BOURBONNAIS – The 2018 Bears finished the season with the NFL’s No. 1 defense.
On offense, however, last year’s Bears were 20th in total offense, 11th rushing (but 27th in average gain per rush), 21st passing, 22nd in interception percentage, 16th in first downs and ninth in points scored (but that was skewed by six defensive touchdowns).
So which side of the ball would you guess will be under more scrutiny now that the Bears’ 2019 training camp officially has opened in Bourbonnais?
Of course, it’s the offense, and no player on the team will be watched more closely than its leader, quarterback Mitch Trubisky.
He appears quite confident without being cocky, and expressed pleasure Thursday upon arriving in camp that in spite of his group needing to make a big leap there were no dramatic moves during the offseason.
“It’s awesome,” Trubisky said. “We’ve got a really strong core, and I think the new guys we added are going to help us a lot.
“We only bring in specific people and players that fit the culture of what we’re trying to do here in Chicago. We’ve got a lot of guys who had opportunities to go somewhere else but wanted to be here, which means a lot to us.
“It’s a really tight brotherhood of family, and I think we know what we’ve got in this locker room, and it’s up to us to hold each other accountable and push each other every day.”
It’s interesting that when asked the other day what gave him the most confidence that last year’s breakout Bears wouldn’t take a step backwards this year, general manager Ryan Pace immediately talked about the “culture” this team has built, and that was the first place Trubisky went when talking about his offense getting better.
What coach Matt Nagy wants more than anything are big, explosive plays, and in the middle of the plans to generate them you’ll find Tarik Cohen.
Coming off his first Pro Bowl and All-Pro season, Cohen notched another honor Thursday, best grand entrance to camp, as he roared onto the campus of Olivet Nazarene University in his Walter Payton jersey (Thursday was Payton’s birthday, and Cohen’s is Friday) and driving his Slingshot ATV.
He explained how he hopes he and his fellow running backs can deliver for Nagy.
“I feel like the message I’m going to try to spread is definitely make your impact when you’re on the field,” Cohen said. “You might not be on the field to start the game, I might not be on the field to start the game. I might not be on the field for a critical third down, but when I’m in the game, I’m going to make my presence felt, and if all of the guys in that room feel the same way, then we have a wonderful room.”
Allen Robinson expects the Bears’ newfound depth at receiver will be a big help.
“I’ve been a part of a talented group before.” Robinson said. “I definitely think that helps as far as the competition. Again, each and every day that you go out there you want to see guys make plays, and you want to compete with each other as far as who can make the most plays.
“I think at any point in time if we are competing as an offense or as a receiver room on who is making the most plays, I think that is a good problem because you have plays being made everywhere.”
At the end of the day, however, no matter what the question, these Bears seem to find a way to bring the conversation back around to their culture.
Ask Trubisky what makes these Bears special and he’ll tell you, “It’s always fun being around these guys, honestly. Just the characters we have at practice. Taylor Gabriel being back here. Tarik Cohen’s hanging out at practice, dancing. We’re going to have a good time.
“We get to play the best game in the world on the biggest stage for the greatest city, so there’s nothing better than being back here.
“We call it work, but we’re just out here having fun and playing the game we love.”
• Hub Arkush is executive editor of Pro Football Weekly. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter @Hub_Arkush.