5 Storylines Ahead of OTAs

Image by Zachary Rosenbaum – https://www.instagram.com/zacharyrosenbaumdesign/

Next Tuesday, the Chicago Bears will report to Halas Hall for their Offseason team activities, or OTA’s for short. It’s really just workouts and live drills, no pads or contact just yet. But it is the first opportunity for rookies and veterans to officially get to practice together.

This portion of the offseason is voluntary however, so it doesn’t necessarily mean every player will be in attendance. But based on reports, the Bears should expect a decent turn out.

This will be the first glimpse into what the 2021 Chicago Bears season could be, and below are 5 storylines to follow throughout the offseason. These are question marks we don’t exactly have answers to yet, but could end up being difference makers come years end.

Number 5

Tarik Cohen’s health status

Not much has been made about Tarik Cohen’s rehab this offseason, but some of the moves the Bears made have me wondering if they aren’t looking for a little insurance.

The Bears signed Damien Williams from KC and drafted Khalil Herbert, RB out of Virginia Tech, in the 6th round. They are also returning 3rd year stud David Montgomery and 2nd year player Artavis Pierce. That’s a lot of bodies.

If Cohen is healthy, the Bears are getting back one of the most explosive players in their offense and a pro bowl-caliber punt returner as well.

But that’s a big if.

Knee injuries can be tough to come back fully from, so I’m eager to see how Cohen looks when the players report.

Number 4

How does the offensive line look?

I’m really excited to see what the reports are about this unit when training camp begins. Sure the line didn’t perform as well as you’d like in 2020, but there are a lot of things looking up for them in 2021.

For starters, James Daniels is coming back from injury. The former second round pick could very well be the starter at centre week 1 if he is healthy, although the Bears are high on Mustipher there too. Not a bad problem to have.

On top of that, when Cody Whitehair switched to LG partway through last year; the whole line played better going forward. Whitehaire looked downright studly down the stretch and will be starting there entering camp. Mustipher and Bars both looked strong in their time playing and the Bears also liked how Germaine Ifedi played at RT as well. His O-Line coach, Juan Castillo, thinks he could legitimately end up as  a pro bowler in that spot this year.

Lastly, the Bears parted ways with Rashaad Coward this offseason. Coward, who actually joined the Bears as a defensive lineman, struggled in his time starting with Chicago. When Coward was in the game, the Bears offense was statistically worse in almost every category. He joins Bobby Massie and Charles Leno as the noticeable departures. I actually think Bears fans under-rate how reliable Leno has been for so long, but the Bears drafted two very talented players in Tevin Jenkins and Larry Borom, who they are hoping can fill the hole Leno leaves.

Number 3

 How will the attendance be?

The attendance at OTA’s the next few weekends will be interesting to monitor. Reports from the Bears early in the offseason forecasted very few players actually making an appearance. But at the first voluntary workouts this year, the Bears fielded near perfect attendance.

That’s the Justin Fields effect.

No doubt about it, when the Bears drafted the Ohio State product, it shot life into the organization. There’s excitement around the team again. Maybe enough excitement to bring otherwise disgruntled players out to voluntary activities (I’m looking at you Allen Robinson).        

Hard to know what questions will be answered, before we know who will be there. Some players are coming back from injury and might not be ready yet. Some players prefer to take this time to train alone, and won’t be around either. So it will be interesting to see who is on hand for the first real glimpse into the 2021 season.

Number 2

How does the cornerback room look?

It’s Jaylon Johnson, and then its anyone’s job for the taking.

The Bears don’t have an clear cut answer at CB2 or CB3 to be honest. In today’s NFL, you need to be able to play with 3 CB’s consistently, so the Bears really need to find some answers as the offseason continues.

On the bright side, there are a fair amount of high upside options on the Bears roster at the moment.Tre Roberson, Kindle Vildor, Thomas Graham, Artie Burns, and Desmond Trufant all reasonably have a chance to start alongside Jaylon Johnson, who shined as a rookie.

When Desmond Trufant was signed, it seemed as though he was being slotted in as the opposite starter, but as time has gone on, I’m not so sure. Trufant’s contract looks much more like a prove it deal than it does starter money, and the Bears would honestly benefit from letting a couple of guys go in and compete for the job. Tre Roberson signed a big CFL to NFL deal with the Bears last offseason (biggest since Cam Wake to be exact), and now that he’s healthy, could surprise people with his play.

I thought Kindle Vildor showed some real promise playing the outside cornerback position last year, and Thomas Graham pencils in more like a slot defender. Graham was a 6th round pick, but almost every outlet had him ranked higher than that.

I think the Bears should be happy with the level of competition they’ve brought to the position. Hopefully iron sharpens iron and the Bears are able to find quality starters in the process.

Number 1

QB1?

Bit of a no brainer here for the number one spot. It’s the most important question mark surrounding the Bears season, and its not close.

I know some fans are clamoring for Justin Fields to be given the reigns as the starter as soon as possible, but the truth is, we just need to wait and see.

Fields could absolutely follow the Mahomes/Chiefs blueprint; sit behind a solid veteran for a little while, learn and wait for your moment. Sure the anticipation might nearly kills Bears fans, but it would also be a smooth welcome to the NFL.

That being said, Fields has also been compared by many to Russel WIlson, and things with Fields could very well go the way they went with Wilson when he was a rookie. Wilson came into camp and blew the doors off the place. He showed up and was instantly a leader of 53 men, according to a former VP of Player personnel. The Seahawks decided to name him the starter, despite giving Matt Flynn starter money months earlier, and I think that turned out ok.

Every situation is different, and Fields shouldn’t be made to do one thing, just because it worked for someone else. If he isn’t ready, give him time. But If he is ready, don’t leave him on the bench just because it worked for Pat Mahomes. Fact is, all signs point to Fields being up to the challenge early; and if the kid is ready, let him loose.

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