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2016 Team Report: Chicago Bears

Quarterbacks

Starter: Jay Cutler
Backup(s): Brian Hoyer, David Fales, Matt Blanchard

Starting QB: This was supposed to be the offseason when the Chicago Bears moved on from Jay Cutler. Had the Bears released Cutler, the veteran quarterback only would have cost $2 million in dead money against the salary cap, down from $19 million last offseason. But Cutler, like most cockroaches (no offense, Jay), is still in Chicago, and for good reason, too. Cutler is coming off what should be viewed as his best season with the Bears, and he did so at a time when nearly every offensive skill player missed games due to injury. In 2015, under new head coach John Fox and new (now old) offensive coordinator Adam Gase, Cutler put up a career high passer rating (92.3), tied a career high in yards per pass (7.58) and only threw 11 interceptions in 15 games. Let's remember that Cutler led the entire NFL in turnovers in 2014, so averaging less than one per game is an enormous step forward for the old dog. One thing that is working again Cutler entering the 2016 season is another new offensive coordinator, former quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains. Cutler and his new OC have a history together, too, so they will not be flying blind, per se. With the new OC comes a new weapon, in the form of (should be rookie) receiver Kevin White. The 2015 first-round draft pick never played a snap last season, after suffering a leg injury during the offseason program, an injury that lingered and didn't heal in time to see any action. White, along with Alshon Jeffery, running backs Jeremy Langford, Ka'Deem Carey, rookie Jordan Howard and Zach Miller, a veteran tight end who rejuvenated his career after a slough of season-ending injuries, should provide Cutler with an enormous jump in health and talent over last season. Again, remember that Cutler arguably put up his best season as a Bear in 2015. This should lead you to believe that Cutler should be capable of taking another step forward on the field.

Backup QB: The backup quarterback position saw a significant upgrade this season, in the form of veteran Brian Hoyer. When the former Houston Texans starting quarterback last took the field, he put forth one of the worst performances in NFL playoff history. If you remember or even if you choose not to remember, allow us to remind you of the quarterback's four interception outing in an ugly loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Now, why is this important to bring back up? Well, it's simple -- recency bias in the negative form. Is Hoyer a good starting quarterback? Absolutely not. What he is, though, is an above-average backup. He's a lot better starting one game in a crunch than starting 16 games as your starter. The Bears are in much better shape to withstand an injury to Cutler than they have been past years.

Running Backs

Starter: Jeremy Langford
Backup(s): Jacquizz Rodgers, Jordan Howard [R], Ka'Deem Carey
Fullback(s):

Starting RB: Jeremy Langford has emerged as the starter with a good training camp and preseason. Ka'Deem Carey and Jordan Howard could mix in more in the core between the tackles running game, but it's Langford's show heading into the season. In the passing game, it's going to be Langford and/or Rodgers making the most impact. As a rookie, Langford recorded caught 22 passes on 40 targets for 279 yards and one touchdown, for an average of 12.7 yards per catch. While Langford was able to find some success as a pass-catcher, his eight dropped passes (26.7 percent of targets) was the most of all qualified players at his position. So, there's definitely room for improvement in year two for the Michigan State product.

Backup RBs: Carey and Howard will spell Langford and could look better than him in time. Howard is a stubborn downhill runner and Carey runs with great effort and urgency. As for Rodgers, the veteran multi-purpose back had his 2015 season cut short due to injury. In the short time he was on the field, Rodgers rushed the ball 14 times for 41 yards with one catch for 10 yards. The jury definitely still is out on what kind of impact Rodgers can have within this offense.

Fullback:

Wide Receivers

Starters: Alshon Jeffery, Kevin White, Eddie Royal (inj)
Backups: Marquess Wilson (inj), Deonte Thompson, Marc Mariani, Daniel Braverman [R]

Starting WRs: The wide receiver position in Chicago should see a boon this season in the form of Kevin White, the Bears first-round draft pick in 2015. White, a speedster who is both long and strong, is set to step into the No. 2 receiver role behind Alshon Jeffery, a long and strong pass-catcher in his own right. Jeffery's strength is not downfield speed; he more so is the guy who is going to dominate the middle of the field with his enormous range over the top of smaller cornerbacks and safeties. Jeffery, in his time in Chicago, has put up some great overall seasons, going over 1,000 yards receiving in two of his four seasons. If not for injury, Jeffery, without a doubt, would have gone above 1,000 yards receiving last season. In only nine games, Jeffery caught 54 passes for 807 yards and four scores. Jeffery's success in the NFL has come without the benefit of a guy opposite him who can stretch the field. While Brandon Marshall is a star, no question, he is not the guy who is going to charge downfield to create space over the middle. Jeffery, more so, played that role for Marshall, who made a habit of dominating the middle of the field. With White in tow, Jeffery should be able to put up monster numbers as a member of the franchise tag club.

