Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

July 24, 2018 at 1:10 am.

Because the Chicago Bears play Baltimore in the Hall of Fame Game, they will have the benefit of five preseason games and an extra week of training camp.

They’ll need it.

Even after an extra minicamp, an early July 16 reporting date for rookies and July 19 start of regular camp, the Bears require every single rep considering the monumental task ahead for new head coach Matt Nagy.

Most of the challenge revolves around a completely new offense, and the fact quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is only 12 starts into his NFL career.

There are other extenuating circumstances making the task all the more difficult.

Earlier offseason work helped with basic education on an offense emphasizing run-pass options.

“They had to understand the structure of this offense and they didn’t know that coming into it,” Nagy said. “We had to lay the foundation, we did that.

“Then we just loaded them up with a bunch of stuff just to see what sticks and see what’s too much for them so we can have this gauge when we get into the season as to what we can and can’t do. In particular, No. 10 (Trubisky) and seeing what he can balance.”

Players said Nagy told them prior to leaving the final June minicamp that the offense was ahead of schedule.

“It’s just the more reps you get the better off we’re gonna be,” Trubisky said. “And I just feel like the guys who have been out there and going through reps, we’ve gotten a lot better from Day 1 already. So we’re making progress for sure. We’ve got to keep improving that chemistry and groove this offense.”

The problem is, all of them haven’t been out there since Day 1.

The one aspect missing in last year’s offense was a No. 1 wide receiver threat and go-to target for Bears passers. And when new top receiving threat Allen Robinson takes the practice field, it will be for the first time. His rehab from ACL surgery kept him out of 7-on-7 or non-contact scrimmages all offseason.

Receivers like Taylor Gabriel, Marlon Brown and DeMarcus Ayers are new to the team, and Kevin White and Josh Bellamy are new to the offense. Receivers on the roster had only 29 catches for the Bears last year.

The primary inexperience factor is Trubisky, who starts in his second offense in two seasons.

“He does well in the (shot)gun,” Nagy said. “The biggest thing for Mitch right now is just trying to digest this offense, and he’ll do that.”

The defense is certainly not without problems, although those pale in comparison to the reconstruction facing the offense.

The Bears saw almost as little of linebacker Leonard Floyd in the offseason due to rehab from a knee injury as they saw of Robinson. He still wore a knee brace as minicamp ended and said it’s possible he’ll have one until the season starts.

Although coordinator Vic Fangio’s defense is counted as a strength, they are entering training camp dangerously thin at outside rusher and Floyd is the key there.

“Leonard, I think the biggest thing when you run into a knee issue like that is just having that trust in the knee and how it’s going to be with some of the different stunts and rushes that you have, the drops,” Nagy said. “For him, his strength is his size and his speed. We don’t have the pads on, so he can’t go out there and really show, he’ll be out there in 7-on-7 and he has to pull up because he can’t do certain moves.”

The possibility of a lengthy holdout by top draft pick Roquan Smith further complicates the pass-rush situation, since the Bears are expected to use his speed on inside blitzes to make up for some of the rush they lost off the outside when veterans Willie Young, Pernell McPhee and Lamar Houston went unsigned.

The Bears have so many unsettled issues, it’s difficult to see how their second rebuild under general manager Ryan Pace will occur overnight. Part of the reason is Nagy, because of his reputation for igniting an offense and also because of the way he relates to players.

“I’m not going to be perfect all the time, I will make mistakes but I’ll try to correct them,” Nagy said.

With all the problems facing the Bears at the outset, snafus by a rookie head coach are the least of their worries.




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