No one wants this part of the season to happen. Ideally, every year, the sixteen-game march to the playoffs ends with a playoff berth and a deep playoff run culminating in a Super Bowl.
In lieu of that, this year, the Bears are one of the teams that has to contemplate its future early.
So since we're here, we may as well take a look at some of the silver linings in these final three games of the season.
1) Evaluation of Marquess Wilson
With Brandon Marshall's season reportedly over, the Bears will get extra looks at a player they had high hopes on heading into the season, as well as the elevation of Alshon Jeffery into the team's true number one receiver.
So far, Wilson's been targeted 14 times and converted on 5 of them for 40 yards, which only figures to go up in these final few games, but we'll have to see how he's used and how many snaps/targets Josh Morgan continues to get.
2) Kyle Long and Jordan Mills
Long has continued to build on his so-far impressive young career, and while Jordan Mills has been a punching bag for both WCG members and opposing pass-rushers combined, he turned in his best game as a pro against a team that he should have had a good game against, which is still a step in the right direction.
3) Young Linebackers
Jon Bostic. Shea McClellin. These are players that have been getting consistent time all season, but the last three games will continue to add snaps and opportunities for them to continue to develop. Bostic (and Khaseem Greene, but Bostic especially) have worried me as things have gone on, because while McClellin takes shots for struggling, Bostic has not looked good, despite actually being drafted (and played from the start) as a linebacker with a second-round draft pick. That's a pick you have to hit on.
That's not intended to give McClellin a pass as a first-round draft pick, because he has struggled, and he might not have a spot next year if he doesn't show more over the next three games. But at this point, we could talk ourselves into the best, most healthy linebackers on the team being an undrafted free agent in Christian Jones and a street free agent signed midway through the season in Daryl Sharpton. That's an issue.
4) Young Secondary
Kyle Fuller, Demontre Hurst, and Al Louis-Jean have all gotten extra time this year - Fuller taking over the full starting role with the injury to Charles Tillman, Hurst sliding into the nickel spot, and Louis-Jean popping in wherever he's needed as the season's gone on. Louis-Jean is young and raw, but he does have some talent - just too much need at the position and too many snaps forcing him to develop under fire. Fuller came in strong, but he's still been a part of a terrible Bears' pass defense, and Hurst has been part of the nickel shuffle, but also struggling frequently.
5) Jared Allen's Gas Tank and the Rest of the Pass Rush
The other main draft-and-free-agency-impacted position was defensive line, and Jared Allen hasn't truly produced after signing his contract, while Willie Young has been excellent. Add in two high draft picks, a contract year from Stephen Paea, and what was (and still could continue to be) a pretty resurgent season from Jeremiah Ratliff, and the line is a pretty intriguing unit to continue to watch as the year wraps up.
Not really an evaluation point, but I'll be curious to see how the coaching staff approaches adjustments over the final three games of the year, because adjustments for them at this point are a no-win situation, I think. If the offense and defense continues in their patterns this year, and their adjustments aren't successful, then it's business as usual. If they do make adjustments, and those adjustments are successful, the question becomes, why weren't those adjustments made before things got out of control?