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2017 Team Report: Chicago Bears

Offensive Philosophy

Head coach John Fox has a very long history of preferring conservative, run-first, veteran-heavy offenses. The 2017 Bears will likely test his patience, though, young and/or unproven players scattered all over the depth chart. Expect Fox to compensate by doubling down on Jordan Howard, perhaps the lone bright spot from an otherwise depressing 2016 season.

Quarterbacks

Starter: Mike Glennon
Backup(s): Mitchell Trubisky [R], Mark Sanchez, Connor Shaw

Starting QB: The situation that Mike Glennon currently finds himself in is much different than the situation for which he signed up. Back in March, when the former Buccaneer signed with the Bears, the sky was the limit. Now, the limit is the sky. After failing to secure a starting-caliber quarterback in his first two years on the job, general manager Ryan Pace went out and found himself two, perhaps. Glennon has been champing at the bit for another opportunity to start in the NFL. For Glennon, unfortunately, that opportunity only is likely to last for one season, as the Bears now have a high-priced rookie to ride, Mitchell Trubisky. Glennon's time as the No. 1 in Chicago now has an expiration date, and you have to wonder what kind of impact that could have on him as he starts the upcoming season. No matter how well he plays, the Bears simply gave up too much to move up the one draft spot to secure Trubisky. Now, if Glennon has a Dak Prescott-caliber season, maybe he'll be able to play himself into a starter's role on another team. But it's more likely that Glennon finishes with numbers more similar to his 2013 campaign, when he threw for 2,608 yards (59.4 completion %) with 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions in the 13 games he started. The biggest issue Glennon faces now is a lack of talent at the wide receiver position -- a position led by Cameron Meredith and Kevin White. Glennon has his work cut out for him as neither receiver ever has been tasked with being a top target. On the flip side, the running game has improved, and so has the tight end position. If Glennon is able to put this young offensive unit on his back and lead them to an above-average win total, he'll have opportunities next season, in Chicago or elsewhere.

Backup QB: You'd think that addressing the quarterback position in both free agency and the NFL draft would have eliminated some of the uncertainty that has surrounded the position for years. That's clearly not the case, unless you truly believe general manager Ryan Pace and head coach John Fox. The Bears' braintrust says Mitchell Trubisky will not start this season for the Bears. It's probably too soon to know. If the Bears are as bad as most think they will be, there's no reason to rush Trubisky onto the field. Even former Bears starter and current FOX analyst, Jay Cutler, says to keep Trubisky away from all the of losing. As for Mark Sanchez? Well, he's likely to be the guy behind the guy. Odds are he finds himself on the field at some point during the 2017-2018 season. Sanchez is at best a mediocre backup. He's not going to win games for you; he's merely going to steady the wheel in an attempt to keep the ship from sinking. The guy who should be the eventual backup is Connor Shaw, an undrafted free agent who the Bears signed in 2014, out of South Carolina. Shaw broke his leg last preseason and missed the entire 2016 regular season. Before the injury, Shaw appeared to be viable quarterbacking option for this team. Now, the field is crowded, leaving little room for Shaw to grow into the position.

Running Backs

Starter: Jordan Howard
Backup(s): Jeremy Langford, Ka'Deem Carey, Tarik Cohen [R], Benny Cunningham
Fullback(s):

Starting RB: Jordan Howard struggled to make a mark in training camp, preseason, or early in his rookie year, but by the end of the season, he was one of the best running backs in the NFL. He was able to consistently gash defenses for big games despite being on a losing team. The two best run blockers on the offensive line, guards Josh Sitton and Kyle Long, both suffered injuries, and the next best offensive lineman, center Cody Whitehair, was a rookie, and none of these issues slowed Howard down. He is set to be a low RB1 again this year, with some upside capped due to a relative lack of involvement in the passing game and the reality that the Bears will likely be a losing team again, if not one breaking in a rookie quarterback.

