Wondering about a player, a past game or another issue involving the Bears? Senior writer Larry Mayer answers a variety of questions from fans on ChicagoBears.com.
Who do you think is the most improved Bears player from last year to this year?
It's pretty interesting that the same name came up when defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and special-teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers recently talked about players who have shown the most improvement. Both of them mentioned linebacker Christian Jones as someone who has made the most strides beginning last season. Fangio said that Jones "has shown significant improvement in his play" and is competing with second-year pro Nick Kwiatkowski for the starting job at one of the inside linebacker positions while Danny Trevathan continues to make his way back from a serious knee injury. Rodgers said that during the 2016 season Jones' "growth and development was probably as impressive as anybody on the roster, a guy who really improved his game. It was just a noticeable jump how fast he caught on. I'm sure it has something to do with guys maturing in the league, being around three, four years. It was important to him. He sat in the middle of our meeting room the previous year, and he was up front last year. Just everything about him, his growth as a player, was just really impressive. He was one of our better guys last year."
I haven't heard much about nose tackle Jaye Howard. I know he was pretty good with the Chiefs before getting injured. Where does he fit in with the Bears defense?
Harwood Heights, Illinois
Jaye Howard is making progress, but he still is rebounding from the hip injury that forced him to miss the final half of last season with the Chiefs. Asked if Howard is healthy enough to know what the Bears have in him, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said: "Not quite yet. Jaye had the injury in the offseason that he was rehabbing and wasn't able to do a lot of work in the offseason both for us on the field and even off the field. But he's coming along. I think he's on his way to getting back healthy." Howard was at his best in 2015 when he helped Kansas City reach the playoffs by recording a career-high 5.5 sacks while playing in all 16 games with 14 starts. If he's able to revert to his pre-injury form it obviously will be a huge benefit for the Bears.
With Cody Whitehair doing an excellent job at center last year, where does that leave Hroniss Grasu on the roster?
Cody Whitehair established himself as a rookie last year and will only improve as the Bears' starting center moving forward. That leaves Hroniss Grasu battling for a backup position. Though Grasu was initially viewed as strictly a center, he's working in training camp at both center and guard because backups need to be able to play multiple positions because of the roster limits on game day. Asked last week whether Grasu can play guard, offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn said: "I don't know. We'll continue to evaluate that, but he's done a great job so far."