The Bears come into this season with three quarterbacks and no hope. After letting Alshon Jeffery leave for nothing in the offseason, trading up in the draft, and seemingly having little plan to rebuild the roster, they have left their fans focusing on the Cubs far more than the return of football.
Chicago opened with a limp display against the Texans, the Jay Cutler got hurt. Brian Hoyer did well in relief for the smokin’ quarterback, but he too soon went down and that left the Bears with Matt Barkley, and a few weeks of Cutler before a second injury took him out for good.
Around this ever changing position, the Bears offense wasn’t terrible thanks to a strong interior offensive line and the exploits of rookie running back Jordan Howard, who put up a stellar 1,313 yards in 13 games. With Jeffery missing time, Cameron Meredith stepped up to be the Bears leading receiver, reeling in 66 balls for 888 yards and four scores.
On the defensive side, Jerrell Freeman anchored the team with his 110 tackles, while Akiem Hicks, Willie Young, and Leonard Floyd provided a reasonable pass rush. Against the run they really struggled though, allowing 4.4 yards a carry and 1,950 yards on the year.
|Mike Glennon, QB||Alshon Jeffery, WR|
|Mark Sanchez, QB||Brian Hoyer, QB|
|Dion Sims, TE||Jay Cutler, QB|
|Marcus Cooper, CB||Matt Barkley, QB|
|Quintin Demps, S||Ted Larsen, G|
|Markus Wheaton, WR||Cornelius Washington, DE|
|Prince Amukamara, CB||Logan Paulsen, TE|
|Victor Cruz, WR||Matt McCants, OT|
|John Jenkins, DE||Will Sutton, DT|
|Mitchell Trubisky, QB (Draft)||Marquess Wilson, WR|
There was a lot of turnover in Chicago, notably in the quarterback room, where the 2016 trio all left. The Bears brought in Mike Glennon from the Buccaneers ostensibly to be their starter, but then on draft day general manager Ryan Pace decided to trade up from #3 to #2, at the cost of two third-rounders and a fourth-round pick, to take North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky. Throwing the experts into hysterics, the fans into fits of rage, and the Glennon family into disarray.
Around that, the Bears’ moves haven’t been terrible. Marcus Cooper, Prince Amukamara, and Quintin Demps can all do a job in the secondary, and Markus Wheaton is a nice buy-low option. The loss of Jeffery will hurt, but he has missed 11 games in the last two years. Dropping players like Sutton and Washington makes sense too since the run defense was so poor in 2016.
|1||Vs Atlanta Falcons|
|2||@ Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|3||Vs Pittsburgh Steelers|
|4||@ Green Bay Packers|
|5||Vs Minnesota Vikings|
|6||@ Baltimore Ravens|
|7||Vs Carolina Panthers|
|8||@ New Orleans Saints|
|10||Vs Green Bay Packers|
|11||Vs Detroit Lions|
|12||@ Philadelphia Eagles|
|13||Vs San Francisco 49ers|
|14||@ Cincinnati Bengals|
|15||@ Detroit Lions|
|16||Vs Cleveland Browns|
|17||@ Minnesota Vikings|
The Bears schedule isn’t awful. Outside of the division, they get the AFC North, NFC South, San Francisco, and the Eagles. There are winnable games in there, especially with the Ravens getting decimated by injuries in training camp. However, their opening stretch is as tricky as it gets. The Falcons will be out to show they are still the power in the NFC, then they face the upstart Bucs who could be an offensive monster in 2017. The Steelers still have the Killer Bs, and then they go to Lambeau and face Vikings. There is a legitimate threat that not only do they go 0-5 to start the season, but end up destroying whichever quarterback wins the starting job out of camp.
Three players to watch
On a team like Chicago, there are opportunities to be seized and snaps to be won this year. Who can take their chance and run with it to become a key piece of the 2017 season?
The quarterback position
When the Bears drafted Trubisky they said that Mike Glennon was their starter. Since then Mark Sanchez has impressed in two-minute drill work, Glennon has looked good in goal-line situations, and Trubisky’s mobility has caused problems for the defense.
Whoever ends up taking to the field in Week 1, they will have an intense spotlight on them and the pressure of having two strong backups behind them. Glennon is going to get the first start this week against Denver, and he couldn’t have a worse defense to play against. That first team pass defense is as tough as they come, and if he struggles he could quickly find himself benched. Both Ryan Pace and John Fox are firmly in the last chance saloon and could turn to Trubisky very quickly in order to try and save their skins.
Cody Whitehair, center
A preseason injury to Hroniss Grasu forced Whitehair into the starting center job for Week 1 of his rookie season. And from there he never really looked back. He was endlessly impressive, combining well with Josh Sitton and Kyle Fuller either side of him and generating space for Jordan Howard with an impressive regularity.
In 2017 I am keen to see if he can keep it up, and maybe even get better. If Trubisky comes under center early this year, a lot more of the communication will fall on him, and if he can handle that and maintain his level of play, then Chicago really will have found a quality player for the next decade.
Leonard Floyd, outside linebacker
Whitehair was their second round pick last year, their first was Leonard Floyd. The linebacker was eased in slowly last season, played in simple situations and put in positions to succeed. The result was seven sacks, six tackles for loss, and nine QB hits.
The question now is if he can produce on a more regular basis. He played just 50% of defensive snaps in 2016, and Chicago need him to take more of the load down after down. If he can’t maintain his performance levels and keep getting to the quarterback after playing run downs as well then Chicago will have a problem.
2017 is going to be a tough year for Chicago. The lack of outside weapons will hamper whoever plays quarterback, and the lack of talent at tackle might break them. The defense has some potential to at least be league average against the pass, but the run defense is still a liability.
The overwhelming potential for a bad start could also lead to the team simply imploding around John Fox’s ears and him quickly losing his job.
The best case scenario is maybe six wins. Maybe they can catch an over-confident Bucs side and a beaten up Ravens side. They should beat the 49ers and Browns, and maybe even split with the Lions. However, if their quarterback position capitulates as it could well do then we’re looking at a team that might be in the conversation for the #1 pick come the 2018 Draft. Whatever happens, they should at least have a strong run game to keep them warm over the winter.
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