Cleat Geeks

Bear Down: Previewing the 2016-17 Chicago Bears Season

The NFL regular season is finally here. From now until the Super Bowl, every Sunday will be filled with NFL football. The rookies will be center stage, new faces on every team, and fans not leaving their coach all Sunday is what the NFL is.

bears-sign-akiem-hicks-rosenbloom-20160314The Chicago Bears have brought in a lot of new faces looking to improve on last years 6-10 disappointing season. General Manager Ryan Pace spent last off-season upgrading the roster. Pace landed linebackers Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman. Six foot five Akiem Hicks chose Chicago to be his next playing ground. The Bears brought back Zach Miller, Tracey Porter,  and Mitch Unrein, guys that all played a huge role at their position last season. The offensive line improved with the signing of T Bobbie Massie and C Ted Larsen and newly acquired pro bowler Josh Sitton. A lot of acquisitions last off-season keeps the arrow pointing up for the Chicago Bears going forward.

The Bears moved up in the 2016 NFL draft to get the guy they wanted in OLB Leonard Floyd.  Floyd played all over the defense at Georgia but will look to dominate at the outside linebacker position in the 3-4 defense under defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. Other notable draft picks was second round pick C Cody Whitehair, S Deon Bush, RB Jordan Howard from Indiana, and an aggressive and long arm cornerback from Northern Iowa Deiondre Hall. The Bears put together another outstanding draft class, something that’s really important if you want to compete in the NFC North. That guy in Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers, he’s legit.  And just when you thought the Vikings were done after Teddy Bridgewater torn his ACL, they went out and got QB Sam Bradford, reuniting him with Adrian Peterson whom which the two played together at the University of Oklahoma. And on the other hand,  the Lions will try to gameplan for the first time since 2007 without WR Calvin Johnson Jr but still look to be very competitive.  The NFC North is full of NFL stars and will be very competitive this upcoming season.  So let’s take a look at the Chicago Bears and what the upcoming season holds for John Fox’s team.

Offense

jaycutlerchicagobearsAdam Gase has departed for the Dolphins coaching job and now last year’s QB coach Dowell Loggains has taken over as the offensive coordinator in Chicago.  Since Jay Cutler was traded to the Bears in 2009, he has has had six different coordinators (Ron Turner, Mike Martz, Mike Tice, Marc Trestman, Aaron Kromer, Adam Gase) and now on his seventh with Loggains. It’s not easy learning a new system every year but now Cutler has found one that fits.  The Bears offense will still be the same concepts of RPO(run-pass option) along with a heavy running game and utilizing the deep ball with Kevin White and Alshon Jeffery on the outsides. The Bears have three running backs on the roster, all with certain skill-sets that head coach  John Fox will use in each game.  Jeremy Langford is fast and sees the field really well. He can catch too. Rookie Jordan Howard and Ka’Deem Carey are downhill, physical runners that will get  a chunk of goal line and short yardage touches.  But it all starts with up front and with some recent moves, the offensive line is looking better than it did all preseason.  

The Bears signed pro bowl guard Josh Sitton to a three year deal after being released by Green Bay. Sitton, three time all pro and three time second team all-pro, will play left guard in Chicago and fills a huge hole in the offensive line. Now, Ted Larsen and rookie Cody Whitehair will compete for the starting center job. In the latest Bears depth chart, Larsen is the starting center but it will be a competition all the way until Sunday.joshsitton

The Bears also signed lineman Eric Kush. Kush, former Ram and fan favorite on the HBO show “Hard Knocks,” brings experience and depth to Chicago. He is currently the backup to Kyle Long at right guard. The predicted starting O-line from left tackle to right tackle is Charles Leno, Sitton, Larsen, Long, Massie.  Obviously a better looking group with Sitton in there, and having a promising rookie in Whitehair and a veteran in Kush waiting to go in is a great situation for the Bears.

Overall, this offense has high hopes for this season. Jay Cutler has one of the best years of his career last season under Gase’s offense and even though he is gone, the system is still in place. As it is every year, injuries will determine how good this unit can get. Jeffrey dealt with soft tissue issues all of last season and Kevin White missed the entire year. It’s huge for them to stay healthy not only for themselves but for the team’s success. The offensive line too could fall apart at any minute, but the depth acquired by the front office should be ready to go at any minute.

