After loading up around Trubisky, Bears seek bigger things
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — The Chicago Bears spent the offseason loading up around Mitchell Trubisky, hoping to accelerate their prized quarterback's development and energize a franchise with four straight last-place finishes in the NFC North.
It's time to see how the plan unfolds.
The Bears come into the season believing they set themselves up for bigger things after changing coaches and bolstering the roster.
Chicago fired coach John Fox after finishing 5-11 and replaced him with the offense-minded Matt Nagy. The Bears also gave Trubisky some new playmaking options, most notably signing former Jacksonville Pro Bowl receiver Allen Robinson.
They added a potential cornerstone player on defense when they drafted inside linebacker Roquan Smith at No. 8 overall. But they are mostly banking on continuity on that side of the ball.
What they don't want is more of the same, at least when it comes to wins and losses.
The Bears have made the playoffs once since the 2006 team's run to the Super Bowl. They have five straight seasons without a winning record. And they have a fan base that's antsy yet energized after a busy offseason.
Here are some things to know as the Bears get ready to open the season at Green Bay on Sept. 9:
NEXT STEP: Whether he makes the sort of leap Carson Wentz and Jared Goff did in their second seasons, the Bears are banking on Trubisky to take at least a few big strides. They also expect him to hit a few more bumps along the way.
"The first time we get out there and play a real game in Lambeau and we play that first regular-season game, there's gonna be hiccups," Nagy said. "He's gonna learn from that. Then we just continue to grow as the games go by. Mitch can handle all of it."
Trubisky threw for 2,193 yards and completed 59.4 percent of his passes in 12 starts last season. But the No. 2 pick in the 2017 draft also threw as many touchdowns as interceptions (seven).
But he's playing in a more open and aggressive system with some new receivers, something the Bears sorely lacked. Besides Robinson, they also added receivers Taylor Gabriel and rookie Anthony Miller, as well as tight end Trey Burton.
NEW TERRITORY: Though he comes with a reputation for developing quarterbacks, one thing Nagy does not have is experience as a head coach. He didn't even start calling plays until late last season with Kansas City, where coach Andy Reid handled those chores. And he never really had to worry about the defense or special teams until now.
"It's one of those things, some coaches are offensive, some coaches are defensive, and he's a guy that can really rally all the guys," guard Kyle Long said.
The Bears certainly needed a lift after going 14-34 over three seasons under Fox. That gave him the second-worst winning percentage in franchise history.
ON THE MEND: Almost as important as Trubisky's development is the health of Robinson and Long. Both players are coming back from injuries and hoping to flash their old Pro Bowl form.
Robinson tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during last year's opener with Jacksonville. The 2015 Pro Bowl receiver was injured on the Jaguars' third play and missed the remainder of the season.
Long, a three-time Pro Bowl lineman, is healthy after two injury-filled seasons. He's coming off shoulder, elbow and neck surgeries, not to mention a major ankle injury in recent years.
CATCHING UP: The Bears were drawn to Smith partly because of his speed. Seeing how quickly he can catch up following a holdout wasn't what they had in mind.
The inside linebacker from Georgia showed up 30 days after rookies were supposed to report to camp. He was the final pick in this year's NFL draft to sign by the time he agreed to a four-year contract that guarantees $18.5 million and includes an $11.5 million signing bonus. There was a holdup over contract language.
CONTINUITY: The Bears are banking on continuity to turn a defense that ranked 10th overall last season into an elite unit.
The addition of Smith aside, most of the key pieces are back from last season for the Monsters of the Midway. That includes defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who re-signed after getting passed over for the head coaching job.
The Bears were seventh against the pass, ninth in scoring and 11th against the run. They also tied for seventh in sacks.
One sticking point: eight interceptions. Only the Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders picked off fewer passes last year.
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