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Chicago Bears: 2017 preview

Da Bears have fallen on hard times. Can 2017 and a new quarterback bring a smile back to the fanbase?


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.

2016 recap

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.

Offseason moves

InOut
Mike Glennon, QBAlshon Jeffery, WR
Mark Sanchez, QBBrian Hoyer, QB
Dion Sims, TEJay Cutler, QB
Marcus Cooper, CBMatt Barkley, QB
Quintin Demps, STed Larsen, G
Markus Wheaton, WRCornelius Washington, DE
Prince Amukamara, CBLogan Paulsen, TE
Victor Cruz, WRMatt McCants, OT
John Jenkins, DEWill 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.

2017 schedule

WeekOpponent
1Vs Atlanta Falcons
2@ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
3Vs Pittsburgh Steelers
4@ Green Bay Packers
5Vs Minnesota Vikings
6@ Baltimore Ravens
7Vs Carolina Panthers
8@ New Orleans Saints
9BYE
10Vs Green Bay Packers
11Vs Detroit Lions
12@ Philadelphia Eagles
13Vs San Francisco 49ers
14@ Cincinnati Bengals
15@ Detroit Lions
16Vs 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.

Prediction

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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Toby Durant

A passionate and opinionated writer, I am currently the NFL editor for RealSport. However, I also contribute to F1, WWE, Football, and other sections of the site, and I have covered the NFL International Series for RealSport and previously contributed to SB Nation.

 

I also have 10 years playing and coaching experience in American football, starting at the University of Nottingham and including a stint as defensive coordinator at Oxford Brookes University. I may be a Patriots fan but all aspects of the sport interest me, from guard play to special teams.

Chicago Bears: 2017 preview

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