Backup WRs: What happens on the depth chart after Jeffery and White is to be determined. Eddie Royal has proven he can be an above-average slot receiver. What Royal has not been able to prove is an ability to stay on the field. Royal only appeared in nine games last season, coming off two seasons in which he only missed one game in total. He has missed most the preseason with a concussion. Royal finds himself in a much different situation this offseason as the team heads to final cuts. He will be pushed by the arrival of rookie seventh-round draft pick Daniel Braverman, who excelled in his four years at Western Michigan. Don't let his seventh-round status fool you, though. In Western Michigan's two games in 2015 against top-ish tier NCAA opponents -- Michigan State, Ohio State and Northern Illinois -- Braverman caught 32 passes for 358 yards. Here are a few other impressive stats from Braverman, all courtesy of Pro Football Focus. The 5-10, 177 pound receiver spent all but 34 of his 873 snaps in 2015 in the slot. Of the 198 recorded catchable passes thrown his way in 2014 and 2015, he only dropped 11 of them. And of his 108 receptions in 2015, he broke 24 tackles out of the slot position. This resume tells us he definitely can make an impact on the NFL level. Outside of those four names, the only other potential impact player is Marquees Wilson. The 2013 seventh-round pick hasn't played more than 11 games in any of his three seasons as a pro, and he should begin the season on the PUP after re-breaking his foot this summer. The injury bug seems to find him more often than not, which is never good for a late-round pick. While Wilson has shown flashes of being a competent receiver, you have to wonder if he'll receive enough of a look to make a significant impact this season.

Tight Ends

Starters: Zach Miller
Backups: Khari Lee, Rob Housler

The tight end position is Chicago appears to be a boom-or-bust-type situation. Zach Miller, when he isn't injured, has shown to be a better-than-average tight end. Miller caught 34 passes on 46 targets for 439 yards and five touchdowns last season, as the backup to Martellus Bennett. Miller can catch, Miller can run and, most important, Miller can get in the end zone. He has a knack for making tough catches in tight windows. Again, the only issue here is health. Prior to the 2015 season, Miller had not played in a regular season game since 2011. That's quite the layoff. Jay Cutler loves what Miller brings to the table, which is why the Bears elected to bring him back this offseason. Miller chose to stay in Chicago despite having other offers on the table. This likely is due to the significant impact he's been able to make as a backup. With an increased workload this season, there's no reason to believe he can't be the most productive tight end in the division. Miller does have to get over a preseason concussion that has sidelined him for multiple weeks. What lies behind Miller on the depth chart is somewhat concerning from the pass-catching perspective. Khari Lee and Rob Housler likely won't make much of an impact beyond making a key block or two in a given game. If Miller were to go down, odds are the Bears would make a move to bring in a more versatile tight end.

Place Kicker

Robbie Gould: The longtime Bears kicker posted his second-highest scoring total of his career, with 127 points fueled by the league's second-highest number of field goal attempts - 39. Gould only made 33 of them, including two misses under 40 yards, but he is set to be the kicker again this year despite speculation that the team would bring in competition - speculation that Gould himself has addressed. The conservative leanings of a John Fox team will give him the chance to stay in the top 10 scorers this year as long as the Bears are truly going to stick with the 34-year-old. If he is having a good summer, he'll be worth a pick as one of the last kickers off of the board.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Deonte Thompson, Marc Mariani

Promoted from the practice squad shortly before week 10, Deonte Thompson took over kickoff return duties from Marc Mariani over the final seven weeks of the season. With both men returning, expect the position to look much the same in 2016.

Punt Returners: Marc Mariani

A long-time veteran return specialist, if Marc Mariani makes the final 53-man roster, he'll likely handle nearly all of Chicago's punt return duties.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Charles Leno, LG Cody Whitehair [R], C Hroniss Grasu, RG Kyle Long, RT Bobbie Massie
Key Backups: Manny Ramirez, Ted Larsen, Tayo Fabuluje

The Bears' offensive line is led by Pro Bowl right guard Kyle Long. Long was playing at right tackle last year but the team would rather have an elite player at guard than a good player at tackle. Bobbie Massie joins the team via free agency, and should be that good right tackle that allows Long to kick back inside. The team traded Matt Slauson to San Diego, but back-filled using a day two pick on Cody Whitehair, a player most observers graded out as the best guard in the draft. Charles Leno is an average left tackle but the team likes his contract. Hroniss Grasu is an up and coming center who needs to stay healthy. Manny Ramirez and Ted Larsen provide interesting depth options at the interior but the Bears are much less deep at the tackle position. Overall, this is a solid line, which could improve if the rookie guard can take a starting job early. Tier Ranking: Mid Tier.

