What to watch for as the Chicago Bears start OTA’s

bears, matt nagy
Dec 20, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy looks on during the first quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

With the Chicago Bears set to begin OTA’s, it will mark the first time this offseason that veterans and rookies will see the field at Halas Hall. All eyes will be on the quarterback competition, with Justin Fields and Andy Dalton but Chicago made a number of moves this offseason that will change the trajectory of the franchise.

Chicago beefed up the offensive line this offseason, signed a number of wide receivers for competition, and released veteran cornerback Kyle Fuller, leaving a hole in the secondary. With new defensive coordinator Sean Desai in town, the Bears defense will look different in 2021.

As Chicago gets ready to return to Halas Hall for OTA’s, let’s breakdown everything worth keeping an eye on.

1) Reps at quarterback

Bears fan or not, what happens under center at Halas Hall is what everyone will be watching when it comes to the Bears. For the fourth time this offseason, the Bears have said that Dalton will be the starter but one question remains: How long can Dalton hold off Fields?

“As we work through with Justin and where he’s at with this offense, we know it’s going to take a little bit of time here this offseason and as we get into training camp,” Nagy said via the Bears official Youtube page. “Andy is the starter. Andy is going to get the 1 reps.”

There you have it. Chicago has put a plan in place to develop Fields but as OTA’s progress throughout the course of the week, could we see Dalton and Fields split reps with the first team? Should that situation occur, the quarterback competition will be even more intriguing heading into training camp come late July.

2) What’s up at CB?

Every decision made in the NFL comes with opportunity cost. The Bears releasing All-Pro Kyle Fuller created $11M in cap space but it left a void in the secondary. Second-year CB Jaylon Johnson now becomes CB1 for the Bears but uncertainty should be the word used to describe the Bears CB situation.

How will Johnson, who dealt with a nagging shoulder injury last season hold up? What about veteran Desmond Trufant, who signed a one-year deal with offseason after playing just six games with the Detroit Lions in 2020? Young talent like Duke Shelley, Kindle Vildor, and Thomas Graham Jr., are still unproven.

“We’re excited about developing some of these guys right now,” said defensive coordinator Sean Desai on the Bears official Youtube page. “We like the volume and depth we got there. We got to play football. We’re going to have a lot of competition at the nickel as well. We’ve had guys that have played there in games”

Cornerback is arguably the weakest position group on the Bears roster and with competition set to begin, experience and scheme fit could play a role in who stands out over the next two weeks.

3) Offensive line combinations

The Bears overhauled the offensive line, releasing Charles Leno Jr. and Bobby Massie this offseason while adding rookies Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom in the 2021 NFL Draft. Sixth-year veteran Cody Whitehair is set to return and with fourth-year center James Daniels. Add Sam Mustipher, Alex Bars, and Germain Ifedi into the mix and the Bears OL combinations are endless.

Expect Jenkins to get reps at left tackle, Ifedi as the primary right tackle, and Borom to split time between right guard and right tackle. Mustipher will play center, with Whitehair and Daniels getting time at guard. Bars fits into the picture as a chess piece who can play at center, right guard, and left guard.

A starting five for the Bears OL could see Jenkins (left tackle), Daniels (left guard), Mustipher (center), Whitehair (right guard), and Ifedi (right tackle). Daniels and Whitehair could also switch positions, should the Bears roll out this starting five, giving OL coach Juan Castillo some much-needed flexibility.

4) Bounceback season for Robert Quinn?

No player was a bigger disappointment for the Monsters of the Midway in 2020 than Quinn. After signing a five year deal worth $70M in free agency, Quinn would log just two sacks and 20 tackles, the worst of his career. Reports last season suggested that Quinn was dealing with foot issues, with many speculating that nerve damage impacted the 31-year old’s play.

2020 was an unprecedented year for the NFL, with many players dealing with injuries due to the lack of on-field practice time in the offseason. With more teams hosting on-field workouts, the expectation is that the added practice time could benefit Quinn, who’s set to have a cap hit of $14.7M this season.

For Quinn and the Bears, the hope is that whatever plagued him last season is behind him. If he’s ready to get back to being his former self, a double-digit sack machine, Quinn could earn himself another year with the Bears in 2022. If not, he’ll be sent packing as a post-June first cut next offseason.

5) Wide open at wide receiver

Outside of Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney, the Bears competition at wide receiver is wide open. Players with NFL experience include: Marquise Goodwin, Javon Wims, Anthony Miller, Riley Ridley, Damiere Byrd, Rodney Adams, Chris Lacy, and Jester Weah.

The biggest question mark of all includes Miller, who was once thought to be a compliment to Robinson but has been held back due to inconsistent play and disciplinary issues. Wims and Ridley were both drafted by the Bears but have yet to make any serious impact. All three could potentially be cut this offseason.

Chicago is targeting two traits when it comes to the wide receiver room: Versatility and speed. Being able to play either inside or in the slot will be an asset as head coach Matt Nagy draws up a new playbook while speed is essential to the system Nagy wants to run.

The same group of wide receivers will head into training camp come late July but what happens during OTA’s could tell us a lot about the state of the position with Fields as the future starter moving forward.