Season In Review – Chicago Bears

By Lee Wakefield (@wakefield90)

Today’s “Season in Review” focuses on the Chicago Bears. The team a double doink away from a deep playoff run last year, expectations where high in the windy city. Could Trubisky take another step forward or were the team going to succumb to the high price paid for Khalil Mack?


Entering the Season


Coming off a 12-4 season and and NFC North divisional crown, things were looking rosy for the Bears coming into the NFL’s 100th season.

The question was, could the Bears defense, led by Khalil Mack, reach the dizzying heights that they did in 2018 without Vic Fangio running the show as defensive coordinator. Chuck Pagano was hired to oversee the unit, which on the face of it, wasn’t a revolutionary hire but also could be seen as a safe pair of hands.

On the other side of the ball, questions loomed around quarterback, Mitchell Trubisky and whether he could take the leap in Matt Nagy’s offense in year two. Bears fans needed to start feeling like they were winning games because of Trubisky, not in spite of him.

The Bears didn’t do much business in terms of incomings and outgoings during the offseason.

The team swapped safeties with the Packers – switching Adrian Amos for HaHA Clinton-Dix – Elsewhere in the defensive backfield, slot corner Bryce Callaghan was deemed too expensive to resign and went to Denver, and GM Ryan Pace brought in Buster Skrine in his stead. Speaking on backfields, the offensive backfield also underwent some renovations, with Jordan Howard traded to the Eagles for a 6th round pick and in came Mike Davis from Seattle and David Montgomery with Chicago’s third round pick on the 2019 draft.

Image result for david montgomery
Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports

That brings us nicely on to the draft and for the Bears, it was a pretty quiet affair.

Due to the monster trade for Khalil Mack, Montgomery was the Bears first selection of the draft and certainly the headline of their haul.

Pace said before the draft that the team didn’t have “pressing, huge needs” and could “select the best players”.

In that case, I guess he thought the Bears were primed for another divisional title and playoff run…


During the Season


Let me tell you, it did not go down like that.

Opening night, the NFL was full of celebrations, the Bears and the Packers squared off, a meeting of two of the oldest rivals in sport… Time for an offensive masterpiece between two QB’s at the top of their games… Right?

The Packers actually ran out 10-3 winners in what was a defensive battle, where neither team could get the running game going and to be honest, neither team could keep their QB on his feet.

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After that came a season of streaks for the Bears, both good and bad. Three wins over the Broncos, Redskins and Vikings meant that the Bears travelled to London to kick off the international series in a healthy 3-1 position. One aspect of the team that wasn’t healthy, however, was the QB. Mitchell Trubisky had suffered a shoulder injury in the win against Minnesota – Although to be honest, he was struggling to ignite the offense before then anway, having thrown only 3 TD’s (all of which came against Washington) to 2 picks and only managing 5.6 yards per attempt.

Anyway, on to The Khalil Mack Bowl at the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium – a stadium tasting its first NFL action.

Image result for bears vs raiders london
Tim Ireland/AP

The Raiders jumped out to a 17-0 halftime lead on the back of rookie running back, Josh Jacobs. The Bears answered back with 3 unanswered scores to make things very interesting indeed but eventually succumbed to another Jacobs touchdown that handed Chicago its first loss since week 1.

Mitchell Trubisky returned in week 7 but the victories did not. Three more losses followed after the bye and the Bears, sat at 3-5 at this point, were at the stage where it really was put up or shut up.

The defense, as the year before, wasn’t the issue – They were holding up their end of the bargain, the offense on the other hand were not.

A win against Detroit and a loss against the Rams didn’t do much to aid the cause, in effect it was just two more weeks that ticked by but the situation remained the same. 4-6, surely there was no hope?

However, 3 wins followed and hope was alive, the Packers were out in front by now but the Vikings were catchable – Plus, amazingly, it was still in the Bear’s hands as they had to play both Green Bay and Minnesota in the final three weeks of the season – 3 wins were needed but this was a tough ask because the meat in the sandwich of these divisional games was Kansas City.

Unfortunately for Bears fans, it wasn’t to be – the only win that was had was on the final day against Minnesota.

Too little, too late. 8-8 and a bit of a damp squib, really.


Offseason Outlook


Do the Chicago Bears need a new quarterback?

Yes, Chase Daniel is out of contract.

Wait… What did you think I meant?

Of course I wasn’t suggesting that the Bears admit defeat on Trubisky – The traded up to get him with the second overall pick. He’s only 3 years into his career too.

Or was I?

Image result for mitchell trubisky
Isaiah J. Downing

In all seriousness, the Bears need to get someone in to put pressure on Trubisky, at least. Year 4 really is make or break for Trubisky’s long term NFL career, in my opinion – If he doesn’t perform to a high level in 2020, the Bears probably won’t pick up his 5th year option and he’ll be done in the Windy City – In the event that happens, the Bears will want a replacement to be in the building already.

