First the good news. From top to bottom, the Chicago Bears have their most talented roster in years. The Ryan Pace rebuild will finally start to bear some fruit in 2018 with some solid youngsters developing, and some free agents primed to become playmakers for new head coach Matt Nagy.
But the bad news is that these Bears may still be fourth best team in the NFC North.
It’s important to keep that in perspective because the playoffs are still a long shot, but team wide improvement is very likely. The problem the Bears are going to run into are the Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions are all good. The NFC North is going to be a tough division.
Pro Football Focus, as a part of ESPN Insider, recently ranked each NFL roster, and they had the Bears at twenty-two. Since it’s behind a paywall we won’t show you the whole thing, but we will spotlight the Bears’ related info.
Biggest strength: Akiem Hicks has been a force on the Bears’ defensive front since arriving in Chicago in 2016. While his 49 total quarterback pressures in 2017 fell just one short of matching his career mark set the prior season, his play against the run was even better. His 37 run stops led all 3-4 defensive ends, and his run-stop percentage of 10.7 ranked sixth.
No argument from me on Hicks being their biggest strength. He was robbed of a Pro Bowl spot last year, but if he has another strong season he’ll make it this time.
According to PFF, Hicks is actually the Bears second highest graded defensive player behind safety Adrian Amos.
Biggest weakness: With free-agent pickup Trey Burton expected to factor in more heavily in the passing game, the Bears will lean on Dion Sims for blocking. Unfortunately for Chicago, Sims struggled throughout 2017, ranking 62nd out of 69 qualifying tight ends with a grade of just 38.4 on run blocks.
Sims was their lowest graded projected starter according to PFF, but I think a better offense will bring out better play from him. I know I’m in the minority, but there’s some value in Sims if used correctly. And let’s not forget, cutting him to save most of his 2018 cap hit could have happened had they wanted. Nagy must have seen something in him and asked Pace to keep him around. With a new offense it was a perfect chance to get him off the books, but him still under contract tells me something.
By the numbers: Mitchell Trubisky needs to show improvement in a number of areas this season, one of them being against the rush. His 48.7 passer rating when under pressure ranked 34th out of 40 quarterbacks last season.
I know I should be concerned about a second year QB entering a new offense, but I’m not.
Trubisky was under pressure last year because defenses attacked him when they kew he was going to throw. The Bears were so predictable last year that defenses could sell out to rush the quarterback.
And FYI, the Bears’ highest graded offensive player according to PFF was left tackle Charles Leno Jr.