After identifying five players on offense to watch in training camp Monday, here are five on the defensive side of the ball to monitor when the Bears hit the practice field beginning Thursday:
Floyd will head to Bourbonnais looking to build on a productive rookie season that likely would have been even more impressive if he hadn’t been slowed by injuries.
The ninth pick in the 2016 draft recorded seven sacks, recovered a fumble for a touchdown after a strip/sack of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and produced a safety with a sack of the 49ers’ Blaine Gabbert. But Floyd was limited to 12 games in his first pro season. The outside linebacker from Georgia was plagued by nagging injuries in training camp and then suffered two concussions in a five-week span late in the year.
The Bears hope that Floyd can stay on the field and continue to develop his pass-rush skills. He showed a knack for making big plays as a rookie and will be counted on to produce even more in his second season to help a defense increase its takeaways after generating only 11 takeaways in 2016, the fewest in franchise history.
The Bears are also hoping that Demps helps them take the ball away more this season. The 10th-year safety has recorded 15 of his 18 career interceptions the past four years, including six in 13 games last season with the Texans. A late bloomer, Demps didn’t make his first NFL start until his sixth season. He joins the Bears after playing with the Eagles (2008-09), Texans (2011-12 and 2015-16), Chiefs (2013) and Giants (2014).
The Bears haven’t had a veteran safety with a nose for the football since Mike Brown patrolled their secondary a decade ago. Demps is also expected to provide veteran leadership at a young safety position that features 2016 draft picks Deon Bush, Deiondre’ Hall and DeAndre Houston-Carson and 2017 selection Eddie Jackson.
“He’s a great leader,” Bush said in May. “He’s been around for so long he knows everything and he’s trying to help all of us. He’s trying to give us tips here and there and he leads by example. He’s always ready to share info and he’s always trying to help us like an older-brother type.”
Cooper endeared himself to Bears fans by expressing his gratitude to them on social media for the warm reception he received after signing with the team in free agency. If the cornerback picks up where he left off last season with the Cardinals, Bears fans will love him even more.
Cooper enjoyed a breakout season in Arizona last year, setting career highs with 15 games played, 13 starts, 69 tackles and four interceptions. He returned one of the picks for his first career touchdown and added a team-high 11 pass breakups.
The 6-2, 192-pounder has appeared in 53 NFL games with 24 starts over four seasons with the Chiefs (2013-15) and Cardinals (2016), recording 130 tackles, seven interceptions, 32 pass breakups, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
A converted college receiver, Cooper was selected in the seventh round of the 2013 draft by the 49ers when Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and defensive backs coach Ed Donatell held those positions with San Francisco.
The Bears were decimated by injuries on both sides of the ball last season. One of the key players they missed was Goldman, a playmaking nose tackle who was limited to six contests due to an ankle injury. The 6-4, 320-pounder showed promise as a rookie in 2015, playing in 15 games after being selected in the second round of the draft out of Florida State.
The Bears are hoping that Goldman can revert to the form he showed late in his rookie year when he registered 10 tackles, three sacks and three tackles-for-loss in a three-game span. His ability to stuff the run and collapse the pocket requires frequent double-team blocks, which free up his teammates to make plays.
Goldman is a big, physical player who should excel when the pads come on in training camp. Watching him face center Cody Whitehair and Pro Bowl guards Kyle Long and Josh Sitton should be among the most intriguing battles in practice.
With last year’s prized free-agent acquisition, Danny Trevathan, recovering from a serious knee injury, the Bears need Kwiatkoski to take another step at the inside linebacker position. The 2016 fourth-round pick showed promise as a rookie after Trevathan was injured, recording 43 tackles, one sack and five tackles-for-loss while starting the final six games.
Kwiatkoski is another player who needs to stay healthy. His growth was slowed last summer when he suffered a hamstring injury on the third day of training camp that sidelined him for four weeks. He struggled while making his first NFL start in place of the injured Trevathan in a Week 3 loss in Dallas but made major strides over the final third of the season.
The Bears traded up to draft Kwiatkoski and hope he shows the same instincts and toughness he displayed as a productive team captain at West Virginia.