2018 Season Recap: Chicago Bears
Division: NFC North
Record: 12-4 (5-1 Division), 1st place NFC North
Playoffs: 3rd seed NFC; lost in Wild Card round to Philadelphia Eagles
General Season Review
2017 NFL draft grades:
SB Nation C
Washington Post D+
Bleacher Report D
CBS Sports D
Sporting News D
Michael Lombardi: "No I'm not buying Mitchell Trubisky. You couldn’t get me to buy Mitchell Trubisky if you had him on a discount rack at Filene’s Basement."
2018 record: 12-4, 1st place NFC North. Mitch Trubisky: Pro Bowler.
...Huh? How? After a 5-11 season in 2017 (recounted in depth here), Ryan Pace and the Bears had another busy offseason in 2018 (summarized here). Coach of the Year Matt Nagy led a retooled offense to respectability, while Vic Fangio's already-stalwart defense added a future Hall of Famer and soared to the top of nearly every statistical category. Paired with a passable special teams unit, the team rolled through an unexpectedly-easy 2018 schedule to secure the 3rd seed in the NFC, hosting Chicago's first playoff game since 2010. Unfortunately, a lack of playoff experience was apparent for most of the players, and their season ended Wild Card Weekend.
Even so, it was an incredible season to be a Bears fan. The vast majority of season predictions kept the Bears under .500, and even the most optimistic predictions gave the Bears 10 wins. The defense made spectacular plays, the offense actually scored multiple times per game (a wet dream under John Fox), and there were plenty of post-win locker room celebrations. To the Chicago fanbase, this team made football fun again.
New Player Additions: Draft
Rare speed combined with uncanny instincts got him drafted in the top ten, and despite a lengthy preseason holdout, he led the Bears in tackles - and it's clear he's still getting better.
Drafted at just 20 years old, Daniels moved from C to G upon joining the Bears, and eventually took over the starting LG spot, where he did an excellent job handling every defender that came his way.
Oozing confidence, the 5'11" Miller started camp by destroying an All-Pro corner - and during the season, he showcased the same talent, although he's still learning the playbook and finding his role.
"Iggy" spent most of the year as backup ILB, but saw plenty of time in every phase of special teams - punt protection, kickoff coverage, and blocking for returns.
Nichols joined the rotation at DE across from Akiem Hicks, and rang up some big plays from the start, getting penetration against both run and pass protection.
An athletic OLB who fell due to injury concerns, Fitts ended up buried on the depth chart and saw most of his snaps on special teams as something of a role player with upside.
Big, athletic, and raw, Wims saw only a few snaps over the course of the year - but the critical 3rd down conversions he produced in Week 17 showcased the level of trust Trubisky and the coaching staff have in his abilities.
New Player Additions: Free Agency
Here's a side-by-side comparison of the Bears' gains and losses in 2018 free agency:
|WR Allen Robinson||OLB Willie Young|
|WR Taylor Gabriel||OLB Pernell McPhee|
|TE Trey Burton||LG Josh Sitton|
|K Cody Parkey||K Mike Nugent|
|QB Chase Daniel||QB Mike Glennon|
A route-running technician, he was the most-hyped addition to the offense and made a definite difference over the course of the season as a sure-handed, big-body WR that Trubisky trusted to win contested catches.
Hero of "Philly Special" fame, Burton came to complement the rest of the TEs in a primarily receiving role - one that saw plenty of targets as he evolved into Trubisky's safety blanket.
"Turbo" was brought in as a complement to Robinson - shorter and speedier - and led the team in receiving yards over the course of the season.
He came in with a 86.4% rate on field goals, including just one miss from 50+, but sank his accuracy rating nearly 10 full percentage points during his season in Chicago, thanks in no small part to a well-documented love affair with the goalposts.
New Player Additions: Preseason Trade
- Khalil Mack, OLB: During the preseason, the only glaring flaw in the roster was at OLB; Ryan Pace decided to fix that in big fashion, bringing in an All-Pro, DPOTY, future Hall of Famer to fill the void - and fill it he did, churning out impact plays week in and week out.
Other new free agents:
- Chase Daniel, QB
- Tyler Bray, QB
- Aaron Lynch, OLB
- Earl Watford, OL
|Stat||Value||Average||League Rank||2017 Rank|
|Total Passing Yds||3564||222.8||21st||32nd|
|Total Rushing Yds||1938||121.1||11th||16th|
|Stat||Value||Avg/game||League Rank||2017 Rank|
|1st Downs Allowed||278||17.4||1st||10th|
|Pass Yds Allowed||3515||219.7||7th||7th|
|Rush Yds Allowed||1280||80.0||1st||11th|
In Depth: Stats
Let's focus on the defensive statistics first. This is the tale of a team whose defense was 11th-best by DVOA.... of any team in the past 30 years. They were not just good, they were great, singlehandedly putting games away multiple times over the course of the season (Lions, Rams, Vikings (twice)...) and they were unquestionably the heart and soul of this entire team. They were good last year, but you had to argue the case that they were a top-10 unit; they looked a little better than the stats showed, and the stats put them around the top third of the league. This year was different - you hardly have to make an argument that they were the best defense in the league. Ravens fans will argue that the best defense is the one that allows the fewest yards, which frankly is total bullshit because the game isn't decided by who goes the furthest, it's decided by who scores the most. In addition, yards are a contextual stat; you can have a cruddy defense and still allow few yards if you also have a cruddy offense or cruddy special teams. With points, it doesn't matter how well other units do - you're measured against what the defense did when they were on the field, and that's it. By that metric (and by lots of others, as we'll see) the Bears were #1 in the league. Here's a post u/phrodo913 put together after Week 12 detailing all the stats the Bears' D is top 5 in - it's a lot! - and they continued to dominate; this list was compiled before the destruction of the Rams on SNF, for example.
Turnovers are inherently luck-based: the Bears were 29th in interceptions last year, with 8 for the season (and 8 the year before that, too) but led the league this year with 27. Meanwhile, the Bears were first in recovered fumbles last year, with 14; they had just 9 this year, ranking them 14th. However, it must be said that all things are not equal compared to last year - Fuller played much better, Amukamara played more aggressively, and everyone chipped in with interceptions: 11 defenders had at least one INT, and six had two or more. "The entire defense chips in" was the theme all year - 8 players forced fumbles; fifteen players got at least 1.0 sack; eighteen Bears had at least one QB hit. Yes, this defense has its superstar all-pros, but it also has a formidable array of tier-2 playmakers, spread across every level. There was no real weakness for this Bears team - they were strong against the run and pass, at all three levels, on both sides of the field, in base or sub packages. This was one of the more complete defenses you'll see in the NFL, and it was paired with a great schematic talent in Vic Fangio.
Offensively, it's tough to live up to that kind of dominance, especially in the first year of a brand new system. They did well, however, in blowing past the awful numbers put up by the 2017 Bears - but it's not hard to just get out of last place in passing, for example. Just from watching plays, without even looking at stats, you could tell that Nagy's offense was leaps and bounds better (and more recent) than the Fox/Loggains museum of the past couple years. There were multiple formations! Tarik Cohen was on the field! There was motion! Combination route concepts! And we haven't even mentioned trick plays and gimmick formations yet... Statistically, you would honestly be hard-pressed to call this a "good offense," but as I've alluded to, it may as well have been the Greatest Show on Turf to Bears fans.
The offense managed to rank 9th in points while simultaneously ranking 21st in total yards and 16th in first downs. Nagy has the defense to thank for that, in part for scoring on its own (a safety and several defensive touchdowns add to that 'points fielded' total), but mainly for shorter, more manageable fields created by all the turnovers the defense forced. On its own, the offense was hot and cold on a game by game basis; especially early in the season, it was clear that once the plays scripted during weekly gameplan development were over, there was a big step down in terms of familiarity with the offense. As the season progressed, though, familiarity clearly improved - with the exception of some of the younger players (Trubisky and Miller, especially).
Many weeks, the offense seemed primarily predicated on the success of the passing attack, especially since Howard could never really seem to get it going. The stats don't really seem to bear that out, until you take into consideration the contribution of a mobile QB; Trubisky had several games that boosted the rushing totals, even though most of those yards came on designed pass plays. So if the offense was predicated on the success of the passing attack, and the passing yardage ended 21st on the year, how did the Bears win 12 games? Luckily, it's a team game, and the defense (and the accompanying short fields) did a lot to help the offense out. In future years, there is certainly room for growth in the offense, especially with deep throws and other explosive plays. As this blog entry elaborates, that was an area of need this year; the offense did decently with short-to-intermediate gainers, but true explosive plays were really lacking in the offensive gameplan. Pairing that with an improvement in the running game - whether through schematic, player-based, or blocking improvements - will definitely boost the numbers for 2019.
Special teams, just in general terms, were lacking pretty much across the board, with the exception of punt coverage. The Bears managed just 19.1 yards per kick return, while allowing an average of 24.9; meanwhile, field goal percentage was a dreadful 76%, as opponents knocked in 96.2% of their tries - all but one. It looks to be primarily a question of talent at the KR and K positions, as the duo of Cunningham and Mizzell were uninspiring, but Cohen managed a good return whenever he was back there. With Cordarrelle Patterson deep to recieve, hopefully there will be significant improvements on kickoffs; Pace only knows what will happen at kicker, but given recent track record, there isn't much to be optimistic for.
Weekly Game Recaps
2018 Week 1 | Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers
The Bears were up 20-0 with 9 minutes left in the 3rd quarter, in their hated rivals' home stadium, to open the season in primetime on national TV. Khalil Mack was playing lights-out, rookie Roquan Smith got a sack in his first NFL snap, and even the offense was decent. Then they hemhorraged over 200 passing yards in the 4th quarter alone, put up just 3 more points, and ended up hand-polishing Aaron Rodgers' Hall of Fame bust.
Coming into Nagy's first actual game with the offense, the fanbase had no idea what to expect. Clearly, the preseason is a poor indicator of what the end result will be, but Nagy's unit started strong out of the gate with creative calls (how about splitting the LT out as a wideout?) and decent drives ending in points. In the second half, though, the wheels fell off - Trubisky was less accurate, the calls seemed to be less creative, and there were delay of game penalties and questionable timeouts. Whether it was a philosophy change for Nagy - more conservative with a lead - or more zone from the Packers, the Bears definitely ran into trouble once the scripted plays were deep in the rearview mirror. Over the course of the game, it was tough to see how good any of the offseason's new additions were, as none of Gabriel, Robinson, Miller, or Burton truly stood out. Although the first couple drives were definitely encouraging, it was plain to see that Nagy is still getting a feel for calling plays, and the offense wasn't 100% comfortable with executing all the calls.
Defensively, it was a true coming-out party: Khalil Mack got pressure on the first play of the game, and went on to become the first player since 1982 to have a sack, forced fumble, fumble recovery, interception, and a touchdown in one half. Even though he had a much quieter second half, he had done enough to already be spoken of as the latest in the great line of Chicago Hall of Fame linebackers. In fact, he did so well that "Jon Gruden" was trending on Twitter, despite not having a game for another 24 hours. And he wasn't the only standout - Akiem Hicks and the rest of the defense absolutely feasted during the first half. Roquan Smith got his first 8 NFL snaps in the game, and piled up a sack, a tackle, and 2 assists on those reps. Unfortunately, the defense as a whole had a much poorer performance in the second half. Mack nearly disappeared, Fuller dropped a game-clinching INT and gave up a 30+ yard TD in single coverage, and Kwiatkoski struggled to cover crossing routes. To be fair, they were on the field a lot, as the offense couldn't sustain drives, but even so - giving up over 200 passing yards in one quarter isn't something you generaly attribute to an elite defense.
As for special teams, they looked good in all phases. Parkey's kickoffs were strong, his field goals and extra points were straight down the middle, and O'Donnell's punts were strong - although the blocks nearly got home on a couple occasions. Cohen had a good punt return, and 8 touches for 41 yards on offense, but nobody could really get anything going in kick return duty. That's been pretty much the theme league-wide with the updated kickoff rules, though, rather than individual failings.
Honestly, it's difficult to think of a more brutal, heart-wrenching way to start the season than this game. To watch Aaron Rodgers do something like that, AGAIN, to your team after starting out so well is a different kind of pain than Bears fans were used to - but that's not to say the pain was any more tolerable. The loss raised a lot of questions - sure, the defense seemed better for most of the game, and the offense was better, but if we still lost, how different could things possibly be? For a season where the hope was to start out on the right foot with a great showing, even if it was a close loss, this definitely had the ominous feeling that it could turn into negative momentum and kill a season's hopes before it could even get off the ground. Nagy worked hard to prevent that, telling the team to use the pain and despair to fuel them throughout the rest of the season. He (and players) referred back to that feeling several times over the course of the season, and clearly drew on the Week 1 experience to help them grow and come together as a team, trusting in Nagy's process.
2018 Week 2 | Seattle Seahawks at Chicago Bears
The defense took over the game for the first time, and a more-comfortable Mitch Trubisky threw for multiple TDs for the first time as a pro. He also threw two ugly picks, showing he still has a ways to go to become more consistent. However, although the defense again allowed a long drive in the fourth quarter, they also came away with an INT and three forced fumbles. For the first time, Club Dub opened in the locker room after the game.
