Few NFL divisions are as intriguing as the NFC North entering the 2021 season. The Packers may or may not have Aaron Rodgers. The Lions are kicking off a new rebuild. The Vikings think they might actually be Super Bowl sleepers. And the Bears? They might be the most intriguing of all, not least because of what's going on under center. Meanwhile, Chicago's head decision-makers -- coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace -- could be on the hot seat for a make-or-break season.
As the Bears look to stay competitive in the North, while potentially turning the page to a new era under center, here's a look at three critical training camp battles to watch:
QB (Andy Dalton vs. Justin Fields)
The Bears have said over and over that Dalton is their guy, that they have every intention of starting him Week 1, that Fields -- their prized first-round draft pick -- has basically no chance of winning the job before the opener. But here's the reality: they either foolishly traded up to make Fields their future face of the franchise without any consideration he might be better than Dalton this summer or soon afterward, or they're just being overly cautious about speaking his ascent into existence. Camp was always going to be the first real chance for Fields to make some noise, and whether he's auditioning to take over in Week 1 or Week 10, he's auditioning.
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WR (Anthony Miller vs. Damiere Byrd vs. Marquise Goodwin vs. Dazz Newsome)
Call it a treasure trove of mediocrity. That's not to say one of these guys can't step up; in fact, for the Bears' sake, they'd better hope one does. But there's a reason Allen Robinson likely wants to be paid like one of the NFL's best, or to play elsewhere: he's still shouldering the WR corps, even with Darnell Mooney showing promise. Miller has already been shopped on the trade market to no avail, so he's not guaranteed to stick. Byrd was solid on a bad Patriots offense but seems like a No. 3/4 option, at best. Goodwin can still fly but has played all of 20 games the last three years. And Newsome, while energetic, is coming off a broken collarbone.
CB (Kindle Vildor vs. Desmond Trufant vs. Artie Burns)
The Bears saved money by cutting ties with Kyle Fuller this offseason, but that means they're banking on a clear starter to emerge from this trio opposite Jaylon Johnson, who's still growing himself. Vildor got some first-team action in the spring after appearing in all 16 games as a fifth-round rookie, but he's far more unproven than his competition. (That doesn't, however, necessarily mean inferior.) Trufant is on the wrong side of 30 after a lost season with the Lions, and while he brings experience, his days as a Pro Bowler in Atlanta are now a half-decade old. Burns, meanwhile, is still young but coming off a torn ACL and never quite leveled out as a starter during a four-year run with the Steelers.