After tanking last season, the Bears have rebuilt their front office and coaching staff this offseason. Ryan Pace has taken over as general manager; John Fox is now the head coach. Chicago will still feature Jay Cutler, who’s coming off a season in which he quarterbacked the team to a 5-11 record and a last-place finish in the NFC North, as well as a few other holdovers from the previous regime (RB Matt Forte, WR Alshon Jeffery, TE Martellus Bennett). It remains to be seen if the new leadership can make better use of these stars.
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Will Pro Bowl O-lineman Kyle Long play guard or tackle?
The 20th overall pick in 2013, Kyle Long has made the Pro Bowl in each of his first two NFL seasons. He’s already one of the best guards in the league, but the Bears may have plans to use him as a tackle in 2015. During early offseason workouts, Long received reps at both left and right tackle. Most likely scenario: Jermon Bushrod and Jordan Mills retain their starting tackle jobs. But at least Long will serve as a valuable replacement if either one is injured during the season.
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Can Alshon Jeffery become a true No. 1 receiver?
Now that Brandon Marshall has been traded to the New York Jets, the Bears need Alshon Jeffery to step up as the team’s top pass-catcher. A second-round selection in 2012, Jeffery has been a productive member of Chicago’s offense. He has caught 198 passes for 2,921 yards and 20 touchdowns through his first three seasons. Now heading into a contract year, it’s on Jeffery to establish himself as a true No. 1 receiver and compete for a numbers resembling the deals Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas recently signed.
Getty ImagesDavid Banks
Who's going to start on the defensive line?
The Bears’ plans at defensive line took an early hit when free agency acquisition Ray McDonald was released due to off-the-field legal issues. Second-round rookie Eddie Goldman could be the anchor of Chicago’s 3-4 defense at nose tackle if he comes along quickly. Jay Ratliff, an 11-year veteran of the league, is also likely to play a large role. Ego Ferguson, a second-round pick in last year’s draft, and former Washington Redskin Jarvis Jenkins are the leading candidates to land the third and final starting job.
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Will Forte and Bennett settle their contract situations?
Two of Chicago’s most productive offensive stars, running back Matt Forte and tight end Martellus Bennett, are heading into the 2015 season unhappy with their current contract situations. Forte, who eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards for the third consecutive season and set a career-high with 102 receptions in 2014, is entering a contract year. Bennett, on the other hand, is still locked up for two more seasons. However, after catching 90 passes for 916 yards and six touchdowns in 2014, Bennett believes he has far outperformed the terms of his current deal.