Bears show up to camp with renewed hope in Year 2 under Fox

Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace, left, and head coach John Fox smile as they listen to a question at a news conference during team's NFL football training camp at Olivet Nazarene University, Wednesday, July 27, 2016, in Bourbonnais, Ill. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Nam Huh/AP

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. (AP) The Chicago Bears rebuilt their defense.

They gave their offense a different look, too.

More than anything, they insisted they put themselves in a position to make a jump in the standings.

Considering they finished last in the NFC North last season, there's plenty of room for that.

''I feel really good where we're at right now as a team and really good where our staff is at, and excited to get started,'' general manager Ryan Pace said.

The Bears showed up Wednesday for their second training camp under Pace and coach John Fox with a renewed hope after making big strides last season even if it didn't necessarily show up in the record.

They finished 6-10 after winning just five games the previous season. And if history is an indication, they can expect to improve in Year 2 under Fox.

The Carolina Panthers went from seven wins in 2002 to 11 with a trip to the Super Bowl the following season. The Denver Broncos went from eight wins in 2011 to 13 the following season.

While Fox was quick to point out the Bears did not bring in an all-time great such as Peyton Manning, he could see some parallels between his current and past situations. More than the moves that were made, there's the comfort and familiarity that comes in Year 2.

''It's like when I was a kid and we'd go on a trip and it seemed a whole lot longer on the way there than it did coming home,'' Fox said.

''And the reason is that you've seen it before, you've been there before. So I think that's it's just kind of human development. We added Jake Delhomme in Carolina and made a big jump.

''Granted, we added Peyton Manning (in Denver). But to me, we added a bunch of players. It's not just the quarterback. I think we've done similar things and we'll see where it takes us.''

The Bears signed Danny Trevathan from Super Bowl champion Denver and added Jerrell Freeman from Indianapolis to fill needs at inside linebacker. They traded up to draft Georgia outside linebacker Leonard Floyd with the ninth pick, hoping his athleticism will give them a pass-rush threat who can also drop back into coverage.

They envision a stout front seven after tying for 22nd in sacks and 30th in interceptions, and they're counting on their offense to come through despite losing two of its top playmakers in running back Matt Forte and tight end Martellus Bennett.

The offensive line has also been rebuilt since the start of last year, and offensive coordinator Adam Gase is gone, too. The Bears promoted quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains to replace him and maintain some continuity for quarterback Jay Cutler.

They could have a dynamic receiver tandem with Alshon Jeffery healthy on the heels of an injury-filled season and Kevin White ready to show what he can do after missing his rookie season because of a stress fracture in his left shin.

But with Forte gone, they're relying on a group led by Jeremy Langford and Ka'Deem Carey. And at tight end, they are counting on Zach Miller staying healthy despite a long history of injuries.

Even so, the Bears have a year in the system. And Cutler insisted that alone is reason to expect bigger things.

''Solely just Year 1 to Year 2,'' he said. ''I think there's going to be less thinking. I think we have a better idea of what we like in the offense, what we don't like in the offense, where we need to improve, what we need to add. I think personnel-wise we're getting better and better.''

Enough to compete in the NFC North? Or at least make a jump?

''From a personnel standpoint, we've just got to keep putting good drafts together,'' Pace said.

''And we have to see how this draft unfolds. We've got to stack good drafts. We've got to be accurate in free agency. I feel good about where we're at right now, but truth will be told as this plays out.''

NOTES: LB Pernell McPhee will open camp on the physically unable to perform list after missing the offseason program following knee surgery. Pace said he's not sure if McPhee will play in the preseason. WR Marquess Wilson (foot) and offensive lineman Amini Silatolu (torn ACL in left knee) will also begin camp on the physically unable to perform list.

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