In my most recent mock draft for the Full 10 Yards, I gave them a QB in round 2, you can see whom that was here.

That leads me on to the Bears capital both draft and financial… It ain’t good. Not a position you want to be in when you’ve just gone 8-8 and need a jump start in a very tough division.

Chicago probably needs to do some roster surgery, currently sitting with a smidge over $5m in cap, which ranks 28th in the NFL (according to Overthecap.com).

HaHa Clinton-Dix, Danny Trevethan, Nick Kwiatkoski and Aaron Lynch are all veteran contributors who are set to hit the open market – I can see these guys having to find new homes this spring, along with the aforementioned Chase Daniel. This will free up around $17m and give the Bears some flexibility.

This would mean that the shopping list will have the following positions; QB, linebacker, pass rush depth and tight end.

Yes, let’s talk about tight end for a second… The Bears got absolutely no production from the position last year and since overpaying for Trey Burton because he threw a Superbowl TD, two years ago. Burton caught 14 balls for 84 yards in 8 games in 2019 and in 2018, he amassed 569 yards (ranked 13th amongst tight ends) on 54 catches, 6 of which were touchdowns.

That isn’t a lot of bang for their buck at an average of $8m per year! $18m of his 4 year, $32m deal is guaranteed – the highest guaranteed money for tight ends in the league, as things stand.

That is not great, boys and girls.

The next problem for the Bears is that when it comes to the draft and acquiring the young talent to fill these gaps is that they simply do not possess the requisite capital which gives them a good chance of doing so – Ryan Pace needs to hit a few home runs in April. 

Still paying back the Raiders for the Mack trade the Bears have two seconds, two fourths, a fifth, a sixth and a seventh round pick. That is hard.

So to sum up the offseason outlook for Chicago is, well, I wouldn’t say it’s bleak but man, they have some work to do.

Pace has to do some off-field surgery and keep his roster decent via clever drafting and free agent moves without premium capital with which to deal. Nagy also has to get Mitchell Trubisky and this offense firing – What he was hired to do – And turn the Bears into a force in a very, very, tough division.

Good luck.

Full10Lookahead – Week 1

In a new weekly feature, here are our 10 top things we are most looking forward to this week in the NFL.

-Zeke and destroy-

IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images

Ezekiel Elliot, the newly $90m, 6 year contracted running back.

Will his offseason away from the team in Cabo turn in to rustiness and on field lack of rhythm and chemistry with Dak? Probably not, especially seeing as though Tanner Lee was flown out to Cabo for Zeke to get the requisite reps. That being said, it’s been far from ideal for the Dallas Cowboys with contract stories literally in every position group in their team. Dak and Amari Cooper will probably be dealt with next offseason now judging by the other contracts that were settled over the past few weeks but now it’s time for America’s Team to get on the field and put away the Giants.

If they can put all of it behind them, there is Super Bowl calibre team here. Regardless of how well they do this season, surely all eyes are on how Zeke slots back in to the operation of this offence.


-How Charged up is the LA running game-

IMAGE CREDIT: Associated Press

L.A. Chargers GM Tom Telesco has stuck a marker in the Californian sand with a refusal to negotiate RB Melvin Gordon’s contact until the season is complete. A bold move, but you don’t want such a big distraction as you start a season with QB Philip Rivers in the twilight of his Hall of Fame worthy career.

With Gordon still disgruntled and not reporting this means the powder-blue ball pounders will be Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson. Ekeler has proved to be a quality plug and play, but the real excitement lies with Jackson and his burst.

The Chargers are a balanced team that are pretty safe locks for a playoff spot, and if Ekeler and Jackson can find early rhythm then they will be saying “Melvin who?” by January.


-Chiefs grabbing Shady-

IMAGE CREDIT: James Wooldridge

K.C. head coach Andy Reid helped LeSean McCoy to become a superstar in Philadelphia, and now the two are reunited. Grabbing McCoy, who was unceremoniously cut by the Buffalo Bills, is a move that will be making Chiefs fans scratch their heads.

For fantasy fans they will be doing more that scratching, they will be pulling clumps of hair out. RB Damien Williams proved he can manage the spotlight and is a quality ball-catcher. Darwin Thompson has shown too that he can pound the rock, but now you add in a veteran back who is on the downward spiral.

Reid will reignite McCoy’s career as will being in the same huddle as Patrick Mahomes. So tough to project his immediate impact, but stay tuned Week 1.


-I’ll take a Big Mack-

IMAGE CREDIT: USATSI

Khalil Mack was on his way to making Aaron Donald sweat for the Defensive Player of the Year, was it not for a small injury that slowed him down a tad.

Mack was the biggest news of the start of the 2018 season, and twelve months later he has a year of better appreciating his surroundings in Chicago. The Bears defense is the best unit in the NFL, and with tackling machine Roquan Smith by his side Mack is going to be gunning for 20 sacks in 2019.

I can see the Bears v Eagles in the NFC Championship, and pray to the spirit of George Halas that Mack’s outstanding play is not crippled by another double-doink. 


