Five things to watch in Bears second half

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As the Chicago Bears prepare to get back to the field after the bye week, what can we expect in the season’s second half?

Here are five things to watch:

1. The continued development of Mitch Trubisky…Trubisky has shown glimpses of the talent that attracted the Bears and maneuver to acquire him on draft night. His mobility, poise, and arm talent have been evident since he took over for Mike Glennon. However, Trubisky needs to improve his accuracy (he’s hovering around 49% completion percentage) and vision. He’s missed open receivers and been off-target with throws that could have resulted in first-down completions. It’s not entirely unexpected due to his lack of overall experience in live games and the lack of weapons at receiver, but top-notch QB’s usually elevate the play of others.  Trubisky’s ability to raise his game is the key to the Bears future.

2. Will the receivers improve?…The arrival of Dontrelle Inman and return of Markus Wheaton are both encouraging signs, though neither is a top-tier receiver. They are the best the Bears have to offer in 2017 though. Tre McBride, a late pick-up after this summer’s final cutdowns, displayed some ability versus the Saints and could be useful in a revamped rotation in the future. Chalk preseason and training camp favorite Tanner Gentry as another example where hype meets reality. He’s a try hard player with reliable hands but lacks the speed and separation to get himself free against NFL defenders. It’s unlikely former first-rounder Kevin White returns this year, so Trubisky will have to work with what he has.  Expect more action to the Bears TE’s, Dion Sims, Daniel Brown, and second-round pick Adam Shaheen, a no-show during the season’s first half.

3. The health of the offensive line…Kyle Long left the New Orleans game with a bad hand and has played through the nagging after effects of offseason ankle surgery. C Cody Whitehair was also forced from the Saints game but should be able to return against Green Bay. Whitehair’s regressed in his second year, but remains the Bears most versatile lineman.

4. Can the defense maintain a high level of performance?….The Bears front seven is the team’s strong point, with Akeem Hicks playing at a Pro Bowl level with solid contributions from Leonard Floyd, Eddie Goldman, Danny Trevathan, and Christian Jones. What appeared to be a weakness in the secondary has turned out to be a pleasant surprise with Arian Amos and Kyle Fuller each making impactful plays.  Fuller, in the last year of his contract, is displaying the potential the Bears thought he had when they drafted him in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft. Rookie Eddie Jackson looks like a keeper with his ball-hawking skills.

5. Is John Fox entering the sunset of his head coaching career with eight games remaining?…No one knows what Chicago General Manager Ryan Pace is thinking about Fox’s job status. It stands to reason the undermanned Bears should fare better as the schedule eases up, but does that mean that Fox and his staff are strictly being measured about their eventual win-loss record?  If so, what’s the expectation in terms of wins for Fox to stay.

The progress of the Bears offense, specifically Trubisky, factors heavily in the decision-making process. If Pace believes the defensive-oriented Fox can’t surround Trubisky with the offensive coaches to help the rookie QB grow, he could decide to pull the plug. As a sub-plot, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, acknowledged as one of the league’s sharpest defensive minds, is in the final year of his contract and might not return in 2018 no matter the circumstances.

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