sports 3 days ago

Priorities change as Chicago Bears progress under Matt Nagy

Rockford Register Star, Ill. — Jay Taft Rockford Register Star, Ill.

April 17--Things are supposed to look different in Chicago this NFL season.

Well, the season isn't even here yet, and they already do.

Matt Nagy has started off his first NFL head coaching job in an aggressive manner, bringing in another one of those all-star coaching staffs, and going after (and getting) some possible all-stars in free agency. Nagy is ushering in a modern-day offense, the likes that have never been seen in Chicago. He is fresh off a powerful run as Kansas City's offensive coordinator, and is sure to sprinkle in the hottest new wrinkle, the run-pass option, now that he's in charge in Chicago.

But it is certainly not a finished product. Not yet.

"We have a direction, and a way we're going to do this," Nagy said. "We're going to create our own identity, and it takes a little time. ... Yeah, there's some needs, but that's with every NFL team out there."

So as the Bears arrive for their first voluntary veteran minicamp -- which runs from Tuesday-Thursday at Halas Hall -- there are still a few areas of concern that need to be addressed. They know it; we know it. Now let's see if they can go and continue to fix what needs to be fixed.

Here is the list of the Bears' top three priorities headed into this important stretch of the offseason:

1) Get that offense installed

Up to this point, it's been a whole lot of book study for Nagy and the Bears' players. Starting Tuesday, it becomes real. While this three-day minicamp is called "voluntary," you can expect everybody to be there, and everybody to be ready to learn.

Especially when it comes to installing Nagy's offense, which is the real reason he was brought in. Vic Fangio will return as the defensive coordinator, and he should have that side of the ball clicking quickly. The offense is about to morph right in front of their eyes.

"We just have so much to get into here once those guys get here," said Nagy, who will begin the real install of his West Coast offense that is also expected to be sprinkled with different elements of the spread offense. "There's a lot to start with. That'll be down the road. But it's not far away. So for us as a staff, we're juiced up for the guys to get in here, put all that other stuff aside and just start coaching football."

The first voluntary minicamp is usually just a chance to shake off the cobwebs and get back into the swing of things after, for some, a nice, long break. But this year, the players coming back for the Bears, especially those on the offensive side, will begin to cram a lot in.

They at least feel like they have the weapons in place.

"All you need is a couple weapons, and a quarterback who can handle all of it," new Bears tight end Trey Burton said. "I think that is exactly what we have here in Chicago."

2) Wide receiver need is back on the table

When the Bears recently decided not to match the Saints' offer sheet to wideout Cameron Meredith, fresh off a season-ending torn ACL, they in essence opened another wound. Now, the Bears must use an early-round draft pick on another wide receiver.

They also have to make sure the ones they have -- uhhm, that would be indirectly directed at you, Mr. 7th Overall Pick three years ago, Kevin White -- are ready to do their part this season.

Last year the receiver position was the thinnest unit on the team, but the Bears acknowledged as much by going after the free-agent WR stars on the market. They got two of them.

However, the Bears still head into the draft with new additions Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel, as well as White, Demarcus Ayers, Josh Bellamy and Bennie Fowler as their wide receivers. They need more.

They either need to find a No. 2 who will fit in nicely on the other side of Robinson in the draft or develop one out of that thin group. If they want to make this a formidable offense, they will have to.

"You're going to see a lot of big plays," Robinson said of what he expects out of Nagy's offense, "and everybody is going to be involved."

3) Use minicamp to prepare for draft

While not a ton can be learned from just three days without pads, there is still a lot of information that the Bears can obtain from this week's minicamp -- including info that could help decide who will they select in the draft.

When deciding between whether to select an offensive lineman, a pass rusher or a defensive back -- considered the three biggest needs for Chicago, along with receiver -- there are some things we can learn from this minicamp that could provide the answers we need.

The Bears' lone All Pro on the offensive line, Kyle Long, who had surgery on his neck, shoulder and elbow during the offseason, won't put a timeline on his return. The Bears' new WR Robinson is fresh off a torn ACL, and no one knows exactly how quickly he will come along this offseason.

We will begin to find out this week.

And that's not to mention White, who broke his shoulder blade in last year's opener, and could be ready to participate as early as Tuesday.

Another Bear to keep an eye on this week is former 49ers outside linebacker Aaron Lynch. After the Bears jettisoned Pernell McPhee, Willie Young and Lamarr Houston this offseason, decisions on how high in the draft they need to select a pass rusher could be made this week based on how Lynch looks.

No matter what, the Bears are already feeling a little better about things.

"I'm just excited where we are right now. We have a really good locker room, we have a young team with a lot of ascending talent and I'm really excited about this coaching staff," Bears GM Ryan Pace said. "Now it's about making the right moves this offseason to put young player talent around it."

Jay Taft: 815-987-1384; jtaft@rrstar.com; @JayTaft

Bears key dates

Voluntary veteran minicamp: This Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at Halas Hall

2018 NFL Draft: April 26-28

Rookie minicamp: May 11-13 at Halas Hall

OTAs: May 16, May 23 and May 30 at Halas Hall

Veteran minicamp: June 5-7 at Halas Hall

Training camp: July 19, Players report; July 20, First practice; at Olivet Nazarene University, Bourbonnais

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