The Chicago Bears open training camp on July 28 at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois. Here's a closer look at the Bears' camp, which wraps up Aug. 9.
Top storyline: Everything in Chicago revolves around Jay Cutler. Following a successful 2015 campaign in which he posted a career-best 92.3 quarterback rating, Cutler, 33, said goodbye to talented offensive coordinator Adam Gase, who moved to Miami to coach the Dolphins. The Bears' new playcaller, Dowell Loggains, is Cutler's sixth coordinator since he joined Chicago in 2009. While Loggains, who previously called plays in Tennessee, served as Cutler's quarterbacks coach last year, there is no guarantee the transition will be seamless. The Bears can ill afford for Cutler to regress after he displayed such poise and promise under Gase. Chicago's passionate fan base has learned the hard way over seven seasons that the organization will only go as far as Cutler takes it. So far, Cutler has reached the playoffs just once in 10 NFL seasons.
If Jay Cutler : strings together another quality and turnover-free year, the Bears have a realistic shot to win eight or nine games. That might not be good enough to earn a postseason berth, but it certainly would constitute progress following Chicago's six wins in head coach John Fox's first year on the job. If Cutler plays poorly, the Bears have no shot. Brian Hoyer is a good veteran backup, but it's unlikely he can sustain the kind of success necessary to overtake Green Bay or Minnesota in the NFC North standings.
Player who will have fans buzzing: Wide receiver Kevin White. The 2015 first-round draft pick missed his entire rookie year because of a stress fracture in his left shin that required surgery, but White looked like a beast in the offseason program. He is big, strong and fast and should tear up Chicago's suspect secondary in training camp. It remains to be seen how White fares in the regular season, but on paper, he looks the part.
Positon battle worth watching: Running back. Second-year tailback Jeremy Langford (816 yards from scrimmage in 2015) is the favorite to succeed Matt Forte, but Chicago is not simply going to hand him the job. A Michigan State product, Langford needs to be mentally sharp and stop dropping so many passes out of the backfield. Ka'Deem Carey, Jacquizz Rodgers and rookie Jordan Howard are expected to push Langford. Fox favors the running-back-by-committee approach, so the positon is wide open. This is a good one to monitor throughout the preseason.
That rookie should start: Left guard Cody Whitehair. Veteran Ted Larsen, who skipped mandatory minicamp because of an undisclosed injury, is scheduled to compete against Whitehair in camp. But Whitehair is a second-round pick and is expected to contribute immediately. That's just how it goes in the NFL. In the meantime, safety Deon Bush is another candidate to start in Week 1. Third-rounder Jonathan Bullard also projects to play right away on the defensive line. Top pick Leonard Floyd could begin the year in a situational role.
Veteran whose job is in jeopardy: Marc Mariani. There is a logjam at receiver. Mariani, who made some impressive catches in 2015, is vulnerable after the additions of receiver/return men Deonte Thompson, who joined the Bears last year, and Daniel Braverman, a seventh-round choice. Marquess Wilson's latest injury opens the door for another receiver to make the 53-man roster, but a good player still probably ends up getting cut. Mariani is a former Pro Bowler and can still play. The numbers, however, could work against him.
Contract year: Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, who is playing under the franchise tag, is looking for a big deal somewhere next offseason. Jeffery is supremely motivated to have a monster year. He is capable of reeling off big numbers when healthy. But health is the key. Jeffery, who missed seven games last year because of a variety of ailments, stayed away from the voluntary offseason program to train in South Florida. Jeffery and the Bears hope the gamble pays off. Without Jeffery, opponents can focus on White, who is essentially redoing his rookie year. Along with Cutler, Jeffery is vital to the success of Chicago's offense.
Big shoes to fill: Veteran Zach Miller steps in as the No. 1 tight end, after Martellus Bennett was traded to New England. Say what you want about Bennett's colorful personality, which irritated many in the building, he is an upper-echelon NFL tight end. The Bears believe Miller can pick up where Bennett left off. Miller stayed healthy last year and flashed on numerous occasions, catching 34 balls for 439 yards and five touchdowns, including a spectacular one-handed game-winner versus San Diego on Monday Night Football. Only time will tell how Miller adjusts to the main role.
What fans will be saying after camp: That the second year under Fox will be better than the first one. The Bears should not finish 6-10 for a second consecutive season. The club upgraded on defense with inside linebackers Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman and defensive lineman Akiem Hicks. However, Chicago still needs more impact players on that side of the ball. Outside linebacker Pernell McPhee is a proven playmaker, but McPhee battled knee problems almost all of last year. On offense, the losses of Forte and Bennett will not be easy to overcome, but Jeffery is playing for big money in 2017. If Cutler and Loggains can keep it together, the Bears should be in most games. Fans understand this. That's why cautious optimism surrounds the Bears in 2016.
For daily updates at camp, check out the Chicago Bears clubhouse page.