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2019 Team Report: Chicago Bears

Offensive Philosophy

When head coach Matt Nagy joined the Bears last year, he brought over much of the same offensive concepts he'd been running under Andy Reid and the Chiefs. Superficially, the team runs a West Coast offense, but Nagy, (like Reid), is exciting because of all the various concepts he's willing to incorporate into it. The Bears have borrowed concepts liberally from college football and were among the league leaders last year in Run-Pass Option plays, (or RPOs), where the quarterback decides based on what he sees after the snap whether to hand the ball off or throw it. Chicago also was among the league leaders in pass attempts 20 or more yards down the field. The result is an offense that is simultaneously traditional and novel.

Quarterbacks

Starter: Mitchell Trubisky
Backup(s): Chase Daniel, Tyler Bray

Starting QB: Mitchell Trubisky solidified the starting spot for Chicago with his second-season rise under Matt Nagy and Mark Helfrich. His production on paper was better than his noteworthy growing pains in games lacking refined accuracy on deeper routes and tighter windows. The weapons are solid for Trubisky featuring Allen Robinson, a developing Anthony Miller, Trey Burton, and the electric Tarik Cohen in an optimized offensive scheme.

Backup QB: Daniel has been a career backup with 2019 marking his 10th NFL season. Daniel has thrown a mere 154 career passes and has shown functionality with a 67% completion rate over the years and a 2-2 record with spot starting opportunities. Bray has long been an arm talent in the quarterback circle, but more off the radar than on with his questionable accuracy and pocket feel.

Running Backs

Starter: Tarik Cohen
Backup(s): Mike Davis, David Montgomery [R], Taquan Mizzell, Ryan Nall
Fullback(s):

Starting RB: After a promising rookie season in 2017, Tarik Cohen emerged with an even more impressive sophomore year in 2018. While still in an ancillary role, Cohen turned into an 1,100-total-yard back fueled by more than 70 receptions and averaging a dynamic 10.2 yards-per-catch. Despite seeing 170 total touches, Cohen scored eight touchdowns. Jordan Howard was the thunder to Cohen's lightning the past two seasons, logging the rugged interior touches and, as a result, Cohen has a career high of a mere 14 carries in any NFL game including only four games (of 33) with double-digit carries. Mike Davis was signed as a potential power back replacement to Jordan Howard, but Cohen has been an ancillary piece to the Bears' running game to-do at his sub-optimal size.

Backup RBs: Mike Davis has emerged back on the NFL radar since nearly flaming out of the league from San Francisco his first two seasons. Davis had his best season in 2018 with Seattle, blending power running with solid hands to the tune of 146 touches. Montgomery was a third-round selection in the 2019 NFL Draft, blending quality size and above-average footwork in his profile. Montgomery adds soft hands and make-you-miss agility, but lacks speed to turn modest gains into impact plays. Mizzell is an under-sized back lacking true home run athleticism for his size and yet to accrue many NFL touches. Nall is built like a fullback but with running back-type movement ability and some receiving acumen to stick in the NFL and move up a depth chart.

Fullback:

Wide Receivers

Starters: Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller
Backups: Taylor Gabriel, Cordarrelle Patterson, Riley Ridley [R]

Starting WRs: Allen Robinson returned in 2018 to play 13 games after missing nearly all of 2017 with a major knee injury. After a big contract to be the Bears' WR1, Robinson was more in a rotation with the Bears' spread-it-around passing game than the go-to option. Robinson had a high floor weekly, but rarely had high usage with a single game of 10 or more targets, only four touchdowns, and one game of more than 85 yards. Robinson's downfield prowess at his NFL best was not the best fit with the quick-hitting Mitchell Trubisky and Chicago passing game as Robinson's deep target rate was merely average by NFL standards in usage and efficiency. Anthony Miller entered the NFL viewed as a pro ready prospect and delivered with a rookie season contribution of more 400 yards in an ancillary role for the Bears' passing game. Miller was heavily used out of the slot (nearly 70% of his snaps) but featured average-level efficiency from his typical interior alignment. The upside for Miller to take a significant step forward is tempered with Allen Robinson entrenched as the team's top receiver, Taylor Gabriel (93 targets in 2018) returning, Trey Burton and Tarik Cohen both seeing 75+ targets a year ago, and Adam Shaheen returning from injury after a promising preseason outlook as the team's second tight end but missing all but the final games of the season. Chicago's passing game needs to take a strong step forward in terms of volume for Miller to truly emerge into a higher-level producer.

