The Bears under John Fox last year managed to become a respectable team, one that was able to play close with each of their opponents, rarely letting a game get out of hand.
Now, in year two of their rebuilding process, here are five reasons why every Bears opponent should be scared when the Chicago Bears are hosting them or coming to their town:
1. The Run Defense has been shored up
Last season the Bears had the 22nd ranked rushing defense, getting gouged on the ground by opponents. But this offseason the invested serious resources into shoring up the front seven of the defense adding Danny Trevathan, Jerrell Freeman, Akiem Hicks and drafting Jonathan Bullard. Opponents should have a much tougher time running on them than last season.
2. The wide receiver corps has variety
As long as they’re healthy, which might be asking a lot, the Bears will have a very diverse skill set at receiver this season. Kevin White is a player that Jay Cutler claims he can’t overthrow. Alshon Jeffery has size and physicality that is imposing and an incredible catch radius. Eddie Royal offers some speed and agility in the slot and behind him Daniel Braverman is impressing in training camp. There is enough talent there for the group to be dangerous.
3. Cutler is working the same system for a change
This really can’t be overstated. It will mark only the third time in Cutler’s eight seasons in Chicago that he has not changed systems. While the player caller will change, there is still the basic system, the actual plays and concepts will be unchanged, meaning he will have a greater mastery of them. All the players that were here last season will all know the system just that much better. Cutler will have plays he likes and more go-to plays. The offense may have some shortcomings but they will not be unfamiliar with their scheme.
4. The Bears pack a pass rush
While no one is sure how much Leonard Floyd will contribute as a rookie, returning OLBs Willie Young, Lamarr Houston and Pernell McPhee combined for 20.5 of the team’s 35 sacks last season. If Floyd can add another five to that (conservative estimate call it) to go with what a second-year Eddie Goldman can add (4.5 last year) plus what Hicks can bring as well and that’s already near the teams total last season. With scheme familiarity and a good rotation to keep the players fresh, there is no reason to think the Bears D couldn’t reach 40 sacks as a team.
5. The team still has a solid coaching staff
A season ago the Bears’ biggest asset was their head coach. Fox took over an aging roster that was devoid of a lot of high-caliber talent and then they were ravaged by injuries. Despite that six of their 11 losses were by less than six points. Seven were eight or less points and four were losses by a field goal. If Fox could have that team in that many close games, then with a little more talent the team should be on the other side a few more times this season. Vic Fangio is one of the best defensive coordinators in the league. Dowell Loggains may not have the resume of Adam Gase but he has experience and familiarity with the rest of the staff. Last season the staff was probably the single strongest unit the team had and there is no reason to think they can’t get even more out of this team this year.