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Too high or too low: breaking down 2018 Bears’ statistical projections

The numbers have been crunched. Are they an accurate measure of Matt Nagy’s debut season with the Bears?

Jacksonville Jaguars v Kansas City Chiefs
The Bears’ new No. 1 receiver in Robinson should have a big year.
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Given the aggressive turnover of the Bears in the 2018 off-season, we don’t know what to expect from them in the upcoming season. No one has seen what Matt Nagy’s offense looks like with the Bears. Big ticket free agent Allen Robinson hasn’t caught a pass in the scheme. Mitchell Trubisky, for the optimism surrounding him, has to show he can make the vaunted second-year leap the Bears are hoping for.

Simply put: expectations should be measured and reasonable.

Nevertheless, ESPN fantasy analyst Mike Clay took a stab at projecting what the Bears will look like in 2018. Counting individual statistical outputs, Clay has laid it out on a platter.

Mike Clay/ESPN

After a perusal of these numbers, it’s hard to argue with some of the projections. Let’s go through each positional group with highlighted Bears’ players, and determine whether we should see their numbers higher or lower.


San Francisco 49ers v Chicago Bears
A huge leap for Trubisky is welcome.
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Mitchell Trubisky

Statistical line: 3,951 passing yards, 23 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, 61 percent completion percentage (567 throws), 280 rushing yards (63 carries), two rushing touchdowns

Judgment: Just right

I know the tendency is to see Trubisky putting together a prolific MVP-like season where the Bears have a record-breaking offense, but until we see a few games, taking that optimism down a few notches is warranted.

A year like this where Trubisky keeps his turnovers limited, is completing over 60 percent of his passes (up from 59 percent as a rookie), and is generally making plays, is a good baseline for his sophomore NFL performance. This is a huge step up to be ecstatic about. If Trubisky is anywhere close to 4,000 yards passing without giving the ball away, Nagy and company have done their job.

Of note: 3,951 passing yards would be a single-season record for the Bears. The franchise has also never had a 4,000 yard passer. Ah, illustrious Bears’ quarterback history!

Running backs

Cleveland Browns v Chicago Bears
As long as his legs are churning, Howard will always have easy baselines.
Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Jordan Howard

Statistical line: 1,025 rushing yards (240 carries), seven touchdowns, 25 receptions (33 targets), 197 yards, one touchdown

Judgment: Just right

In his first two years, Howard has averaged roughly 260 carries as a runner in the Bears’ backfield. He’s been the workhorse and only consistent offense they can count on. Seeing that number dip slightly with a reliance on Trubisky and diverse cast of offensive weapons is a natural progression.

Howard is an elite runner, but he’s not in the class of complete backs like the RamsTodd Gurley or Chiefs’ Kareem Hunt. This role he’ll play in Nagy’s offense while averaging 4.2 yards per carry as projected is a fair assessment. As are the seven touchdowns for the big tailback.

Tarik Cohen

Statistical line: 313 rushing yards (76 carries), two touchdowns, 60 receptions (77 targets), 470 yards, two touchdowns

Judgment: Just right

Dowell Loggains had one of the NFL’s most exciting weapons in 2017 and knew nothing of what to do with him. That won’t be a problem for Nagy’s staff in regards to Cohen. He’s often been regarded as the new Darren Sproles, because of his size and penchant for the big play, and these numbers reflect that notion.

Cohen will have a bigger part as a receiver working into space then as a true No. 2 running back. From formational adjustments to how the Bears elect to get the ball into his hands, this is a safe assumption.

Wide receivers

Jacksonville Jaguars v Detroit Lions
Robinson should be a Bears’ red zone force.
Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

Allen Robinson

Statistical line: 1,046 receiving yards, 73 receptions (137 targets), seven touchdowns,

Judgment: Just right

Historically, Robinson has averaged around a 50 percent catch rate, which isn’t ideal. This projection likely factors in the efficiency of Nagy’s offense. It’s also limiting Robinson’s targets, because, well, there’s only one ball.

Given his position in Chicago’s offense as the No. 1 and a huge red zone threat, 14 yards a catch and seven scores should be the baseline. Anything less from a healthy Robinson is a disappointment. We won’t see more of a jump until 2019.

Anthony Miller

Statistical line: 657 receiving yards, 51 receptions (88 targets), three touchdowns

Judgment: Too high

I’ll preface this by saying that I am a believer in Miller’s ability. Eventually, I think he’s the No. 1 receiver in the Bears’ offense and a superstar. I also believe he’ll make plays and not be a complete non-factor his rookie year. However, the overall initial transition won’t go as smoothly.

Learning how to diagnose coverages and how defenses want to take you away isn’t as simple as a Thanos snap of the fingers. That takes patience. Unless you’re Randy Moss, of course. Miller is not the second coming of Moss.