Backup RBs: The Bears went into 2016 with Jeremy Langford as the presumed starter in the backfield, but in 2017, he might have a fight just to make the team. He was mostly ineffective any time he was on the field and didn't provide some of the big plays as a receiver that created promise in his rookie year. Ka'Deem Carey has been a wasted fourth-round pick for the Bears. He failed to distinguish himself due to mediocre play and injuries in the first three years of his career and could also be on the outside looking in when final cuts are announced. The Bears added two players this offseason who should be upgrades from Langford and Carey. Benny Cunningham is a passing-down back who was reasonably productive for the Rams before being signed to a minimal one-year deal in free agency. Fourth-round pick Tarik Cohen is a Darren Sproles type, very low built to the ground with outstanding acceleration and quickness to create in space. He will be mixed in the backfield and could be the most valuable back for fantasy after Howard.

Fullback:

Wide Receivers

Starters: Kevin White, Cameron Meredith
Backups: Markus Wheaton, Kendall Wright, Daniel Braverman, Josh Bellamy, Deonte Thompson, Tanner Gentry [R]. Victor Cruz

Starting WRs: The Bears will be relying on mostly unproven or underachieving players at wide receiver this year, including among the starters. Alshon Jeffery was not given the franchise tag or re-signed to a long-term deal after the team tagged him in 2016. Jeffery's four-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs last year likely factored into the decision. The headliner is former quarterback Cameron Meredith, a long-limbed receiver with above-average speed and agility for his body type. He had two breakout stretches in 2016 with Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley, although both stretches came in high volume passing games that might not be reproduced. Still, Meredith can make progress in his third year, and he might not have much competition for target if 2015 #7 overall pick Kevin White can't stay healthy or develop into the player the Bears hoped he would become. White has size and outstanding athleticism, but he was used more a short-range target before his 2016 ended due to an ankle injury after his 2015 never got off the ground due to a stress fracture in his lower leg. Both wide receivers will have to deal with either backup quality starter Mike Glennon or rookie Mitchell Trubisky throwing them the ball, although as Meredith showed last year, if the Bears are still a losing team, volume to inflate the wide receiver value could be there.

Backup WRs: The Bears could have three wide receiver sets enough to make the slot receiver a quasi-starter. That player should be Kendall Wright, who is at home in the slot and could be a bigger factor than he was in Tennessee if he can stay healthy and riff better with this coaching staff. Wright has been a disappointment after being a first-round pick in 2013. Markus Wheaton was equally disappointing after the Steelers took him in the third-round in the same draft. He'll mix in outside and provide vertical speed. Wright only got one million guaranteed on a one-year deal, while Wheaton got six million guaranteed on a two-year deal, so the Bears see more in Wheaton and he could find his way onto the field for more snaps if Wright falters or ends up on the trainer's table and Meredith slides into the slot, where he is comfortable. Deonte Thompson could make the team as a fifth receiver and he contributed when injuries and the Alshon Jeffery suspension forced him on the field. His ability to return kicks might factor into final roster decisions. Josh Bellamy has also been pushed onto the field at times, but the team's willingness to sign Wheaton and Wright indicates that they want to upgrade from Bellamy as a backup. 2016 seventh-rounder Daniel Braverman projects as the classic small quick slot receiver with some punt return potential. Among undrafted free agents, Tanner Gentry's speed and route-running could give him a leg up for the fifth spot or make the team carry him as a sixth receiver to keep another team from snagging him after he impressed in minicamp.

