The Big Six: Key issues for Bears heading off to camp

Kicker, running back and Mitchel Trubisky's development are just part of what awaits at Bourbonnais.

The ball flew up into the cold night air, drifted left a bit more and more, and at the last second it became apparent it would happen again.

It was going to hit the left upright.

Now the only question was whether the ball would strike far enough along the curvature of the post to ensure it would fall through for three points or carom instead off of the crossbar short.

Doink and doink.

“It's not whether you get knocked down," Vince Lombardi once said. "It's whether you get back up."

It's time for the Chicago Bears to get back up at training camp in Bourbonnais.

The work begins again. Moves made in the offseason and all the non-contact training and conditioning pointed toward this moment for a team with hopes crushed by a missed field goal.

There are six big issues facing the Bears as they report Thursday for camp.

6. The secondary switch

The loss of nickel defensive back Bryce Callahan and safety Adrian Amos forced change on the NFL's best overall defense. The only changes made prior to last season were obvious upgrades, with inside linebacker Roquan Smith being drafted seventh overall and a gift from the football gods named Khalil Mack dropping into the Bears' laps after preseason. The whole secondary had played together in 2017 and perfected their communication and understanding of the coverages. Can it be the same with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at safety, even if the Bears did have him consistently graded above Amos? Can new slot cornerback Buster Skrine play in a scheme with proven defenders and be more effective than he was with the Jets, where it often seemed to be big play for or big play against?

5. Starting running back

Dumping a former Pro Bowl running back to use a two-time reject and a rookie third-rounder in his place doesn't seem like a logical move, but the Bears say there was method to the madness when they shipped out Jordan Howard and brought in both Mike Davis and David Montgomery. Both backs certainly have incentive. Montgomery didn't get drafted until Round 3 and a cringe-worthy performance at the combine may have made the difference. Davis was allowed to leave after his best season by the Seahawks, after the 49ers had sent him packing two years earlier. One of the two has to start because Tarik Cohen is a third down-style running back, although it's apparent both will play. Both appear to have some skills. Who wins the starting assignment against the Packers Sept.5?

4. The kicker ... always the kicker

The double doink led to Cody Parkey's departure, but the quest for his replacement brought the Bears the kind of criticism normally reserved for any Donald Trump tweet. They've brought in about anyone they can find for a look, looked away from a few aging veterans like Matt Bryant, and now it's up to Elliott Fry and Eddy Pineiro to prove they are NFL kickers. This will be a day-by-day saga at Olivet Nazarene University.

3. Defensive Pag-ression

Will the defense regress? It's a guessing game how much like the system of former coach Vic Fangio this defensive scheme of Chuck Pagano's will be. There are key points Fangio used. One was nose tackle Eddie Goldman lining up shadowing the center's shoulder and not directly over him, so he could both make plays or occupy up blockers. Another was deploying Akiem Hicks sometimes as a 3-technique even though he was on a three-man line normally associated with 5-technique. The outside linebackers sometimes had pass coverage responsibilities. The secondary and linebackers played zone mostly, but disguised extensively. There wasn't much blitzing. Is Pagano going to stick with what worked or make the players change what they do? If it's the latter, there is sure to be regression as they take time to learn. If he sticks as close to the old plan, there could still be differences in the way he calls games from how Fangio did.

2. Mitchell Trubisky's Year 2 in the offense

All the Bears have said all offseason is how much better Mitchell Trubisky looks in his second year with this offense. It's the first time since high school he's repeated as starter in the same offense. He has to know the game better now and diagnose defenses before the snap. He has to avoid dumb interceptions. Any interception-filled days at camp are going to bring out plenty of critics.

1. Regaining the momentum

Coach Matt Nagy had the team believing in him, believing in itself, and then came Parkey's double doink. They had momentum, they had an easier schedule on their side, avoided injuries and they had Club Dub. Now it's all wiped clean. Nagy has to get that ball rolling once again. A victory Sept. 5 would be exactly what they need, but it all starts with camp and work.