As school begins and summer turns to fall, football season is upon us. Football and Chicago sports fans have their eyes set on the Bears, as their regular season opener is on Sun., Sep. 9 against the Packers. John Fox is out, and new head coach Matt Nagy will be leading the Bears. Nagy is hoping to help jump start the Bears rebuild, as John Fox went 14-34 in his three years with Chicago.
Bears second-year signal caller Mitchell Trubisky will be leading the offense, and hoping to make strides in his second season in the NFL. He will be joined by the returning running back tandem of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. Howard is an underrated star for the Bears, having eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in each of his first two seasons. Cohen is expected to see a higher usage with Nagy as the head coach, as he runs a more high tempo offense compatible to Cohen’s playstyle.
The Bears brought in a few new pass catchers to help with Trubisky’s development and improve on the league’s worst passing offense. Wide receivers Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel were free agent signings, and the Bears traded up in the second round to draft Memphis receiver Anthony Miller. Robinson had a Pro Bowl season back in 2015, and is coming off of an ACL tear he suffered in the first week of the 2017 season. Aside from that, he is expected to be ready to go for week one. The Bears added depth to the receivers with another free agent signing of tight end Trey Burton from the Eagles. Burton caught five touchdown passes last season, and is expected to be more successful as the top tight end in the Bears system.
Although the Bears fired their head coach and their offensive coordinator (the Bears hired Marc Helfrich), they retained defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. The defense helped keep the Bears in games, ranking tenth in yards per game and ninth in points allowed per game in 2017. The defensive line returns Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, and Jonathan Bullard. Hicks and Goldman started every game they played and Bullard playing in all 16.
The Bears spent their first round draft pick this year on linebacker Roquan Smith from the University of Georgia. Smith helped lead Georgia to the National Championship, was Defensive Player of the Year in the SEC, and won the Dick Butkus award, which is given to College Football’s best linebacker. Rounding out the defense, the Bears return a solid secondary that ranked seventh in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game. Safeties Adrian Amos and Eddie Jackson have provided great quality for the Bears being fifth and fourth round picks respectively.
While the Bears look to be improved and better suited to win games this season, it will be a struggle for them to get out of last place. The NFC North will be a very crowded division this year, with the Vikings and Packers being legitimate Super Bowl contenders and the Lions having a strong shot at the playoffs. Getting to .500 would be a very productive year for the Bears. Although expectations are not a playoff spot this year, Bears fans should be excited for this year and the years to come because this core looks like it will make for something special in Chicago.
Prediction – 9-7 finish (1-5 in division)