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2015 Team Report: Chicago Bears

Quarterbacks

Starter: Jay Cutler
Backup(s): Jimmy Clausen, David Fales, Pat Devlin, Shane Carden [R]

Starting QB: Coming off an extremely disappointing season that led to mass firings and personnel moves, Jay Cutler finds himself back in the center of it all for the Chicago Bears. Cutler put up one of his best statistical seasons under former head coach Marc Trestman. The sometimes disgruntled quarterback set career-highs in completion percentage (66%) and touchdowns (28), while throwing for the second-most yards of his career (3,812). Don't let the numbers fool you, though. The majority of Cutler's passes were high-percentage dump-offs within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, which is why Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett both destroyed their own high-water marks for receptions in a season. Don't expect to see more of the same this season from Cutler. The Bears' offense is going to function much differently, asking Cutler to hand off the ball more often behind an improved offensive line. Expect Cutler to have a better season, perception-wise, than he did in 2014. His ceiling won't be as high, but his floor won't be as low. With first-round pick Kevin White in and veteran Brandon Marshall out at wide receiver, it will be interesting to see how the passing offense functions with Alshon Jeffery as the No. 1 target. Don't go out of your way to add Cutler. Your safest bet is to take a wait-and-see approach.

Backup QB: Jimmy Clausen is back as Cutler's understudy. In limited duty last season, Clausen performed admirably, showing the league he's capable of playing quarterback in the NFL. Clausen can be a game manager if the Bears must call him into action. Behind Clausen, the Bears have nothing in terms of experience. Devlin, Fales and Carden combine for zero NFL snaps. That's right -- zero!

Running Backs

Starter: Matt Forte
Backup(s): Jacquizz Rodgers, Ka'Deem Carey, Jeremy Langford [R], Senorise Perry
Fullback(s):

Starting RB: If you think Matt Forte played a large role last season in the Bears offense, be prepared for more of the same. New coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Adam Gase want to make life easier for Jay Cutler. In order to make that happen, Forte needs to be running the ball more than he did last season -- only 266 attempts compared to a career-high 102 receptions. The Bears hope more balance means more points. No matter how the offense changes, though, Forte will still account for a large percentage of it. How he contributes just might be a little different, meaning he might not be as valuable in a PPR league as he was last season.

Backup RBs: Gase has a wide variety of running backs on the depth chart behind Forte. Rodgers is an above-average blocker and offers a ton of flexibility in the passing game, your typical change-of-pace running back. Carey was very underwhelming in his rookie season after the Bears selected him in the fourth round. He served as Forte's backup for much of the season but the reps were few and far between. You can tell how much the Bears' new staff values Carey by its selection of Michigan State product Jeremy Langford in the fourth round of the 2015 draft. The Bears have a lot of running back depth. Whomever emerges as the No. 2 behind Forte should be able to put up respectable numbers within an offense that bolsters an improved offensive line.

Fullback:

Wide Receivers

Starters: Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal, Kevin White [R]
Backups: Marquess Wilson, Josh Bellamy, Marc Mariani

Starting WRs: Dealing Brandon Marshall in the offseason tells you what the Bears think of Alshon Jeffery, who is going to be looking for a new contract come season's end. The Bears are putting a lot of faith in a guy who has never been a No. 1 receiver in the NFL. And there's not much room for error. Behind Jeffery is a rookie, first-round pick Kevin White. Jeffery was able to play his first few seasons with Marshall, learning from one of the NFL's best receivers. Now he will be lining up across the field from a rookie who is a very raw talent. What White brings to the table will make life a little bit easier for Jeffery. Last season, creating space from the defender was troublesome for Bears wideouts. White's blazing speed should open up the middle of the field for Jeffery and Eddie Royal to make their money. Royal brings something completely different to the table -- he finds space where there isn't any and he runs like heck after the catch. The Bears have been looking to add a player like Royal for quite a few years. It just never worked out. If Royal can have another season like 2014 -- 62 catches for 778 yards and 7 TDs -- the Bears offense will make a lot of first downs. Each of the Bears' starting wideouts bring something different to the table -- Jeffery's physicality and snatchability, White's speed and Royal's quickness and route-running ability. Gase should be able to deliver some creative plays for Cutler to execute come Week 1 of the regular season.

Backup WRs: A big step forward was predicted last year for Wilson, a 2013 seventh-round pick who fell in the draft because he quit the team at Washington State in his final year. After an offseason under the tutelage of Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, Wilson suffered a collarbone injury that robbed him of more than half of the season. He came on late to replace an injured Marshall in the starting lineup, but with little in the way of fantasy fireworks. Now his spot has been usurped by #7 overall pick Kevin White, but Wilson gives the team a #4 WR with upside. Mariani should make the team as the #5 receiver and return specialist. None of the Bears end of the roster WRs have long-term ceiling that we should note in dynasty leagues.

