A few days ago we talked about the prediction by Pro Football Focus that had the Chicago Bears going 8-8 for the 2016 season. They figured the Bears would be one of the more improved teams in the NFL "thanks to a completely revamped front-seven." Most of the comments in our comment section tended to believe that assessment, although the offseason optimism has many Bears' fans believing that the Bears will finish 2016 with a winning record.
Since PFF is a rather large site with a whole slew of writers, it's common that they'll have varying thoughts on how each team will fare. Nathan Jahnke wrote about the Bears being improved in their prediction article I referenced above, but Sam Monson writes that the Bears' have the 30th ranked roster in the NFL for his recent ESPN Insider piece.
Since that article is behind a pay wall, we won't bring you all the info they shared, but we will show you what he said about the Bears.
30. Chicago Bears
Top five players: LB Pernell McPhee, WR Alshon Jeffery, LB Jerrell Freeman, LB Danny Trevathan, OL Kyle Long
Starters who should be upgraded: OG Ted Larsen, OT Bobby Massie, TE Rob Housler, OT Charles Leno
The Bears might be expected to be higher on this list, but the negatives on this roster are fatal flaws. The offensive line was a disaster a year ago and might not be much better this year. Long being back at guard should at least help. Kevin White could make a major impact at receiver, but at the moment he is a complete unknown.
The defense is moving in the right direction, but it is weakest in the most important area -- coverage. Kyle Fuller might be their best player in the secondary, and he has been average at best so far in his career, allowing five touchdowns in each of his first two seasons.
The only two teams that have worse rosters (according to the PFF metric) are the Cleveland Browns and the San Francisco 49ers.
The offensive line does need to prove itself, but to call them a disaster may be a bit of hyperbole. In looking purely at the stats, the Bears ended the 2015 season with a 4.0 average per rushing attempt, good for a middle of the road 16th overall and they were 11th overall in rushing yards per game at 115.9. The Bears allowed 33 sacks last year, tied for 11th overall, and Chicago's sacks allowed percentage was 17th at 5.9.
But if those numbers couldn't sway PFFs Monson from writing that the Bears' o-line was a "disaster," maybe PFFs Khaled Elsayed could. In Elsayed's Ranking All 32 Offensive Lines article from a few months ago, he had Chicago's o-line ranked 16th overall. That's a far cry from Disastersville, but again, different writers on the same site can have different ideas about a team.
And this is a big BUT, shouldn't a site that prides itself on an unbiased grading scale have a little more uniformity when it comes to evaluating a football team?
How can one writer call something a disaster when another writes that they were 17th as a pass-blocking unit and 5th as a run-blocking unit?
Then again if we consider the loss of guard/center Matt Slauson, whom the Bears released this offseason, perhaps that can explain the thoughts of doom surrounding their o-line. Especially if PFF believes that Ted Larsen is the replacement at left guard. On paper, Larsen should be a downgrade, even though Larsen fits what the Bears want to do schematically better than Slauson, but that's not really important is it?
I think rookie Cody Whitehair has a good chance to beat out Larsen for the starting left guard spot and PFF called Whitehair the 2nd best draft pick in the entire 2016 NFL Draft, saying he "has the potential to be a top-5 interior lineman."
The secondary is a concern, but that front seven should give them a boost if they are able to get after the quarterback better than last year.
What are your thought on the ranking of the Bears' roster? General manager Ryan Pace has done a lot in 2 years to turn it over to one he and his coaches prefer, but has that turnover left them with the number 30 roster in the NFL?
Sound off in the comment section...