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2020 Team Report: Chicago Bears

Last updated: Fri, May 15

Offensive Philosophy

After the offense imploded in 2019, head coach Matt Nagy parted ways with offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich and brought in Bill Lazor, last seen with the Cincinnati Bengals. Nagy himself has an offensive background, however, so expect plenty of continuity in Chicago's offensive philosophy. The new staff perhaps indicates a desire to put more receivers on the field and run more Run-Pass Option plays (or RPOs), though given the relative weakness at quarterback, the Bears have preferred to this point to rely on the defense and running game as much as possible. "As much as possible" is the critical piece. In 2018, thanks to opportunistic defense that led the league with 36 takeaways, the Bears were able to pass on just 52% of their offensive plays, producing a ball-control offense that ranked 9th in points scored despite finishing just 21st in yards. In 2019 the defense was still stout (finishing 4th in points allowed), but the takeaways fell from 36 down to 19 (about one fewer per game) and, facing more long fields, the Bears had to pass on more than 59% of their plays. The results were ugly and Chicago fell to 29th in points scored, leading to the offseason shakeup. The Bears would like to use misdirection, power running, short fields, stingy defense, and opportunistic passing to hide their quarterback as much as possible. It remains to be seen whether circumstances will cooperate in 2020.

Quarterbacks

Starter: Mitchell Trubisky, Nick Foles
Backup(s):

Starting QB: Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles form one of the closest quarterback starting job battles heading into the 2020 season. Trubisky, once the trade target for the Bears as the third overall pick in 2017, slumped to the finish in 2019 after a promising 2018 season. Trubisky was a limiting element to a Bears passing game with Allen Robinson, a developing Anthony Miller, and Tarik Cohen out of the backfield, plus a Matt Nagy-designed offense. Trubisky's anemic 6.1 yards-per-attempt is the lone reason his completion rate stayed afloat last season and his efficiency marks, outside of interception rate, eroded across the board. Mobility is one of the strengths of Trubisky's game, but even that took a marked step back in 2019 with 1.7 fewer attempts per game and averaging a mere 4.0 yards-per-rush. Nick Foles was a trade target of the Bears in the offseason with dead cap contract allegiance through at least two seasons, if not three going forward. Foles is barely a winning quarterback in the regular season of his career, finding minimal success outside of his time in Philadelphia, spanning five of his eight seasons. Foles was off to a rough start in Jacksonville last season, his latest stop on his now six-team NFL tour, with avoiding interceptions and a decent completion rate as his lone plus metrics. Foles has started more than 10 games in a season just once and his boom-bust nature has been as high-variance of his career as any recent quarterback. Without mobility as a notable trait, Foles mandates a quality system and structure to his game, fostering his passing traits. On the plus side, Matt Nagy and the Bears offense offers both in spades for Foles to succeed in 2020.

Backup QB:

Running Backs

Starter: David Montgomery
Backup(s): Tarik Cohen, Ryan Nall
Fullback(s):

Starting RB: As a rookie in 2019, David Montgomery arrived on an open depth chart in terms of carries for a starter workload. However, Montgomery's lack of overall burst and speed would prove limiting as well as one of the weaker run-blocking offensive lines in the NFL. Montgomery collected a hearty 267 touches and saw the fourth-most carries inside the five-yard-line among running backs, but converted only five of those attempts into scores, easily the fewest of the top-volume goal line backs in the NFL. Montgomery also was squeezed in the passing game by Tarik Cohen by a dominant 104-to-34 target advantage. To unlock significant upside, Montgomery will need to reverse the course either at the goal line or in the passing game in 2020.

Backup RBs: Tarik Cohen was third in the entire NFL with 104 running back targets last season. However, Cohen's shiftiness and big plays waned to the tune of 5.8 yards-per-catch, fewest of any back with at least 50 targets. Cohen had a strong edge over rookie David Montgomery in passing game usage (69 more targets) and Cohen had the second-most targets on the entire Bears offense, behind only Allen Robinson. Cohen has yet to see 100 rushes in a season through three years and more concerning is his drop in receiving efficiency as his biggest perk as a sub-sized back. Any rise by David Montgomery in the receiving game paints a dicey picture of Cohen's upside and utility for the Bears offense.

Fullback:

Wide Receivers

Starters: Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller
Backups: Cordarrelle Patterson, Javon Wims, Riley Ridley, Darnell Mooney [R], Ted Ginn, Trevor Davis

Starting WRs: Allen Robinson took a step forward in his second season with the Bears, turning a hearty 158 targets into 98 receptions. However, big plays were limited by quarterback play. Robinson had a dominant share of targets, collecting nearly double the targets of secondary receiver Anthony Miller and minimal tight end presence within the offense. Still firmly in his prime, Robinson is poised for a production uptick with improved quarterback play. Anthony Miller easily elevated to the secondary wide receiver role in his second NFL season. Miller's targets were dwarfed by lead receiver Allen Robinson, but Miller had minimal competition from beneath him on the depth chart. The same applies in 2020 with Miller the likely clear second receiver. One challenger to Miller's targets is Jimmy Graham, a boost to an invisible tight end depth chart in 2018 which saw the leader in targets with only 25 passing game looks.

