two jump. Deiondre’ Hall will get his chances, too, and rookie Eddie Jackson, if he’s healthy. We may not be able to report it right away, but we’ll soon learn who is getting the first crack to start at safety alongside Demps.
Crowded tight ends room
This is the deepest the Bears have been at tight end this early in the calendar year. Zach Miller returns, but what kind of role can he have with Dion Sims — who received starter’s money — and second-round pick Adam Shaheen? The Bears are also still high on converted receiver Daniel Brown and last year’s undrafted rookie Ben Braunecker. We’ll see how often in OTAs the Bears employ two- and three-tight end sets to get these guys on the field.
Deonte Thompson and Benny Cunningham will be the top candidates to win the kickoff-return job. Markus Wheaton has experience there, too. What about punt returns? We should see Tarik Cohen, Eddie Jackson, and Cre’Von LeBlanc getting reps. Maybe Bryce Callahan, too, or one of the undrafted rookie receivers. These battles won’t be resolved until late in the summer, but they’ll begin at OTAs.