General manager Ryan Pace has been on a mission to turn the Chicago Bears’ franchise around, and 2018 should finally be time for us to see a marked improvement from the young players he has assembled. His drafts haven’t been perfect, and there have been a few players snake-bitten by injury, but his grand-plan should start to bear fruit this season.
The year before Pace took over there were eighteen players on the roster that were 30-years old or older. This year there only four such players on their 90-man roster. Turning over the roster form the Phil Emery era has been a long process, but four years into the rebuild and it’s time to be win some games.
ESPN recently ranked the under-25 talent of all 32 NFL teams, and they had the Bears all the way to tenth after being ranked eighteenth a year ago. Since their article is behind a pay wall, we can’t share the whole thing, but here’s what they had to say about the Bears.
Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky did not have a strong rookie season, but there is hope that new head coach Matt Nagy can improve the offense immediately. The Bears have one of the best running back duos in the league with Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. Anthony Miller, a second-round rookie, should be productive in the slot this season. Tight end Adam Shaheen should get involved more this year after 12 catches (three for touchdowns) as a rookie. It is a far deeper offense than the scraps Trubisky was throwing to a year ago.
I keep seeing NFL analysts say Bears second-round draft pick, Anthony Miller, is going to play in the slot this season, and while that is true, that’s not the only place he’ll be playing. Nagy will line Miller up split out, bunched up, and where ever a mismatch can be found. As training camp has progressed, no player has impressed me more than Miller.
The defense added a big piece with the first-round selection of Roquan Smith. He should be the next great inside linebacker in Chicago, assuming the team can get him signed quickly. Eddie Goldman and Jonathan Bullard provide starting experience on the defensive line. Safety Eddie Jackson was the only rookie drafted after the third round to start 16 games last season. He flashed with a pair of defensive touchdowns for a secondary badly in need of more takeaways. The Bears have not had a player with more than two interceptions in a season since 2014.
Bullard stepping up and being more consistent will be a big plus for Chicago’s run defense, but of their under-25 defenders, it’s Jackson and Smith that will need to make the biggest impact.
We are banking on Chicago’s blue-chip talent in Trubisky and Smith to step up this season, but the playoffs are probably still out of reach until 2019.
But as it usually is in football, their success rides on the quarterback, and the 23-year old Trubisky will need to take to the new Nagy-system and lead this offense. I have the Bears narrowly missing the playoffs this year, but it would not surprise me to see them playing a meaningful game in January if things break just right for them.