The long off-season for the Chicago Bears is slowly, but surely, coming to an end. The 2018 NFL draft is long over and teams are preparing for the start of the season. The team is currently holding their mandatory minicamp session and the preseason isn’t too far off. So, where do the Chicago Bears stand in terms of their roster?
The Bears as a team have a lot of question marks. They have the potential to be solid overall with a possible playoff berth, but might fall short just based on their schedule. On the other side, key players are unproven and others are coming off of injury-riddled seasons. Finally, they are entering the first year of head coach Matt Nagy’s tenure, and that doesn’t always turn out well. Let’s take a look at how the team looks as of right now.
Quarterback: The Bears are going to hand the ball over to Mitchell Trubisky, their top pick in the 2017 draft. As everyone knows, they traded up one spot and gave up a plethora of assets to get him. Fans are clamoring for a franchise quarterback, as the team hasn’t seen a string of success at the position since Jim McMahon. They’re hoping that Trubisky can finally be that player.
Trubisky started 12 games for Chicago last year, and, unsurprisingly, he didn’t fair that well. He threw seven touchdowns against seven interceptions, while completing under 60% of his passes. He threw for a little under 2,200 yards, while compiling a 77.5 quarterback rating. While those statistics aren’t the greatest, it wasn’t all Trubisky’s fault. He didn’t really have a supporting cast to throw to, as the Bears wide receiving corps was atrocious, and that’s putting it mildly. Only one receiver caught more than 50 passes last season.
In addition, former head coach John Fox didn’t really attempt to utilize Trubisky, but that could be attributed to the lack of talent at the wide receiver position. Regardless, he can’t be accurately graded for last season. The reports coming out of the off-season are encouraging, but we will have to wait until the first game to see what Trubisky can really do. It’s going to be important that he nails this, or else general manager Ryan Pace is going to feel the heat.
If everything goes the way the coaches are hoping for, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to suggest that Trubisky will throw for nearly 4,000 yards, complete over 60% of his passes, and even hit 30-35 touchdowns this season. It might be a stretch, but with this much offense, the Bears would be back in business.
Running back: This is arguably the one position that the Bears don’t need to worry about. They are led in the backfield by Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, with the former coming off his second consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season and the latter being more of an all-purpose threat. Howard, a former 5th-round draft pick out of Indiana, was able to have a great year despite how predictable the Bears offense was going to be week in and week out.
Cohen, despite his 5’6 size, was able to shock opposing defenses with his spectacular ability to just make defenders miss in the open field. According to Bucky Brooks of NFL.com, “Cohen exhibits Darren Sproles-like playmaking ability…” albeit more developed.
That’s great to hear for Bears fans, as both of these players are going to be featured in Coach Nagy’s offensive scheme. There is so much hope for this duo that Brooks named them the fourth-best running back combination in the NFL. There is a downside to this group. During the offseason, there were rumors that the Chicago Bears were thinking of trading Howard. While the rumors were mere speculation, it was enough to make fans question a fair amount.
In addition, there are some doubts that Howard can be an effective receiver, and that is something that Nagy liked to do with the Kansas City Chiefs. If that is the case, Cohen can accurately take over for that portion. Either way, the Bears are going to have an explosive backfield. And this time, it’s not going to be predictable. Given his history, it would be wise to suggest that Howard will once again rush for over 1,000 yards, and score anywhere from 8-11 touchdowns. Cohen is a little harder to predict, but he might be able to get 500-700 yards and 3-5 touchdowns.
Wide Receivers: Once again, this group is going to be the biggest question mark for the Chicago Bears this season. They have talent, which is undeniable, but are they going to be able to stay on the field? With the likes of Allen Robinson and Kevin White joining Anthony Miller, the Bears could have a legitimate receiver corps.
Robinson was the Bears biggest free agent signing, inking a three-year deal with a little over $25 million guaranteed. He’s shown he can catch the ball with the best of the best, as the 2015 season saw him catch 80 passes, net 1,400 yards with 14 touchdowns. The following year was a down year, mostly due to quarterback Blake Bortles being inefficient.
