Inside Training Camp  

 

Chicago Bears training camp: Jay Cutler looking good early on

Print

The road to success in the NFL begins each year with the hard work and wide-open possibilities of training camp. As teams around the league gear up for the 2015 campaign, NFL Media reporters will be checking in from all 32 camps around the league. For our next stop, Ian Rapoport visits the Chicago Bears.

Where is NFL Media?

If you can brave the traffic from downtown Chicago and push your way to scenic Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois, you'll find one of the most festive camp atmospheres. On the way from the parking lot to the field, you pass so many pop-up tents and kids' games, you'll think you're at a carnival. It's perfect for young children.

Observations

Click on team name for full report; click here for a complete archive.

1) As will be the case as long as he's with the Bears, all eyes were on Jay Cutler. It's a make-or-break season for him, as new coach John Fox has asked new coordinator Adam Gase and new quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains to resurrect Cutler's career; this is Cutler's last chance. The early results seem promising, with Cutler's rifle locked and loaded. His mechanics look a bit tighter; on the day we visited, the ball barely touched the ground. While we've been here before with Cutler, this feels different. He is well aware of how important 2015 is for him.

2) Somehow, the Bears have a sufficiently underrated group of skill position players, despite the fact that they could end up being among the game's best. Receiver Alshon Jeffery showed up for his contract year ready, and the team has noticed. Fellow receiver Eddie Royal was a clever signing, while running back Matt Forte and tight end Martellus Bennett only add to the well-rounded unit. If Cutler can distribute, they could look similar to Gase's Broncos pass-catchers from 2013; that Denver team led the NFL in passing yards (340.2 per game) and featured four players (Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker) who reached double digits in touchdown catches. It all allows Chicago to take it easy with No. 7 overall pick Kevin White, who has yet to run while dealing with a bad case of shin splits. The receiver will do so next week. In the meantime, he's sat in on every meeting, making sure he's mentally up to speed.

3) There is something Fox does when he begins a rebuilding project that's tough to put into words. He takes teams not quite ready for prime time and forces them to win. He did it in Carolina and Denver. In Chicago, there may be enough pieces to do the same. A unifier, Fox won't allow the fissures that existed inside the organization last year to develop this year. And he'll take a fresh look at everything, just like he did with Shea McClellin, who was in danger of being a bust on the edge. Fox made the 2012 first-round pick an inside linebacker and signal-caller. And it's working. With one move, he may have made two spots better.

New additions

Pernell McPhee, DE: McPhee rarely started during his four seasons in Baltimore, but he was always on the field when it mattered. Tough, hard-nosed and able to get to the quarterback, he's perfect for defensive coordinator Vic Fangio's scheme. The Bears have some talent deficiencies, and it may take another cycle (another draft class and another crop of free agents) to overcome them. But players like McPhee will help set the tone.

Antrel Rolle, S: Rolle spent the last few years solidifying the back end of the Giants' defense, even serving as a captain. He's steady and savvy, a leader -- in other words, exactly what the safety-starved team has yearned for the past two seasons. This offseason, general manager Ryan Pace made mostly low-risk, smart moves (even Ray McDonald cost the Bears no guaranteed money), and Rolle typifies them. He'll help immediately while allowing Fangio to add wrinkles to the defense.

Overheard

"His ability to communicate with his teammates (stands out), because he's further ahead than everybody else. He's able to get our wideouts on the same page."

-- Adam Gase, offensive coordinator, on the impressions QB Jay Cutler has made on him. Those who know Cutler swear he wants to be coached, and Gase is going to really coach him. So far, so good.

Extra points

See the best images of training camps across the NFL landscape.

» It remains to be seen how quickly rookie nose tackle Eddie Goldman can contribute, but the second-round pick was a gift for Fangio. A space-eater in a draft without many of them, he can clog up the middle for years.

» Cornerback Kyle Fuller's promising rookie season suffered thanks to a few nagging injuries, including a broken hand. It almost made us forget how electric he can be. A healthy Fuller will be huge.

» The steady Forte will have another 1,000-yard season and maybe another 600 to 800 yards receiving -- and we'll all probably still ignore him. Happens every year. Still, when it comes to keeping the chains moving, he'll be essential.

» Fox is as happy as he's been in years, with a group that has bought in. A breath of fresh air in Chicago.

Follow Ian Rapoport on Twitter @RapSheet.

Print

Headlines

The previous element was an advertisement.

NFL Shop