6 questions we have for the Bears after the 2021 NFL draft

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Now that the 2021 NFL draft is in the rearview mirror, it’s time to look ahead to the remainder of the offseason. There’s still plenty of work to be done for the Chicago Bears between now and the start of the regular season, which will be addressed during training camp and preseason.

The Bears made some big moves in the draft, including trading up for their franchise quarterback in Justin Fields at 11th overall and bringing in their new left tackle in Teven Jenkins in the second round, along with adding some great value picks on Day 3.

But the draft has left us with plenty of questions. Here are six questions we have for the Bears following the NFL draft and heading into training camp.

How soon will Justin Fields start?

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This is certainly the question that presents the most fun for Bears fans: When will top rookie Justin Fields finally take the field as Chicago's starting quarterback? The Bears have remained adamant that the plan is not to rush Fields along -- ala the Patrick Mahomes model in Kansas City. But what if Fields proves, sooner rather than later, that he's ready to be the starting quarterback? Because Andy Dalton is no Alex Smith, and Fields' talent is likely to shine more quickly than Chicago might like. The Bears' hesitancy is understandable given the failed Mitchell Trubisky experiment. But Fields is no Trubisky, and Chicago shouldn't be determined to sideline Fields in an attempt to replicate what the Chiefs did with Mahomes. When Fields is ready -- and proves he gives this team the best chance to win -- the Bears need to give him that chance.

What’s the plan on the offensive line?

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One of the biggest questions heading into this offseason was the state of the offensive line, particularly at the tackle position. Following the NFL draft, that remains a concern. The Bears got a steal in the second round with offensive tackle Teven Jenkins, who played mostly right tackle at Oklahoma State. But GM Ryan Pace wouldn't rule out Jenkins moving to the left side, where Charles Leno was. Then Chicago parted ways with Leno, freeing up cap space and ensuring that Jenkins will most likely serve as the Bears' left tackle. With the loss of Leno and Massie, that leaves Jenkins and Germain Ifedi as your projected starting tackles, which isn't the most reassuring thing given Jenkins' inexperience and Ifedi's track record. There's an argument to be made that the offensive line didn't get better -- despite the very solid addition of Jenkins. And it's not what you want to hear when you have your rookie franchise quarterback waiting in the wings.

Are the Bears going to ride with Anthony Miller this year?

AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

It's no secret that the Bears have been shopping former second-round wideout Anthony Miller this offseason, and they've certainly received interest. But now that we're through the NFL draft and the Bears failed to use a top draft pick on a receiver, it feels like Miller might play out the final year of his deal in Chicago. The Bears return their top receivers in Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney, who should benefit from the addition of Fields. Chicago also added some veteran experience in Marquise Goodwin and fifth-round rookie Dazz Newsome, which was needed given the uncertainty with Javon Wims and Riley Ridley on the roster. Assuming Miller remains in Chicago in 2021, he'll get another chance to prove himself -- whether it's to the Bears or his next NFL team.

Is Jimmy Graham safe from being the next cap casualty?

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We're still a couple months away from the start of training camp, but it sure looks like tight end Jimmy Graham will remain a Bear in 2021. With the Bears needing to free up cap space, many expected Graham to be released. Instead, it was left tackle Charles Leno, whose release freed up $9 million in cap space. Many were surprised that it was Leno that got the boot rather than Graham, considering how difficult it is to find a solid left tackle in the league. Barring a late offseason move, Graham will likely remain with the Bears in 2021, giving Andy Dalton and Fields a 1-2 punch with tight ends, along with second-year tight end Cole Kmet.

What's the deal with the cornerback depth chart?

AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

One of the strongest position groups on the Bears roster took a hit this offseason with the releases of two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Kyle Fuller and nickelback Buster Skrine, which leaves Chicago without a starting outside corner and slot cornerback. Suddenly, Jaylon Johnson has been thrust into the No. 1 role without Fuller. The Bears signed veteran Desmond Trufant in free agency, re-signed Artie Burns and added Oregon's Thomas Graham Jr. in the sixth round, so there's some potential there. Not to mention last year's fifth-round pick Kindle Vildor and Duke Shelley, who were decent in their relief of an injured Johnson last season. There are a lot of questions at cornerback, particularly concerning the depth chart.

Who will serve as kick returner and punt returner?

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While Chicago was able to lock down its core trio for the 2021 season, there are questions about who will be returning kicks. Two-time All-Pro kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson is gone, which leaves a big void on kick returns. With running back Tarik Cohen coming off a torn ACL, perhaps the Bears would consider turning elsewhere for punt returns. Chicago added a couple of value picks on Day 3 of the draft in running backs Khalil Herbert and wide receiver Dazz Newsome, both of which have experience returning kicks in college. Then there's Miller, who looks to be staying with the Bears this season, who has punt return experience. So we could be in for a kick return competition come training camp.

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