Let’s talk Bears football for a minute. Hold on, lemme grab my whiskey…
It was an eventful offseason to say the least. First, the fans were disappointed to see the “braintrust” of Pace and Nagy not only retained, but apparently extended. And while I think it’s a little bit of a meatball take to say these guys are total failures, the track record is certainly spotty. Sometimes the worst thing to be in the NFL is average.
On the other hand, the fans were delighted to see the team part ways with Trubisky. Again, Trubisky isn’t the worst QB in the league, which is what the narrative sounded like, but he shouldn’t be the Bears starter. If I were a completely objective analyst I’d have been a lot happier with Trubisky & Fields for a fraction of the cost of Dalton, Foles and Fields. Of course we live in the real world and relationships and perception matter, so Trubisky had to go and take the blame with him. He’ll probably be the best backup in the league in Buffalo.
Speaking of QBs, we somehow landed Fields in the draft. I think every Bears fan would have wanted to commit ritual suicide if you told them that Pace was going to trade up in the first round AGAIN and sell off future firsts to do it. Yet, no Bears fans really thought Fields would be anywhere close to attainable. I’m not gonna analyze the trade but safe to say every Bears fan came out of the draft really happy with the outcome. It’s kind of amazing, the fanbase was about as low as they’ve been in recent memory, probably only surpassed by the Trestman nadir, up until draft day. Now it’s the highest it’s been since the Cutler trade.
While Pace and Nagy are back, there big changes with the rest of the staff. Primarily on the defensive side. Chuck Pagano’s dismal reign ended and youngster Sean Desai takes his place with veteran Mike Pettine playing consigliere. Desai is being sold as a Fangio disciple and by all accounts he was the player’s first, second and third choice for the role. I always cringe when it seems like the players picked their coach through the media, but the praise he’s getting in camp is loud. We’ll see how bad the growing pains are, he certainly has a talented and veteran group to work with…save one position group. There’s more continuity on the offensive staff, but lots of new players. There’s reason for concern there, but hey…Justin Fields!
Let’s breakdown the roster (if you’ve stopped reading, I totally understand!):
QB - Andy Dalton, Justin Fields, Nick Foles
So this is a thing. The Red Rifle is collecting a sizable paycheck to be a seat-warmer for the rookie. Time (and results) will tell how long he holds the job. The staff and the insiders are all talking like Dalton will keep the job most of the season unless he totally shits the bed. If he’s steady, Fields will sit even if the losses rack up. The fans will lose their minds if that happens, so we’ll have to wait and see. People are talking about Dalton like he’s the second coming of Vinnie Testaverde, but last I saw was him barely holding it together in Dallas. Nagy wants to replicate the Smith-Mahomes experience, but that’s a bit of foolishness, people are different. Pace is desperately hoping another team is desperate enough to take Foles off his hands. Those hopes will be dashed.
Anyways, that mostly just drama. On the field I expect the Bears to be slightly better at the QB position than they were last year. Dalton isn’t talented enough to pull off the really wild stuff Nagy dreams up while huffing bath salts, but he’ll know the playbook, he’ll get through his progressions and he won’t take a bunch of dumb sacks. At the very least we shouldn’t see half our possessions as 3 and outs. Fields will make an appearance eventually. He’ll be great one day, but I think he’ll have more than his share of rookie moments. Rookie Josh Allen might be a better comp than sophomore Mahomes. If Foles sees the field things have gone really, really badly.
RB - David Montgomery, Damien Williams, Khalil Herbert, Tarik Cohen
Fantasy wonks know the Montgomery story. Had a really great second half last season and is one of the few bell cows in the league. But he’s not a game breaker, he’s a grinder. Breaks tackles but doesn’t break away. He’ll keep the offense on schedule when used correctly but he’s not a sure bet in the red zone. I’m excited to see the rookie Herbert get some time out there. He’s got a lot in common with Monty but is more dynamic. I was excited by what I saw in the preseason. I don’t know what we’re getting with Williams, but he’s a veteran and Nagy loves to get cast offs from KC. He is the fastest RB we’ve got, so Nagy will find a way to use him on passing downs while Cohen heals up. Cohen remains on the PUP until at least week 7.