After the nationally-televised meltdown Week 1, this team needed a win badly in order to keep the season from completely going off the rails. Against a Seattle defense that had faced a lot of turnover, the offense was able to move a little more. It was clear that the team was once again much more comfortable during the first plays that are generally scripted during the week before; both opening drives ended in TDs, but otherwise the offense had made it into the end zone on just one of 18 other drives over the two games. Howard got a decent number of carries, as well as a couple targets in the passing game, and at this point in the season it seemed like he may be the focal point of the offense, despite having a low average YPC. Meanwhile, Trubisky was growing - and still going through the growing pains; he threw a good TD to Miller, then flipped a shovel pass to Burton for another, but also had two head-scratching INTs on back-to-back 2nd quarter drives that threatened to give the Seahawks momentum. It was clear that he still has a lot of improvement to go before he can be a reliable franchise QB.
Defensively.... Khalil Mack was once again a revelation on defense, with another strip, a sack, and 5 tackles. Roquan Smith got his first start, playing 89% of snaps on defense, and ended the day with 7 solo tackles and a PBU. It was uncanny how often he ended up around the football. Meanwhile, Trevathan put forth an incredible effort, ending the night with 2 sacks, 8 tackles, and a forced fumble - good enough to get him NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors! But the excellence wasn't just limited to the linebacking corps - as a whole, the secondary had been playing noticeably more aggressively, clearly trusting each other to have their backs if the risk they were taking didn't pay off. This resulted in Prince Amukamara's first INT of the season - just his second in his past 42 games. For the first time this season, the defense as a whole really took over the game, and made life miserable for the opposing offense. It was the very beginning of what would end up as the best defense in the NFL by the end of the year; this was the first game where they more or less vindicated their Week 1 collapse and established that they would be a force to be reckoned with over the course of the season.
Special teams was on track all night: they got pressure on a punt, forcing a punt to go just 10 yards. They downed a booming O'Donnell punt inside the 1 yard line. They fielded an onside kick attempt (kind of.... rookie batted it out of bounds). Parkey knocked his kicks straight through all night, and crushed kickoffs through the endzone on a regular basis. The only blemis was a bit of a lack of return yardage (outside of another Cohen 35-yarder).
Overall, this was a game that the Bears fanbase had hoped would end in a win, especially since the Seahawks didn't seem to be very good at this point in the year. Nagy was fired up postgame, and that pretty accurately described how the fanbase felt, too. Maybe this year would be different. Maybe Nagy was onto something, and it wouldn't be the double-digit loss seasons that fans had grown accustomed to. Maybe the defense could be something special, and the offense could be decent. Oh, and this was the week that Brian Urlacher was honored during halftime at Soldier Field for getting into the Hall of Fame, but ESPN aired some shitty music video and commercials instead. Thanks fellas.
Luckily, there was Club Dub!
2018 Week 3 | Chicago Bears at Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals, after crossing midfield just once the week before (and being crowned Deadspin's Ass Team of the Week), faced a Bears team coming off a statement win in primetime. By the end of the first quarter, it was 14-0... Cardinals winning?! After that, the Bears defense forced this sequence of Cardinals drives: punt, punt, punt, INT, INT, fumble, INT, end of game.
The game started with a 4-play, 75-yard touchdown drive from the Cardinals, including two plays of over 30 yards. The Bears responded well, stringing together a 12-play drive, but it bogged down after 47 yards and Parkey missed a field goal. Two quick Cardinals drives later (the Bears' intervening drive was a fumble), the first quarter was over and another blown coverage had put the Cardinals up by a 14-0 margin. Under John Fox, this was a green light to go ahead and roll over, because the players and the fans both knew that's just how the game was going to go - surprise upset by an inferior team. That's just how it went. But this time was different - the defense stepped up after that touchdown pass: the next three Cardinals drives, all in the second quarter, went for a total of -5 yards and ended in three punts. Impressive, but halftime game and the Bears were still down 14-3, having committed another turnover before the half. The defense knew that they needed to take it to another level entirely, and they did; not only did they not allow any points the second half, they didn't even allow punts - taking the ball away 4 times on 4 drives, and ending the game with a statement sack as Rosen tried a Hail Mary. It was pure defensive dominance.
On offense, there wasn't much in the way of explosiveness or big plays, but eventually they got the job done - helped out in no small part by a couple of somewhat arguable Cardinals penalties that kept drives alive. They only managed one touchdown, unable to find the endzone even from the 2 yard line at one point. Trubisky threw for just 220 yards, no TDs, a fumble, and one INT that was less than inspiring, especially as his deep ball was erratic - although he was decent on shorter completions. Luckily, Howard and Cohen contributed 114 rushing yards and the defense held the Cardinals in check. This game made two things clearer than ever before: that defense was going to be the hallmark of this team, and that the offense was still very much a work in progress.
Special teams were once again fairly strong, with the exception of a missed field goal from Parkey. He hit on field goals of 20, 41, and 43 yards, with a miss from 46. O'Donnell boomed 3 punts for 158 yards, allowing just one return - and that was only 7 yards. Really a pretty reliable day from this crew - the main issues were with the offense being unable to put drives together, and the defense giving up big plays early.
The second Club Dub of the young season followed the game.
2018 Week 4 | Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Chicago Bears
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Trubisky decided to add one sleeve to his gameday getup, and Bucs DC Mike Smith was wildly unprepared for that development. Trubisky launched 6 TDs, and Akiem Hicks launched his pads into the stands after getting ejected. Luckily, that was after the defense had already compiled most of their 4 sacks, 7 QB hits, 6 TFLs, 3 INTs, 6 passes defended, and 1 forced fumble.
Week 4 brought a battle of 2-1 teams with competing strengths: the Buccaneers were in full FitzMagic mode, while the Bears' defense had just taken over the game two weeks in a row. On the other side of the ball, the Bears' offense was clearly still trying to figure out how to put it all together, while the Bucs' defense had allowed 91 points through its first three games. It seemed a pretty even matchup, although there were definite concerns for the Bears' liability to give up big plays - Cobb game-winner Week 1, two big plays Week 3, and now DeSean Jackson coming to town.
The offense rung up 6 touchdowns in just 35 minutes of game time, becoming just the second NFL QB to throw 5 TDs to 5 different recievers in a single half, joini-- you know what, never mind who he joined because it doesn't matter and I don't wanna relive that memory. Anyway! Trubisky and the offense as a whole simply looked unstoppable, hanging 48 points on the hapless Buccaneers. It had been nearly five years since the Bears had managed to put 40 points on anyone, and given how the offense had looked so far this season, it wasn't expected to happen anytime soon, either. This week, though, everything went right: the offensive line blocked well, the running backs looked decent, and the passing game was out of this world. Here's Trubisky's 6 TDs, in order:
- 39 yards to Trey Burton
- 14 yards to Allen Robinson in the back corner
- 9 yards over the middle to Tarik Cohen
- 20 yards to a wide-open Josh Bellamy
- Quick toss to Taylor Gabriel - note that there were TWO Bears QBs in the backfield for that play.
- Rub route to Gabriel
His passing chart looked much different from the inside-15-yards distributor we had seen thus far, as he launched deeper shots - and connected on them - than he had, well, pretty much ever. The Bears, as a result, averaged 10 yards per play on first and second down. He hit on the exact same throw he had missed just the week before, a first down to Taylor Gabriel. And why? Well, matt Nagy had this to say: "When everybody was gone after practice, Mitch stayed after practice and threw about 50 to 60 deep balls into a stationary net about 50 yards downfield. Him and Dave Ragone, our quarterbacks coach, they were dropping back … Dave was giving him some pressure in the pocket. Mitch would slide his feet and just throw. There was a span there where he hit 10 out of 12 into the net. Just like Michael Jordan shooting threes. [GM] Ryan Pace and I were standing back there watching him doing it and we just looked at each other. We said, This kid’s in a zone. He’s out there after a three-hour practice." Oh, and here's some stuff Tarik Cohen did this week.
The offense's sudden success naturally overshadowed the defense this week, although the defense was (once again) spectacular. If I told you the Bears put up 48 points and played against an offense averaging over 30 points and 473 yards a game, you would think it was a shootout. Nothing could be further from the truth, as the Bears' defense limited the Bucs to 10 points and 311 yards, forcing 5 punts and three interceptions along the way. Fitzpatrick was benched for Winston, meaning that the Bears' defense faced their 7th quarterback in just 4 games. Khalil Mack had a sack and a forced fumble for the fourth consecutive game, good enough to make him the NFC's Defensive Player of the Month for September. But he wasn't the only difference-maker - young DEs combined for a sack; Aaron Lynch, Danny Trevathan, and Eddie Jackson got interceptions; Akiem Hicks chipped in with a sack of his own; and Leonard Floyd and Danny Trevathan had athletic plays to break up passes.
Overall, this was definitely an encouraging game to have right before the bye week. If the offense looked this good now, imagine what they will be able to do with another week to focus on preparation and getting more plays installed! Imagine how good the defense will be with a week's rest! Matt Nagy definitely seemed to be settling into his HC role, with more varied and creative plays called this game, as well as fewer questionable timeouts and a distinct discipline practiced by the whole team - very few penalties thus far, especially in comparison to the opponents.
Here's the Club Dub celebration!
2018 Week 6 | Chicago Bears at Miami Dolphins
It was a wild, back-and-forth game that featured plenty of big plays, two Kyle Fuller picks, TWO fumbles at the one yard line, not to mention a missed field goal. With the heat index over 100, Bears RT Bobby Massie lost 12 pounds, and the gassed Bears couldn't keep up by the end.
This one definitely stings. To go up against a Dolphins team starting Brock Osweiler and lose? Who would do that? Oh right, the Bears are now 0-3 all time against Osweiler. Still, though - this was one that the Bears seemed like they could win for the entirety of the game, and kept fighting back, making big plays when it counted - but also making big mistakes when it counted. In the "big plays" column: Fuller's 2 INTs both swung the momentum towards the Bears, Akiem Hicks' forced fumble at the 1 yard line saved the game in overtime, and Howard ran hard and well late. On the other hand... Howard fumbled at the 1 yard line as well, Cody Parkey missed an admittedly-long field goal in what used to be his home stadium, Trubisky threw an interception in the end zone, and the defense allowed 73 YAC on a 2-yard pass to force overtime.
Offensively, it was great to see big plays being converted, deep throws being caught, and aggression from the coaching staff. Gabriel had another great game, as did Cohen, and Miller was able to get his second NFL TD. Howard's runs late, where he seems to be at his most reliable, was a welcome sight to see, as he didn't seem to have a large role in the offense to this point. After the Parkey miss, there were questions about why Nagy hadn't decided to keep riding Howard (he had consecutive runs of 19 and 15 yards), instead electing to run Cohen and Cunningham a couple more times before attempting the field goal. Those questions aside, it was a good showing for the offense, distributing the ball to playmakers (4 players had TDs) and piling up yards (164 rushing, 316 passing).
Defensively, it was more of an up-and-down affair. For all the blown-up screens and Kyle Fuller INTs, there were more than a couple Albert Wilson burners that were misplayed. Khalil Mack was neutralized by Laremy Tunsil, and was missed. In the 4th quarter, as has become a pattern, the defense seemed to go into more of a soft zone that gives up underneath throws, rather than remaining the aggressive base defense that plays the rest of the game. It's worrying, especially against players like Albert Wilson, that have a chance to burn the defense every time they touch the ball - even on underneath routes. That being said, the defense still deserves credit - especially for this overtime, game-saving effort to force a fumble on the 1-yard line.
For special teams, not much to report other than the fact that Cody Parkey, who had played for the Dolphins just last year, was asked to make one field goal - the game winner, in overtime - and missed. We then watched his Dolphins successor crush a 47-yarder to win. Not a great look.
2018 Week 7 | New England Patriots at Chicago Bears
New England Patriots
Bears had 453 yards of offense, forced 3 turnovers, had more time of possession, a 100+ yard receiver, and another 300+ yard game by Trubisky. Of course, they also allowed a blocked punt return TD and a kickoff return TD.... and proceeded to lose on this gem of a play.
Going into this season, if there was one game you had down as a loss this year, this was it. Everything else, you could argue could be close this way or that, but the Patriots are a different story - and 5-11 teams do not beat the Patriots. This held true, but not for the reasons anyone expected - instead, fans (and players) were left with a haunting series of "what if" plays that would have changed the game. As it ended, though, it was the biggest margin of defeat the Bears would take all year.
Offensively, the Bears did plenty - piling up 453 yards, 38 points, and distributing the ball to 7 targets in the passing game, but the run game was still lacking. Jordan Howard managed just 39 yards on his 12 runs - 3.25 yards per carry - and the lion's share of the rushing yardage was piled up by Trubisky on a handfulof extremely elusive scrambles - just like Bill Belichick feared. On his touchdown run, Trubisky ran 72 yards to get a gain of 8: here's an animation of his path on the play. Trubisky looked pretty good the whole game, and although his day ended with 2 INTs, he flashed the ability to fit the ball into tight windows, even if the passes weren't always reeled in. It's the consistency that needs work, not the accuracy itself.
