Bearing down on Chicago Bears questions
After four preseason games and with six days before the Chicago Bears' play their first regular-season game in the second year of the Ryan Pace-John Fox regime, there are questions still to be answered.
No. 1: Are the Bears still in rebuilding mode?
Answer: Yes. This does not appear to be a roster ready to challenge for the playoffs. Aside from Kyle Long's three Pro Bowls, the only players on the roster who have been to even one Pro Bowl are wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (2013) and quarterback Jay Cutler (2008).
Teams without superior talent can be successful, but this is a team with mediocre-to-average talent and few proven difference-makers.
No. 2: Is it possible Deiondre Hall and Jacoby Glenn are the opening-day starters at cornerback?
It's questionable for now, but one or both could see a lot of action when the regular season starts.
Hall is a fourth-round pick out of Northern Iowa, and the Bears love his length and competitiveness. Glenn was undrafted last year out of Central Florida, but he made the most of his opportunities in the summer and preseason.
You could be hearing their names a lot.
The top three cornerbacks did not practice last week.
Kyle Fuller is coming off arthroscopic knee surgery on Aug. 17 and hasn't practiced since. To this point, he has been a disappointing first-round pick.
Tracy Porter suffered a concussion in the third preseason game and has played 16 games just once in eight previous NFL seasons. He has played six or fewer games in three different seasons.
Bryce Callahan, the top nickel corner, has been out for two weeks with a hamstring injury.
No. 3: Will right guard Kyle Long be ready for the season opener?
Jay Cutler certainly hopes so, and Long's $40 million, four-year contract extension would seem to indicate that the team doesn't consider his shoulder injury to be as serious as some alarmists have indicated.
Without Long, a mediocre offensive line becomes a disaster area. He has been sidelined since the third preseason game. Long's injury could affect him throughout the season, but even at 80 percent, he's an asset.
With veteran road-grader Bobby Massie at tackle, the right side should be solid, at least in the run game.
But there is no quality depth after the season-ending knee injury to Hroniss Grasu, who was the starting center, and the off-season release of Matt Slauson. The Slauson move was a head-scratcher from the get-go and looks like a monumental gaffe in retrospect.
Ted Larsen's move from guard to center fills that gap, but now there's no safety net for rookie left guard Cody Whitehair. Despite his seventh-round pedigree, Charles Leno appears to be a fixture at left tackle in his third season after starting the final 13 games last year.
Sunday night's acquisition of three-time Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton makes the O-line group much stronger.
No. 4: Will Kevin White play like the first-round pick he was in 2015?
The response to this one changed after Thursday night when, for the first time, White looked like a legitimate No. 2 receiver who could be an effective complement to Jeffery.
So the answer is, "maybe."
Sure it was a fourth preseason game, but the Cleveland Browns started their first-team guys and White still caught 4 passes for 57 yards in the first half.
If White presents a viable threat, it opens up the field for Jeffery, who otherwise would face constant double-teams. That could mean a huge season for Jeffery, who is motivated to put up big numbers in his contract year.
No. 5: Will Jeremy Langford be the Bears' new Matt Forte?
Unlikely. Sorry to all you fantasy guys who drafted Langford high.
It will be running back by committee, or at least by tandem, as has been Fox's custom. The Bears will play the hot hand, but there are too many options for Langford to be the alpha male that Forte was in the backfield.
Ka'Deem Carey is the better short-yardage option than Langford, and so is rookie Jordan Howard. The fifth-rounder's performance in the preseason finale (107 yards on 16 carries, 33 yards on 2 catches) was impressive, regardless of who was on the field for the Browns.
No. 6: What's up with Pernell McPhee?
The first major acquisition of the Pace-Fox coalition looked like he could be the difference-making focal point of the defense through the first half of last season.
Now it's questionable whether McPhee will be more than a serviceable player.
In February, it was reported that the 6-foot-3 McPhee, whose weight has fluctuated between 270 and 290, was rehabilitating from arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.
At that time, the question was if he would be full speed by the start of the off-season program in the spring. It was assumed he'd be 100 percent before the start of training camp.
McPhee, however, isn't anywhere near 100 percent, and teammate Willie Young recently characterized his injury as one that in the past was considered "career-ending."
McPhee will start the season on the physically-unable-to-perform list, which means he will miss at least the first six weeks. It remains to be seen if he plays after that, and how effective he will be.
Fortunately for the Bears, if starters Young and Lamarr Houston get the expected assistance from first-round pick Leonard Floyd, McPhee might not be missed that much.
• Follow Bob's Bears reports on Twitter @BobLeGere.