Team Defense

2015 was a rebuilding year for the Bears defense under head coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. They ranked in the bottom 10 in takeaways and sacks, and while they were fourth in pass yards allowed, they still gave up the fourth most pass touchdowns in the league. The Bears 4.5 yards per carry was tied for fourth-worst in the league. Things are looking up in 2016 with the addition of first-round pick Leonard Floyd, and inside linebackers Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan. The secondary is still a major concern, so the Bears will only be a streamer in the best of matchups this year.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Akiem Hicks, DT Eddie Goldman, DE Mitch Unrein
Backups: DE Will Sutton, DE Ego Ferguson, DE Jonathan Bullard [R]

Starting DL: The Bears should have two solid players on the defensive line but the third spot will likely be up for grabs. Akiem Hicks was an effective part-time player for the Patriots last year, but he's only 26 years old and has starting experience from his time in New Orleans. Eddie Goldman was a key draft pick a year ago and posted an impressive 4.5 sacks from the nose tackle position as a rookie. Mitch Unrein joined the Bears in week 3 last year after being cut by the Chargers, but he quickly won over the coaches and is the projected starter after signing a 2-year extension.

Backup DL: Will Sutton and Ego Ferguson were both drafted to play defensive tackle in the Bears old 4-3 front, but they are likely better fits outside in the current scheme. Neither player has reached their full potential yet, but they will certainly be in the mix for regular playing time. Jonathan Bullard was a 3rd round pick with a quick first step who could develop into a better pass rusher as a pro than he was in college.

Linebackers

Starters: ILB Danny Trevathan, ILB Jerrell Freeman, OLB Pernell McPhee, OLB Willie Young
Backups: OLB Leonard Floyd [R], OLB Lamarr Houston, OLB Sam Acho, ILB Christian Jones, ILB Nick Kwiatkoski [R]

Starting LBs: The Bears needed to revamp their linebacker group and they did so this offseason with two big signings inside. Danny Trevathan came over from the Super Bowl champion Broncos, where he had established himself as a very productive and effective 3-down player over the past few years. Jerrell Freeman saw a dropoff in play the past couple years as he dealt with some injuries, but he's fully capable of playing a 3-down role and chasing down plays all over the field. The outside linebacker spot is anchored by Pernell McPhee, who was signed in free agency a year ago and played as well or better than anyone else on the Bears defense. Willie Young is not a great fit at outside linebacker but he can get after the QB and appears to be over his Achilles injury that was suffered late in the 2014 season.

Backup LBs: The Bears used a top-10 pick on Leonard Floyd, so they obviously have high hopes for him to become an impact edge rusher. He's somewhat raw though and could take some time to develop. Lamarr Houston has been a disappointment since signing a big money contract in Chicago, but he can provide quality depth at a minimum. Sam Acho is also an experienced player who could contribute in a rotation. Christian Jones didn't make enough impact as a starter last year, but he will be ready to fill in if either of the two starters suffer an injury. Nick Kwiatkoski is a reliable tackler with good instincts who figures to earn a roster spot and contribute sometime in the future.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Kyle Fuller, CB Tracy Porter, FS Adrian Amos, S Harold Jones-Quartey
Backups: CB Jacoby Glenn, S Chris Prosinski, SS Deon Bush [R]

Starting DBs: Kyle Fuller looked like a potential star as a rookie, but he struggled at times in year 2 so it's unclear how good he will be at this point. He has the playmaking instincts to be a CB1, but he may not be a great fit in the current scheme. Tracy Porter is a journeyman who played on 5 teams in 5 years, but he seems to have found a home in Chicago despite some limited upside. Adrian Amos was a pleasant surprise as a rookie last year, but he finished with 0 interceptions and needs to improve his ball skills. Deon Bush was a fourth round pick out of Miami who comes into the league with a reputation for being a big hitter, and he'll get a chance to compete for a starting spot with Jones-Quartey, who finished 2015 on a high note.

Backup DBs: The Bears have limited depth at corner, but Jacoby Glenn has some experience after being brought up from the practice squad late last year. Harold Jones-Quartey is a 2nd year pro is considered by some as the favorite to start next to Amos. Chris Prosinski is the most experienced option, but the Bears are probably hoping one of the young guys can beat him out.

Last modified: 2016-08-29 10:36:51