On defense, the Bears continued to hold opponents touchdown-free on the ground for the year, as a TD by James White would be credited as a reception, bringing the Bears' streak to 6 games - a huge point of pride for the defense. Otherwise, they did relatively well holding the Pats' playmakers in check downfield, mostly getting gashed by the elusive running backs catching balls out of the backfield - James White finished the day with 19 touches for 97 yards. However, they forced two consecutive drives to end in fumbles, and kept the game alive in the 4th quarter by intercepting Brady. Khalil Mack was quiet again, with just 1 tackle despite playing 84% of snaps; it was this week that he first popped up on the injury report with an ankle injury.
Special teams is where the difference was in this game. When your unit allows a kickoff return touchdown as well as a blocked punt return touchdown, and can't generate any big plays in response, it's not a good thing. Yes, for the blocked punt, it was just a case of two guys' legs getting tangled up and tripping, but one way or another, that can't happen - not against the Patriots. It's not quite fair to say this unit lost the game for the entire team, but they certainly did more than their fair share.
The fans took this loss pretty poorly - especially given how good the team had looked so far this year, and for the majority of the past two games, too - and two consecutive losses was not a good look. Luckily, the Jets and Bills were the next two teams on the schedule, and although each had given decent NFCN teams a sizeable upset earlier in the season (Jets vs Lions, Bills vs Vikings), it was reasonable to expect those games to go more in the Bears' favor.
2018 Week 8 | New York Jets at Chicago Bears
New York Jets
This game was blisteringly dull from start to finish, with no turnovers forced, 2 plays longer than 25 yards, and 3 sacks for 7 total yards. It took until 8:47 left in the 3rd quarter for either team to run a play in the red zone. Here's really the only highlight: Tarik Cohen taking a late-release screen 70 yards to the house.
Maybe that assessment is a little disingenuous, as the offense did have some decent performances - Jordan Howard ended the day with 81 yards and a TD, including a 24 yard run. Anthony Miller had a sweet grab and a touchdown of his own. Trey Burton had a slick play, too, getting 18 yards. And of course, Cohen wasn't satisfied with just one highlight play - he also had a squeeze for 21 yards. Overall, though, it was a very forgettable kind of game - the offense bogged down on third down, ending just 3 of 14. Despite his 102.7 quarterback rating, Trubisky left throws out on the field, ending with a dreadful 16/29 completions/attempts ratio. Notably, Allen Robinson sat out this game with a groin injury, so it was good to see that the offense could still move the ball without him. This game also saw Kyle Long injure his ankle, a nasty injury which would put him on IR and keep him out of the lineup until Week 17.
The defense was definitely helpful in keeping the Bears in control all game - they allowed just 207 total yards, keeping the Jets out of the endzone until the game was well out of hand (17-3 with 11 minutes left in the 4th). However, it was a different, quieter kind of defensive effort - there were no turnovers forced (although there were a couple athletic pass deflections in the secondary) and just one sack for three yards. With Khalil Mack also sitting out, other OLBs in rotation got some chances, but missing Mack shouldn't mean the defense generates 0 impact plays; that defense shouldn't have to rely on a corner blitz to get their only sack of the game. However, they managed to force six 3 & outs in nine drives, and limited the Jets to 1.8 yards per carry. DT Bilal Nichols expressed disappointment that the only other Bilal in the NFL - Bilal Powell - wasn't able to play: "I was gonna say a little something to him. I was gonna say man, you got a fantastic name."
This game was the same week as Halloween, and so Matt Nagy introduced a surprise for the team: each player picked their favorite past Bear, and he got them all throwback jerseys of that player. They wore those jerseys as they arrived to the stadium, and Trubisky decided to take it a step further and dress as Da Coach. This would never have flown under John Fox - just another example of how much Nagy has changed the culture of the locker room so quickly.
Oh, and here's the Week 8 Club Dub.
2018 Week 9 | Chicago Bears at Buffalo Bills
The Bears got second-quarter touchdowns from Jordan Howard, Leonard Floyd, Eddie Jackson, and Jordan Howard again to put the game out of reach before halftime, and the Bears rode comfortably to a win over Nathan Peterman and the hapless Bills.
On paper, the offense had a mediocre day, putting up just 190 total yards, but in reality, the Bills' 10 penalties for 163 yards (16.3 yards per penalty!) played a huge part in keeping those numbers down. Phillip Gaines had 90 of those yards in just two deep routes, and was released as a result. Regardless, the offense still could have been better - they lost the time of posession battle by a full 10 minutes, and got only half the number of first downs the Bills did. Trubisky had a particularly egregious interception this week, airmailing a pass directly to TreDavious White on what probably was a miscommunication with the reciever. Tarik Cohen had one of the most ridiculous 7-yard runs ever - but otherwise the rushing attack was once again subpar, with just 64 yards on 25 rushes (2.6 YPC).
Defensively... where to begin? How about with a highlight reel of all the big plays? Maybe with Khalil Mack demolishing a Rice Krispie on the sideline? Or maybe with some Akiem Hicks bedroom eyes? The defense made up for last week's lack of big plays, forcing 4 turnovers and scoring twice. To be fair, a couple of the INTs were flukey even by Nathan Peterman standards, but you have to give credit to the Bears for playing hard enough to force those lucky bounces and being aware enough to take advantage. Trevathan and Smith were flying around, finishing with a dozen tackles each; the defense was again strong up front, despite allowing their first rushing TD of the season; and the secondary was ball-hawking all day.
Special Teams did well this week, and had plenty of opportunity - Parkey was 5/5 on XP and 2/2 on field goals, while O'Donnell had 5 punts for 200 yards, including a long of 61. Oh, and Tarik Cohen had a wild punt return, too.
The only real drawback from the game was the penalties the Bears incurred - 14 for 129 yards, many on the Bills' TD drive, when it almost seemed like the refs were trying to help the Bills score. Other than discipline, the coaching staff did well preparing for the game, calling decent plays, and managing time well.
Here's Club Dub!
2018 Week 10 | Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears
This is where the legend began. Other than that, though, the Bears snapped a 10-game divisional losing streak in dominant fashion, as Trubisky threw for 355 yards, 2TD, and 0INT, and the defense got 14 different players with a sack for the season - for example, Khalil Mack had this one.
Before this game, the Bears were 1-9 in their previous 10 games against the Lions. This week, they used tempo early, preventing defensive substitutions, and rode that to a 26-0 lead before halftime. The offense played turnover-free ball, picking on Nevin Lawson several times, and the rest of the Detroit secondary (playing without Slay) couldn't keep up. Trubisky played well, and was definitely helped out by his supporting cast: rookie WR Anthony Miller averaged 4.72 yards of separation at the catch - an astronomical number, resulting in a 5 rec/122 yard/1 TD statline for him. He wasn't even the most productive on the team, though - Robinson returned (and also victimized Lawson) to the tune of 6 rec for 133 yards and two TDs. The downside: Jordan Howard had a dreadful day on the ground (11 carries/21 yards) and the Bears only managed one more score all game after going up 26-0, while the Lions clawed 22 points back over that time. That being said... Parkey's misses alone could have added 8 points to the final margin, and it would have been much more representative of how the game actually went. Detroit was never really in this game.
Defensively, it was a six sack day, plus three forced fumbles and two interceptions. Mack and Smith were around the ball nonstop, and nickel back Bryce Callahan had a sack, an INT, a QB hit, plus 5 tackles. Amukamara, who had one interception in his previous two and a half seasons, got another one today as well. By this point in the season, Bears fans had come to expect this kind of defensive performance - this was a roster loaded front to back, at every position, with star power and talent. There was nothing to do but capitalize, and they did.
Special teams... I don't think I need to reiterate that Parkey struggled this week. Taquan Mizzell handled kickoff duty for the first time; he muffed one, and nearly fumbled another, while providing virtually no positive value. O'Donnell was good, though - he had an incredible punt that died right on the goal line.
Need more evidence that Nagy completely overhauled the offense? The points scored this week officially surpassed the total points scored in all of 2017, with SEVEN games remaining on the schedule. In addition, the offensive creativity hit another level this week as two defenders (Callahan and Jackson) came in for a goal-line package; we didn't get to see what it was, because it forced a Detroit timeout. Discipline was much better this game, with just 6 penalties for 46 yards.
And of course, there was another Club Dub.
2018 Week 11 | Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears
Kirk Cousins apparently thought that the Bears were "not the reason this game moved to prime time. We are." Meanwhile, over in real life, the Bears led 14-0 until 7 seconds remaining in the 3rd quarter; the Vikings ran one play over the entire final 36 minutes of game time where they had a chance to tie or take the lead. Kirk threw a pick six on that play.
This was the first game where Soldier Field actually became a hostile environment for the opposing team rather than just a place to see a game. With several years of poor football, there had been few moments to cheer for, and fewer opportunities to do so in a night game. The fans honestly had to re-learn how to be loud, when they needed to cheer, and how to make that old Chicago football culture beat again. Luckily, the reccently-fired Blackhawks' Coach Q was on hand to rip some pregame shots with the fans, and the stadium got loud for the first time in a while. This was the first game where it became obvious that Chicago, despite the Bulls, Cubs, Sox, and Hawks, really is a Bears town - and that the Bears are back.
Offensively, Trubisky was aggresive and accurate on intermediate routes, although he had a couple of questionable decisions - he tried to find 5'8" Taylor Gabriel in triple coverage, for instance. The rushing attack was better, piling up 148 yards on 39 (!) carries by 4 players, including a couple of nifty scrambles from collapsing pockets. Tarik Cohen made Harrison Smith look silly, and Taylor Gabriel was credited with a couple of rushing attempts as well. Howard had a better day, but when 18 carries for 63 yards is one of your better outings of the year, that's not a good sign. Whether the culprit is blocking, scheme, or Howard himself, the boom-or-bust nature of many of his runs contributed to the offense only putting up 18 points. It did, however, help in winning the time of possession battle by a full nine minutes.
Defense was where this team really shone. Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks made life hell for Kirk Cousins, as they had the #1 and #3 most disruptions in the league this week - Mack finished with 7 pressures, a sack, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery, and plays like this one don't even show up in that stat line. Meanwhile, Hicks had five tackles for a loss, plus a sack of his own, as the defense allowed 22 total rushing yards, including 1.3 YPC to running backs. With Amos and Jackson getting picks this game, the defense officially had more interceptions in 2018 than in 2017 and 2016 combined.
Overall, it was great to get a statement win over the defending division champs, at home, in primetime. Based on the body language and penalties on Vikings defenders, it was clear they expected this game to be much easier than it turned out to be. Unfortunately, that frustration also resulted in a late hit on a QB scramble that injured Trubisky's shoulder, and he would sit out for the next two weeks. In the playcalling department, Nagy went into his box of tricks for a 2-point try featuring two defensive linemen as receivers, but otherwise the offense looked like there was still room for improvement. It's hard to be mad, though, about the entirety of the game, especially with how the defense performed.
And, of course, Club Dub reopened.
2018 Week 12 | Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions
Despite the quickest turnaround between games in NFL history (just 88 hours, 10 minutes between SNF and the early Thanksgiving slot), Chase Daniel was eager to get his first start since 2014. It was back and forth all game, but Eddie Jackson broke a 16-16 stalemate and the Bears hung on to win their third divisional game in 12 days.
Clearly, Chase Daniel has the confidence of the Bears' coaching staff, because in his first start in four years, the offense had more throws in the first half than in any game so far this season. Part of that was due to the weakness of the rushing attack; the team finished with 38 yards on 15 attempts. Daniel played well enough to win; while he didn't carry the team, he ended the day with a stat line of 27/37 for 230 yards, 2TDs, and 0 interceptions. Oh yeah, and one reception for 8 yards that honestly should have gone for a lot more, since there were more blockers than defenders on his side of the field. Otherwise, it was a mediocre team effort - the energy level just wasn't there, and it was clear that the short turnaround between games affected them.
Defensively, the story was pretty similar - you could tell that it just took more effort to get things done this game, and the quick turnaround was clear. LeGarrette Blount was kryptonite this game, running for 88 yards and 2 TDs on 19 carries, but Stafford was held relatively in check, coming away with 236 yards and 0 TDs against 2 interceptions. It was a game where the defense just seemed due for a big play, and then it happened - another Eddie Jackson pick 6, with a Motown-inspired celebration (that spawned the #BearsDanceToAnything hashtag). Once again, the defensive unit was the difference maker in the game.
Many feared that the battle to watch this game would be Cody Parkey vs. the goal posts, but he actually had a fine game, going 2/2 on extra points and adding a 40-yard field goal. Special teams as a whole didn't contribute any "wow" plays, but didn't really have an off day, either.
As mentioned above, this was the Bears' third divisonal victory in 12 days; they had 3 divisional victories in three years under John Fox. At this point in the season, the Bears' defense was in the top five in a massive number of statistical categories, compiled here. It was at a place where it was no longer "I wonder if the Bears will make an impact, game changing play on defense" and instead "wow, they haven't made an impact, game changing play on defense yet? That's got to be coming soon."
And you just know there was Club Dub after the game.
2018 Week 13 | Chicago Bears at New York Giants
New York Giants
The Bears decided to crank up the difficulty setting right off the bat with a muffed kick return, a run stuffed for negative yardage, and then a pick-six in consecutive plays. The rust from the mini-bye was evident, and it ended up taking an insane 2-minute drill, including an onside kick and
Philly Special "Oompa Loompa", to force overtime - where the Bears promptly fumbled the ball three times in six plays and lost.