Backup WRs: Taylor Gabriel logged a career-high 688 receiving yards in 2018, his first with Chicago and a lofty 93 targets. The diminutive receiver is a speed maven, feasting in space with separation or after-the-catch opportunities. Cordarrelle Patterson joins the Bears' receiving corps but has lacked traditional wide receiver targets since entering the NFL, relying on manufactured touches, special teams acumen, and even running back snaps to offer tangible roster value. Riley Ridley had Day 2 buzz before slipping to Day 3 in the NFL Draft. Much more of a positive tape review, Ridley had pedestrian metrics across the board as a prospect. Ridley will face an uphill climb for significant snaps as a rookie considering the solid Chicago wide receiver depth chart.

Tight Ends

Starters: Trey Burton
Backups: Adam Shaheen, Ben Braunecker

Trey Burton was a splash signing for 2018 with Chicago, emerged from his secondary role in Philadelphia for a starting spot with the Bears. Burton's role expanded, but the upside remained limited on a capped Chicago passing game to the tune of one game of more than seven targets and a 10.5 yards-per-catch average. All this while Adam Shaheen, an up-and-coming second round NFL Draft pick, missed most of the season with injury. Burton's big plays centered on a 126-yard game midseason on 11 targets and designed shovel passes near the goal line for point blank scoring opportunities. With a returning wide receiver corps and healthy Adam Shaheen, Burton's upside will require a system-wise uptick or Shaheen missing more time. Shaheen is a supersized tight end with quality movement to his game. Shaheen flashed in the 2018 preseason before an injury largely derailed his second NFL season before it started. Ben Braunecker has yet to show much promise beyond an ancillary tight end on a year-to-year projection for an NFL roster spot to-date.

Place Kicker

Chris Blewitt, Redford Jones, Eddy Pineiro, John Barron II [R]: The Bears are officially in kicker hell heading into the 2019 season. Since prematurely moving on from Robbie Gould, they have suffered through three years of inconsistency, culminating in Cody Parkey's miss in the playoffs that cost them a home victory. Parkey was already on thin ice before the postseason, with some difficulty hitting the uprights at home, and a barely acceptable 23-for-30 on field goal attempts including three misses from 30-39 yards and only one make from over 50 yards. Parkey was unceremoniously released after the season, leaving the team to sort through the bargain bin for their option. Chris Blewitt was signed after an offseason tryout, Redford Jones was signed to a futures deal, and then the team traded a conditional 2021 seventh to the Raiders for Eddy Pineiro. John Barron, a big-legged left footed undrafted rookie was also added. They could still try to deal for Robbie Gould, as he pushes back against San Francisco's franchise tag or sign veteran stalwart Matt Bryant after Atlanta moved on from him.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Cordarrelle Patterson, Tarik Cohen

The Bears struggled to find a consistent kickoff returner in 2018, but it's safe to say they won't have that problem in 2019 after signing former Viking, Raider, and Patriot Cordarrelle Patterson, a man who might well be the best kickoff returner in league history, the only player to top 100 returns while averaging at least 30 yards per return.

Punt Returners: Tarik Cohen

The Bears might have gone through several kickoff returners last year, but punts were ably handled by the dynamic Tarik Cohen, who led the league in attempts and yards on the way to being named first team All Pro punt returner by the Associated Press.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: Charles Leno, James Daniels, Cody Whitehair, Kyle Long, Bobbie Massie
Key Backups: Bradley Sowell, Ted Larsen, Rashaad Coward

This line brings back all five starters from last years' roster and is one of the more improved lines over the last couple seasons. Left tackle Charles Leno and center Cody Whitehair made the Pro Bowl as alternates while former Iowa rookie James Daniels found a home at left guard. Kyle Long can be a dynamic blocker when healthy and Bobbie Massie has been an underrated performer at right tackle. Bradley Sowell as swing tackle and Ted Larsen as the interior depth are solid and versatile veterans. Overall, this is a well-constructed, top-tier line, and could be truly elite if the right guard stays healthy all season.