This is a better group than last year. Monty found his stride, Herbert is an upgrade over the garbage we had behind him. Williams is probably a better change of pace back than Cohen, and it’ll force Nagy to holster some of his gadgets. If Cohen comes back later in the season maybe he’ll give us a curveball to throw at them.
WR - Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney, Marquise Goodwin, Breshad Perriman, Damiere Byrd, Nsimba Webster
Lots of new faces here. Robinson and Mooney are back as the 1-2 punch and it’s a pretty good one. Robinson remains the best bad-ball WR in the league and has remained mostly professional in spite of not getting a well deserved extension. This might be has last season in Chicago, but he’s playing for a contract. Mooney was a breakout rookie and should be even better with another year under his belt and a QB who can throw left. Goodwin adds much needed speed after being a 2020 COVID opt out. Certainly an upgrade over Anthony Miller and will allow this offense to get vertical for the first time in years.
The Bears purged pretty much everyone else on the roster over the offseason and then at final cuts. They brought in Breshad Perriman when he was cut by the Lions. Nsimba Webster was cut by the 49ers. And signed Damiere Byrd who never distinguished himself in New England. All three bring speed to the table, which clearly is a the motto this offseason. Perriman doesn’t bring much production, but I suppose he was better than Riley Ridley and Javon Wims. Webster and Byrd will return punts/kicks and should replace Cordarrelle Patterson. This squad is better at the top and probably a bit better at the bottom of the roster compared to last season, at least it’s faster. Will be on the lookout for preseason darling Rodney Adams to get promoted off the practice squad at some point.
TE - Jimmy Graham, Cole Kmet, Jesse James, JP Holtz, Jesper Horsted
This is a…weird…group. I’m more than a little surprised to see Graham back. He’s been way more productive than anyone expected when they gave him that too-big contract a couple years back, but still he’s a bit of a one-trick pony at this point. That said, it’s a pretty good trick. It would have cost the Bears almost as much to cut him as keep him so that had a lot to do with it. Cole Kmet is supposed to be the star of this group and is now listed as the TE1. He struggled when Mitch was under center, but has looked good in camp. I believe that a veteran like Dalton will use him a ton and he’s gonna be a breakout guy for fantasy owners.
James is cheap veteran depth and will be the primary inline blocker of the group. Probably a bit of a luxury item which I’m not sure the Bears can afford, but could be useful if there’s a injury. JP Holtz and Jesper Horsted are a bit of a puzzle. Holtz is the best blocker of the group and is valuable as a H-back/lead blocker and Horsted is a converted WR who had another terrific preseason. I suspect the Bears were loathe to keep 5 TEs, but I’d bet they were scared Horsted wouldn’t clear waivers. So here we are. The Bears are thin at WR, you can bet Graham, Kmet and Horsted will spend quite a bit of time on the field split wide.
OL - Germain Ifedi, Jason Peters, James Daniels, Cody Whitehair, Sam Mustipher, Alex Bars, Larry Borom, Elijah Wilkinson, Lachavious Simmons. Teven Jenkins (IR)
Yikes. If the Bears season implodes, this will be the reason. The interior is decent. Daniels, Whitehair and Mustipher can all play any of the interior positions and last season this group was largely responsible for the improved running game. Mustipher was a bit of a surprise and stabilized the Center position a ton. Bars is also a good interior swingman. So the inside of the line isn’t the problem assuming we stay healthy.
The outside however is a different story. We parted ways with both starters from last year, Leno and Massie. We drafted Teven Jenkins to play LT (which is a little bit of a surprise since he was primarily a RT in college and the shift usually goes the other direction) and he needed back surgery before playing a single down. Not great, not great at all. Larry Borom is an intriguing RT prospect but he’s a 5th rounder for a reason. One day he may lock down the right side, but he’s not ready. We grabbed Jason Peters off the scrap heap…and while he claims he wasn’t considering retirement, the Eagles definitely were. He was great once, but he’s old and broken down…maybe we can get a few starts out of him at LT but I’m prepared for this to be a disaster. Germain Ifedi will start on the right and has been sidelined with an injury all camp…which is par for his career. Wilkinson and Simmons belong on the practice squad and I’m a little shocked the Bears didn’t poach any OTs from another team’s waiver wire.
Long story short, this is a problem. And we play Aaron Donald in week 1.
Defense coming up next.