However, 2017 saw him miss the entire season after one catch, as Robinson tore his ACL. Initial reports show that he should be healthy come the start of the season, but it is something to monitor for a bit. Robinson is still young, and hopefully doesn’t lose the effective route running that he had in Jacksonville. Either way, he represents an immediate upgrade to the receiving group, and as long as he stays healthy, Trubisky can finally show off that cannon of an arm. Robinson is only three years removed from leading the league in receiving touchdowns, with 14. It’s not asking too much to return to that, but figure he can get at least nine.
Anthony Miller represents one of the Bears second-round picks in this years NFL draft. According to Jonah Jordan, from GoTigers247.com, Miller has a “chip on his shoulder” and will be competitive from when the game starts to the final whistle. In addition, he “is a fantastic route-runner with great hands,” something that the Bears will desperately need this season.
Miller’s numbers are great. Over the course of his college career, he caught nearly 240 passes for almost 3,600 yards and 37 touchdowns. In back-to-back seasons, he caught over 90 passes and surpassed 1,400 yards. According to The Athletic, he’s drawn comparisons to Antonio Brown in terms of scouting. A poor man’s Antonio Brown in the slot for the Bears? Yes, please.
However, Miller also has a tendency to drop the ball. In fact, he has 21 dropped passes and five fumbles over his past two seasons. It’s not exactly encouraging, but it can be corrected. If it’s not, that tendency can lead to drive-killers, which isn’t the best thing for the Bears this season. Overall, it can be fixed and the Bears are going to have a solid contributor this season.
Miller, being a rookie, is extremely difficult to predict, but some fantasy football experts have him contributing four touchdowns. He balked at that, and said to at least double that. While expecting him to pull in eight touchdowns is a tad unrealistic, it would be reasonable to meet in the middle, and say he will have six this season.
Meanwhile, the Bears have another issue in terms of Kevin White. The former first-round draft pick cannot stay healthy to save his life. Out of 48 possible games, he’s played in five of them. He’s only had 21 receptions in his entire career. Out of college, he was a promising prospect, posting insane numbers during his scouting combine. But, athleticism means nothing if you can’t stay on the field.
Reports show that White is looking good this offseason. During the Bears recent 7-on-7 play, ESPN reported that he was someone who was standing out. Trubisky has spoken highly of the former first-round pick. Whether that translates to the regular season remains to be seen. However, if he can stay healthy, the Bears will have a decent receiving corps. As bad as it sounds, getting any production from White will be a positive. If he can produce five touchdowns, and stay healthy all year, it will be a victory.
Tight Ends: The Bears spend a good chunk of money upgrading this spot due to the loss of Zach Miller and Adam Shaheen not proving to be productive. They went out and signed Trey Burton, who might best be remembered as the tight end who threw a touchdown to Nick Foles in the Super Bowl.
Coach Nagy has already come out and said that Burton will play a similar role to Travis Kelce with Kansas City. Kelce, when healthy, has the potential to reach 1,000 yards. It’s not fair to say that Burton will reach that this season, but he does have the chance to emerge as a standout player. In fact, NFL.com has him listed as a breakout player in terms of fantasy football, something that would greatly impact his performance.
Last season, Burton had five touchdowns while not playing every snap. If Coach Nagy suggests that he will be like Kelce, can fans expect him to score like that? A season of seven touchdowns would be great, but that’s if everything goes according to plan.
Overall, the Bears offense has a lot of potential, but a lot of risk as well. If they can put it all together, and the defense builds on its great finish last year, then the Bears might sneak into Wild Card contention. They’re not ready to tackle the Green Bay Packers or even the Minnesota Vikings, but they are on the rise. Regardless, this team is going to be entertaining to watch, especially if Coach Nagy is going to break out a completely new playbook, like he has already said he would.
Is it football season yet?