Miller isn’t the primary option in the Bears’ offense. He’s probably not the true No. 2 passing target either. I know these aren’t prolific numbers, but they are a little high for my tastes. I’m of the belief that rookie year expectations should be tempered for him.

Taylor Gabriel

Statistical line: 490 receiving yards, 38 receptions (60 targets), two touchdowns

Judgment: Just right

Historically, when he hasn’t been in a Kyle Shanahan offense, Gabriel has struggled with the Browns in 2015 and Falcons in 2017. There are no excuses for him to do that in Chicago’s offense, though. If the Bears can get around 12 yards a reception and a few scores out of their second diminutive playmaker, that’s an equation that puts fireworks together. Anything close to 500 yards and in the 40 reception range is ideal.

Tight ends

Super Bowl LII - Philadelphia Eagles v New England Patriots
The new face of the Bears’ tight end group.
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Trey Burton

Statistical line: 558 receiving yards, 51 receptions (77 targets), four touchdowns

Judgment: Just right

In Philadelphia, Burton never had the chance at being “the man” with Zach Ertz in front of him. With the Bears making Burton the sixth-highest paid tight end in the NFL, he’s assuredly the 1A in Chicago.

Nagy often espouses how Burton is going to play the Travis Kelce role for his Bears’ attack. Now, that seems like he’s comparing Burton to Kelce directly, but it isn’t. It’s more about Burton being the primary receiving tight end that moves around Chicago’s offensive scheme. From that perspective, around 50 receptions and close to 600 yards is quality output for Burton in his first year away from the Eagles.

Adam Shaheen

Statistical line: 243 receiving yards, 23 receptions (33 targets), two touchdowns

Judgment: Too low

Am I the only one that thinks Shaheen won’t be ignored in the passing game, the way the narrative has evolved? Nagy shares Pace’s franchise vision. Pace picked Shaheen to actually be used in his future offenses, not be a glorified blocking tight end. Nagy isn’t going to neglect the weapons he has at this position with that in mind.

In fact, I think the Bears are in a place where they might have the best 1-2 punch at tight end in the NFL. The freakishly-sized Shaheen is going to more than outpace these numbers, especially in the red zone.

Defensive line

Detroit Lions v Chicago Bears
Hicks holding the ball means him getting into the backfield aplenty once more.

Akiem Hicks

Statistical line: 55 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, seven sacks

Judgment: Just right

Hicks has averaged seven sacks in his first two years in Chicago. The step up here is the tackles and tackles for loss, which are venturing into almost double of what he’s done so far as a Bear. If Hicks is contributing this much, it means Chicago has found an effective defensive line rotation that keeps him fresh throughout the season, because he’s certainly capable. It means an All-Pro or at minimum, Pro Bowl berth.

Eddie Goldman

Statistical line: 42 tackles, five tackles for loss, three sacks

Judgment: Just right

Quietly, Goldman had an elite season for a point-of-attack nose tackle in 2017. He finally showcased why he was worth a 2015 second round pick and why he’s so valuable to what the Bears try to do defensively under Vic Fangio. Fresh off what should be a pending contract extension, it’s fair to expect Goldman to continue the same production as the anchor of Chicago’s defense.

Jonathan Bullard

Statistical line: 35 tackles, five tackles for loss, two sacks

Judgment: Too high

Placing Bullard here means suggesting he’ll be the starter over Roy Robertson-Harris at the defensive end opposite Hicks. That’s a thought I don’t agree with as I think Robertson-Harris is the more disciplined and reliable player. This stat line would qualify as a “breakout” year for Bullard, who two years in hasn’t shown enough to confidently say that. The former third round pick is living on draft status and potential, more than tangible performance.

Edge rushers

Carolina Panthers v Chicago Bears
It’s Floyd and everyone else for the Bears’ outside linebackers.
Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Leonard Floyd

Statistical line: 59 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, three passes defensed

Judgment: Just right

Framing Floyd in this manner means believing he’s the best player on the Bears’ defense. Barring improved health, that’s a belief that can be manifested in 2018, because he was relatively on pace for these numbers last season with eight tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks in 10 games.

These numbers would have Floyd in line for a Pro Bowl berth and in the conversation for the NFL’s most disruptive and well-rounded defensive players. They would mean he’s put it all together. Considering everything Chicago asks him to do because of his athletic ability, Floyd should be up to the challenge as a consistently terrifying force in the backfield.

Aaron Lynch

Statistical line: 37 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, six sacks, two passes defensed

Judgment: Too high

Lynch hasn’t been a major factor for an NFL defense since 2015. I know the Bears and Fangio are banking hard on him being a solid starter for them on the cheap, but when a guy hasn’t done anything in two seasons, I have a hard time seeing that pieced together. Lynch is going to receive every opportunity to contribute heavily. We need to see a few games before I can confidently say he locks down one defensive edge for Chicago.