Team Defense

The Bears team defense was a huge fantasy factor after they added Khalil Mack in 2018, with a red hot first month and consistency that led them to finish as the #1 fantasy defense by a large margin. The team swapped out Adrian Amos and Bryce Callahan for Ha-ha Clinton-Dix and Buster Skrine in moves that are downgrades, but probably not materially hurting the defense, otherwise the 2018 unit is intact. Six scores and 27 interceptions might not be sustainable, but the Bears production came against good and bad quarterbacks and situates them as one of the few set it and forget fantasy defenses. They open with Aaron Rodgers again in a matchup that started well and finished terribly last year, but still delivered the goods in fantasy. The Broncos and Washington are up next in promising matchup. The Bears might not be worth their costly price (for a fantasy defense) but they are still the most desirable unit to have going into the 2019 season.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Akiem Hicks, NT Eddie Goldman, DE Bilal Nichols
Backups: DE Roy Robertson-Harris, DE Jonathan Bullard, DT Nick Williams

Starting DL: Akiem Hicks continues to be underrated but is one of the best 2-way defensive ends in the league. Despite playing in a 3-4 front, he's also been remarkably consistent with 35+ solos and 7+ sacks in three straight seasons. Eddie Goldman has good quickness for a player his size, which allows him to make plays behind the line of scrimmage at times. His main role in this defense, however, is to tie up blockers and make things easier for the players around him and that limits his production and fantasy value. Bilal Nichols was a late-round pick in 2018 who developed quickly and started several games in the second half of the season. There is some upside to his game if he can get enough snaps, but the Bears will likely rotate several players at this position.

Backup DL: The Bears have excellent depth at the defensive end position. Roy Robertson-Harris and Jonathan Bullard are both talented enough to start and will likely see regular playing time as reserves. Nick Williams only appeared in two games last year but appears likely to serve as the primary backup to Goldman inside.

Linebackers

Starters: OLB Khalil Mack, ILB Roquan Smith, ILB Danny Trevathan, OLB Leonard Floyd
Backups: ILB Nick Kwiatkoski, ILB Joel Iyiegbuniwe, OLB Aaron Lynch, OLB Isaiah Irving, OLB Kylie Fitts

Starting LBs: The trade for Khalil Mack late in the preseason helped change the entire future of the Bears franchise. As one of the best edge defenders in the league, his addition filled a glaring need and instantly turned this into an elite unit. While his fantasy value is limited due to the LB designation he carries in most leagues, he can also be one of the most valuable IDPs overall in leagues that put a premium on big plays. Roquan Smith was a rare inside linebacker taken with a top-10 overall draft pick so there were certainly high expectations for him coming into the league. He had a slow start due to a camp holdout and preseason injury, but by the end of his rookie season, he started to look like a future star and has top-10 potential in 2019. Danny Trevathan managed to play all 16 games last year for the first time since 2013 and provides a steady veteran presence inside. He's entering the final year of his contract and will be 30 years old so this could potentially be his last year with the Bears. Leonard Floyd has flashed signs of becoming an impact player during his career but has been plagued by injuries and inconsistency. The talent is there for him to post double-digit sacks, especially with Mack drawing most of the attention, but he has yet to put it all together and play up to his potential.

Backup LBs: Nick Kwiatkoski has proven to be a capable starter whenever he's been called upon and he remains one of the top backups in the league. Joel Iyiegbuniwe only played 23 defensive snaps as a rookie last year but he still has some untapped potential. Aaron Lynch is a former starter from his time with the 49ers who fits in best as a pass rush specialist. Isaiah Irving and Kylie Fitts are a couple of young players who will also be in the mix for playing time at outside linebacker.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Kyle Fuller, SS Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS Eddie Jackson, CB Prince Amukamara
Backups: CB Buster Skrine, CB Sherrick McManis, S Deon Bush, S DeAndre Houston-Carson

Starting DBs: The Bears showed their commitment to Kyle Fuller when they matched the Packers' 4-year, $56 million offer sheet for him. He's coming off an excellent season and looks like a potential cornerstone player for them, thanks in large part to his aggressive playing style. Adrian Amos was a significant loss in free agency, but Ha Ha Clinton-Dix looks like a more than capable replacement. He missed out on the big money contracts that were handed out to safeties this offseason and will try to prove his worth after signing a 1-year deal. Eddie Jackson was a first-team All-Pro safety last year and seems well on his way to becoming one of the league's truly elite playmaking safeties. Prince Amukamara has been an above-average starter at the other cornerback position, but he'll be 30 years old and the team has limited depth behind him.

Backup DBs: The Bears let Bryce Callahan walk in free agency and figure to see a downgrade at nickel corner with the move to Buster Skrine. He's been productive during his time with the Jets due in large part to his struggles in coverage. Sherrick McManis has also handled the role in the past could certainly win back the nickel job, but neither player looks like a great fit outside. There is also limited depth at safety as Deon Bush hasn't really developed in the way they hoped and DeAndre Houston-Carson is more of a special teams standout.

Last modified: 2019-05-13 20:59:59