To call last year’s 5-11 finish “disappointing” would be one of the more obvious understatements of the year. The Bears were supposed to have a high-flying, unique, high-scoring offense led by head coach Marc Trestman. Instead, the Chicago faithful saw a coach that looked over-whelmed, a team that didn’t look interested in playing and a franchise that became an embarrassment to itself. Ownership called for the heads of head coach Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery and replaced them with veteran coach John Fox and hired Ryan Pace, who is now the NFL’s youngest general manager. It is up to Fox and Pace to rebuild a broken franchise and rebuild the trust between the team and it’s fans.
A lot of people are surprised to see that Jay Cutler is still the quarterback of the Chicago Bears, but the truth is – his price tag is too much to move him or cut him. Despite all the negativity spewed in Cutler’s direction he still managed to throw for over 3,800 yards and 28 touchdowns, while finishing with the best completion percentage of his career at 66%. Cutler’s eighteen interceptions are a combination of carelessness, poor route running and usually playing from behind last season. It’s been said before and it will be said again – this is Cutler’s “make it or break it” year. The organization doesn’t seem to be one-hundred percent behind the gun-slinger QB, so it’s up to Cutler to cut down on his mistakes and surprise some folks. He still has the arm strength and athletic ability at the quarterback position that many of the league’s so called “elite” do not.
Most see Matt Forte as a hardcore, do it all back. It’s true – if we’re talking about fantasy football standards. Forte finished with 1,038 yards rushing and an incredible 808 yards receiving last year but at 3.9 yard a rush, it’s apparent he isn’t the back he once was. Forte, of late has been average at best as a pass blocker and his ability to break tackles has gotten worse over the years. There is a lot of wear and tear on Forte so expect coach John Fox to use three backs often. The new coaching staff seems to like sophomore back Ka’Deem Carey who is more of the bruiser back, while rookie Jeremy Langford out of Michigan State is the speedster back. Langford ran a forty time of 4.4. and like Forte, doesn’t break many tackles, but unlike Forte – has youthful legs that haven’t been ran into the ground yet.
The Bears traded Brandon Marshall to the NY Jets, which leaves a void in the Bears wide receiver depth chart. Physically, Marshall provided a great blocking receiver and one of the more difficult wide outs to cover “one on one.” Marshall’s attitude and “out spoken” nature made him dispensable to the Bears’ eyes so that leaves it up to Alshon Jeffrey to take over as the number one guy. Jeffrey locates the ball in the air better than most, but his route running is still a question. He has a ‘lazy’ approach to football, which will eventually land him in Fox’s doghouse; and without Brandon Marshall on the other side of Jeffrey, who knows how effective he’ll be all season long. At the present time, it looks like the Bears will be without their first round draft pick, wide receiver Kevin White out of West Virginia. White has everything it takes to be a top receiver in this league, but because of a shin injury, the Bears will be lucky to see him anytime after week seven (if at all). Eddie Royal was acquired free agency and was dealing with a hip injury in the pre-season, the hope is, to rekindle the chemistry he had with Cutler back in their Denver Broncos days. Tight End Martellus Bennett was amazing last year, but his off-season rumblings about the organization and some comments aimed directly at quarterback Jay Cutler show that he isn’t too happy with his current situation. The Bears patience with Marquess Wilson may be running thin as he was battling a hamstring injury most of pre-season.
The offensive line is a unit seemingly headed in the right direction but Jordan Mills needs to tighten up at right tackle. Mills’ head just doesn’t seem to be in the game sometimes and gets beat out by quicker defensive ends pretty quickly. Most Bears fans expect guard Kyle Long to be moved to tackle one day, but Long is arguably the best player on the roster, so there is no real reason to move him out of the guard position. Long has two Pro Bowl appearances to match his two years he’s been in the league – there is no reason to doubt his ability to be a pro-bowler for the next 7-8 years. The Bears drafted Oregon Duck Hroniss Grasu in the third-round of this year’s draft and although it appears he won’t be starting right away, the Bears love his quickness and awareness at the position, so if veteran Will Montgomery slips up, Grasu will be put in with no hesitation. Jermon Bushrod has been a slight disappointment since his arrival to Chicago but is still a top-ten left tackle in the league.
Defensively the Bears are shifting to a 3-4 scheme, orchestrated by one of the more aggressive defensive coordinators in football Vic Fangio. While with the 49ers, Fangio 3-4 attack was one of the best in the league, unfortunately for Fangio, he does not have anywhere near the talent on this Bears team as he did in San Fran. The Bears acquired linebacker Mason Foster in March of 2015 and he did not even make the final 53 man roster in Chicago. Surprisingly enough, veteran Jared Allen who is converting from defensive lineman to linebacker did as well as Willie Young who is recovering from an Achilles injury he suffered last season. If Young is able to use his athleticism to his advantage he may be able to get back to racking up another ten sacks as he did last year. Jon Bostic was the team leader with 127 tackles last season. The Bears have a lot of depth at linebacker with Pernell McPhee and Lamaar Houston, who is looking to impress after a disappointing season last year. For some reason Shea McClellin stays on this Bears roster. . .
Rookie Eddie Goldman will man the nose-tackle position in the Bears’ 3-4 attack. He looks the role of a prototypical nose-tackle and was a good run-stopper while at Florida State. Last year the Bears drafted Ego Ferguson in the second-round and it looks like they will move him from the tackle spot over to the defensive end spot. Ferguson is a good athlete but there has to be patience with his learning curve at the position.
With the departure of long-time Bear and fan-favorite Charles Tillman, the Bears went to free agency to find a veteran to help lead this secondary. They found one in former New York Giants safety Antrel Rolle. Rolle has lost a step and isn’t as effective as he once was, but the formal all-pro will bring a much needed voice into this Bears’ locker room. Rolle’s patience will be tested as there is a lot of youth around him. Opposite of Rolle is Brock Vereen who struggled a lot last year and if the sophomore struggles early the Bears will plug in former Penn State Lion Adrian Amos. Amos is a good ball hawking safety but isn’t the best tackler at the position. The wild card in this Bears secondary is second-year man Kyle Fuller. In his rookie season Fuller quickly saw how things can turn in this league. For the first half of the season he looked like a stud out there but then he quickly found himself out of position and even picked on by other teams. Fuller has the support of the locker room and this organization still feels he can be a top corner in the league.
The Bears are in an up-hill battle. With a new philosophy on both sides of the ball and new faces just about everywhere, the Bears will be learning as they go. All eyes will be on Jay Cutler this season – but then again, they always are and it doesn’t seem to bother him either way. The Bears start out the season in rough fashion against Green Bay, Arizona and then Seattle – things can get ugly quick in Chicago if they start out 0-3.
Predicted Record: 7-9
Predicted Pro Bowlers: Kyle Long, Jay Cutler, Martellus Bennett