With all NFL Training Camps scheduled to open tomorrow, things are looking a lot different this year due to COVID 19. The NFL will be without a preseason and training camp will follow a series of procedures and gradual acclamation of players and coaches back to football. Before we take a look at the various things to expect from the Bears this training camp lets break down the NFL’s protocol on Camp and COVID.
Reporting and Testing (July 28-31)
All players for every team will report to training camp on July 28 and be tested for COVID 19. No players will be allowed into facilities until they test negative three times over the course of the first several days. All players will self quarantine and all meetings will be held virtually. Teams can have 80 or 90 players to start camp but must reduce to 53 by September 6.
Physicals and Equipment (August 1-2)
Players who test negative will be able to enter facilities to take physicals and get fitted for equipment. The two day period is designed for social distancing guidelines. Contact tracing will begin and daily tests will begin over the next two weeks.
On-Field Activities Begin (August 3-11)
All on field activities will be limited to strength and conditioning and walkthroughs during this period. Limitations on coaches on the field at a time will also be implemented. No helmets allowed either. Groupings of players cannot exceed 15 players.
Increasing On-Field Activities (August 12-16)
The first few days of this period will consist of individual instruction and drills, all coaches allowed on field, and helmets permitted. Following this full speed, non-contact practices begin.
Contact Begins (August 17- September 6)
All teams will be permitted to conduct padded practices but must remain limited, not exceeding 3 consecutive days.
Chicago Bears Camp Preview
5 Players to Watch:
After a downgrade in production in 2019, the Bears brought in veteran Quarterback Nick Foles to create an open competition for the job. Reports throughout the offseason indicated Trubisky spent the offseason working with different coaches and teammates like Allen Robinson II. He is reportedly in high spirits and feeling confident heading into camp. This season is very much a make or break one both for Trubisky and the Bears in regards to the future of the Quarterback position in Chicago.
Another Quarterback trying to prove it, Nick Foles was traded to the Bears from Jacksonville this past offseason. Foles was the centerpiece of the Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl run in 2017, filling in for Carson Wentz. After this performance that won him Super Bowl MVP honors, Foles returned to his backup role for the Eagles before signing with the Jaguars in 2019. Injuries and inconsistent play derailed his first season in Jacksonville. He was brought into Chicago to compete against Trubisky and already has familiarity with Coach Matt Nagy’s scheme.
A well grounded veteran pass rusher, Quinn is expected to play opposite of Khalil Mack rushing on the edge. Robert Quinn is coming off a season with the Dallas Cowboys where he posted 11.5 sacks. He should be filling in the spot of Leonard Floyd who was released this offseason. It will be interesting to see what impact Quinn will have on the Bears’ pass rush and defense as a whole. If Robert Quinn is able to replicate his performance last season, expect the Bears to be among the league’s best in sacks, with Mack receiving less double teams and a healthy Akiem Hicks in the middle.
The only rookie on this list, Johnson was drafted as a potential replacement of Prince Amukamara. The rookie from Utah was a two time first team all PAC 12 player who was among the best in the nation in pass breakups and preventing big plays. Without OTAs and a formal minicamp more pressure will be on Johnson to quickly adjust to an NFL defense. Johnson has already stated how he is playing with a chip on his shoulder by falling into the 2nd round of this year’s draft. He believed in himself to be the best corner in the draft and will now be able to showcase his ability on an already well rounded Bears defense.
After a solid rookie campaign gaining over 800 yards on the ground and 6 rushing touchdowns, Montgomery should be looking at an increased role in the Bears offense. Drafted to replace Jordan Howard and fit Nagy’s offense, his workload should reflect this in the upcoming season. Montgomery will be a player to watch both in the run game and coming out of the backfield on passes. With a change in coaching on the offensive line and hopeful improvement in play calling the opportunity should be in place for Montgomery to have a potential breakout season.
3 Position Battles to Watch
Perhaps on the biggest Quarterback storylines in the league this training camp, the Bears are having an open competition for the position. Both Foles and Trubisky have something to prove by winning the starting role. For Trubisky it is about being worthy of being in the same conversation as fellow 2017 Draft Class QBs Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes. For Foles it is about proving that he is not just a journeyman playing backup in the league. For the Bears, there are two things that are important.
One, that GM Ryan Pace did not make a mistake in drafting Trubisky or even trading for Foles when there were other free agents available (Bridgewater, Newton, etc.) And the other is that, this battle will be won by the player that can create the big plays when needed, take control and command of the offense, and limit turnovers. Do not expect the starter to put up numbers that are among the league’s best, but the starter should produce enough to win ball games. Expectations are of an increase in the role of the running game which should take off some pressure on the eventual starter.
While Kyle Fuller is the full time CB1, the departure of Prince Amukamara leaves an open spot for that second cornerback slot. Several players expected to compete for this position are Jaylon Johnson, Artie Burns, and Jordan Lucas. It is a short list but the Bears have added much depth this offseason to address a big need in the secondary. Overall play in the secondary should be improved with the Bears also adding additional Safety help in Tashaun Gipson Sr.
With most of the starters returning for the Bears, there is still a big hole to be filled at Right Guard with the retirement of Kyle Long. The Bears return starters Bobbie Massie, Cody Whitehair, James Daniels, and Charles Leno Jr. With new coaching as well, there should be much improved play from this offensive line. Several players that could be competing for the spot at Right Guard are Alex Bars, Rashaad Coward, and Germain Ifedi. There potentially could be other shifts as well with different schemes and coaching.
Other Key Things
Media and Reporting
Due to COVID 19 camps for the most part should be free of media presence and fans. There should still be opportunities for players and coaches to meet with the media. For the Bears it will be interesting to see how they update the media on things such as position battles. Usually fans were allowed to attend practices and determine how different players were performing. Now it is solely on the Bears to give these updates.
Extending Allen Robinson II
Heading into the final year of his deal with the Bears, Allen Robinson II is yet to be offered an extension. Thus far there is no indication of a hold out, however this will be a story worth following throughout camp and the season. Robinson has been the most consistent player on the Bears offense since 2018.
The league has outlined policy and guidelines for entering camp, however the biggest mystery is what will the league or even individual teams do with positive tests or a breakout within the locker room. Other leagues such as the NBA, NHL, and MLS are playing in quarantined bubbles, however as we can see in the MLB and Miami Marlins, games are already being canceled due to positive tests. The NFL has not announced a plan just yet but this will be something to look for throughout Training Camp.