5 Bears players to watch when NFL Training Camp starts

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·6 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

5 Bears players to watch when Training Camp starts originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The start of Bears training camp is nearly upon us, and with it comes plenty of questions, storylines and position battles to watch. Looking at the big picture in each of those cases is important, but the individual performances of several key players will also have a big impact on the team’s success as a whole. The following list doesn’t enumerate the “most important” players to the Bears’ win-loss record this season. Rather it’s a list of five guys who will be interesting to track as the summer goes on, and transitions to the preseason. Some are because of their upside and some are because of their projected role on the team. All of them deserve to have eyes on them during training camp.

BRAXTON JONES

It was a bit of a surprise to see Jones line up at left tackle with the first-string offensive line halfway through Bears OTAs. At times looked like the fifth-round rookie that he is, getting beat by incoming edge rushers or committing pre-snap penalties. But the Bears didn’t put him in the doghouse, and let him continue to work out the kinks through the end of the summer program. Now the question is will it be Jones or Larry Borom at left tackle when camp kicks off on Tuesday? If Jones doesn’t start camp with the starting unit, will he get another look later? And if Jones gets another look with the starters, will we see any improvements made since the end of OTAs? What does all of this mean for Teven Jenkins’ future with the team? Bottom line, no matter if it’s Jones or Borom protecting Justin Fields’ left side this season, there will be lots to prove up front.

VELUS JONES JR.

The Bears wide receiver room got a boost when Ryan Poles traded for N’Keal Harry last week, but it’s still the position group that’s drawn the most scrutiny this year. The Bears WRs have been a popular choice for the worst unit in the league, and are a big reason why many expect the Bears offense to be among the worst as a whole. The decision to draft Velus Jones Jr. as the lone wide receiver in a draft class chock full of high-end pass catching talent drew plenty of criticism too. But the Bears are high on Jones’ playmaking upside and believe he can be a difference maker not only on offense, but on special teams too. Now we’ll get to see if the Bears have any interesting concepts to maximize Jones’ talents. Will there be jet sweeps or gadget plays to get Jones’ the ball in space? Where will he line up on the field? Will there be a noticeable effort to get Jones involved in the offense, or will he receive a similar amount of targets compared to players like Byron Pringle and Equanimeous St. Brown?

JUSTIN JONES

It’s no secret that the three-technique defensive tackle is an important position in Matt Eberflus’ defense. Relying on the four linemen to generate pressure on the quarterback, it’s the 3T who’s expected to penetrate the backfield from the interior to cause havoc. It’s also no secret that Jones was the team’s second choice to take the job. Ryan Poles and Eberflus rushed to recruit and sign Jones when Larry Ogunjobi failed his physical earlier this offseason. With no pads on during OTAs, no one has really been able to properly evaluate what Jones can do in the role. Training camp will be Jones’ first opportunity to show his coaches that he’s up to the task at hand, and to make Ogunjobi an afterthought. Jones is coming off of a career-high three sacks last year, but he’ll need to take another jump in that department to help the defense succeed. Further, Jones has never played a full season, nor has he played more than 70% of his team’s snaps on defense. It will be interesting to see how Jones handles the increased responsibility, and how much the Bears keep him on the field.

ROQUAN SMITH / NICK MORROW

Early returns indicate that Roquan Smith will play weakside linebacker, with Nick Morrow slotting in the middle. But both Matt Eberflus and linebackers coach Dave Borgonzi have yet to declare either player as the starters at those respective positions. Part of that may have to do with some thin reasoning of competitive advantage. But the Bears have also reiterated that they appreciate each player’s versatility, and ability to play each position. Not only does that give the defense increased depth in case either man goes down, but it gives Alan Williams the chance to play some chess if Smith and Morrow can play each position interchangeably. If the team continues to switch the players around on the field, that could make opposing offenses think an extra second to identify who’s playing Mike on any given play. Every second counts, so there could be a real advantage there if Smith and Morrow can help disguise the team’s defense. We’ll see if the two settle into more clearly defined roles as the preseason approaches, or if Smith and Morrow continue to move back and forth.

JUSTIN FIELDS

Eyes are always on Fields whenever he’s on the field, so this entry is a bit of a layup, but no list about the Bears heading into Training Camp would be complete without him. No one man will have more of an impact on their success than Fields. Yes, others will have an impact on his personal success, like the offensive line and the wide receivers, but Fields has the unique ability to raise the level of play of everyone else around him. Last season, turnoversー especially fumblesー were a bugaboo for Fields. He played inconsistently too, with maybe one solid game played start to finish. Fields was up and down in OTAs again, and it’s impossible to judge whether his ball control has improved since no one is allowed to even sniff the quarterback on defense in the summer. Will Fields be able to string more impressive practices together in camp? Will he develop a rapport with another pass catcher, in addition to his developing relationship with Darnell Mooney? What new concepts for Fields will Luke Getsy dream up, and how well will they work? The Bears are counting on Fields to take a big step in his sophomore season. If not, they’ll have to take a hard look at why things didn’t work out. If the O-line and playmakers struggle it will be hard to fairly assess Fields, but the Bears will want to know sooner rather than later whether he’s the man to lead them out of their rebuild and into their next contention window.

Click here to follow the Under Center Podcast.

Download

Download MyTeams Today!