Free agency, the combine and the owners meetings are in the rear-view mirror and the draft is right around the corner. But it’s time to get back to football on the field. Here’s a quick look at the Chicago Bears as they open their offseason workout program on Monday.
Biggest challenge facing head coach John Fox: Making sure Jay Cutler repeats the success he experienced in 2015 when he posted a career-high 92.3 quarterback rating under former offensive coordinator Adam Gase, who is now the head coach of the Miami Dolphins. Fox filled the void internally, promoting quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains to playcaller. No one knows for sure how the Cutler/Loggains dynamic is going to play out. But Fox is ultimately the one responsible for the relationship's success or failure.
Player on the rise: Running back Jeremy Langford. With veteran Matt Forte off to New York, Langford has assumed the role of lead tailback after he tallied 816 yards from scrimmage and seven total touchdowns in his first NFL season. The Bears attempted but failed to sign veteran running back C.J. Anderson in the offseason, and even if Chicago uses another draft pick on the position, Langford is still the clear-cut favorite to play the most snaps in the backfield. Langford became just the third player in Bears franchise history with 100 receiving yards, one rushing touchdown and one receiving touchdown in a single game when he accomplished the rare feat last year in St. Louis.
Player who has the most to prove: Kevin White. The seventh overall pick of the 2015 NFL draft missed his entire rookie season due to a stress fracture in his shin that required surgery. Now healthy, White is expected to be a major contributor at receiver alongside former Pro Bowler Alshon Jeffery, who is currently slated to play under the franchise tag in 2016. The Bears need White to be great, not just average or ordinary. The success of the offense partly depends on it.
Surprise player to watch: Left tackle Charles Leno. Bears general manager Ryan Pace sounds sold on Leno protecting Cutler’s blindside in 2016. “I’m confident in Leno,” Pace said. “I thought he got better as the season went on and I do think that Leno is a natural left tackle. That’s his best spot. He’s a natural left tackle.” A former 2014 seventh-round pick, Leno started the final 13 games at left tackle in place of veteran Jermon Bushrod, who signed with Miami in the offseason.
Position that should be addressed in the draft: Defensive end. The Bears have to improve up front. The addition of versatile Akiem Hicks is a nice start, but Chicago is missing a solid run-stopping/pass-rushing defensive end. The encouraging news is that the 2016 NFL draft class is deep in defensive line/edge rusher prospects. Unless there is some can’t-miss cornerback or quarterback available at No. 11, the Bears probably look to address the front seven with their opening pick.