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Why This Is Most Important Week to Bears Camp

Little time and the approaching opener in Detroit make it imperative Bears coaches see what they need to see in these key areas this week to have the team ready for Sept. 13

With false-positive tests for COVID-19 in their rear-view mirror for now, the Bears are about the embark upon the most important week in their season.

The first week of contact practices has to be regarded as a period to get used to hard, physical work in pads again. 

The final week of practices is Aug. 31 to Sept. 3, just four days, and at the end of it they cut the roster then begin practicing to play the Detroit Lions.

The final four days of practice is too late to accomplish much other than for a few players to make the roster over another.  

With practices currently scheduled from Tuesday though Saturday, and the possibility they might hold an evening controlled scrimmage in these five days, the Bears are entering the meat of their odd training camp.

Here is where it stands and what needs to be achieved in these next five days:

1. QB Battle

Neither Mitchell Trubisky nor Nick Foles has risen head and shoulders above the other. If they had, there would be no point in carrying the charade on longer with time of the essence for the starter to have first-team snaps geared toward the Lions game.

To the naked eye at practices, it's apparent Trubisky's deeper throws look more well aimed and in better places to let receivers catch and run than he showed in the past The big throw was one he made Saturday in scrimmage to Jesper Horsted, perfectly leading the tight end well downfield beyond all coverage for a touchdown.

It doesn't mean Trubisky can stop missing open deep receivers in the pressure of a live NFL moment because he knew he wasn't going to get hit on this one pass. Still, before he seemed to have trouble even accomplishing a throw of this type.

Perhaps as important is whether his shorter passes are arriving in places they need to be to allow for catch and run. The jury is still out on this one. He's had a few dump-offs down in the feet of receivers and come in a bit high with a few others. By and large there is no noticeable difference from the past on these passes, despite his comments about having improved his passing mechanics.

Foles' deeper passes have been fine, as well. He arched a deep ball down the sidelines in perfect position for Cordarrelle Patterson to pluck it on the dead run for a TD in the same scrimmage.

The two have been throwing similar numbers of interceptions, almost all coming on deeper balls. Tashaun Gipson, Eddie Jackson and Kyle Fuller came up with picks in recent practices.

The only real alarming moment for either came in Trubisky's moment of uncertainty in a goal-line scrimmage, as he absentmindedly stepped out of bounds for a sack on first-and-goal from the 1. That's the thing he can't do that he would do sporadically in the red zone in the past.

The question with Foles remains whether he's had time to grasp everything needed to run this offense in the regular season. If he can't show he has this week, coaches might need to start planning for Trubisky as starter at least for Week 1.

The biggest question regarding Trubisky is whether he's reading defenses properly and then reacting in time. This is a tough read for the observer, let alone participants.

Reporters lumped together in the northwest corner of the practice fields, sometimes 150-200 yards away with poor sight lines can't make this call.

There's probably no way to know this until they declare the battle over and the Detroit Lions' pass rush is coming at Trubisky.

Bottom Line: If you wanted a snap judgment on where this QB battle is headed, Foles hasn't done enough now to unseat the No. 1. He has to take it up a notch to be convincing, and it's going to need to be this week because there will not be a sufficient number of reps in the final four practices to accomplish it.

2. Ramping Up

After this training camp, please never use this phrase again. It's been so overused by coaches in this training camp.

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But it does apply to this week with key members of the defense.

So far we've seen only glimpses of Khalil Mack and less of Robert Quinn. It's fine because neither is fighting for a starting or roster spot, but at this point they need to begin getting more involved in order to be physically ready for the Sunday battles.

The same is true for tight end Jimmy Graham, who had a couple veterans' days off. 

Among younger players, more is needed to be seen from rookie cornerback Jaylon Johnson. He has been more of a rumor than a presence at this point as Buster Skrine has been taking a large share of first-team defensive snaps at right cornerback.

Everything needs to come into place faster.

The only exceptions are wide receiver Allen Robinson (ankle) and defensive end Akiem Hicks (quad) due to their current injuries. The need for healing to be full speed for the opener far exceeds their need to get practice snaps.

Bottom Line: It's time for the big dogs to eat.

3. Sync up the runs and blocks

The blocking lanes formed sufficiently for David Montgomery and the other backs during the scrimmage according to Matt Nagy, and progress has been shown with Germain Ifedi as the right guard. For Rashaad Coward to dislodge Ifedi from that starting role now would seem unlikely, especially after the way line coach Juan Castillo talked up Ifedi last week.

The next step is making sure backs are hitting those holes that are forming.

The missing element in their offense last year was a running game. They proved the previous year they could get by with a 95.4 passer rating from their quarterback when they had sufficient ground-game production.

Neither of these quarterbacks can carry a team an entire season and any success they have is going to require the rebirth of the running attack.

So it needs to be more prevalent in practices whether they are running out of the shotgun or an I.

Bottom line: The running game is a matter of repetition, as Castillo reminds all the time. They need a lot of repetitions this week in this area to be better.

4. Live Football

Even at the padded practices, there has been virtually no "live football," which would entail tackling ball carriers to the ground.

The younger players and the secondary need this type of play to see it and adjust to it at an NFL level before the opener.

There hasn't been enough callousing so far for the callous to form, and if they try to rush it from Aug. 31 to Sept. 3 they could wind up with injuries far too close to game week for players to recover in time for the start of the regular season.

Bottom Line: If they're going to get physical, it absolutely needs to be this week.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven