The Bears open the season by visiting the Detroit Lions Sunday at Ford Field. Here are four storylines to watch in the game:
(1) After winning a competition for the starting quarterback position with Nick Foles, how will Mitchell Trubisky perform?
Trubisky won the job in large part because of the improvement he showed in training camp, most notably involving his footwork, accuracy, decision-making and willingness to stay in the pocket. Now the fourth-year pro must translate that from the practice field to games.
Trubisky was named to the Pro Bowl in 2018 after helping lead the Bears to the NFC North title. But after being part of an offense that regressed in 2019 and dealing with more adversity during the offseason when the Bears traded for Foles and declined his fifth-year option, Trubisky arrived at training camp with a different attitude and mindset.
"I think I just found my confidence this offseason when I figured out it was going to be a competition," Trubisky said. "You have to believe in yourself for your teammates and other people to believe in you."
Trubisky hopes to continue his success against the Lions. In five career starts, he has completed 70.1 percent of his passes for 1,359 yards with 11 touchdowns, four interceptions and a 106.3 passer rating. The 1,359 yards and 11 TDs are his most against any opponent.
(2) Will the Bears offense show improvement from last season?
After ranking 29th in the NFL in both scoring and total yards last year, the Bears addressed their offense in the offseason. They hired a new coordinator and three position coaches, traded for Foles to create competition at quarterback, completely revamped the tight end position and added speed at receiver.
As they prepare to open the season in Detroit, the Bears are focusing on scoring touchdowns in the red zone and creating an offensive identity.
"What I think the biggest thing is when you look back [at last season], we never established who we were as an offense," said coach Matt Nagy. "We never had an identity. We were too inconsistent in different areas. There might be one game where we are able to establish and get the run game going with certain run schemes, but then the next week, we don't have that same scheme, it's a different scheme or we rely a lot more on RPOs.
"Ultimately, in the end, it's, 'Did we ever establish an identity?' No, not last year, we did not. So, this year, that's going to be a theme for us, and doing that is being able to see who we have as players and how we adapt to them."
(3) How will the Bears defense fare against quarterback Matthew Stafford and a seemingly more-balanced Lions offense?
Last season the Bears' two wins over the Lions came against inexperienced quarterbacks Jeff Driskel and David Blough. They didn't face Stafford, who missed the final eight games of the season with a back injury. But Detroit's No. 1 quarterback returns, looking to pick up where he left off before getting injured. In the first eight games last year, Stafford threw for 2,499 yards and 19 touchdowns with a career-high 106.0 passer rating.
"Before he got hurt, he was probably having one of the best seasons he's had," said Bears safety Eddie Jackson. "We know he's going to come out and give us everything he's got. He's a great player and a great competitor."
It appears that Stafford and the Lions will be missing a key component of their passing game in receiver Kenny Golladay. The Chicago native, who led Detroit and established career highs last year with 65 receptions for 1,190 yards and 11 touchdowns, is listed as doubtful after being held out of practice Thursday and Friday with a hamstring injury.
Stafford figures to benefit from an improved running game that features Kerryon Johnson, recently-signed veteran Adrian Peterson and rookie second-round pick D'Andre Swift.
(4) How will Cairo Santos perform as an injury replacement for Eddy Piñeiro?
With Piñeiro on injured reserve for at least the first three games of the season with a groin injury, the Bears will turn to Santos.
They wanted a veteran they're comfortable with in Piñeiro's place and they have that in Santos, who has converted 80.6 percent of his field-goal attempts (108 of 134) over six NFL seasons with the Chiefs (2014-17), Bears (2017), Rams (2018), Buccaneers (2018) and Titans (2019).
Santos, who is now fully healthy after being hampered by injuries the past few seasons, made 84.8 percent of his field-goal attempts (89 of 105) during his first four NFL seasons with the Chiefs when Nagy was Kansas City's quarterbacks coach (2014-15) and offensive coordinator (2016-17).
"I just know from my history, playing outside in Arrowhead [Stadium] and other places for three years with Cairo," Nagy said, "it was just one of those deals that when he got up to kick a field goal or an extra point, you really weren't concerned at all if he was going to make it or miss it."