The Bears look like the third best team in the NFC North heading into training camp, which opens Friday in Bourbonnais. The good news is, in today's NFL, the difference between a division champion and a third-place finisher can be a few injuries and poorly timed turnovers.
With that in mind, here's the Bears' to-do list during their visit to Olivet Nazarene University, the things they absolutely must accomplish to call training camp a success.
1. STAY HEALTHY
I know. I know. It's obvious. It's also absolutely true. The Bears don't have enough top-end talent to overcome injuries to critical players. This is especially true at the all-important quarterback position, where Jerry Angelo took a calculated risk by not signing an experienced backup for Jay Cutler. Not only could it be argued that the Packers and Vikings have an edge at quarterback with Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre, but it could be said they have better backups in Matt Flynn and Tarvaris Jackson. A preseason injury to Cutler could scuttle the season. Even him missing a few weeks of training camp with a minor injury could set him back in learning the new offense and could put the team at a disadvantage.
2. CHEMISTRY, CHEMISTRY, CHEMISTRY
Again, it sounds simplistic but it's especially true for this team this season. Cutler has to develop chemistry within Mike Martz's system, defensive players must develop it with first-time coordinator Rod Marinelli and the offensive line, under the charge of Mike Tice, must be a model of cohesiveness to make the strides required to be successful. Before chemistry can develop between players, they must start with players and coaches. Martz and Tice were brought in to fix what has been broken the past three years. They need to make their presence felt.
3. DEVELOP YOUNG PLAYERS
It's difficult to determine whether the Bears woes are the result of poor drafting or an inability to develop young talent. Either way, the roster is littered with players who have yet to prove they belong, players such as Johan Asiata, Jarron Gilbert, Lance Louis, Henry Melton and Matt Toeaina. The next group, which includes Al Afalava, Josh Beekman, Marcus Harrison, D.J. Moore, Craig Steltz and Garrett Wolfe, need to take the next step and either prove they can be regular contributors or solid starters. It's time for the unproven talent on the roster to be held accountable.