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There will be no sophomore slump for the Chicago Bears

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San Francisco 49ers v Chicago Bears Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The sophomore slump is a real enough thing in the NFL that some teams and fans stress over it. Often, rookies make an impactful splash on the scene, but then once opposing coaches get some tape on them, they devise ways to slow them down. Some players never make the necessary tweaks to counteract the coaching adjustments, but some players do, and they flourish.

While the sophomore slump will reach up and tackle a few second year players, it’s not happening in Chicago.

SB Nation recently took a peek at a few star 2016 rookies that may struggle to live up to lofty expectations in year two. They singled out Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott of the Dallas Cowboys, Tyreek Hill of the Kansas City Chiefs, Joey Bosa of the San Diego Chargers, and Jordan Howard from the Chicago Bears.

The Bears actually had three rookies play at a high level last year, as Cody Whitehair was one of the better centers in the league, and outside linebacker Leonard Floyd flashed the athleticism and potential that made the Bears trade up for him.

None of these guys will take a step back in 2017.

“The biggest factor for Howard going into 2017 is the departure of running backs coach Stan Drayton,” writes SB Nation, “who left the Bears to join Tom Herman’s staff at the University of Texas.”

Drayton is out, but 22 year coaching veteran Curtis Modkins is in. Modkins has not only coached running backs, but early in his collegiate coaching career he worked with the secondary and tight ends. Since his step to the professional ranks in 2008, he’s also had a few years under his belt serving as an offensive coordinator. Modkins is a well rounded coach that should be able to coax more out of Howard.

And Howard isn’t resting on his laurels. he in better shape this season and he’s been doing extensive work on his route running and catching. I think we’ll see Howard become a more well rounded football player as a sophomore.


Leonard Floyd is another second year pro that is coming in with a new physique. According to outside linebackers coach, Brandon Staley, Floyd is close to 250 pounds now after playing around 225 as a rookie. He’s bigger and stronger, and that will help him deal with the rigors of the NFL.

‘‘Everyone knows that he’s capable of a lot, but what a lot of people don’t know is how much it means to him,’’ Staley told the Chicago Sun Times. ‘‘He’s the type of guy that represents our franchise and our city really, really well.’’

Staley adds that Floyd, “isn’t the type of guy who thinks he’s arrived. He knows that he has a lot in his game that he can improve on, and that’s what we’re spending a lot of time on right now.’’


I rarely worry about offensive linemen getting themselves ready, as o-linemen are the hardest working guys on the team, so I fully expect Whitehair to build of his rookie year and represent the Bears in the Pro Bowl this season.

The biggest aspect of Whitehair’s game this year will be his familiarity with the center position. Last year, he was learning on the fly after being inserted at center a week before the season started. Now will a full offseason to prep for his role, Whitehair is primed for a big 2017.

“When you think out there, it slows you down a little bit,” Whitehair said via the Sun Times. “Now I have a year under my belt; I’m not thinking as much. Now I’m ready to play fast and really get things going.”

Having a total understanding of the playbook, and being comfortable with his fellow linemates, will help Whitehair immensely.

“I’m able to read the defense a little bit better pre-snap,” Whitehair said, “where I know what’s going to happen pre-snap, and I don’t have to think when I take my first and second step.” Not thinking on a football field is a good thing. Coaches want players to react then execute, not process, react, then execute.

A four year starter in college and a team captain as a senior, Whitehair feels ready for a leadership role on the Bears offensive line. “I feel more comfortable leading,” he said. “As a rookie, you sit back and watch the vets and see what they do. I’ve taken initiative, and I’m trying to help this team win.”


The other members of the Bears’ 2016 rookie class are Jonathan Bullard (DL), Nick Kwiatkoski (ILB), Deon Bush (S), Deiondre’ Hall (DB), DeAndre Houston-Carson (S), and Daniel Braverman (WR). The Bears are counting on a few of, if not all of, these guys to step up as sophomores as well.

Which members of Chicago’s 2016 draft class do you expect to make the biggest leap in play this year?