So the Bears had a rough first drive, sure, but the second drive was hardly better: it consisted of a short kickoff return, a stuffed run, an illegal shift penalty, a pass breakup, and a screen that went for 1 yard. Nevertheless, they came back and garnered a 14-10 lead going into the half, but a 57-yard Rosas field goal, set up by a stellar Saquon run, really took the momentum away from the Bears going into the locker room. OBJ threw a touchdown and caught another, and the Bears seemed stuck in neutral before the two-minute warning. Howard finally had a strong day, especially in the first half (13 carries, 68 yards) but a New York change in defensive gameplan shut that down in the second half. Near the end of the game, though, Cohen was unstoppable, ending with 187 yards on the day.
Defensively, it was a tale of two halves. In the first half, they forced four 3 & outs (plus one 4 & out) and intercepted Manning, allowing a total of 83 yards on 7 drives. In the second half, they had no answer for Saquon or Beckham, allowing 248 yards on 6 drives, four of which went for points. With just one turnover forced, it was definitely a down day. Oh, and Khalil Mack did this to 6'8", 320-lb Nate Solder. Just another day at the office.
Nagy delved deep into the playbook, drawing up "Freezer Left" for Akiem Hicks to tote the rock for a TD as well as cribbing Philly Special, tweaking it a little, and calling it "Oompa Loompa." Regardless of the outcome of the game, it can't be overstated how different the culture is this year than last. If a John Fox team would have started the game with that sequence of events, you could just turn the TV off because you knew they would lose. And again, when Saquon and Beckham were gashing the Bears' D, you would have known that was it for the team - but with Nagy, it was a gut check game and the Bears made miracles happen to force overtime.
2018 Week 14 | Los Angeles Rams at Chicago Bears
Los Angeles Rams
The LA Rams - the best team in the NFC, averaging 450 yards and 35 points per game - came into Chicago and faced Mitch Trubisky, who threw just 16 completions for 110 yards, one TD, and 3 interceptions. Luckily, this Bears team also has a defense, and backup OL Bradley Sowell had more fantasy points than Todd Gurley, Jared Goff, and Brandin Cooks combined.
The pass attack was pretty bad this game! Trubisky scraped out 110 yards, 1 pass TD and 3 interceptions, and it was every bit as ugly as the statline indicated. The line blocked very well against as good a defensive front as you will see in the NFL - Trubisky was sacked just once, and holes were opened up in the run game, to the tune of 194 rush yards on 35 carries. The Bears were 7 of 16 on third down, which isn't great, but kept the chains moving long enough to give the Bears a whopping 13-minute advantage in time of possession. The biggest highlight of the game was the 3,288-lb formation Nagy put out on the goal line, including an extra offensive lineman and four defensive linemen, building off of the previous week's "Freezer Left" look. Termed "Santa's Sleigh", it was a designed throw to backup OL Bradley Sowell, who scored his first NFL TD. That play meant that the previous five touchdowns scored by the Bears were:
- Pass to backup OL
- Philly Special pass from RB
- Defensive Tackle rushing TD
- Play action TE leak
- Eddie Jackson pick 6
Pretty sure none of those things happened under John Fox.
Defensively, Fangio challenged his players to hold the Rams to 17 points. They did that and more:
- The Rams had 2 drives go more than 19 yards, in 13 attempts
- McVay's teams had never scored less than 8 points in a half; this night, they had halves of 6 and 0 points
- This was the first game without scoring a TD of McVay's head coaching career
- Goff had 3 INT over his previous 7 games; he had 4 that night
- Gurley ran for just 11 yards in the first half, his lowest of any half this season
- Rams point totals in games this season: 33, 34, 35, 38, 33, 23, 39, 29, 35, 36, 54, 30, 6.
- Nathan Peterman had a better passer rating against the Bears than Jared Goff
- This was Goff's lowest single-game passer rating of his career, notching a 19.1
- The Bears had the highest single-game DVOA of any team in any game to that point all season, with -83.8%
The defense won the game pretty much singlehandedly for this team: 4 INTs, a safety, 3 sacks, four more QB hits, eleven pass breakups, three TFLs... plus blanket coverage and great run-stuffing play all night long. Even by the second quarter, it was obvious that the Rams weren't in control in the game, and by the 4th quarter it was obvious that the Rams just flat out didn't want to be there.
Special teams was excellent (with the exception of one missed field goal). Punt and kick coverage was excellent all night, especially the gunners; Bush downed a punt inside the 5, and Bellamy had a stellar open-field tackle on a punt return. Ben Braunecker took an intentional false start on the punt team in order to drain an additional 25 seconds off the clock in the 4th quarter. The only negative was that an attempted quick-swap from punt team to offense failed when an official got absolutely lit up.
Nagy chose to give Howard one last carry to get him over 100 yards for the game rather than take a knee the first time - a gesture that shows how he cares about what the players care about. He was also asked after the game why he uses defenders on offense. His response: "I like it." Simple as that.
Oh, and Club Dub! Of course.
2018 Week 15 | Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears
Green Bay Packers
Sure, the game was tied 14-14 at one point, and yeah, the Bears have been 3-17 in the last 20 against the Packers. Even so, the game never felt like it was in doubt - in large part because of the defense, and the Bears came out NFC North Champions.
The Bears' first offensive play was a false start, by the usually-stalwart LT Charles Leno, Jr. Turned out he had more on his mind than usual - he proposed to his girlfriend at midfield after the game, and that was only one of a list of accomplishments this game meant. Most other veterans were in the same boat, like Jordan Howard, who clinched his first winning season since high school. Mitch turned in a 20/28 for 235 yards , 2 TD and 0 INT statline, good for a passer rating of 120.4; he extended his tendency of never throwing interceptions against the Packers. Cohen did Cohen things, Howard ran in a TD, and Robinson had a great catch in traffic that turned into a good gain. With that game, Trubisky now has more games with a passer rating over 120 than any other quarterback in franchise history. Yay, I think?
On defense, it was a whole-team effort: Khalil Mack did Khalil Mack things, ending the day with 2.5 sacks (the half was the one he got with his back); Leonard Floyd had a sack of his own; and Eddie Jackson ended Rodgers' pick-free attempt streak at 402 passes, although his cleat got stuck in the turf on his return and he was injured for the rest of the year.
It was a watershed moment for the Bears and their fanbase, beating the Packers, at home, to win the divison. This officially made good on Jordan Howard's offseason promise that they would win the division. Previously, it was hardly something that could be hoped for - the Packers seemed invincible, and the Bears rarely seemed in the same league talent-wise. Clearly, times have begun to change.
Winning the division, it's unthinkable that there wouldn't be a Club Dub after the game.
2018 Week 16 | Chicago Bears at San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers
It was a potential trap game, and for most of the first half, it looked like momentum was slipping away from the Bears. Another gritty, gut-check win for the Bears demonstrated the culture shift Nagy has brought to the team - and that the defense once again pulled out a big play when it was most necessary. The biggest storyline was a late hit on Trubisky, turning into a fight, resulting in three ejections.
The offense was lacking this week - no two ways about it. Especially into the fourth quarter, there were several almost-turnovers that occurred just after the whistle; the Bears got lucky until Robinson coughed it up running after the catch. If he had just gone down after getting the first down, the 49ers had no timeouts remaining and the game would have been over. Howard was running well, but then Nagy called a cute triple option to Cohen that became a turnover. It was a head-scratcher - after last week, where it seemed to be clicking well, to only put up 14 points and struggle against a mediocre team, wasn't a good look. At the same time, it was good to see Trubisky taking the underneath, short throws that the defense was giving him, although it would have been good to see him challenge long a little more.
The 49ers and Bears have played every year since 2014; the 49ers have not scored a touchdown in the series since 2015. The defense had allowed one TD in the past three games. This week, pressure from a 4-man rush forced Mullins to quick throws, which bred inaccuracy - but that had been the theme all year. Six defenders now had two or more picks, and Roquan Smith got his fifth sack of the season. A decent defensive day all around, limiting George Kittle to just one long run, and allowing the offense's 14-point day to be enough to win the game.
Special teams was only notable for Cody Parkey missing a 37-yard field goal; his misses were getting to a point where it was questionable whether he would be around next year. The consensus was that, barring some tragic miss that ended the Bears' playoff hopes, he would be back but may face camp competition. Let's find out how that turns out!
Once again: Club Dub was in session.
2018 Week 17 | Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings
Widely predicted to lose, the Bears came into a playoff atmosphere in Minnesota and won handily; this was the kind of day Minnesota had. The Vikings' drive chart: punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, field goal, touchdown, turnover on downs, turnover on downs, turnover on downs.
The offense was rolling, especially on the ground with the return of Kyle Long; Jordan Howard had another 100-yard game, including two TDs - and had two receptions for 42 yards to boot. With lots of pressure on the Vikings - this was to get into the playoffs - and the game not going well, there were several breakdowns in communication that the offense took full advantage of. Momentum was all Bears, all day. While some pundits had suggested that the Bears should intentionally throw the game in order to play the Vikings in the playoffs the next week, things were going so well for the Bears that it looked like it would be difficult to throw the game if they tried. When you can throw to a backup LB for a 2-point conversion and Kevin White is doing this to your secondary, it's clear momentum isn't going your way. Oh, and against the defense with the most sacks in the league, the Bears OL allowed just one QB hit and no sacks, while opening all those holes for Howard.
Defensively, more of the same. Mack got 0 pressures, 0 tackles, but the defense still had 21 pressures with only 17 clean pockets all day. More than half of dropbacks were pressured, and Cousins took four sacks for 31 yards and one near-safety. He had 132 total yards, and just 80 outside of garbage time.
On special teams, it wasn't the greatest day; Pat O'Donnell was flagged for getting in the way of an official while he was on the sideline, and Parkey blasted another one off the upright.
One end-of-regular season Club Dub!
2018 Wildcard | Philadelphia Eagles at Chicago Bears
Trubisky played like the franchise QB he was intended to be, with 303 yards and no INT, including some excellent third-down throws, but without a running game to lean on, it was tough sledding. Luckily, the Bears could rely on their kicker to nail a field goal to win the game in storybook fashion! Pfft, we all wish.
Honestly, for the majority of the game, the offense looked pretty good - especially through the air. Trubisky and Robinson were on the same wavelength to the tune of 143 yards and a TD. However, neither team could get much of a rushing attack going, with the Bears ending the day with 65 rushing yards from 4 players. Even with the defense the Bears were blessed with, the offense needs to score more than one touchdown in a playoff game to really have a decent chance at winning.
Meanwhile, on defense, they played decently for most of the game, forcing two turnovers; but the moment was too big for them twice on the final drive, as they were penalized for 12 men on the field, and just a few plays later, only fielded 10 men for the go-ahead touchdown. They only managed one sack and four QB hits against Foles, although they managed two interceptions, including one in the end zone. Overall, a decent-but-not-stellar end to the Fangio era in Chicago.
Obviously, it was a down day for Parkey; he shouldn't really get credit for hitting three field goals earlier in the game, as those were from 36, 29, and 34 yards. The game came down to his kick and he missed in unbelievable, meme-worthy fashion. Punting, however, was good; Pat O'Donnell pinned the Eagles at the 1.
From a coaching perspective, it's clear there are steps to make before their next playoff appearance, but given the lack of playoff experience on the roster and in the coaching staff (especially offensively), that was something that shouldn't be a surprise.
- Beating the Packers at home to clinch the division title
- Trading for Khalil Mack one week before the season
- The statement win on Sunday Night Football, beating the Rams in a game that showcased just how nasty the defense was
- Losing Week 1 to the Packers and making Aaron Rodgers' Hall of Fame case for him
- Losing in overtime to the Giants, after doing so much in the final two minutes to come back and force OT
- Do I really need to list the double doink here? Should be obvious by now, honestly
Overall Roster Review
EDGE Khalil Mack, S Eddie Jackson, CB Kyle Fuller, PR Tarik Cohen
Pro Bowl Selections:
DT Akiem Hicks, CB Kyle Fuller, S Eddie Jackson, LT Charles Leno Jr., C Cody Whitehair, PR Tarik Cohen, QB Mitch Trubisky. OLB Khalil Mack was also selected, but did not attend. MLB Brian Urlacher was a Legends captain for the NFC team.
- Defensive Line - Both inside and out, this line is now packed with monsters. Eddie Goldman and Akiem Hicks eat up the interior, while Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd are waiting on the outside.
- Linebackers - Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan are both speedy, sideline-to-sideline playmakers who aren't afraid to dole out heavy hits.
- Secondary - All five members of the secondary had career years, functioning as a cohesive unit that trusted each other enough to jump routes and make big plays.
- Offensive Line - Especially as the year progressed, the line opened up running lanes and kept Trubisky clean, even against some of the most stout defensive lines in the NFL.
- Punt Return - Say hi to All-Pro Tarik Cohen, everybody.
