Preseason Preview: Chicago Bears

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With the start of the 2018 NFL regular season approaching next month, it’s time to start previewing what to expect from each team for the regular season.

The Chicago Bears finished last season with a 5-11 record, which resulted in the termination of head coach John Fox. The season began with Mike Glennon as the starting QB, who was then released following the season after just his first of his three year deal worth $45 million. Glennon was replaced after four starts with their rookie first round pick Mitch Trubisky.

Trubisky is now entering his second year as the franchise QB, but this year he is surrounded by plenty of new faces around the entire organization. The first of the many new faces is new head coach Matt Nagy, a former Kansas City Chiefs Offensive Coordinator. Nagy is eager to turn around an offense that severely struggled to move the football through the air, finishing 30th in the league in total yards per game.

Coach Nagy inherits a much improved offense which features arguably one of the most talented running back combinations in the league with Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. General Manager Ryan Pace was looking to help Trubisky by providing him with upgraded weapons through free agency by signing receivers Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, as well as tight end Trey Burton.

One noticeable trend when looking at each player signed is that his priority to establish a winning culture by adding winners. Burton just won a Super Bowl with Philadelphia, Gabriel lost in the Super Bowl the previous season with Atlanta, and Robinson lost in the AFC Championship with Jacksonville. On defense, their biggest addition was adding inside linebacker Roquan Smith with the 8th pick of the draft. Smith should provide an instant spark, and potentially may single-handedly improve their entire overall defense.

Projected Starting Offense:

Quarterbacks:

Starter: Mitch Trubisky

Reserves: Chase Daniel, Tyler Bray

Analysis: Trubisky is looking to to take the next step as the franchise QB in his second year, with a much improved weapons to throw to. It will be intriguing to see how Trubisky will look in a completely new offensive system under new coaches Nagy and offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich (former Oregon head coach). Veteran QB Chase Daniel was brought in this off-season to be the second string, who is regard around the league as one of the top backup QB’s entering his 10th season.

Running Backs:

Starter: Jordan Howard/Tarik Cohen

Reserves: Taquan Mizzell, Benny Cunningham

Analysis: The thunder and lightning combination of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen should give defenses a headache trying to contain them both. Howard is entering his third season, and his previous two both totaled over 1,000 rushing yards each season. Cohen emerged onto the scene last year as a 4th round rookie who demonstrated his elite quickness, as you see his value increase even more this year with more usage in the passing game. Mizzell and Cunningham will both have to compete for the #3 spot, and the winner should expect to see a decent amount of carriers throughout the season.

Wide Receivers:

Starters: Allen Robinson, Kevin White, Taylor Gabriel

Reserves: Anthony Miller, Josh Bellamy, Demarcus Ayers, Javon Wims

Analysis: Last season the receivers arguably were one of the least talented receiving corps in in the NFL, and increasingly became even worse throughout the year due to injuries. They are hoping they have found their number one receiving option with the free agent signing of Allen Robinson. Former top-10 overall pick Kevin White is looking again for his first full season without it season-ending injury. White is looking to regain his form, and hopefully demonstrate the potential skill set they saw in him when they drafted him. Gabriel will be a very nice reliable upgrade from Kendall Wright in the slot, who has already received praised in training camp from his new coaching staff. Another guy who has received high praise from the staff is rookie Anthony Miller from Memphis University, who has the talent to be a reliable #2 if White doesn’t pan out.

Tight Ends:

Starters: Trey Burton, Dion Sims

Reserves: Adam Shaheen, Ben Braunecker

Analysis: Trey Burton the former Philadelphia Eagles second string tight end joined them in free agency, looking to prove he is a reliable starter. Burton joins Dion Sims and last year’s second round pick Adam Shaheen to form a very solid tight end group. Expect Burton and Sims to receive majority of the snaps, with Shaheen utilized more as a red zone threat.

