2018 NFL Season Preview: Chicago Bears
2017 proved to be nothing more than a year of development for the Bears. The first year without Jay Cutler at quarterback since 2008 was a nice reprieve, but the team still was nowhere near what they need to be to compete against division heavyweights like the Packers and Vikings. In addition, no Bears players were selected to the Pro Bowl. To add to these failures, it was the first season since 1969 that the Bears failed to win a game against a divisional opponent.
Player Notes: Offense
- Newly acquired quarterback Mike Glennon was pegged as the starter but was benched after a 1-3 start.
- Running back Jordan Howard became the first Chicago Bear to start his career with back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons despite dealing with a shoulder injury early in the year.
- Tight end Zach Miller was lost midway through the season after he suffered a nasty dislocated knee that almost cost him his leg. His future not only with the Bears but with the league itself could be over.
- Wide receiver Kevin White has only played five games in three years due to injuries. His 2017 season came to an end after breaking his scapula.
- Cameron Meredith was lost in the preseason after tearing his ACL.
- Kendall Wright looked like the ideal slot receiver for much of the year.
- After having surgery on his neck last offseason, guard Kyle Long could be having surgery on his shoulder this season.
- Josh Sitton is talented but continues to be plagued by injuries.
- Cody Whitehair could have made the Pro Bowl at center, but the team kept moving him over to guard.
- The talent at tackle is below average, and both could be replaceable.
Player Notes: Defense
- Defensive end Akiem Hicks might have been the defense's most important player with his stout run defense and leading the team with 8.5 sacks.
- Nose tackle Eddie Goldman stayed healthy and took his game to the next level.
- Injuries decimated what was supposed to be the team's strongest unit in the linebackers. Outside linebacker Leonard Floyd became a much more rounded player before spraining his MCL. Willie Young played in only four games before tearing his triceps.
- Inside linebacker Danny Trevathan manned the middle of the defense and greatly improved in run support.
- Cornerbacks Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller both had solid seasons, but the team needed them to make better plays on the ball.
- Safety Adrian Amos is a nice young player but needs to improve in jump ball situations.
Mitch Trubisky Rookie Highlights
The Rookie Class
The rookie class had their struggles but showed enough improvement as the year went on to show they can be future team leaders.
- Quarterback Mitch Trubisky was at his best when the team utilized his mobility and his arm strength, and his leadership developed nicely the more games he played.
- Tight end Adam Shaheen started showing his potential before a chest injury ended his season.
- Safety Eddie Jackson caught on fast and turned into a more physical safety than many draft experts expected.
- Running back Tarik Cohen was a steal, showing explosive talent on break away runs, as a receiver, and on returns.
Opponent Passing YPG
Opponent Rushing YPG
Coaching Staff Changes
After the 5-11 season, head coach John Fox was fired after three seasons with the team in which he posted a 14-34 record in that time. The team then decided to hire former Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy as their new head coach.
After offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains left to become the offensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins, the team hired former University of Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich to replace him.
Notable Additions: QB Chase Daniel, QB Tyler Bray, WR Bennie Fowler, WR Taylor Gabriel, WR Allen Robinson, TE Trey Burton, DE Khalil Mack, K Cody Parkey
Notable Departures: QB Mike Glennon, QB Mark Sanchez, WR Kendall Wright, WR Cameron Meredith, G Josh Sitton, OLB Lamar Houston, OLB Willie Young, OLB Jerrell Freeman, K Cairo Santos, K Mike Nugent
2018 NFL Draft
What the Bears Needed
Holding the eighth overall pick going into the Draft, the Bears had to address issues at key positions. Primarily at wide receiver, tackle, and cornerback.
- Wide Receiver: The team signed three wide receivers in free agency, but only Allen Robinson is a true number one receiver, and he is coming off a torn ACL. Chicago needs as many targets for Mitch Trubisky as possible to improve the league's worst-ranked passing offense.
- Tackle: Dowell Loggains' offense stressed pass protection from the guards and center. Mark Helfrich's system will require better blocking on the edge.
- Cornerback: The team was able to resign both Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller to extensions, but the secondary still needs to develop a playmaking cornerback.
What Happened on Draft Day
On draft day, Chicago ended up selecting Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith with eighth overall pick. Smith was viewed as the top linebacker in pass coverage this year, but he lacks the ideal height and length for the NFL game.
The Bears also notably drafted Iowa center James Daniels and Memphis wide receiver Anthony Miller in the second round. Daniels was seen as the quickest center in the draft, but he tends to get to eager when moving up to the second level, allowing linebackers to slip past him. Miller was seen as the best route running wide receiver prospect this year, but he lacks an explosive gear to gain separation from cornerbacks consistently.
Roquan Smith Highlights
What to Expect
Seeing the depth the Bears added in the offseason, it will be interesting to see how the team progresses in 2018.
Mitch Trubisky should be a nice fit for Mark Helfrich's system. It will be cool to see if Helfrich can do for Trubisky what he did for Marcus Mariota in college.
The running backs don't have a guy who can do it all, but each of the main guys can contribute in a lot of way. Jordan Howard can be a Pro Bowl back if he continues to produce at his level; Tarik Cohen has a lot of value on sweeps, wheel routes, and in the return game; and Bennie Cunningham is a valuable receiver, pass blocker, and special teams player.
The wide receivers will likely have Allen Robinson and Kevin White on the outside and Anthony Miller and Taylor Gabriel occupying the slot. Hopefully White can stay healthy enough to prove that he isn't a bust; if not, Bennie Fowler will likely steal his job. The main concern is still on the offensive line. Chicago didn't do anything to improve the line and even lost Josh Sitton to Miami, so if anything the line is worse after this offseason.
The defensive line should remain solid if Eddie Goldman can get stronger and Akiem Hicks can continue to play at a high level. With the acquisition of Khalil Mack, the team won't miss Willie Young's pass rushing ability, and hopefully he and Leonard Floyd can form a nice outside linebacker duo. I expect Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan to make a solid inside linebacker tandem.
Even though the team resigned Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller, I still don't think they are the team's long-term solutions at cornerback. Fuller hasn't played at the same high level since his rookie season, and Amukamara has never played a full season and has just seven interceptions in seven seasons. Adrian Amos and Eddie Jackson showed that they played well together, but both have to show they can perform week in and week out.
In the Division
With the changes the team made this offseason, the Bears are right there with Detroit in the NFC North, but they still have a long way to go if they expect to compete with Green Bay and Minnesota.
Best Record They Can Hope For: 7-9