Tight Ends

Starters: Martellus Bennett
Backups: Zach Miller, Donte Rosario, Bear Pascoe, Blake Annen

At the end of April, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Bennett wanted a new contract and the Bears were "entertaining trade offers" for their Pro Bowl tight end. Bennett put up career-high numbers last season in Chicago, leading all NFL tight ends in receptions and finishing third in reception yards. With the Bears moving to more of a run-first offense, Bennett's reception totals will surely take a hit. Instead of 90 catches, he might only catch 65 passes. It's worth mentioning that his numbers largely were a product of an offense that preferred dink-and-dunk over trying to move the ball vertically. Rookie receiver Kevin White adds the necessary vertical element that will create space for Bennett to work over the middle of the field. There is very little experience behind Bennett on the depth chart. Zach Miller is slated to be the No. 2, that's only if he can stay healthy. Miller hasn't played in an NFL game since the 2011 season. He seems to do well in the preseason, though, for whatever that's worth. Miller went through training camp with the Bears in 2014. He caught 6 passes for 68 yards and two touchdowns in the first week of the preseason. Then he got hurt. Now he's back. While talented, Miller simply cannot be counted on until he can make it to the regular season somewhat healthy and able to play. Rosario and Pascoe likely will battle it out for who will be the blocking tight end. Rosario was pretty average last season as a member of the Bears. He caught 16 passes for 116 yards while serving primarily as a blocker. Pascoe is built like someone who should be blocking for someone else, meaning Rosario likely will need to do something extra special if he wants to be active for this team on Sundays.

Place Kicker

Robbie Gould: Gould has been the kicker for the Bears for a decade, and 2014 represented his worst year for fantasy leagues. He missed games due to injury and only had 12 field goal attempts in 12 games. Gould is among the best in NFL history in field goal accuracy, but the Bears offense rests on the arm of Jay Cutler, so a collapse akin to the one they had in the second half of 2014 is possible. Gould isn't worth a pick in fantasy leagues this year.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Deonte Thompson, Marc Mariani, Eddie Royal

Chicago's return situation was unsettled for much of last season, and a change in coaching staff will make early predictions even more difficult. Chris Williams has not been re-signed, leaving Marc Mariani and Senorise Perry to compete with new arrivals Jacquizz Rodgers and Eddie Royal for kickoff returns. Rodgers proved a capable returner in Atlanta before Devin Hester's arrival put an end to Rodgers' return opportunities. Perry's 2015 season ended before it began as he now been placed on Injured Reserve. Jacquizz Rodgers joined Perry there after Week 5.

Punt Returners: Marc Mariani, Eddie Royal

Wide receiver Santonio Holmes emerged as the primary returner last season but was let go in the offseason. Marc Mariani is one of the more experienced punt returners on the roster, though had a poor showing in 2014 in the few opportunities that he was given. The addition of receiver Eddie Royal gives the Bears another solid option. Royal has a solid 10.6 yard per punt return average, and can contribute more on offense than Mariani is likely to.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Jermon Bushrod, LG Matt Slauson, C Hroniss Grasu [R], RG Kyle Long, RT Jordan Mills
Key Backups: T Charles Leno, G Vladimir Ducasse, T Jason Weaver, C Will Montgomery, G Michael Ola, T Tayo Fabuluje [R]

Last year, right guard Kyle Long earned his second Pro Bowl nod in as many seasons in the league. Long was a key cog in the league's third ranked rushing attack and he reportedly did not give up a sack all season. Long is an exciting young player and the scary thought is that he could still get better. Long is the best lineman on the team but he is not the highest paid. Although left tackle Jermon Bushrod did not live up to his lofty contract, he was battling injuries and this ranking assumes he experiences a bounce back season. If Bushrod continues to struggle this line quickly can slip to a bottom tier ranking. Left guard Matt Slauson is another who struggled with injury, but when healthy he can be effective in the running attack. The team drafted center Hroniss Grasu with a high third round pick and he should win the job over Will Montgomery. Grasu is Oregon's best center prospect since Max Unger and could end up being a very smart pick for the Bears' franchise. At right tackle, Jordan Mills had a tough season where he battled a chronic foot issue, and the team picked up former Denver Broncos' tackle Paul Cornick off waivers to create competition. Mills should still hold on to the position but he's certainly on a short leash. Overall this line has a great deal of potential but what determines their success will be their ability to stay healthy.

Team Defense

The good news for one of the worst defenses in the league is that defensive-minded head coach John Fox is on board and he hired one of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL, Vic Fangio. Unfortunately the Bears cupboard is mostly bare on defense. They did add Pernell McPhee to team with Jared Allen on the edge, and Antrel Rolle to be a stopgap at a perennial sore spot, safety. Changing over to a new 3-4 scheme with some new personnel will be a rough ride, and it's very likely that the Bears will be most unusable for fantasy, just as they were in 2014, when they ranked in the bottom three in yards and points allowed. It's possible that Fox and company get the ship turned around, but short of a miraculous 180, the Bears D/ST should only be considered in extremely good matchups.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Ego Ferguson, NT Jeremiah Ratliff (susp), DE Jarvis Jenkins
Backups: DE Will Sutton, DT Eddie Goldman [R], DE Cornelius Washington

