This article is a little bit tougher to write this year than it was last because the team is so much better.
Now, before everyone chimes in in the comments and says ‘KHALIL MACK,’ are we really surprised though? I mean, granted, as mostly midwestern folks, Bears fans by and large didn’t get a ton of chance to watch Mack over his first four years with the Raiders as a result of his playing on a west coast team.
That said, he came here with 40.5 career sacks and two All-Pro seasons and a Defensive Player of the Year award, so I’m not sure he could really catch anyone by surprise.
There are some other candidates on the defense, but most of them had solid preseason showings and gave a glimpse of what was to come: Bilal Nichols, Roy Robertson-Harris and Prince Amukamara.
Now, I was very close to picking Aaron Lynch, because I really expected him to be a depth piece and nothing more but he’s sitting at the bye week with 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 5 QB hits and an interception. He and his killer mustache have been a lot better than I had expected.
However, my pick for most surprising Bear of the first quarter of the season is receiver Taylor Gabriel.
I expected Gabriel to be a complementary piece, a nice slot receiver and deep threat who could blow the top off the defense and get a couple of deep looks every game.
After four games though, Gabriel is the team leader in receptions with 22, tied for the lead in touchdowns with two and second on the team in yards with 193. His yards per reception average is a low 8.8, but that’s mostly because of the offense’s lack of success going downfield in the first three games. Against Tampa his average jumped to 14.9 YPC.
He’s on pace for 88 receptions, 772 yards and eight TDs. While those numbers will likely fall slightly, especially due to the sheer number of overall weapons on the offense and the scheme’s ability to spread it around, it’s still bound to be somewhere around 65-70 rec./650-700 yds/5-6 TDs. That is outstanding production.
It’s encouraging to see his early rapport with Mitch Trubisky, who has targeted him 29 times, second most on the team and it will be exciting to see where it goes from here.
Which player has surprised you the most through the first four games?