Tight Ends

Starters: Zach Miller, Dion Sims
Backups: Adam Shaheen [R], Daniel Brown, MyCole Pruitt, Ben Braunecker, Franko House [R]

The Bears have a bit a logjam at tight end after making big investments at the position in the offseason. Zach Miller is the presumed starter and the converted option quarterback was very productive with Brian Hoyer before breaking his foot for a second time and ending his season. He's only due 1.5 million dollars this year, but if the team likes their additions enough to put them in large roles or Miller struggles to regain form in camp and the preseason, he could be released. Dion Sims will certainly not be released after getting ten million dolalrs guaranteed on a three-year deal. He's a good blocker with some untapped upside as a receiver, but as long as he is sharing in the two tight end sets the team is likely to employ frequently, it will be difficult for him to achieve fantasy relevance. Second-round pick Adam Shaheen is a massive pass catcher from tiny Ashland. He is a walking mismatch in the middle of the field and he could end up being the team's most valuable fantasy tight end by the end of the season, although the bar for rookie tight ends to matter in redraft leagues is usually too high clear for even the best prospects. The Bears have a plethora of intriguing names at the end of the roster, including Vikings developmental castoff MyCole Pruitt, a 2015 fifth-round pick, 2016 seventh-rounder and athletic wonder Ben Braunecker, Ball State basketball convert Franko House, and Daniel Brown, who got on the field for them in 2016 with his game that resembles a big wide receiver more than a tight end. One (or more if Miller gets released) could make the team or at least stay on their speed dial if injuries strike during the season.

Place Kicker

Connor Barth, Andy Phillips [R]: Connor Barth ended up being an acceptable replacement for Robbie Gould last year, but only barely acceptable. The Bears offense only gave him 23 field goal attempts, and he made 18, which puts him before 80 percent accuracy. He only made one of three attempts from 50+. The Bears saw enough to re-sign Barth to a minimal contract, only 980,000 dollars for one year with 155,000 guaranted. They signed Andy Phillips out of Utah after the draft. He went 21 of 25 in field goal attempts for the Utes last year and should be given an open competition to beat out Barth this summer. Obviously, this is a kicking situation to stay away from in drafts.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Deonte Thompson

Chicago's top kickoff returner in 2016, Thompson returns in 2017 with few challengers for his role.

Punt Returners: Eddie Jackson [R], Tarik Cohen [R]

With Eddie Royal released, the Bears have an opening at punt returner. A pair of fourth-round picks could vie for the job. Jackson was a good punt returner in college and Cohen has the quicks and acceleration to make a difference on punt returns. Markus Wheaton, Kendall Wright, and Daniel Braverman could also figure into the punt return picture.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Charles Leno, LG Josh Sitton, C Cody Whitehair, RG Kyle Long, RT Bobbie Massie
Key Backups: Tom Compton, Hroniss Grasu, Bradley Sowell, Cyril Richardson, Jordan Morgan, Eric Kush

The Bears' offensive line are among the most effective in the league at run blocking, and the strength of the unit are the guards: Josh Sitton and Kyle Long. Both players suffered injuries last season but when healthy the duo can really clear out space for the running attack. Cody Whitehair comported himself like a multi-year vet in his rookie season and should be a fixture in the lineup for a while. The tackles are decent: Charles Leno is quietly reliable at left tackle while right tackle Bobbie Massie had a strong end to last season after starting slowly. Tom Compton arrived in free agency and should compete with Bradley Sowell for the swing tackle job. Overall this is a mid tier line that has the talent to be top tier, they just need to stay healthy and together for that to occur.

Team Defense

The Bears defense came on in the second year of the John Fox regime. The front seven generated 37 sacks and first-round pick Leonard Floyd made an instant impact. There is room for the defense to grow if core linebackers like Floyd, Lamarr Houston, Pernell McPhee, Jerrell Freeman, and Danny Trevathan can avoid the missed games that plagues their 2016. The secondary is still the main issues, with only one team notching fewer than the Bears eight interceptions last year. Free agent pickups Marcus Cooper, Prince Amukamara, and Quintin Demps will be tasked with strengthening a secondary that is the one of the primary weaknesses of the defense. The Bears were a bottom third scorer on D/ST last year and they are being drafted as one this year. If Mike Glennon or #2 pick Mitchell Trubisky can play well enough to keep the team in more games, they could be a matchup streamer in 2017.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Akiem Hicks, NT Eddie Goldman, DE Jaye Howard
Backups: DE Jonathan Bullard, DE Mitch Unrein, DE Kapron Lewis-Moore, NT John Jenkins, DT Will Sutton

