After a promising first season under coach Matt Nagy, expectations are high for the Bears offense in Year 2. The following five players will be especially intriguing to watch on the practice field when the reigning NFC North champions report to training camp three weeks from Thursday:
The third-year quarterback and the rest of the offense intend to pick up in Bourbonnais where they left off during the offseason program. In OTA and minicamp practices, Trubisky demonstrated a deeper understanding of the system, which enabled him to make pre-snap changes based on what he saw from the defense—something the 2017 first-round pick wasn't always able to do last season when he was still digesting the playbook.
"Last year he learned it," Nagy said during OTAs. "This year he's really trying to master it. There are adjustments that he makes that we don't have to tell him, 'Hey, do this.' He just does it naturally. That's what you're looking for."
Trubisky's continued growth is paramount to the offense's success. Last year the Mentor, Ohio, native was named to his first Pro Bowl after throwing for 3,223 yards with 24 touchdowns and a 95.4 passer rating in 14 starts.
After starting the final 10 games of his rookie season at left guard, Daniels was moved to center during the offseason, flipflopping positions with Cody Whitehair. Daniels started 23 games over his final two years at Iowa at center and made a smooth transition to the position during offseason workouts.
"He's a very intelligent football player," Trubisky said in June. "It comes easy to him and obviously he played it in college, so it's been a natural switch and it's been going really well. Cody's been doing a great job at guard also."
The Bears are confident that Daniels will continue to excel when they put pads on in training camp for the first time since January. After a year in the offense, they also believe that he's fully prepared to make the pass protection calls at the line of scrimmage that are part of the center's responsibilities.
The rookie running back displayed quickness, shiftiness and excellent pass-catching ability during non-contact practices this offseason. But given that his greatest attribute is likely his ability to bounce off defenders and break tackles, the Bears are eager to see how he performs in pads in training camp.
Speaking with Montgomery during offseason workouts, Bears assistant director of player personnel Champ Kelly was surprised to hear the third-round pick say he couldn't wait for the full-contact practices in Bourbonnais.
"This is a rookie going through his first OTAs and his focus is putting on football pads and doing real football," Kelly said during a panel discussion at the Bears100 Celebration in June. "He was like, 'I just want to prove and show people what I can do.' In my mind I'm thinking, 'You've been doing that every day in practice.' But in his mind he knows that there's another level that he has once these pads come on, so that's an exciting part about that kid."
Nagy loves versatile players he can utilize in different roles on offense, and no one better fits that description than Patterson, an All-Pro kick returner who has also excelled as a receiver and running back in six NFL seasons. During an offseason interview, Nagy said that the chance to utilize all of Patterson's talents left him feeling "like a kid in a candy store."
In 93 games with the Vikings, Raiders and Patriots, Patterson averaged 30.0 yards and scored six touchdowns on 176 kickoff returns, caught 184 passes for 1,872 yards and 10 TDs and rushed for 687 yards and seven touchdowns on 184 carries.
Last year with New England, Patterson started back-to-back games at running back in place of the injured Sony Michel, rushing for 38 yards on 10 carries in a 25-6 win over the Bills and 61 yards and one touchdown on 11 attempts in a 31-17 victory over the Packers.
After Miller underwent offseason shoulder surgery, the Bears are hopeful that he'll be ready to practice at the start of training camp. The 2018 second-round pick from Memphis showed his toughness as a rookie, fighting through the nagging injury to lead the Bears with seven touchdown receptions while catching 33 passes for 423 yards in 15 games.
Although Miller was unable to participate in offseason practices while recovering from the injury, he remained fully involved with the offense.
"He's champing at the bit to get out there," Nagy said during the team's full-squad minicamp the second week of June. "He's done a really good job of staying involved in the meetings. [During practice] he'll hit me in the back and ask me about a play—was it this play or was it that play—which tells me he's engaged. So mentally he's doing good."