Roster Review: Offense
The 2017 season was rough for Trubisky, although he showed significant development over the course of the year. For 2018, the Bears brought in a QB-centric HC and OC, and retained the QB coach Trubisky had become comfortable with. Although it was apparent in the first few games that Trubisky was still learning the offense and the playbook was still limited, by the end of the year the familiarity was much more apparent, and he looked much more comfortable. His stats, obviously, made a big jump; in just two more games than last year, he ha 104 more attempts, 93 more completions, a 7.2 percentage-point higher completion percentage, 17 more TDs for 2.6 TIMES the touchdown percentage, 0.8 more YPA, 3.4 percentage points lower sack percentage, 7 fewer sacks, 47.4 more yards per game, and increases of +17.9 points and +41.2 in passer rating and QBR, respectively. The crazy part? Nagy said that this offense hasn't even been tailored to Trubisky's strengths yet - that this year's offense was just a vanilla version, and would change over the offseason to better fit his skillset. Expect big things (the Bears' first-ever 4,000 yard passing season???) in 2019.
All that being said, Trubisky absolutely has some parts of his game he needs to work on. His consistency needs to improve, both from play to play and from game to game. He needs to get better at recognizing the defense pre-snap and adjusting to it, and he needs to improve in his reads, getting through to his second and third options before looking to run or throw the ball away. However, his strengths - accuracy on the throw, mobility outside the pocket, and the combination of the two (throwing on the run) are things that can't really be coached, so as he improves on his weaknesses, there isn't likely going to be much regression in other areas. As is the case with most rookie QBs on contending teams, this squad is only going about as far as Trubisky can take them.
2018 Stats: 14 games, 289/434 (66.6%), 3223 yards (7.4 YPA), 24 TD/12 INT, 68 rush for 421 yds (6.2 YPC) and 3 TD.
- 33 yards to Robinson
- Rushing TD, 2yds
- Laser to Gabriel
- Spin to escape, then touch throw to Cohen
- Trubisky shows off his jukes on a scramble
- Drops it in between defenders for 39-yard gain
- Launches deep for 39-yd TD (6-TD day part 1)
- Touch pass over defender for 28 yards
- 26-yd scramble, almost into end zone
- Long strike to Cohen for 35 yards
- Back corner throw so only Robinson gets it
- Designed run for 23 yards
- Highlights from 363-yard game Week 6
- Several elusive scrambles from Week 7
- Accurate pass to Miller
- Pinpoint to Miller for 6
- Finds Gabriel deep for big gain
- Best throws of Week 10
- Lofts a TD to Miller
- Eludes the sack
- Breaks free of sack to convert
- Escapes rush, completes pass for 1st down
- Evades pressure, 23-yard completion
- Great throw for TD
- Scrambles, then hits Mizzell for 26 yards
- Best 4th-quarter throws from Wild Card game
Daniel was brought into Chicago over the offseason due to his familiarity with Nagy's offense. Having started just 2 games in his 7-year NFL career, he is comfortable with the backup QB job and the responsibilities it brings, and doesn't agitate to become the starter. Instead, he spent the offseason helping Trubisky and the rest of the offense become familiar with the verbiage, concepts, and terminology of Nagy's offense, and showcased a decent ability to execute it during the preseason. He doesn't have Mitch's physical tools - either arm strength or speed - but has good accuracy, especially on underneath routes. He was called into action for two games in the heat of the playoff chase, winning one and taking the other to overtime. A backup that's good enough to win half of his games as starter is a rare commodity in the NFL, and his undercover autograph-getting skills are just a bonus.
2018 stats: 5 games (2 starts), 53/76 (69.7%), 515 yards (6.8 YPA), 3 TD/2 INT, 13 rush for 3 yds (0.2 YPC). 1 target, 1 rec, 8 yds. 4 fumbles.
Bray was brought over from Kansas City to help round out the quarterbacks room, especially to help teach Trubisky the new offense. He spent some time on the roster, but most of the season on the practice squad. Trubisky credited him and Chase several times over the course of the season with helping him to be prepared and learn the playbook. Now that Trubisky has a better handle on the verbiage and minutiae of Nagy's offense, Bray's role going forward is in doubt.
2018 stats: 0 games.
Welcome to the most controversial part of the entire post, in which I attempt to discuss Howard and his 2018 season! Having crossed the 1,000 rushing yard mark in each of his first two seasons, 2019 was his least productive season as a pro. His variance was pretty high this year; he had as many games under 2.5 YPC as he did over 4.75 - five of each. He ended the season with 3.74 YPC, his lowest mark as a pro. Why? Was it a scheme thing, as Nagy was implementing a power gap scheme and Howard excels in a zone scheme? Was it an OL thing, as he managed just 1.0 yard before contact on average? Was it because the Bears spent more time with the lead? Maybe it was a product of all these things, some of which are certainly fixable. Regardless of why he underperformed or if he will have a better season in 2019, his strengths are his toughness, power, instincts, and vision, as well as patience; this is why he excels in a zone blocking run scheme. His weaknesses are his top-end speed, which has never been enough to pull away from defenders at the second level, as well as a lack of lateral agility - he's not a guy that is shifty in space and will make guys miss. Because of these weaknesses, he isn't seen as a very good fit for the type of offense Nagy likes to run, which incorporates the RB as a weapon in the pass game. While Howard's catch percentage has improved and he is able to turn receptions upfield for yardage, his lack of lateral agility limits the number of routes he can effectively run, and allows a defense to cover him adequately with a linebacker. Nagy is most likely looking for someone who is more of a mismatch in that department, and as a result, Howard may not be in a Bears uniform come Week 1. However, if Nagy can continue to adapt his offense to incorportate more zone blocking to incorporate a pure runner like Howard, he may rebound and put on another good year.
2018 stats: 16 games, 15 starts; 250 att for 935 yards (3.7 YPA), 9 TDs. 20 rec on 26 targets for 125 yards.
This kid is special, and I'm not just talking about his big hands. He is the only player I have ever watched that has made me want to buy Madden just so I can play as him. He does things on a weekly basis that don't seem possible. He has it all - good vision, stunning speed, elite elusiveness and agility, boundless energy, sure hands, and the football IQ to line up anywhere, run any route, and find soft spots in zone. Despite being just 5'6", he never shies away from contact, and takes on pass blocking with vigor. His biggest weakness remains his mentality to try and hit a home run every play; that backfired a couple notable times this year, including a near-safety. The other concern with him would be his durability, based solely on his size and the number of hits he takes, but he hasn't so much as shown up on the injury report in two years in the NFL. An All-Pro honor at punt returner doesn't accurately portray his role on the team, as he returns punts, lines up at WR and RB, blocks, and even throws the occasional pass. This is a versatile kid that is going to make a ton of money once his rookie deal is up.
2018 stats: 16 games, 7 starts; 99 att for 444 yards (4.5 YPA), 3 TDs. 71 rec on 91 targets, 725 yards, 5 TD, long of 70. 12.5 yards per punt return on 33 returns. 1/1 passing for 1 yard, 1 TD.
- 35-yd punt return
- Takes a handoff 21 yards
- Full-game highlights from 170+ yard day Week 4
- Slips through defense for 50 yards
- 21-yard speedy TD run - untouched
- Diving for pylon for TD
- 70-yd TD on a screen
- Slips through for 21
- Finds a hole for 3-yard TD run
- Cohen roasts Lawson for a TD
- Best plays from Week 13
- Breaks loose for 32 yards
- 12-yard airborne touchdown and other Week 15 plays
- Snaps ankles on a run
- Slips through a hole for a TD
- Hangs on in traffic for 19 yards
Cunningham's role was reduced this year, as he didn't seem to showcase the elusiveness or power he has in years past. Nagy seems to prefer using Cohen or Mizell to catch out of the backfield, and Howard is a better option for rushing plays, so Cunningham spent most of his time on special teams this year. As a free agent, it would be a surprise to see him return for another season with the Bears; his roster spot would likely be used on a UDFA or practice squad standout instead.
2018 stats: 15 games, 11 att for 20 yards (1.8 YPA). 2 targets, 1 rec, 9 yards.
"Smoke" is a back that can do it all - run between the tackles or outside, run routes, catch the ball reliably, and stay in to pass protect. The caveat is that he doesn't really do much of it at a high level - he doesn't have great speed or burst, and his routes can be cumbersome. Nevertheless, he had a role in the offense starting in Week 8, but didn't make a huge impact all year. The dominant school of thought is that he represents a type of back Nagy wants to incorporate into the offense, but doesn't actually have on the roster yet: a multidimensional threat that can challenge defenses anywhere on the field. Mizzell is a multidimensional player, but I don't know that he's that much of a threat.
2018 stats: 9 games, 1 start; 9 rush for 16 yards (1.8 YPC). 8 rec on 10 targets for 78 yards and 1 TD.
Michael Burton has been a solid lead blocker for the past couple years, playing a role that has benefitted from John Fox's offensive philosophy. When Nagy came to Chicago, it was difficult to envision the use he would have for a fullback, and as a result Burton's snap counts were low through the first half of the season. Towards the end of the year, though, Nagy upped his usage a little bit, although it was far from having him in on every play. He's a free agent this year, and as Nagy is most likely looking for someone a little more versatile than Burton - more of a threat in the passing game, for example - it's difficult to see a scenario in which he returns to the Bears for 2019.
2018 stats: 8 games, 1 start; 1 rec on 1 target for 6 yards.
Coming off of a torn ACL, Robinson was a free agent with big question marks coming into Chicago this offseason, but due to his potential (a 1400 yard season, for example) he was also the biggest free agent coup for Pace. His strengths are his crisp, technical route running, as well as his ability to win contested catches with a large catch radius and sure hands. He certainly fits the mold of a standard #1 receiver, and that's the role that Nagy has pegged for him - one that Trubisky definitely considered his safety net, a go-to option during critical situations. This resulted in a 143-yard, 2 TD performance during the Wild Card game, and despite a season that didn't have the most impressive stat line, the hope is that his role continues to grow as the offensive system matures. His leadership in the locker room is remarkable, as well: he's consistently described as "a pro's pro" and is one of the leaders by example for the younger guys in the room. Oh, and did I mention - he's still only 25, with tons of time ahead of him.
2018 stats: 13 games, 12 starts; 55 rec on 94 targets, 754 yards, 4 TD. 1 rush for 9 yards.
- First catch as a Bear
- Crisp release and clean route for 39-yard gain
- Concentration through defender for TD
- Over the shoulder grab
- Holds on for the TD
- Every catch from 133-yard game vs Detroit
- Wins the contested grab with Slay all over him
- Backpedaling grab for 29 yards
- 4th down contested catch to convert
- Uses defender's helmet to help catch
- Shakes off defender, goes for 30 yards
- Diving 43-yard catch
- Every catch from 143-yard Wild Card game
"Turbo" Taylor Gabriel is, obviously, instrumental in stretching the defense vertically for this offense. He played more of a role than "just run go routes," though - his route tree is well-developed, and he's unafraid to go across the middle and take on defenders in that domain. He was also used as a threat in space on screen plays, although especially early in the year, it was not a productive concept to call. That improved as the season went on, and hopefully as the blocking scheme continues to mesh with the route concepts, his yardage after the catch will continue to improve.
2018 stats: 16 games, 11 starts; 67 rec on 93 targets, 688 yards, 2 TDs. 9 rush for 61 yards.
The Bears felt that Miller was special enough to merit trading their 2019 second-round pick in order to pick him up in the 2018 draft, and he did not disappoint. He came into camp and immediately looked special, leaving both Fuller and Amukamara sprawled on the ground in 1v1 drills. That continued into the regular season, as he showcased crisp, shifty route running paired with sure hands and a near-elite release. That said, he was a rookie, and it was clear that he's still learning the playbook. In the later part of the season, Nagy and OC Helfrich indicated that they felt like they had overloaded him as far as plays to learn, and that's why production wasn't as high as the physical talents would have suggested. Personality-wise, he oozes confidence and swagger, but isn't afraid to get into it if he has to. The sky is the limit for this kid.
2018 stats: 15 games, 4 starts; 33 rec on 54 targets, 423 yards, 7 TD. 6 rush for 26 yards. 1 completion for 8 yards.
- First career TD
- Gets wide open for TD
- Juke to extend run on screen
- Good route and grab for 21 yards
- Great catch for 23 yards
- Holds on through the defender for a TD
- Juke on 55-yard catch and run
- Sheds a tackle to score a 45-yard TD
- Hangs onto catch depsite big hit
- Diving TD grab
- 8-yard pass from Miller to Daniel
- "Philly Special" TD to tie the game
- Goal line TD
- Stands up for Trubisky after late hit, ejected
- Catch for 23-yard gain
Wims was selected in the 7th round as the second Georgia product to make it to the Bears' roster this offseason. He's a raw talent, despite leading the Bulldogs in receiving yardage; he has all the athletic tools (6'4", 215 lbs, 4.53s 40-yd, 7.00s 3-cone, 33.5" vertical, 113" broad) but doesn't have mastery of the whole route tree. Nevertheless, he was this year's preseason darling at WR, joining such luminaries as Daniel Braverman and Tanner Gentry, but unlike those others, he stuck on the roster for the season and appeared in 4 games. He's still got some development to go, but his season highlight was a pair of clutch third-down grabs to keep a 4th-quarter drive on track for a game-clinching TD.
2018 stats: 4 games; 4 rec on 5 targets for 32 yards.