-Pats Old Guard try to repeat the trick-

IMAGE CREDIT: Jim Davis

New England will start the defence of their Super Bowl crown with the visit from the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night, and will do so with the oldest roster in the NFL when young players have seemingly never been so valuable.

In todays salary cap age, the ability to keep cost controlled draft picks is seen as a vital way to remain competitive. However, the Patriots have seemed to eschew that school of thought recently. Arguably the only impactful players playing on their rookie deals are running back Sony Michel and guard Joe Thuney, although they will no doubt hope that this years class headlined by messrs Harry and Winovich and one of last years first rounders, tackle Isaiah Wynn, will make an impact following a rookie season curtailed by an Achilles injury sustained in camp.

It seems Bill Belichick is forever zigging while the rest of the league zags, the rest of the league looks to get quicker, stronger and more athletic he is relying on know-how and experience to take them back to the Super Bowl. Even today, surrounded by the electrifying technicolour highlights of Mahomes, Barkley etc few would bet against them doing just that.


-Kliff, Kyler and the air raid offence-

IMAGE CREDIT: Mark J Rebilas

In Glendale on Sunday evening the Arizona Cardinals will try to take their franchises first baby steps back to viability as a contender when they welcome the similarly rebuilding Detroit Lions to the University of Phoenix Stadium.

Attention will certainly be focused on how rookie HC Kliff Kingsbury and no. 1 pick Kyler Murray perform in the first test of the pass-happy, hyperactive Air Raid offence. While its fair to say elements of the scheme have been a staple for many teams over the past few years, the Cards have made it clear they will ride or die with their youngsters for better or worse this year.

With a fresh receiving core including Christian Kirk and rookies Andy Isabella and Keesean Johnson, complemented by old reliable Larry Fitzgerald and star running back David Johnson, hopes are high in the desert that the road back to competitiveness starts here. And if not, it will certainly be fun to watch!


-Rams try to avoid Super Bowl hangover-

IMAGE CREDIT: Rich Pedroncelli (AP)

Sean McVay will try to pilot his teams path back to the Super Bowl beginning with a cross country trip to Charlotte to face Ron Rivera’s Carolina Panthers. While last years offence was, for large parts of the season unstoppable, they seemed to run out of steam as the season reached its most crucial phase.

Over the season the Rams were the second highest scoring offence in football, only behind the remarkable Chiefs led by MVP Patrick Mahomes, however over the last month of the regular season their PPG decreased by over 10 points capped off by the 3 point performance on the biggest stage at Super Bowl LIII.Young receiver Cooper Kupp went down with an season ending injury and when star running back Todd Gurley was hampered by a knee injury by the latter stages of the season, the Rams overall effectiveness on offence seemed to go with him. 

Has the rest of the NFL caught up to Sean McVay’s scheme or will the Rams be back lighting up the scoreboard this year? Any team boasting the talents of reigning DPOY Aaron Donald, Andrew Whitworth, Aqib Talib, Eric Weddle, Jared Goff, Robert Woods etc plus the hopefully back to full health Gurley and Kupp should be challenging in the very competitive NFC.


-OBJ = Odell’s Browns Jersey-

IMAGE CREDIT: AP Photo/Ron Schwane

It really wasn’t a dream…..OBJ will be wearing orange and brown to kick of the 2019 NFL campaign.

The sensational trade that shook the NFL back in March has been the standout moment in a summer full of positive vibes out of North Eastern Ohio and at last we get to see the on field product on Sunday. OBJ has been wrapped in cotton wool throughout the offseason, practising sparingly and not seeing any preseason action so all eyes will be on how quickly he establishes a connection with Baker Mayfield.

The Browns host the Titans looking to win a season opener for the first time since 2004, here’s hoping!


-Ring that Bell!-

IMAGE CREDIT: Associated Press

So Le’Veon Bell didn’t win any additional money from his contract holdout, but did he win by preserving his body?

The running back will see the field for the first time in over 18 months when the Jets open up against the Bills on Sunday in New York. Bell has always had a patient running style but would have been afforded superior line play during his time with the Steelers. Will he be able to transition this style to his new surroundings or will we see him bouncing to the outside more regularly?

Despite plenty of optimism of growth in the second season of Sam Darnold, the Jets may only go as far as Bell can carry them.


-Time for a new Colt hero?-

IMAGE CREDIT: John Minchillo/AP

Jacoby Brissett, what an opportunity you have in front of you.

You may argue he had this chance in 2017 when as the full time starter for the year he led the Colts to a 4-12 record, but don’t underestimate how much better this overall Colts team is now. He will have arguably the best O-line in football in front of him with Quenton Nelson leading the group in his 2nd year. He has a nice array of options in the passing game to throw to and a committee approach at running back should see the Colts very competitive.

Once considered a potential heir to Tom Brady, I’m looking forward to seeing Brissett grasp his chance this time around.