It seems like forever ago that the Bears played in a football game.
However, it was only 213 days ago that the formerly run John Fox squad lost 23-10 to rival Minnesota in a wrap up the 2017 campaign with a 5-11.
Fast forward seven months and change and young offensive mind Matt Nagy is the new head coach. Mitch Trubisky is in Year 2 of his tenure as the Bears’ quarterback and athletes have been added to both sides of the ball via the draft and free agency.
On Thursday night, the Bears will meet Baltimore in primetime (7 p.m. CT/8 p.m ET) in the Hall of Fame Game held at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio.
It is an early preseason tilt for the Chicago franchise as star linebacker Brian Urlacher will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday.
Here are five storylines to watch in the preseason opener.
The 40-year-old Nagy has only been an NFL coach since 2010. His rise in the ranks was a fast one as he took over the offensive coordinator job in Kansas City in 2016 and now he’s a head coach in the league.
Nagy relates to the players because of his younger mindset and he’s already getting involved as a very likable figure. Previous head coaches in Chicago had very little personality and didn’t say much.
Yes, this is the preseason so we won’t see much of Nagy’s offensive gameplan, but we will get a glimpse of the effort level from his guys. The Nagy era is underway and I fully expect to see a different look regardless of who is playing this preseason.
We know first round pick Roquan Smith is the lone rookie not signed. That is certainly not a good look for the Bears. But we have to see what is there defensively for Vic Fangio to work with.
Veterans won’t play much, if at all, but the outside linebacker spot, defensive end room and defensive back depth is something that is worth watching during these five exhibition games.
A couple of names to keep a close eye on:
Nick Kwiatkoski, a third-year inside linebacker who is a starter right now with Smith out.
Deon Bush, a third-year safety who is key depth behind Eddie Jackson and Adrian Amos.
Kasim Edebali, a fifth-year linebacker who is two years removed from a five sack season in New Orleans.
Offensively, the Bears have a plethora of playmakers compared to the past two seasons. Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Kevin White, Anthony Miller, Tarik Cohen, Jordan Howard, Trey Burton and Adam Shaheen to name a few.
Getting a glimpse at White, Gabriel and Shaheen will be important this preseason. Backs like Benny Cunningham and undrafted rookie Ryan Nall and receivers Bennie Fowler, Josh Bellamy, Tanner Gentry and Marlon Brown will get long looks on Thursday and until final cuts are made.
Quarterbacks behind Trubisky
Don’t expect Trubisky to play any snaps in this meaningless game. The following week in Cincinnati, he should draw the start and play a bit, but veterans Chase Daniel and Tyler Bray will earn a ton of time under center this week.
Daniel has made his career earnings on being a backup for several talented quarterbacks. However, much like Mark Sanchez was a mentor and sideline coach as a backup in Chicago and Dallas the past two seasons, Daniel will be that for Trubisky in 2018. Bray will be a big part of that as well.
Since Robbie Gould was let go a few years back, the kicker position has been really below average for the Bears. Connor Barth was not the answer and now the team is hoping fifth-year man and former Dolphin Cody Parkey is.
Parkey will get five games to settle in as the guy with his strong leg. Punting wise Patrick O’Donnell has his job to lose with undrafted rookie Ryan Winslow on the training camp roster and likely to get a chance to showcase his leg for other teams.
Special teams is crucial in Chicago and the Bears really need both Parkey and O’Donnell to be studs this season.
Photo credit: SI.com