What to watch for at 2016 Bears training camp

What to watch for at 2016 Bears training camp
Kyle Long rides a tricycle out after the the third day of Bears training camp. (Michael Noble Jr. / Chicago Tribune)

The Chicago Bears look awfully different just one year into John Fox’s tenure.

Regardless of what is to come for the Bears, football is back after a long wait. Training camp opens up Wednesday with the first practice taking place on Thursday on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais.

Here are some storylines to keep an eye on as the Bears look to put the pieces together and contend for their first playoff appearance since 2010.

More pressure for Cutler

The Bears will be employing their sixth offensive coordinator since they acquired quarterback Jay Cutler in a blockbuster trade back in 2009. Ron Turner, Mike Martz, Mike Tice, Aaron Kromer and Adam Gase are all out of the picture. It’s time for animated Dowell Loggains to take over the reigns.

This transition should be easier compared to the past changes considering Loggains was a big reason Cutler succeeded last season serving as the team’s quarterbacks coach. Last year’s coordinator, Gase is now in Miami as their head coach. I think in time we will see Loggains open up this offense a bit more with Alshon Jeffery, Kevin White and Eddie Royal all back healthy.

Cutler is maturing with each season and the relationship with Loggains should be one to monitor all throughout camp. They seem to be in tune with one another.

Offensive line shuffle

The battle in the trenches is always an important one, but this season the Bears are banking on some very young players along the offensive line. Third-year tackle Charles Leno will protect Cutler’s blindside after holding his own in 13 starts there a year ago. Second-round pick Cody Whitehair is competing with veteran addition Ted Larsen for the left guard spot with Matt Slausen now in San Diego.

At center, 2015 third-round selection Hroniss Grasu has the most to prove after struggling in eight starts as a rookie. Kyle Long is officially back at right guard and that is huge for this group. Bobby Massie was signed this off-season to be the right tackle and that will help the right side be a strength this season.

Guard Amini Silatolu signed last week but who knows if his body will hold up after two ACL injuries over the past few seasons. As of now, Nick Becton is penciled in as the swing tackle and top backup. Things are looking rather shaky in terms of depth. On top of that, the whole left side including Leno, Whitehair and Grasu has to prove their worth. It will take some time for them to get comfortable together.

Defensive additions

You have to love what the Bears did along the front seven adding defensive lineman Akiem Hicks and linebackers Danny Trevethan, Jerrell Freeman and Leonard Floyd. The 3-4 defense is coming together for coordinator Vic Fangio. If the front seven can bring the heat on a consistent basis that will take pressure off the young secondary.

Willie Young and Lamarr Houston returning to full health after their major surgeries last off-season gives them two more pass rushing options. Add in the fact that Eddie Goldman will take a step forward at nose tackle and Pernell McPhee’s knee is getting better (or so we think) and that is huge for this unit.

Cornerbacks Tracy Porter and Kyle Fuller should be able to force some more turnovers with a plethora of athletes in front of them causing havoc.

Young depth

Last season the Bears started nine rookies including five of their six draft picks, Eddie Goldman, Hronnis Grasu, Jeremy Langford and Adrian Amos. Harold Jones-Quartey, John Timu, Jonathan Anderson and Khari Lee also made starts.

Using so many rookies was due to a transitional period where the Bears dished out a large amount of one-year deals in order to assess the roster. Plus, Fox made it clear he wanted to get younger and more athletic. Well, they did just that this off-season with only eight of their 88 players currently under contract age 30 or older.

The Bears have nine new rookie picks and three of them are likely to be in the starting lineup early in the season. Cody Whitehair should win the battle at left guard while third-round selection Jonathan Bullard has a big chance to win the gig opposite Akiem Hicks at defensive end. Fourth-round pick safety Deon Bush could be the next rookie to start in the secondary with Harold Jones-Quartey his main competition line up next to Adrian Amos.

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With all that being said, I’ll leave you with this tweet from CBS Sports’ Zach Zaidman regarding John Fox’s ability to turn teams around in Year 2.

Thoughts on the Bears’ outlook now that training camp is here? Weigh in below.

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