Here is Kevin White's NFL highlight reel from the first three seasons of his career. He doubled the length of that reel this year, which obviously is not saying much. He's still got all the physical tools, but it's clear that the mental aspect of the game isn't there for him, for one reason or another. Injuries are certainly a potential factor, but even during camp, it was a strange storyline. The WRs coach indicated he's too hard on himself, and lacks the confidence he once had coming out of college. This year, he got most of his snaps before the trade deadline, and promptly disappeared from the lineup after nobody offered anything for him. His reappearance for the final regular season game came only because Robinson sat out, Miller dislocated his shoulder, and Gabriel was shaken up. The best part of his game is now his blocking; he laid several devastating blocks on CBs to lead the way for ballcarriers up the sideline this season. Regardless, it would be a shock to see him in a Bears uniform in 2019.
2018 stats: 9 games, 0 starts; 4 rec on 8 targets, 92 yards. Career-high 0 games on IR.
"Beezo" was the physical embodiment of Club Dub, hands down the player on the team with the most drip. Dancing during practice, jumping in to coordinated celebrations from the sideline, wearing his chains over his pads while dancing postgame.... he was the Bears' hype man. He was also one of the better gunners in the league, downing punts and tackling returners. He contributed on offense, as well, although he was far from the first (or best) option in the passing game; despite his ability to create separation from defenders, he didn't see many targets primarily to his low catch rate. He has moved on from the Bears this offseason, and will continue his career with the Jets.
2018 stats: 16 games, 2 starts; 14 rec on 25 targets for 117 yards and 1 TD. 3 tackles (3 solo).
Burton was brought into Chicago in Free Agency, and filled the void Zach Miller left when he was injured: the receiving tight end role. He was intended to be Trubisky's security blanket across the middle, and made some great catches. He put up career highs in every category - primarily because he was no longer stuck behind Brent Celek and Zach Ertz on the depth chart - but was unquestionably the right move for Pace to make in the offseason. He was the Bears' nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award, due to his work in the community; he also pledged to donate $1000 per catch and $2500 per touchdown for International Justice Mission, an organization working to end slavery. Strangely, his groin "locked up" the day before the playoff game, and he was unable to face his former team in the Wild Card game. As long as his aggressive route running and reliable catching is a fixture of his game, Nagy will certainly have a role for him in this offense.
2018 stats: 16 games, 16 starts. 54 rec on 76 targets for 569 yards, 6 TD and 1 2-point conversion. 1 rush for 2 yards.
- Direct snap for 1st down conversion
- Flip pass TD reception compared with Kelce play from 2017
- Hauls in pass on intermediate route for 25 yards
- 39-yard TD grab while falling down
- Wide open on route combo for 49 yards
- Shovel pass run in for TD
- 11-yard reception for TD
- Slips a tackle for 18 yards
- Rub route TD
- Finds hole in zone for 26 yards
- 13-yard TD
Zach Miller, as you may remember, nearly lost his leg after dislocating his knee in a 2017 game at New Orleans. Over the 2018 offseason, he was re-signed to a 1-year contract and placed directly on IR, designed as a low-cost move to keep a great locker-room guy around the team and allow him to keep using the team doctors and training facilities. He refuses to rule out a return to football, but realistically, for a 34 year old coming off that kind of injury, he is lucky to return to a normal life. Here's an ESPN piece from Week 2 and a Chicago Bears update from Week 8 about one of the most team-first guys you'll ever hear about.
2018 stats: 0 games.
Shaheen has flashed ability as an excellent red-zone target a handful of times so far during his career, but has also been plagued by injury over that same timespan. He opened the year with 10 games on injured reserve with a sprained ankle and foot sustained in the second preseason game. When he returned, he caught a 2-point conversion, but landed on his head and was out the following week with a concussion. If he can shake the injury-prone label and work on running after the catch, he has potential to become something special, but until then he represents little more than a red zone target with inconsistent availability.
2018 stats: 7 games, 5 starts; 8 rec on 10 targets for 61 yards and 1 TD and 1 2-point conversion.
Brought in two years ago as a primarily blocking tight end, he managed to not be particularly good at it last year or this year. Unfortunately, he didn't make up for it with production in the passing game, as there were always better players available. He ended up on IR after a concussion ended his season in Week 8. He has already been released this offseason, and many would argue he was on the roster for a year longer than he had any right to be. He will be remembered for two plays from this year: rolling up on Kyle Long's ankle and sending him to IR, and for a catch on 3rd and 2 that went for 0 yards. Now, all that being said, he was a good locker room guy - he bought throwback starter jackets for the entire team - but that's not enough to justify keeping him on the roster.
2018 stats: 8 games, 4 starts; 2 rec on 4 targets, 9 yards.
Primarily a special-teams player, he saw just 23 snaps on offense this year. He's got some ability both in blocking and receiving, but there's plenty of guys (both in the league and on the team) who can play on special teams and contribute on offense in a pinch. He's a guy that the special teams coach can work with, but shouldn't expect much more of a role than that, especially with Burton and Shaheen in front of him on the depth chart.
2018 stats: 14 games.
"Every team needs a Ben Braunecker!!" - Brian Baldinger, in his #BaldysBreakdowns. He's not necessarily the most athletic TE, and he's never going to be the guy to take over a game on his own, but he's got a role to play and he does well at it. As the third tight end in the offense, he rarely saw the field, but was effective on the targets he managed to recieve, showcasing sure hands and a knack for getting open underneath against linebackers. He's also been good on special teams, both in punt and kickoff duty; his highlight there was an intentional false start against the Rams, which reset the play clock but kept the game clock running, draining an additional 25 seconds of time away from a potential Rams comeback. Not surprising for a kid who went to Harvard. He was recently re-signed to spend two more years with the Bears.
2018 stats: 15 games, 2 starts; 5 rec on 7 targets, 57 yards.
Leno was extended through 2021 a couple of years ago, at an affordable, middle-of-the-pack rate, and has shown that move to be a bargain ever since. He isn't necessarily elite, but he does his job well enough both in pass and run blocking that there is no question he is the answer at that position. Durable, technically sound with good footwork, he's continued to improve each year, and this year made his first Pro Bowl as a result. Not bad for a former 7th-round pick.
2018 stats: 16 games, 16 starts. Pro Bowl.
The first day Khalil Mack showed up at Bears practice this season, he lined up over RT Bobby Massie. Nagy says that after that first snap, Massie turned around to walk back to the huddle and gave Nagy a look with eyes about as big as dinner plates. Yes, Mack really is that good, apparently. Iron sharpens iron, and Massie - who had a reputation for streaky, inconsistent play - put together his best, most consistent season as a pro, holding down the right side of the line all year. He's always been better in run blocking than in pass protection, but this year allowed far fewer sacks and had fewer miscues as well. He was rewarded for his consistent performance with a 5-year, $40M contract extension that includes team options, in case his production drops off. His improved footwork was evident this year, as he looked more nimble rather than his previous, somewhat lumbering, style of powerful play. At this rate, between OL coach Hiestand and holy terror Mack, he'll be an All-Pro in no time.
2018 stats: 16 games, 16 starts.
Young, even for a rookie (he started his NFL season at 20 years old), he's still growing into the player he will eventually become. That's honestly just a bonus, because the player he was this year took the starting job from an established veteran (Eric Kush), and then held the LG spot down extremely well, allowing very little pressure against some of the best defensive lines in the league (Lions twice, Vikings twice, Rams, and Eagles). He is very proficient technically, which is to be expected from Iowa linemen, but also has the physical presence and power to move defenders off their spot in the run game. If this past year was any indication - and how could it not be - he will be a cornerstone of this offensive line for many years to come.
2018 stats: 16 games, 10 starts.
Kyle Long is a fan-favorite, former face of the franchise (until Trubisky took that over), and an outspoken locker room leader - rare for the right guard to be those things. His hallmark in years past was an insane athleticism that allowed him to brute-force defenders out of the way; with the injuries he has fought (he had three surgeries last offseason, and an ankle procedure the offseason before that), he would be the first to tell you that he isn't the same player he once was. Instead, he has had to rely on becoming a technician and working more with his hands and footwork to block. He has done excellently at this task, and remains one of the best interior linemen in the game, when he's healthy. That's the caveat, after all - he has played a full sixteen games just twice in six seasons. Of course, it's not like he's fragile or takes poor care of his body - he's a physical player and certainly has that "enforcer" mentality - but he has just been struck by a series of fluke, unlucky injuries. Another one happened this season, as he was rolled up on by TE Sims, and he went to IR with an ankle injury for 8 weeks. When he returned, however, there was a definite improvement in the quality of the offensive line play, showing that even at the ancient-by-Bears-standards age of 30, he's still got it. A fully healthy 2018 offseason should do wonders for the big fella.
2018 stats: 8 games, 8 starts.
Whitehair seems to always start slow, with sloppy snaps and some missed assignments, before dialing in and anchoring the center of the line at a Pro Bowl level for the remainder of the year. 2018 was no different in that regard, with some concerning snaps through the preseason and occasionally in the early weeks of the regular season that some attributed to a new OL coach. Over the rest of the year, he had an excellent season blocking both in pass protection and in run blocking, even as the guards beside him changed weekly. He has also developed a great friendship with Mitch Trubisky, as over the offseason he came along to Trubisky's youth sports camp in Ohio to help out. He's a solid young player that is a great foundational piece to the offensive line; it's expected that he will likely be extended at some point over the next year.
2018 stats: 16 games, 16 starts.
Kush missed 2017 with a torn ACL, but was expected to serve as the backup guard that year. With the departure of Josh Sitton over the offseason, he was slated as the starting LG for the year, and started the year in that position. He gradually lost playing time as the year went on, as rookie James Daniels was worked into the starting lineup and Kush lost the competition to start. He battled a stinger during the middle part of the season, missing one game due to the neck injury, and never regained his starting role afterward, and was limited to special teams duty for the remainder of the season. He won't return to the Bears, as rumor has it he will sign with the Browns.
2018 stats: 15 games, 7 starts.
Picked up midseason days after he was cut by the Vikings, Witzmann ended up with the starting right guard role for 7 games, holding down the position until Kyle Long returned to the lineup. During his time at that position, he was decidedly inconsistent - he was essentially the feature of this piece on Bears blocking by u/adipost1, but the following week managed to keep Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh off of Trubisky for the whole game. As a result, he will almost certainly be around, at least through camp, as the importance of good OL depth can't be understated. He wouldn't be expected to win a starting role, but would be good to retain on the roster moving forward. He had just one penalty all season, as well.
2018 stats: 10 games, 7 starts.
I wrote in this space last year something to the effect of "Bradley Sowell is a disgrace, and on the football field is a danger to himself and others." I'm here to say that I was proven wrong about him in 2018. Whether it was coaching, development, or just a good old-fashioned rebound in play, he was more than serviceable as a backup offensive lineman, filling in nicely when called upon. Would I give him an extended look as a starter? Probably not, but that's primarily because of the solid, entrenched starting core that the Bears already feature up front. He doesn't just contribute in the offensive line, though - his 6'7", 312-lb frame was lined up at fullback as well, where not many defenders wanted to take on that block. Most notably, he was the primary receiving threat in the 3,288-lb formation Nagy called at the goal line one game; his pre-practice catch sessions with Khalil Mack paid off, and he snagged a touchdown. It will definitely be interesting to watch how Nagy uses him in the season to come.
2018 stats: 16 games, 1 start; 1 rec on 2 targets for 2 yds and 1 TD.
Roster Review: Defense
Akiem Hicks is the closest thing to an actual Bear on the roster. Packed with raw power, he combines it with excellent technique to wreak havoc from the interior defensive line. He is equally good in pass and run situations, racking up TFLs and sacks at an impressive clip for his position. He eats blocks with ease, and is still capable of creating chaos through those blocks. He is a rare playmaker on the interior, and the Bears are lucky to have him - not least because of his excellent wardrobe choices.
2018 stats: 16 games, 16 starts; 55 tackles (41 solo), 7.5 sacks, 16 QB hits, 12 TFL, 3 forced fumbles, 5 passes deflected. 1 rush for 1 yard, 1 TD.
Drafted in the fourth round this past offseason, Nichols burst onto the scene once he cracked the lineup. Hicks took Nichols under his wing, tutoring him on his pass rush moves, and Nichols responded with impact play after impact play. He seems slippery - not a small feat for a 3-4 DE, especially one at 290 lb. He seems well rounded, with good power, decent hand usage, and an ability to both set and convert on stunt plays. Much is expected of him in terms of growth, and it will be very exciting to see whose backfield the young DE will get into in 2019 and the years to come. It's not easy to look at a mid-round lineman and say "this kid was a good find," but Nichols is as good a selection as any you could make at that spot in the draft.
2018 stats: 14 games, 6 starts; 28 tackles (20 solo), 3.0 sacks, 7 QB hits, 5 TFL
Bullard was a 3rd round pick in 2016, showing an elite first step at the college level that hasn't really translated over to the pros. He hasn't developed nearly as well as you would hope a 3rd-round pick would, playing at a replacement level for the past few years. He got about as many snaps as Nichols and Robertson-Harris in the rotation this year, but was absolutely the most forgettable of the three when he was on the field. 2019 will be a make-or-break year for him, entering the last year of his rookie contract; he will really have to take the next step in his game in order to earn another contract.