Backup WRs: Cordarrelle Patterson has struggled to develop as an NFL receiver over his now seven seasons, relying primarily on designed touches on offense and strong return game skills to provide value to NFL teams. Patterson's targets have dropped four straight seasons on four different teams. Javon Wims is a big-bodied receiver from the 2018 NFL Draft class who developed into a serviceable depth option last season. At his best, Wims logged four games of at least five targets and a career-best 56 yards in separate games. Riley Ridley was a Day 3 selection for Chicago in 2019, but sparsely played before injuries thrust Ridley into the lineup for three games of significant snaps and a season-ending high point of 3-54-0 stat line. Mooney is a speedy fifth round pick out of Tulane who could help replace Taylor Gabriel. Ginn and Davis were also brought in during the offseason to potentially add speed to the wide receiver room, but one at most will make the team.

Tight Ends

Starters: Jimmy Graham
Backups: Cole Kmet [R], Adam Shaheen, Demetrius Harris

Jimmy Graham's signing with the Bears this offseason posts himself atop the depth chart with previous de facto starter Trey Burton released. Graham himself lacks the movement of his prime of seasons past but offers a veteran presence in the short game to be an upgrade over Chicago's minimal positional presence in 2019. Graham has remained healthy in his career, missing more than one game in only 2015. His touchdown rate fell off the table in two years with the Packers of late, a marked decline from having one of the better NFL rates among tight ends previously in his career. Cole Kmet was drafted as the first tight end off the 2020 NFL Draft board by the Bears. From Notre Dame's tight end pipeline program, Kmet is a well-rounded and big-bodied option with future starter potential and is the favorite for the TE2 role on the Bears offense in 2020. Adam Shaheen was a metric marvel from the small school ranks in 2017, but has been mired by injury and aggregated just 26 catches over the span and one touchdown over the past two years. Durability, and now added competition for playing time, are significant hurdles for Shaheen to overcome in Chicago. Demetrius Harris, before Jimmy Graham, was a notable signing for the Bears. Harris has been a long-standing secondary in Kansas City and 2019 in Cleveland. Harris is battling for the third tight end role in Chicago more than the lead job.

Place Kicker

Eddy Pineiro, Ramiz Ahmed: The Bears found a kicker they could stick with for the entire season in 2019, although they might have a nagging feeling that they can still do better. Eddy Pineiro made 23 of 28 field goal attempts but only 3 of 7 from 40-49 yards, although that is mitigated by him making 2 of 2 from 50+. He also made 27 of 29 extra point attempts. The Bears brought in Ramiz Ahmed as competition, but the former walk-on at Nevada was out of football in 2019 and has had trouble making distance kicks in the past, so Pineiro should win unless he collapses. Consider Pineiro a low-end bye/injury replacement, but good bet to be the kicker Week 1.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Cordarrelle Patterson, Trevor Davis

The Bears once again enter the season with one of the best punt returns in the league in Tarik Cohen and arguably the greatest kickoff returner in history in Cordarrelle Patterson. This offseason they've also supplemented by adding journeyman return specialist Trevor Davis, though the most likely outcome is that Davis is returning kicks for another team by opening day.

Punt Returners: Tarik Cohen, Trevor Davis

The Bears once again enter the season with one of the best punt returns in the league in Tarik Cohen and arguably the greatest kickoff returner in history in Cordarrelle Patterson. This offseason they've also supplemented by adding journeyman return specialist Trevor Davis, though the most likely outcome is that Davis is returning kicks for another team by opening day.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: OT Charles Leno Jr., OG Cody Whitehair, C James Daniels, OG Rashaad Coward, OT Bobbie Massie
Key Backups: OL Germain Ifedi, OL Alex Bars, OL Arlington Hambright [R], Lachavious Simmons [R]

Left tackle Charles Leno Jr. and left guard Cody Whitehair each grade out as Pro Bowl snubs. Center James Daniels has been solid since being drafted out of Iowa and the coaches did a good job converting right guard Rashaad Coward from the defensive line. This group has perfect cohesion, returning all five starters from last season. Their scheme favors inside zone runs, but these linemen also have the ability to set the edge.