Starting DL: The Bears have done little to upgrade this unit since last season, but they have several building blocks in place. Akiem Hicks posted the best numbers of his career last year as he collected over 50 combined tackles and 7 sacks. He is a perfect fit for this defense due to his all-around game, but his sack upside is probably limited. Eddie Goldman was has flashed the potential to be an anchor in the middle of the defense, but he missed 10 games last year so health is a concern. Jaye Howard was signed from the Chiefs to a 1-year deal, and will try to get back to his 2015 level of play when he posted 5.5 sacks and dominated against the run. There isn't much fantasy potential among this group, but Hicks could put up low-end DE2 numbers.

Backup DL: Mitch Unrein is an experienced veteran who figures to see early down action, but he has just 2 career sacks in 83 games played. Jonathan Bullard was a 3rd round pick a year ago who showed little as a rookie. Kapron Lewis-Moore has been plagued by injuries early in his career and spent all of 2016 on the Ravens practice squad. John Jenkins weight in around 360 pounds, and was signed to add depth behind Goldman inside. Will Sutton is the longest-tenured player in this group with just 3 years on the team, but he's mainly just a depth player.

Linebackers

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

Starting LBs: The Bears signed both starting inside linebackers in free agency a year ago, and they complement each other well. Freeman is the more athletic player who can chase down plays from sideline to sideline, while Trevathan is one of the best run-stopping linebackers in the league. Freeman missed 4 games due to a PED suspension last year, yet still posted 86 solo tackles in just 12 games. Trevathan saw his season cut short last year due a torn patellar tendon, which could keep him out through training camp. The Bears selected Leonard Floyd with a top-10 pick a year ago, and he showed off his immense potential with 6.5 sacks over a 5-game stretch in midseason. If he can improve his consistency, 10+ sacks should be very likely. Pernell McPhee wasn't ever fully healthy in 2016 so wasn't able to contribute much, but he should bounce back and provide a big boost.

Backup LBs: Willie Young is a natural defensive end, who should continue to serve as a productive pass rush specialist here. Lamarr Houston has missed 22 of the 48 games over the past 3 seasons, but he can contribute when healthy. Nick Kwiatkoski was forced into action as a rookie last year, and that experience should help prepare him to be the top interior backup. Christian Jones has started games in the past, but was mainly a depth player and special teams contributor in 2016.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Prince Amukamara, SS Quintin Demps, FS Adrian Amos, CB Marcus Cooper
Backups: S Harold Jones-Quartey, S Eddie Jackson [R], CB Kyle Fuller, CB Bryce Callahan, CB Cre'Von LeBlanc, CB Deiondre' Hall

Starting DBs: The Bears released last year's top corner Tracy Porter, and will replace him with Prince Amukamara who was signed to a $7 million, one year deal. He's had trouble staying healthy in his career and doesn't make many big plays (just 2 INTs in last 2 seasons), but is a physical corner who can match up against top WRs. Quintin Demps was signed in free agency after picking off 6 passes with the Texans in 2016. The Bears have lacked a true playmaker in the secondary for years, and hope that Demps will change that. Adrian Amos is likely to be the only returning start in the secondary, but he's likely just holding down the position until they can find an upgrade.

Backup DBs: Harold Jones-Quartey is a former undrafted free agent who started 12 games in 2016. Eddie Jackson was a fourth round pick this year out of college powerhouse Alabama, and he figures to compete for playing time right away. Kyle Fuller is a wildcard at this point since he missed all of 2016 with an injury, but is a former 1st round pick who had a great rookie season in 2014. Bryce Callahan is a former special teams standout who has developed into a capable nickel corner. Deiondre' Hall missed a lot of time as a rookie last year, but has some intriguing potential and could even be moved to safety.

Last modified: 2017-05-25 16:09:48