2018 stats: 16 games, 1 start; 18 tackles (13 solo), 3 TFL, 1 QB hit, 2 passes deflected.
In just his second real year (missed rookie season with an illness), RRH took a huge step forward in this defense. Previously at the back of the rotation for DEs, he featured much more prominently in the lineup this year, and got the stats to show it. He seemed to come up with plays in big moments, and it wasn't uncommon to see the #95 jersey somewhere around the quarterback on any given play. He's been good enough for Pace to tender him this offseason, meaning the exclusive-rights free agent will almost certainly be back to wreak havoc in opposing backfields in 2019.
2018 stats: 16 games; 22 tackles (10 solo), 3.0 sacks, 2 passes deflected, 11 QB hits, 3 TFL.
As a nose tackle, Goldman doesn't get much in the way of flashy plays or great stats, but he is nevertheless a critical linchpin in the defense - especially against the run. He has exceptional size and technique, able to regularly anchor or drive back linemen, even against double teams. He is able to blow up normally-consistent gainer plays for a loss or minimal gain, which changes the play selection of the offense on the ensuing down. As he is usually the player coming out when the defense goes to sub packages, he doesn't always get much in the way of pass rush, but his play against the run is consistent, and difficult to find elsewhere. Pace recognized this, signing the big man to a 4-year extension at the beginning of the season. This critical piece of the defense is going to be wrecking OLs for years to come.
2018 stats: 16 games, 16 starts; 40 tackles (27 solo), 3.0 sacks, 3 QB hits, 5 TFL, 1 safety.
This dude is inhuman. He does things I didn't even know were possible for a human being to accomplish, like toss a 320-lb man to the ground with the flick of a wrist. And he does them nonchalantly, just all in a day's work, before turning to jog upfield watching the rest of the play unfold. He is preposterously gifted, incredibly talented, and is absolutely the humblest player on the entire team. He refused multiple interviews this season unless they included other defensive players. His "aw shucks" demeanor is obvious in every postgame press scrum at his locker. He exists to destroy offenses, not to take credit or shine. Literally his only downside this season was that he was unavailable for two games due to an ankle injury, but even that was a good thing because otherwise we wouldn't have this footage.
2018 stats: 14 games, 13 starts; 47 tackles (37 solo), 12.5 sacks, 18 QB hits, 6 forced fumbles, 1 INT, 1 TD, 10 TFL, 4 passes deflected. First team All-Pro.
- Pressure first snap as a Bear
- Kizer strip sack
- Pick 6 Week 1
- Pressure leading to Rodgers sack
- Wilson strip - all Week 2 highlights
- Near-safety sack
- Forced fumble on Bradford
- Bullies through double team to sack Bradford
- Bullies through triple team to pressure & force sack
- Strips Fitzpatrick on passrush
- Tracks play -> discards blocker -> run stuff
- Hits Winston arm, leading to wobbly throw & easy INT
- Obliterates linemen to get to Stafford
- Sack of Cousins
- Forced Dalvin Cook fumble
- Forces throwaway, near sack
- Mack back sack and other Week 15 plays
- In as diversion on 2-pt conversion attempt
Fitts was drafted out of Utah with some injury concerns, but flashed good pass rush ability off the edge during the preseason. That wasn't something he had much chance ot show off during the regular season, though, as he was buried on the depth chart and really only saw decent time in a couple of games this season. He's definitely a developmental prospect, but if he can make some strides, he may be able to make the decision whether or not to re-sign Aaron Lynch a bit harder.
2018 stats: 6 games.
"Flo" was underwhelming, for a first-round pick, for most of his career so far in Chicago. A promising offseason, in which he expanded his repertoire of pass-rush moves and his hand usage, was nullified for the first several weeks of the season after he sustained a fractured hand and had to play with a club cast. This obviously mitigated the effectiveness of his pass rush, and he posted quiet statlines the first few weeks; however, after he got the cast off, suddenly things began to happen. This was in contrast to a lot of things failing to happen over the past few years, so his newfound productivity - while not Khalil Mack levels - was enough to change the narrative from "how on earth can you justify picking up his 5th-year option?" to "how on earth can you justify not picking up his 5th year option?" That's a good change to have over the course of one season, and while his production may not look flashy, another year at the same level of play will garner him modest league-wide recognition. Further improvement could see him in Orlando come next February.
2018 stats: 16 games, 16 starts; 34 tackles (13 solo). 4.0 sacks, 11 QB hits, 9 TFL, 1 fumble recovery, 1 INT, 1 TD, 4 passes defended.
Lynch came into Chicago in free agency with injury and motivational concerns, as he had been overweight in previous seasons with San Francisco. He had his career best season under Fangio during their previous time together, so a 1-year deal so see how things would pan out made sense for 2018. Despite an unpromising start - fighting soft tissue injuries from the beginning - he put together a respectable season for the 3rd OLB in rotation, and managed to stay mostly healthy all year. Unfortunately, Bakhtiari tried to rip his elbow off in a pile Week 14, and he missed two games to end the regular season. He played well enough against both the pass and the run to merit another contract at the right price - one that reflects his position as a rotational player rather than a bona fide starter. The question of Fangio's influence looms large, as well, since Fangio has departed - will Lynch be able to perform as well without him around?
2018 stats: 13 games, 3 starts; 16 tackles (13 solo), 3.0 sacks, 1 INT, 8 QB hits, 1 pass breakup.
Sam Acho is one of those guys that every GM likes to have - NFLPA representative, well spoken, a leader in the locker room, knows his role and works hard at it. He's never had an arsenal of pass-rush moves, but has been solid against the run during his career - but in today's NFL, that makes you a rotational piece rather than a player who garners a lot of snaps. As a result of the Mack and Lynch signings (and the relative durability at the position this year, compared to Floyd, McPhee, and Young in 2017), he managed just 27 defensive snaps in four games before heading to IR with a torn pectoral muscle that would keep him out for the remainder of the year. Due to the depth at the position and emergence of players like Fitts and Irving, he has been released by the Bears and won't return for the 2019 season.
2018 stats: 4 games, 1 tackle (1 solo).
Irving came off the practice squad in 2017 to join the OLB rotation, but ended up on IR later that season. In 2018, he was once again towards the tail end of the OLB rotation, but managed to get about 11% of defensive snaps while also seeing plenty of time on special teams. He turned those snaps into some productivity - not as much as you would ideally like to see, but enough for it to be considered promising growth for the young former UDFA. Going forward, he will certainly benefit from the mentorship of Floyd and Mack, and you would imagine that his snap count will continue to grow in 2019.
2018 stats: 13 games; 8 tackles (7 solo), 1.0 sack, 3 QB hits, 1 TFL.
Trevathan has been the underrated heart of the Bears' defense for the past couple seasons already, and 2018 was no different. He lines the guys up, leading them both in the locker room and on the field. He is a fast, rangy backer with sure tackling skills and a nose for the ball; Robert Schmitz does a great job explaining Trevathan's strengths and abilities in this twitter thread with lots of examples. His contract signed a couple years ago now looks like a bargain for a player of his talents, and he pairs very well with Roquan Smith in the middle of the defense - hopefully for many years to come.
2018 stats: 16 games, 16 starts; 102 tackles (76 solo), 2.0 sacks, 4 QB hits, 2 INT, 6 pass deflections, 1 forced fumble, 8 TFL.
Kwit has been just behind the starters on the depth chart, which is good because his talent has also been just behind that of the starters. He hits hard and fills holes well against the run, but his coverage skills are limited by his speed (or lack thereof). Although he started the year as the starter (due to a strong camp and Roquan Smith's holdout), it was painfully apparent Week 1 that he isn't the solution as a starter for this defense. He struggled covering crossing routes, as can be seen in this tweet from the Trevathan thread above; this created a weakness in the defense that was definitely exploited. He plays well for a backup, but having such a clear weakness in his game means that he probably has reached his NFL ceiling - backup and special teams contributor.
2018 stats: 16 games, 1 start; 15 tackles (12 solo), 1 QB hit, 1 forced fumble, 1 2-pt conversion.
Roquan was touted as one of the best football players in the entire draft, having won the Butkus Award as the best college linebacker. He showcased next-level range and instincts, able to get to the ballcarrier wherever they were on the field. These were traits he carried over and deployed to devastating effect in Chicago; he led the team in tackles despite it being his rookie season, and added on several other flashy plays, always seeming to end up around the ball. His training camp holdout doesn't have many details from behind the curtain, but it's believed to have set a precedent in the area of withholding player pay for on-field infractions; this allows him to play with reckless abandon, playing fast without worrying about the monetary consequences of a possible penalty. And to be sure, he brings the pop on tackles, hitting very hard when he arrives - but not in a malicious way, just in a good, old-fashioned, linebacker way. In u/Barian_Fostate's film room episode on Smith, he mentioned that a weakness is an inability to disengage from blocking, but that ended up not being a big concern for him during his rookie season, as he didn't take on many blocks and shed the ones he did take relatively easily. This kid isn't going to be good - he's going to be great.
2018 stats: 16 games, 15 starts. 121 tackles (89 solo), 8 TFL, 5.0 sacks, 5 QB hits, 1 INT, 5 pass deflections.
"Iggy" is one of the few Western Kentucky University products in the NFL, but had a good combine and was drafted to fill out the depth behind the other ILBs. He mostly saw time on special teams this year, where he logged a few decent plays; time will tell whether he will continue to grow into the next starting-caliber linebacker, or if he will remain depth. We honestly haven't really seen enough of him to be able to tell one way or the other.
2018 stats: 16 games, 9 tackles (9 solo), 1 TFL.
Over the 2018 offseason, Fuller was due to hit free agency, as his 5th-year option had been declined. The Bears used the transition tag on him, allowing him to test the market and set his deal before allowing the Bears a chance to match it. He returned to the Bears making top-corner money; there was some doubt whether he would be able to live up to such a contract. He responded with an All-Pro season, leading the league in both interceptions and pass deflections. He prefers to play off the line of scrimmage, letting the receiver come to him so he can keep an eye on the quarterback at the same time; this allows him to jump routes effectively, especially mid-range out routes. He can defend the whole route tree well, although due to his off-the-ball style it is sometimes difficult for him to come down and defend quick hitches or ther 2-3 yard routes. Otherwise, he is overall an excellent corner that has really shown growth over his years in Chicago, and he will return to lock down receivers for another year.
2018 stats: 16 games, 16 starts; 55 tackles (45 solo), 7 INT, 21 pass deflections.
Prince has been a sticky corner, great in coverage, but historically has not been a playmaker - whether that's because he has difficulty finding the ball when guarding his man, or just poor ball skills in general. He had one interception in his previous three seasons coming into the year. That's why it was such a surprise to hear him say in camp that he was setting a goal of 10 interceptions this year - and a lot of the media originally thought he was joking. Well, it only took until Week 2 to prove he was serious about making good on that goal, as he returned his first INT of the year 49 yards for a touchdown. He went on to add two more over the course of the regular season, tying a career high. Good to see him make strides in that area. Other than his ball skills, he's a physical corner that likes to challenge receivers at the release and stick with them throughout the route, usually playing close to the line of scrimmage as a result. Will he continue his new-found ballhawking ways in 2019? He is, after all, apparently "the most in shape player on the team" (Trubisky relayed that Prince opinion after he took an offensive snap at the goal line).
2018 stats: 15 games, 15 starts; 66 tackles (57 solo), 3 INT, 2 fumbles forced, 1 TD, 12 passes deflected.
Slot CB Bryce Callahan has steadily grown every year since coming into the league undrafted. His speed and agility give him the ability to stay right on top of receivers, even after their break; it was very rare to see anyone have separation on him all year. He turned that sticky coverage into a pair of INTs and 6 pass deflections before injuring his foot with three games to go in the regular season and landing on IR. His coverage skills are some of the best in the league, and he also showed a natural ability to blitz, notching two sacks on corner blitzes, as well as adding three more hits and four more tackles for loss. Really his only weakness is his size (5'9") which makes it more difficult for him to match up on outside receivers. As the Bears have signed Buster Skrine, it seems unlikely that Callahan will return to Chicago in 2019.
2018 stats: 13 games, 10 starts; 45 tackles (39 solo), 2.0 sack, 2 INT, 6 passes deflected, 5 QB hits, 6 TFL.
Sherrick has been around the Bears for seven years, but never had a contract longer than two years - the life to be expected for a special-teams ace who hasn't done well as a defender. This year, though, he got the opportunity to prove himself in the slot after Callahan went to injured reserve. He played well; in Week 3, he was on the field for 5 snaps, and registered a sack (QB hit/TFL as well), an interception, and a pass breakup. While he wouldn't continue at the same breakneck pace all season, he was dependable in the slot and tended not to give up receptions. While it's difficult to replace a starter as good as Callahan, McManis did well enough to earn a long look in camp at taking on the position full-time. Even if he doesn't become a starter, his coverage skills have improved to the point where he is a dependable 6th DB, and his versatility means that he can be moved all over the field, even rush the passer if necessary. That kind of versatility is rare, and it will be exciting to see what Pagano has in store for him.
2018 stats: 15 games; 26 tackles (24 solo), 1 INT, 4 pass breakups, 1.0 sack.