Team Defense

The Bears defense came crashing back to earth in 2019 after a banner first year with Khalil Mack in 2018. They had only 32 sacks, 19 takeaways and one defensive touchdown, huge dropoffs from the previous year. They were still fourth in points per game and eighth in yards per game, keeping them serviceable in leagues that score yards/points allowed. The hope is that the addition of Nick Foles makes the team more competitive overall, along with the upgrade from Leonard Floyd to Robert Quinn opposite Mack, a prayer for better inside linebacker health, and the ability to hide weaknesses at strong safety and #2 outside corner. Unfortunately these moves bringing the unit back to prominence is already being assumed with a top 5-6 ADP in drafts, so they should probably be avoided unless you are very optimistic about their season.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Akiem Hicks, DE Bilal Nichols, NT Eddie Goldman
Backups: DE Roy Robertson-Harris, DE Abdullah Anderson, DE Brent Urban, DT John Jenkins

Starting DL: Akiem Hicks a disappointing season in 2019 like most of the Bears defense. He got off to a slow start, went on IR with an elbow injury in week 5, and then aggravated the injury in his week 15 return. Prior to that, however, he had been a reliable fantasy starter and could be due for a bounce back year. He'll likely be joined up front by Bilal Nichols who appears limited as a pass rusher and fantasy option but could develop into a bigger contributor still. Eddie Goldman does a solid job at nose tackle even though he's never matched his rookie total of 4.5 sacks. He's more of a 2-down run defender with limited fantasy value unless it's a 2DT-required league.

Backup DL: Roy Robertson-Harris has flashed potential at times and provides quality depth but also has limited fantasy upside. Brent Urban is another experienced backup with limited potential as he's collected just 3.5 career sacks in 5 seasons. John Jenkins and Abdullah Anderson are both on the roster bubble and could be replaced if an upgrade is found.

Linebackers

Starters: ILB Roquan Smith, ILB Danny Trevathan, OLB Khalil Mack, OLB Robert Quinn
Backups: ILB Joel Iyiegbuniwe, ILB Josh Woods, OLB Aaron Lynch, OLB Isaiah Irving, OLB Barkevious Mingo

Starting LBs: The Bears boast one of the best linebacker groups in the league with strength on the inside and outside. Danny Trevathan's health is a major concern as he's suffered a season-ending injury in two of the past three years. When healthy, however, he's capable of posting LB2 production. Prior to suffering a season-ending pectoral injury, Roquan Smith showed signs of becoming the leader and impact player the Bears expected when they drafted him 8th overall in 2018. If he can stay healthy and continue on his development path, a top-10 finish is certainly within reach. Khalil Mack has clearly established himself as an elite player at outside linebacker but his fantasy value is weakened with that designation. He didn't play up to his normal standards last year, but look for improvement now that he's got an impact pass rusher playing opposite him. Robert Quinn rejuvenated his career in Dallas last year with 11.5 sacks and should be a significant upgrade over Leonard Floyd.

Backup LBs: There should be a wide open competition to see who replaces Nick Kwiatkoski as the primary inside backup. Joel Iyiegbuniwe has the pedigree as a former 4th round pick but he has only seen 26 snaps through 2 seasons at this point. Devante Bond has limited starting experience from his time in Tampa that could give him an early edge. Josh Woods is an unknown quantity who has showed some promise in camp and while playing special teams. Barkevious Mingo could also be a wildcard, although he has primarily lined up outside during his 38 career starts. Rashad Smith and KeAndre Jones were signed as undrafted free agents and seem most likely to compete for a spot on the practice squad. Isaiah Irving doesn't contribute much on special teams, which could make it harder for him to earn a backup job. Trevis Gipson is the rookie to watch here as the Bears traded for him in the fifth round and could see him as a future replacement for Robert Quinn.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Kyle Fuller, FS Eddie Jackson, SS Tashaun Gipson, CB Jaylon Johnson
Backups: S DeAndre Houston-Carson, S Jordan Lucas, S Deon Bush, S Sherrick McManus, CB Buster Skrine, CB Kindle Vindor, CB Artie Burns, CB Duke Shelley, CB Kevin Toliver

Starting DBs: Kyle Fuller clearly belongs among the elite at the cornerback position after posting 7 interceptions in 2018 and then 73 solo tackles in 2019. With Prince Amukamara moving on, the Bears will likely turn to their top draft pick as his replacement. Jaylon Johnson is a very experienced cornerback who has good size and comes in with a shutdown reputation, but expect him to be tested right away. At safety, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix will be replaced by Tashaun Gipson, who the Texans released after an injury-plagued season. He's only on a 1-year deal so likely not a long-term solution but he has been a proven playmaker for much of his career. His presence could allow Eddie Jackson to play closer to the line of scrimmage and get more involved. With 5 touchdowns in his first two years, he's clearly one of the best playmaking safeties in the league, but his low tackle numbers have made it difficult to rely on him as a weekly fantasy starter.

Backup DBs: Buster Skrine is a roster lock and could see nearly as much playing time as the starters in his role as the primary nickel back. Kevin Toliver, Tre Roberson, and Artie Burns will try to hold off the rookie for a starting job but will most likely compete for backup jobs on the roster. As a 5th round pick, Kindle Vindor could also have a path to playing time right away given the lack of experience in this group. At safety, Deon Bush and DeAndre Houston-Carson have both been on the team for four seasons and could finally get a chance to play a significant role.