Inside linebackers

2018 NFL Draft
There is no reason Smith isn’t the leader of the Bears’ defense almost immediately.
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Danny Trevathan

Statistical line: 131 tackles, five tackles for loss, two sacks, seven passes defensed, one interception

Judgment: Too high

By this standard, Trevathan would’ve been top 10 in tackles last season. He would’ve been one of the league’s all-around best linebackers and defensive playmakers, which he is when on the field. That’s the caveat: when on the field.

Trevathan hasn’t played in 16 games since 2013. He hasn’t eclipsed at least 120 tackles since that season. He’s probably going to have to play at least 15 in 2018 if he’s going to reach these numbers. Given a four-year successive history, I have significant doubt that happens.

Roquan Smith

Statistical line: 92 tackles, seven tackles for loss, one sack, three passes defensed, one interception

Judgment: Just right

Recent top linebackers such as the PanthersLuke Kuechly and SeahawksBobby Wagner established a range of 87 tackles to 103 as rookies in 2012. Both had higher impacts in the passing game, but nevertheless took time to become the class of the position they are now.

Setting Smith somewhere in the middle as an instinctive run-and-chase linebacker is fair. If he’s anywhere close to 100 tackles and making this many plays in the backfield, that bodes well for what he can eventually become. When they say Bears’ immediate impact, Smith is the face of it.


San Francisco 49ers v Chicago Bears
Fresh off a contract extension, Fuller will pick up right where he left off.
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Kyle Fuller

Statistical line: 68 tackles, 16 passes defensed, two interceptions

Judgment: Just right

2017 was an outlier for Fuller only in that he was targeted by opposing quarterbacks so much. With a firmer established reputation, the Bears’ No. 1 cornerback won’t be tested nearly as much, so he won’t have the same opportunity to replicate the statistics he put up in 2017.

68 tackles would be a career high, but not too far from the 61 of last season in run support. 16 passes defensed and two interceptions matches up with Fuller’s career averages and jumps based on his career arc. These aren’t shutdown cornerback numbers, but they are very good corner numbers.

Prince Amukamara

Statistical line: 64 tackles, 11 passes defensed, one interception

Judgment: Too high

The last time Amukamara had at least 60 tackles was in 2015 with the Giants. He hasn’t caught an interception since that same year. The last time he had double digit pass deflections was in 2014 with the Giants. 14 games played, like Amukamara has done with the Bears and Jaguars in the last two years, is actually a fantastic bill of health according to his injury-riddled history.

Suffice to say, it’s a stretch to have Amukamara play better than what was already considered a good 2017 for the Bears’ No. 2 cornerback.


San Francisco 49ers v Chicago Bears
Jackson is the field-tilter for the Bears’ back end.
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Eddie Jackson

Statistical line: 71 tackles, six passes defensed, one interception

Judgment: Too low

What’s okay about this projection for Jackson is the tackles. He had 70 as a rookie. If he hovers around that for his career, that means the Bears’ front seven is doing it’s job, and he’s providing ample support. The turnovers are the issue.

For all the good Jackson did in 2017, he left a lot of plays on the field that you would expect from an inexperienced player. There were was more opportunity to capitalize on interceptions and break on passes than Jackson maximized. Going into his second year, I would be shocked if a mature Jackson isn’t close to double digit pass deflections while doubling his two 2017 picks.

Adrian Amos

Statistical line: 83 tackles, five tackles for loss, five passes defensed, one interception

Judgment: Too high

We’d call last season a career year for Amos. I know there’s a capacity to believe he has more room to grow, but the Bears should be excited if he plays at the same level in 2018. I don’t think what he did last year warrants a huge contract extension, but it was quality play that is hard to improve on nonetheless.

We’re at Amos’ professional ceiling, unless he develops a previously unseen ballhawk ability at 25-years-old and four seasons in. That’s highly unlikely.


Miami Dolphins v Atlanta Falcons
Parkey can finally address the Bears’ recent issues at kicker.
Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Cody Parkey

Statistical line: 26 field goals made (31 attempts), 33 extra points made (36 attempts)

Judgment: Just right

If Parkey is making around 85 percent of his kicks, and 94 percent of his extra points as stated, that would put him around the middle of the NFL. Once of the league’s best kickers, maintaining this type of consistency after a rebound 2017 season is a win for Parkey and the Bears. It’s also a dramatic step up from the unreliability of Connor Barth. This kicking performance helps push a team that’s relevant in the winter.

Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for The Rock River Times, an editor for Windy City Gridiron and Inside The Pylon, and is a contributor to Pro Football Weekly and The Athletic Chicago. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.