Williams has been a journeyman, spending time most recently with the Jets and Buccaneers - including the Week 4 game during which Tampa Bay gave up 6 passing touchdowns. Regardless of how well the Bucs' defense as a whole played, the Bears apparently saw enough in him to pick him up December 12th, as part of the neverending effort to churn the bottom of the roster and evaluate talent available from around the league. He played almost exclusively on special teams, only seeing defensive snaps in the final minutes of the final game of the season, after the outcome was hardly in doubt. Special teams seems to be the best fit for him at this stage, although perhaps an offseason of coaching and playbook study will mold him into a decent backup CB.
2018 stats: 3 games, 1 tackle.
Toliver was the UDFA du jour for most of training camp, where he managed to turn in a few big plays despite fighting a nagging quad injury. Since it's nearly impossible for the modern NFL team to have too many ballhawking cornerbacks, he was signed to a contract and saw intermittent time on defense, mostly as the 4th or 5th CB on the depth chart. Given who is ahead of him, combined with the fact that his size (6'2", 192 lbs) is more of a fit outside of the slot, it will probably be some time before he would be looked at as a potential starter. A good offseason and a training camp full of splash plays can change things, but otherwise he will probably see more special teams snaps than defense snaps once again in 2019.
2018 stats: 15 games, 1 start; 16 tackles (14 solo).
Best remembered for getting stripped of the ball on a blocked FG return in 2017, Cooper managed 3 snaps on defense and 23 on special teams this year before relegation to the bench due to uninspiring play. A lackluster camp had suggested that he wouldn't be asked to do much in 2018, but he was waived in November and wasn't missed.
2018 stats: 2 games.
There were fifteen receivers drafted before Eddie Jackson in the 2017 NFL draft; Eddie now has scored more touchdowns than ten of them. Since the beginning of the 2017 season, 21 NFL defenses have scored fewer touchdowns than Eddie Jackson has in that same time. In fact, Jackson has the most defensive TDs of anyone in the NFL since the start of the 2015 season; he would be at Alabama for two more years at that point. Here is an excellent breakdown of what makes him so special; kudos to u/Barian_Fostate for putting that together. His range and instincts are both elite, and he takes calculated risks that few other safeties make - and converts them into game-changing plays. Excellent and rangy in coverage, unafraid to make hits in run support, and a threat to score anytime he gets the ball in his hands, he is the prototypical All-Pro safety.
2018 stats: 14 games, 14 starts; 51 tackles (41 solo), 1.0 sack, 6 INT, 15 pass deflections, 2 forced fumbles, 3 TDs.
DHC has been a serviceable backup safety for the majority of his Bears career, but that seems to just about be his ceiling - as a low-end starter on another team, perhaps. He saw the majority of his 2018 snaps on special teams, where he similarly seemed to be a good role player, but not a standout performer. While I wouldn't call him phyiscally limited, he doesn't have the same range or instincts that Jackson has (but who does, honestly) and therefore, when he sees time, it's clear that the rest of the secondary doesn't play quite so aggressively.
2018 stats: 13 games, 10 tackles (8 solo). 1 QB hit.
"Smash" is an apt nickname for Amos, as he is nothing if not a hard hitter. He paired well in the defensive backfield with Jackson again in 2018, shining more against the run than as a playmaking ballhawk - but let's not shortchange his coverage abilities. He was rarely burned, and was able to execute his defensive assignments just as Fangio drew them up; this allowed the corners to play more aggressively, knowing that Amos and Jackson had their backs. His biggest drawback as a player is the lack of flashy plays he has turned in, but there is still an important place for a solid, capable safety that isn't going to lose you games. As a free agent, it's difficult to see how he returns to the Bears, given the price of safeties and the amount of cap space the Bears don't have.
2018 stats: 16 games, 16 starts; 73 tackles (59 solo), 1 fumble recovery, 2 INT, 9 pass deflections, 1.0 sack.
Bush is similar in many ways to DHC, although with a little more size, he has a bit better luck matching up with receivers and contesting catches. Otherwise, they are very similar players - backup safeties with a ceiling as a low-grade starter, but certainly adequate in filling in when the incumbent starter goes down. He got the lion's share of snaps filling in for Jackson, and did a decent job - to the point that it wasn't obivous he was a fill-in, but you still knew that there weren't going to be many splash plays made from that position while he was in. Ideally, if Amos moves on in free agency, Bush would have competition for the starting job rather than being handed it outright.
2018 stats: 15 games, 2 starts; 8 tackles (8 solo), 1 forced fumble, 1.0 sack.
Roster Review: Special Teams
Parkey came into Chicago in free agency with an 86.4% field goal percentage and a 96.4% extra point percentage. He managed just a 76.7% FG% and a 93.3% XP% in 2018; that's not, ideally, what you would be looking for in a kicker. Even worse, his misses tended to come in high-profile ways:
- 4 shots off the uprights in one game
- An (admittedly long) miss on an overtime, potential game-winner in what used to be his home stadium
- Hitting the uprights again Week 17
- The double doink
In fact, he drew a high enough profile in Chicago that a local news station dispatched a chopper to Soldier Field the week after his 4-upright game, to cover the fact that he had driven down to the stadium to practice kicking there ahead of the SNF Rams game. Even before the regular season was over, it was a question whether he would be back for 2019; the consensus was that he would probably be back with some camp competition, barring some drastic, playoff-destroying miss. One drastic, playoff-destroying miss later, it still wasn't 100% clear that the Bears would eat his cap hit just to have someone else - until Parkey took a self-pity victory lap to the Today Show, where he was crowned Most Honorable Player by the crew there. Nagy acidly termed that "a me thing, not a we thing," making it clear he didn't approve of the message that sent to the rest of the locker room. The Bears will pay him over $3 million to stay away from the team in 2019.
2018 stats: 16 games, 23/30 FG (76.7%), 42/45 XP (93.3%), 7 upright hits.
"Megapunt" had a solid 2018, improving in certain aspects of his game that ST Coordinator Chris Tabor was hoping to see. He reduced his catch-to-kick time, important because it makes it easier to block kicks that take longer to come; this had especially been a problem for him, as he has a large frame with long legs that take more time to swing around. In addition, although he turned in a career low in terms of total punt yardage (primarily because of reduced usage, because the offense was better), he improved his net punting yardage - that is, kicking so it is more difficult for the returner to gain yards. He had a handful of especially nice kicks that could be downed inside the 5 by the gunners, and forced several more fair catches. With the improvement he showed, it would be safe to assume that the Bears would be comfortable re-signing him, although perhaps not to the point where they would make him the only option in camp.
2017 stats: 16 games, 62 punts, 2791 yards punted, 45.0 yards per punt, long of 65, 1 punts blocked.
Scales missed all of 2017 with a torn ACL, so after the Raiders made his replacement the highest-paid long snapper in the NFL during 2018 free agency, there was the expectation that Scales would step up and regain his high level of performance that he had shown during the 2016 season. He did that and more, with consistently accurate snaps and good blocks - and even added two tackles to his performance. He's as solid a performer as you can ask for from this position.
2018 stats: 16 games, 2 tackles (2 solo).
Free Agency/Draft Needs
- Kicker: For obvious reasons, an upgrade from Parkey is desperately needed. The only glaring hole in this roster, and one that singlehandedly cost the team at least two games in 2018. Potential match: Stephen Gostkowski (FA)
- Running Back: Howard had a down year and the speculation continues that Nagy is still trying to figure out how to use him. A better fit to the scheme could probably be found. Potential match: Elijah Holyfield (mid-round draft)
- Safety: If there's anywhere that could be considered a need on defense, it could be safety - Amos may not return, and while Bush is a decent fill-in, he's not necessarily starter material. Potential match:
George IlokaHa-Ha Clinton-Dix (FA)
2019 Draft Picks
- Round 3, pick 23 (#87 overall)
- Round 4, pick 24 (#119 overall)
- Round 5, pick 24 (#151 overall)
- Round 7, pick 24 (#215 overall)
^(picks will change once compensatory picks are announced)
The Bears have no picks in the first or sixth rounds, as part of compensation from the trade for Khalil Mack.
The Bears have no picks in the second round, as it was traded to NE last year to pick WR Anthony Miller in the second round of that draft.
2019 Cap Space: $18,146,141
On Their Way Out
Gone for 2019:
- TE Dion Sims - couldn't find a productive role in Nagy's offense.
- OLB Sam Acho - spent most of the year on IR, but even before that, was deep in the rotation.
- K Cody Parkey - 76% on field goals doesn't cut it in this league, even if you don't double-doink your team out of the playoffs.
- RB Taquan Mizzell - isn't much of a threat running or passing; probably replaced by a more capable multidimensional back. (Written before Mike Davis - a more capable multidimensional back - signed.) Savings: $645k
Cap space after probable cuts: $18,791,141
Key Upcoming Free Agents
- G Bryan Witzmann - had up-and-down fill-in time this year; replacement-tier, but Nagy seems to like his familiarity with the offense.
TE Ben Braunecker - 3rd string TE, but performed well on special teams and when his number was called on offense. Role player, but good at itExtended, 2 yr deal
S Adrian Amos - second-tier FA in a loaded safety class; does his job well, with few breakdowns in coverage or run support, but also few ball-hawking impact playsReplaced by Ha-Ha CLinton-Dix CB Bryce Callahan - speedy, sticky slot CB that's one of the best in the NFL at his position; quasi-starter since so much time is now spent in nickel defenseReplaced by Buster Skrine
- OLB Aaron Lynch - emerged as the #3 best OLB in rotation behind Mack and Floyd
- LS Patrick Scales - reliable long snapper who did his job without issue.
- P Pat O'Donnell - improved his punts as the season progressed; has done enough to earn another 1-2 years.
Coaching Staff/Front Office review
His 2017 draft sent three players to this year's Pro Bowl - two of which were All-Pros. His first three 2018 picks all shouldered key starting roles this season, and his trade for Khalil Mack launched the defense from "good" to "excellent." Unfortunately, his continued inability to find a solution at Kicker cut short a storybook season.
Hired from Kansas City, he came in and turned everything around - the offense, the locker room, the culture of the team. Suddenly, from his offensive playcalls to the TD celebrations to the post-win Club Dub he set up, the Chicago Bears were actually fun to watch again. It started early in the year, with players saying they felt a different kind of energy than in past years as soon as they got into the building. The contagious energy, paired with a "Be You" mantra, turned the Bears from a free-agency punishment to a destination spot. He ended the year with a well-deserved Coach of the Year award.
As an OC that doesn't call plays, his role was deeply under the radar this season. Despite refusing to take credit for offensive innovations, his influence was definitely felt through the continued improvement of Trubisky's play.
The "evil genius himself" matched the elite talent on the team with an elite scheme, and led his defense to the #1 spot with "that Italian mobster kind of swag.." His schemes - like using a "jumbo nickel" package to take on the Rams - were both innovative and effective. He managed to synthesize an excellent defense out of primarily above-average players, with some stars tossed in, which isn't always a given - egos, hardheadedness, etc can get in the way. Really, the only weakness of this defense was how they relaxed in the 4th quarter of most games, allowing a comeback attempt that was occasionally successful. Unfortunately for the Bears, he's taken the HC gig in Denver; Chuck Pagano will bring a more aggressive scheme that will hopefully address that issue.
Why we will have more fans next February:
- Tarik Cohen is on this team! The more highlights he makes, the more fans we have. Simple as that.
- Trubisky improves in year 2 of Nagy's system, and is able to carve up defenses on a weekly basis; the defense no longer has to carry the offense every game.
- The defense, returning nearly all its starters (including, of course, Khalil Mack), maintains a high level of play and continues to take the ball away in exciting, game-changing ways.
Why we will have fewer fans next February:
- It's statistically improbable for a cruddy team that makes a jump to maintain that level of success the ensuing year. We're probably in for a slump of some sort, but how much? If there isn't a return to the playoffs, the bandwagon empties out a little.
- Fangio is out, Pagano is in, which means that there's definitely the potential for a step back for the defense. Plus, turnovers are partially luck-based, and there's no guarantee that luck holds up for another year.
- Pace has thus far shown an inability to get the kicker situation right. If he can't get a reliable kicker in the building for 2019, this team doesn't go much further than it already has.
The biggest things to remember about this team are:
- They're young! Nobody over age 29 started until Chase Daniel took over at QB in Week 10. This means that:
- They're staying together! There's going to be a lot of continuity on both sides of the ball regardless of how this offseason sorts out. This roster suddenly has very few holes, and the core of both sides of the ball is under contract for the foreseeable future.
Combining these two points with the fact that Nagy's offense apparently wasn't really even tailored to Trubisky's strengths this season, it's really not hard to see how this team has lots of growth potential, and a championship window that is only just opening. They are young and exciting on both sides of the ball, replete with playmakers at nearly every position on offense and every level of the defense. The offensive coaching staff isn't afraid to take risks, and is one of the most creative in the league. And I really don't have to say anything about the #1 defense in the league, returning at least 10 starters for 2019, do I? Of course, if they can't find a reliable kicker this offseason, this is all pretty much a moot point.
Big thanks to:
/u/therealDoctorKay, for taking over the series this year and coordinating everyone
/u/airtmac24, for posting highlights every week
/u/arbrown83, for creating u/nflgifbot