24 hour until the Bears 2017 season begins, and a lot has changed since last year. The team is improved but our schedule is brutal (especially the first half of the year), and we are young and lack experience, especially at criitical positions like QB. I think we have the potential to surpirise people this year with our wins and losses, but more important than the record this year will how they deal with the challenges in front of them and develop as players.
QBs) I was an advocate of dumping Cutler and taking a two pronged approach to replacing him. Specifically I suggested Trading for Jimmy Garapolo and drafting a QB in the mid rounds. We signed Mike Glennon and traded up a spot to take Mitch trubisky 2nd overall and I prefer this to my own suggestion at this point. Glennon didn't look great in the pre-season but the pre-sason can be misleading, especially for evaluating a player that's starting spot isn't in question. He may bomb, he may surprise people, his deal is structured so we can dump him after this year at minimal cost of he sucks, but keep him on or trade him if he performs well. Trubisky looks promising, seems like a lot fo people who were groaning when we drafted him are on the bandwagon now. Still to early to tell IMO, and I hope we can continue to develop him slowly over the course of the year (please don't break our giraffe).
RBs) Jordan Howard was a bright spot last year, coming in 2nd behind fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliot despite not playing much until week 5 and running behind an offensive line that doesn't have 3 All Pros like Dallas. If he can avoid the sophomore slump and continue that kind of production and staty healthy we should be in good shape here. We added Tarik Cohen in the draft this year and he had a phenomenal pre-season. He is a tiny, fast, agile Darren Sproles type of back who is hard to stop in open space and is a perfect compliment to Howard's vertical smashmouth style. Expect this kid to play a bigger role in the offense than many anticipate. Depth wise we have Benny Cunningham and Taquan Mizzell who aren't too shabby themselves. Last year's opening day starter Jeremy Langford and fellow veteran Kadeem Carey have both been released if you want to know how much the backfield has improved this off season.
WRs) Cam Meredith is out for the year. Kevin White has fractured both legs and played 4 games in two seasons. The rest of our receivers room is cast offs from other teams and guys Ryan Pace poached from Rent-A-Center. Is what it is. At a high level there two types of pssing games in the NFL. Those that rely on elite receivers to make plays, and those that rely on play-calling and schemes to get more averge receivers open. Dowell Loggains professes to run the latter type of offense so let's hope he can make it work. A strong run game should help keep defenders in the box and open up some play action opportunities, and of course we will also feature heavy use of the...
TEs) We brought in Dion Simms and drafted Adam Shaheen to add to incumbents Zack Miller and Daniel Brown. Sims has been a strong blocking TE but they say his receining game is ready to take a step forward. Shaheen is a huge, athletic, former basketball player who was a phenomonal receiver in college and is working on developing a blocking game. He looked very raw in the pre-season catching the ball though at the NFL level. Miller is an established force when healthy (which is a big question mark with him), and Brown is a converted receiver who hopefully continues to improve. Lots of potental here but also question marks accross the board. One thing I can tell you is you will see a lot of these guys. Get ready for 2 and even 3 tight end sets this year as we focus on the power game and ompensate for the lack of wide outs.
OL) Same group as last year, although Kyle Long is hurt and will likely miss time to begin the year. Cody Whitehair should slide over to guard and Hroniss Grasu will play center for now. This group was a strength last year, lets hope they can continue to be and stay healthy, as our depth here is a little thin, especially after losing veteran backup Eric Kush for the year.
DL) Last year I said Hicks, Goldman, and Bullard had the potential to be among the best in the NFL. Hicks played fantastic, Goldman got hurt, and Bullard flat out sucked. This year I'm doubling down. Bullard added about 20 lbs of muscle and looked dominant in the pre-season. Hopefully Goldman can stay healthy. Keep an eye on one of my personal favorites Roy Robertson-Harris. Signed as an UDFA outside linebacker last year, they have been converting him to DE pretty much ever since. If you want to see a huge man do thing way more athletic than he ought to be able to check out his college tape on youtube. He had back to back sacks and blocked a punt thi preseason, and I think he will emerge as a very effective player who can strengthen the rotation and help keep the other guys fresh. The D line will be fun to watch ths year if they are healthy.
LBs) Very excited for Leonard Floyd's sophomore campaign. He flashed greatness last year and Like Bullard, bulked up considerably this off season. It's very possible he establishes himself as an elite NFL pass rusher this year. Willie young and Pernell McPhee round out the OLBs. Both are very solid, experienced veterans, although McPhee (McKnee) is alway an injury risk. Should be a solid group if they are healthy. Look for Pace to add young talent here next year though. Inside linebackers are a similar story, Freeman was phenomenal last year, Trevathan is good but coming off a major injury. Kwiatkowski is hard hitting young guy with potential. Only issue with him is he is more of an up and down, rushing hit type of ILB in a system that asks ILBs to take a lot of coverage responsibility as the OLBs are functioning like defensive ends. That said he is very capable in the right situations and plays for a defensive coordinator who knows when and how to deploy him. Our linebacker group has a high ceiling and rounds out what should be along with the defensive lineman a top 10 front seven in the NFL this year. Maybe better.
DBs) All new starters. Quentin Demps has more picks than anyone in the league for the past few years and brings sorely needed veteran leadership to a young group. Eddie Jackson was a stud at Alabama who broke his leg and fell into the mid rounds in this years draft. Played at a nearly NFL caliber school for a legendary coach who happens to specialize in defensive backs. I'm excited about this. Cooper and Amukamara are upgrades at CB but not exclamation points. Our defensive coordinator would tell you himself he doesn't need elite CBs though. Bryce Callahan and Kyle Fuller are the nickelback and depth. Still hopeful Fuller can make soething of himself but frankly I'm not betting a dime on it. The backfield looks to be the weakest element of the defense and we play against a lot of big name receivers early on this year. Like our wide receivers, lets hope that scheming and playcalling can squeeze the maximum potential out of this group. Hopefully Demps and Jackson can improve on last years record low turnover output.