Like the rest of the NFL, the Chicago Bears will be conducting training camp for the 2020 season under less-than-ideal circumstances. COVID-19 continues to affect the sports world, but like baseball, hockey, and soccer, the NFL is pushing ahead to have a season of some sort. The league will conduct regular testing for all 32 teams, and the results and frequency of those tests will ultimately decide if the '20 campaign can move forward. The NFL will not allow fans to attend this year's practices.
The Bears will have to deal with all of these factors as they look to rebound this season. They fought to just an 8-8 finish in 2019 after winning the NFC North in 2018. The Bears underwent some changes in the offseason in order to improve this roster. And they'll have almost two full months to bring this team together. Here are five storylines that will play out over the course of camp.
1. Old is new
For the first time since 1983, the Bears will hold camp at their local practice facility, known as Halas Hall (named after NFL/Bears founder George Halas). It marks a huge change for the Bears, who have held training camp at Olivet-Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois, since 2001. Before that, they started the season in Platteville, Wisconsin, for several years.
Before the pandemic, most NFL teams have opted to hold training camp at their local facilities as opposed to traveling. In January, however, the Bears announced that they would shift camp to Lake Forest, Illinois, for mostly logistical reasons. Through the years, the Bears have made numerous renovations to Halas Hall, and today the facility is much better suited to host training camp compared to years past.
2. The quarterback situation
Mitchell Trubisky, the second overall pick in 2017, is fighting for his future after the Bears declined the fifth-year option on his rookie deal. After an up-and-down start to his career, Trubisky will need to have his best year yet if he wants a new contract. By the same token, Nick Foles isn't making $24 million just to sit on the bench. Tyler Bray is also on the roster again, but there's no guarantee that he'll make the active roster come September. Production from the quarterback position will go a long way in deciding if the Bears will be contenders again.
3. Plenty of new faces
In addition to Foles, the Bears through free agency also added tight ends Jimmy Graham and Demetrius Harris, edge rusher Robert Quinn, linebacker Barkevious Mingo, offensive tackle Germain Ifedi, wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr., and defensive backs Tre Roberson, Artie Burns, and Jordan Lucas among others. The team made a significant investment in free agency and on the trade market in order to address positions of concern. This new group of talent will be expected to produce right away, and, in some cases, roster spots won't be guaranteed.
4. A strong stable of rookies
The Bears have 20 first-time NFLers on this year's training camp roster who are looking to make a name for themselves as pros. Some players, such as recent draft picks tight end Cole Kmet, wide receiver Darnell Mooney, and cornerback Jaylon Johnson, are expected to be playmakers right away. Others, such as edge rusher Trevis Gipson and offensive tackle Arlington Hambright, will contend for rotational spots. The rest will be fighting for practice squad slots. What makes their job even harder is that they won't be able to use preseason games as showcases of their work, and some may not even get a shot with NFL teams potentially cutting down training camp rosters from 90 to 80.
5. New offensive assistant coaches
Bill Lazor will help head coach Matt Nagy with the play calling, John DeFilippo will help Dave Ragone with the quarterbacks, Clancy Barone now handles tight ends, and Juan Castillo takes care of the offensive line. The Bears offense took a step back last year, so Nagy decided to make changes to his staff in the hopes of re-energizing this side of the ball.
— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He's a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.
(Top photo courtesy of chicagobears.com)