Offensive Line:

Starters: Charles Leno, James Daniels, Cody Whitehair, Kyle Long, Bobby Massie

Reserves: Bradley Sowell, Hroniss Grasu

Analysis: The O-Line has definitely improved over the last year despite their release of veteran guard Josh Sitton. The group is strongest in the interior, led by Kyle Long and Cody Whitehair. The interior of the line improved even more from the selection of James Daniels in the early second round of the draft from Iowa University. Bradley Sowell is also competing for the left guard job against James Daniels, who has just began converting from center where he played in college. Bobby Massie also signed a three year deal worth $18 million in the offseason, and is projected to start at right tackle.

Projected Starting Defense:

Defensive Line:

Starters: Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Jonathan Bullard

Reserves: John Jenkins (DT), Rashaad Coward (DE), Bilal Nichols (DT)

Analysis: The defensive line is led by defensive end Akiem Hicks, who is coming off his best season statistically with a career high in sacks (8.5) and tackles for loss (9.5). Eddie Goldman the former 2nd round pick from 2015 is the starting nose tackle, which he proved last year he is capable of being a reliable starter. Rookie 5th round pick Bilal Nichols from Delaware University has a good opportunity to contribute as a rotational backup this season.

Linebackers:

Starters: Leonard Floyd, Roquan Smith, Danny Trevathan, Aaron Lynch

Reserves: Sam Acho (OLB), Nick Kwiatkoski (ILB), Joel Iyiegbuniwe (OLB)

Analysis: Since Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs retired, they have been in search for a legitimate linebacker to replicate the impact they each brought to the franchise. They search appears to perhaps be over, due to the selection of former Georgia University inside linebacker Roquan Smith. Smith is arguably the most talent defensive player from the rookie class, and has all the tools to be one of the best inside linebackers in the league. Linebacker appears to be the defensive position where they are the strongest and deepest on the roster, including former top-10 pick Leornard Floyd on the outside. Kwiatkoski will compete with Danny Trevathan for the other starting inside spot next to Smith.

Secondary:

Starters (Cornerback): Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamura, Bryce Callahan

Starters (Safety): Adrian Amos, Eddie Jackson

Reserves: Marcus Cooper (CB), Deon Bush (S), Deiondre Hall (S)

Analysis: Kyle Fuller was a restricted free agent this past off-season, which they had to agree upon matching a contract agreed with division rival Green Bay Packers. The other starter is veteran Prince Amukumara, who resigned to a one year deal. Marcus Cooper was also signed from Arizona to provide depth along with Bryce Callahan. Eddie Jackson was a very pleasant surprise for them in his rookie year, and Amos played very well alongside. Bush and Hall are very quality backups each entering their third seasons, and would be reliable to step in if called upon.

Key Rookies:

  1. Roquan Smith (ILB): Arguably the best defensive player from the 2018 draft class, and has the tools to be one of the best inside linebackers in the league.
  2. James Daniels (G): Has the potential to be one of the premier interior offensive linemen in the NFL. Was drafted as a center, but may have a shot at starting at left guard because Whitehair at center.
  3. Anthony Miller (WR): Could be the #2 WR if White doesn’t meet expectations. Worst case he will be one of the better receivers in the class.

Other Notable Key Rookies:

  • Bilal Nichols (DT): 5th Round pick. Has a good chance to contribute as a rotational backup.
  • Dejon Allen (OT): Competing for second string left tackle job, and may have the best shot to make the team of any undrafted free agent on the roster.
  • Kylie Fitts (OLB): 6th round pick from Utah. Should provide depth in his rookie season utilized as an outside pass rusher.
  • Javon Wims (WR): 6th round pick from Georgia. Has the potential to be one of the biggest sleepers at wide out from the 2018 class.
  • Ryan Nall (FB): Former RB at Oregon State. Left school early and has tremendous athleticism for a fullback despite being undrafted.

Top Fantasy Football Pickups:

  1. Allen Robinson (WR #2)
  2. Jordan Howard (RB#1)
  3. Tarik Cohen (RB#2/Flex)
  4. Trey Burton (TE #1)
  5. Anthony Miller (Flex)
  6. Taylor Gabriel (Flex)
  7. Mitch Trubisky (QB #2)

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