 

Prediction for unit: Top 10 in PTS/G

                                    Top 15 in Rushing yards/G

                                    Top 15 in Passing yards/G

                                     Top 10 in Yards/G

 

Defense

jonathanbullardFirst and foremost, the Bears have the best inside linebackers they have had since Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan bring a lot to the table. Physical and come downhill with a purpose. even though fans did not see a lot of them in the preseason,  these two are going to be something special. Both come with experience and being dominant players on their former teams.  Freeman was second on the Colts in tackles last season and Trevathan was apart of a Super Bowl winning defense. Pace did a great job in landing two studs to improve the Bears run defense, a category in which they were in the bottom of the league last year (4.5 yrds a carry in 2015, 26th in the NFL). And, the Bears signed Akiem Hicks, who is 6 foot 5, 324lb.  Big dude. Him, Mitch Unrein, Eddie Goldman will look to be dominate on the defensive line. Unrein earned himself another season with the Bears after last years performance and Eddie Goldman continues to get better every season. These guys must lead this group because like my high school coach liked to say, “it all starts in the trenches.” And you can’t forget about rookie Jonathan Bullard. Fast off the ball and will definitely be used on third and long situations a lot this season.

leonardfloydbearsMoving along to the linebackers. I’ve already addressed Freeman and Trevathan and the dominance they will have the season. But looking to the outside, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young will be the stand-up outside linebackers in the 3-4 scheme. Young, who signed an extension in training camp, underplayed his contract and is a backbone of this defense. Lamarr Houston finished off last season strong and is set to start opposite of Young. But don’t forget first round pick Leonard Floyd, who is going to play a huge role this season. That is what first round picks are expected to do. While his run defense is not where it needs to be yet, his quickness and aggressiveness off the edge is why the Bears drafted him.  Get to the QB. On long yardage situations, Floyd will be on the field over Houston a majority of the time. He’s a beast, now it’s time to play like one.

Looking at the secondary, the Bears re-signed Tracy Porter after “rejuvenating” his career last year in Chicago. While he only had one interception, he has twelve passes defended which tied a career high for the 30 year old. Opposite him is Virginia Tech alum Kyle Fuller.  Fuller is entering his third season with the Bears and has a lot to prove. He appeared in every game last season and had 47 tackles but only two interceptions. It’s huge for the unit for these guys to boost their takeaways for the Bears were 28th in the league last year in that category. The Bears offense is ready to go. Got to get the defense off the field in order to have success.

Lastly, Adrian Amos and Harold Jones Quarty look to help the corners in the takeaway category this season. Both Amos and Jones Quarty are entering their second season in the league. The Bears are very young and inexperienced at the safety position outside of Chris Prosinski. While Amos and Jones Quarty are not terrible players, veteran QBs like Aaron Rodgers and  Eli Manning are going to pick apart the Bears secondary.  The secondary is easily the weakest position for the Bears.  Inexperience is going to hurt you with deep ball threats like Jordy Nelson, Odell Beckham Jr., and Desean Jackson.  Those guys  are studs. And if Fuller’s knee acts up again and Porter gets hurt, rookie Deiondre Hall and Bryce Callahan are next in line. These are not guys you want in when you are trying to win games.  Hall had a great camp and a great preseason, but if he had to go up against say Beckham Jr, forget about it.

 

Predictions for unit: Top 20 in takeaways- Bears will struggle with takeaways again this year but freeman and trevathan will knock some loose.

                                      Top 10 run defense

                                      Top 15 sacks

 

Bears 2016-2017 Record: 8-8chicagologocenter

I do not see this team making the playoffs. Yes the defense is upgraded and Jeffery and White are going to be a great one, two punch but when you lose a guy like Matt Forte, your offense is going to see a decline. Langford is a great replacement and showed that last season but Forte ranked atop the league in all purpose yards. The gameplan is a lot different now. There is going to be an adjustment period  and it will take some time but the Bears fill figure it out.

The front  seven on defense is going to look really well but the secondary bothers me. While I do not think any of these guys do not deserve the starting role, having two guys at safety who have only had one year of experience each in the NFL, that is gold for opposing offences.  The run defense will be better and that will carry the load, but when the ball goes in the air, watch out. I expect a lot of zone to start the season.

The Bears will make it out at .500, there is no doubt in my mind. I think this is a great prediction for a team that went 6-10 last season. While guys departed, many new faces came in ready to roll.  I just do not see this team being even a wild card team just yet.  They need more depth in the secondary with the NFL being a passing league nowadays. The front seven is going to be entertaining, Kevin White finally on the field is exciting stuff, but the chemistry and cohesiveness is not there yet for the Bears to make the playoffs this season.

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