Starting DL: The Bears are a team in flux as they will try to transition from a long-time 4-3 to a 3-4 under new coordinator Vic Fangio. As a result, they have quite a few players that don't appear to be great fits for the new system. To help with the transition, the Bears signed Ray McDonald who played under Fangio with the 49ers. An offseason arrest for domestic abuse, however, quickly resulted in his release from the team. 2nd year pro Ego Ferguson will likely take over that spot. He was drafted to upgrade the interior of the line a year ago and has the ability to hold up blockers and free up the linebackers behind him. Jeremiah Ratliff is an undersized NT and getting up there in age, but he can still be effective when healthy. Unfortunately, he was hit with a 3-game suspension to open the season so the Bears will likely turn to their top draft pick Eddie Goldman. Jarvis Jenkins only has 2 sacks during his 3 years with Washington, but he has starting experience in a 3-4 defense at least.

Backup DL: Will Sutton showed flashes of his potential last year and most thought he was too short to play in this scheme, but he had a strong camp and figures to be part of a rotation. Eddie Goldman was a huge pickup for the Bears in round 2 as he gives them a more traditional nose tackle to use on early downs and spell his idol Ratliff. Even after Ratliff returns from his suspension, the Bears may keep Goldman inside on run downs and slide Ratliff out to DE. Cornelius Washington provides additional depth.

Linebackers

Starters: OLB Pernell McPhee, ILB Shea McClellin, ILB Christian Jones, OLB Jared Allen
Backups: ILB Jon Bostic, OLB Lamarr Houston, OLB Willie Young, OLB Sam Acho

Starting LBs: Given the move to a 3-4 and the struggles the team had on defense the past couple years, the Bears were active in free agency to try and fill in some gaps. Pernell McPhee was brought over from the Ravens after signing a surprising $40 million deal. He flew under the radar in Baltimore but put up 7.5 sacks as a reserve, so it's unclear if he can sustain that level of play on a higher number of snaps. At the other OLB spot, the Bears have a few options but Jared Allen was the starter throughout the preseason. The former elite DE is starting to slow down and probably won't help much in coverage, so look for him to contribute primarily as an edge rusher. Both starting spots were expected to be up for grabs, but Christian Jones and Shea McClellin were never really pushed in the preseason. McClellin is learning his 3rd position in 4 years since he was drafted in the first round. He was supposed to be more of a DE/OLB type, but the Bears moved him inside and believe his athleticism and versatility will help him succees finally. Jones was an undrafted free agent who looked impressive at times last year, and he may have the most upside of any option on the roster right now.

Backup LBs: Mason Foster played well in the preseason but was a surprise late cut for the Bears. That leaves Jon Bostic as the clear backup to both ILB spots. He has struggled with inconsistency and was injured for much of camp, but is still young and could contribute if either starter falters. Lamarr Houston has experience playing in a 3-4 from his time in Oakland, but he showed very little before seeing his season end with a torn ACL in late October. He's probably the best athlete among the group and likely to be part of an OLB rotation once fully healthy. Willie Young looked great for the Bears as an edge rusher last year before suffering a torn Achilles, but even if healthy he's probably just a nickel DE here. Sam Acho has experience in a 3-4 from his time in Arizona and may wind up playing a bigger role than most expect.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Kyle Fuller, CB Alan Ball, SS Antrel Rolle, FS Adrian Amos [R]
Backups: CB Sherrick McManis, CB Demontre Hurst, CB Terrance Mitchell, CB Tracy Porter, S Brock Vereen, S Sherrod Martin

Starting DBs: The Bears will be without Charles Tillman at corner for the first time since 2003. Kyle Fuller looked like a perfect replacement as a rookie, however, and will look to build on a rookie season that saw him post 4 interceptions and 3 forced fumbles. Alan Ball is an experienced corner who signed a 1-year deal and will compete for a starting spot. At 6'2", he provides a nice contrast to the 5'8" Jennings and should match up against some of the bigger outside receivers the Bears will face. Antrel Rolle was perhaps the most important free agent pickup the Bears made this offseason and he should provide a huge upgrade in the secondary. Rolle has consistently been one of the most productive players at his position during his time with the Giants. Adrian Amos appeared to beat out Brock Vereen for the other starting safety position. He's a former college cornerback whose cover skills and range make him an intriguing player to watch.

Backup DBs: Tim Jennings didn't appear to be a fit with a new staff who prefers taller corners so he was released. That creates more opportunity for a player like Sherrick McManis who showed well in camp after primarily contributing on special teams in the past. Tracy Porter is a quality starter when healthy, but he has played all 16 games just once in the past 7 seasons so it will be tough to count on him. Demontre Hurst and Terrance Mitchell are both young players who have flashed some potential, and could emerge if given an opportunity. Brock Vereen didn't do enough as a rookie and struggled again this preseason despite being given first crack at the starting job. Last year's leading tackler Ryan Mundy suffered a season-ending hip injury, which opened up a spot for Sherrod Martin as the fourth safety.

Last modified: 2015-11-24 18:24:18