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No surprises in Bears projected starters from NFL.com

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NFL: JAN 06 NFC Wild Card - Eagles at Bears Photo by Daniel Bartel/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal, their Around the NFL Editor, is running through his projected starting lineups for all 32 teams, and I think he nailed most of his picks for the Chicago Bears.

The only mini-controversy comes at quarterback when he has the newcomer as the Bears’ starter, but with the way the league insiders and the Vegas odds have started to come around, this seems like the best bet.

I’ll list out all of Rosenthal’s projections with his take in the block quotes followed by my thoughts on each position.

OFFENSE

QB: Nick Foles

A shortened offseason of practices shouldn’t hurt Nick Foles in his competition with Mitchell Trubisky. Foles knows coach Matt Nagy’s offense from their time together in Kansas City. More importantly, Foles has played at a higher level than Trubisky has ever displayed.

I wouldn’t be shocked if Trubisky was able to keep his QB1 job, but in reading between all the lines from the comments from Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace these last few months, it seems like Foles will take the gig sooner than week one.

RB: David Montgomery

David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen disappointed as a running back tandem last year. Montgomery doesn’t create a lot of yards after contact, but he ran with more confidence, making defenders miss late in the season. He’ll get plenty of touches.

The way Montgomery finished, as well as Nagy’s self scouting and offensive coaching changes, leads me to the conclusion that he’ll build off his 1,074 yards from scrimmage as a rookie and look like a better fit in the offense in 2020. Cohen’s usage needs to be tweaked as well, and I would like to see Cordarrelle Patterson line up at tailback more this season.

WR: Allen Robinson

WR: Anthony Miller

I’ll give Ted Ginn the slight edge over Javon Wims and Cordarrelle Patterson for snaps as the third receiver, but I doubt any of them will play “starter” snaps. Patterson is primarily a special teamer, playing only 202 snaps last year despite all the injuries in Chicago.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Miller play more as the number three, with Ted Ginn Jr. getting some starting reps at the Z, but like Rosenthal said, Miller and Robinson will get the bulk of the wide receiver snaps.

TE: Cole Kmet

TE: Jimmy Graham

Instead of listing three receivers, both Jimmy Graham and do-everything rookie Cole Kmet get the nod as tight end starters. Nagy hasn’t used a ton of two-tight-end sets in Chicago, but Kmet’s skill set and Graham’s salary should get them on the field together.

While I think Kmet ends up eventually starting at the Y, I do have Demetrius Harris beginning the year as the starter with Graham at the U. Kmet does have the athleticism and receiving chops to get plenty of playing time if he knows his playbook, and all indications are that he’s a quick study. “I have yet to trump him in a Zoom meeting on a question,” head coach Matt Nagy said last Friday via the team’s website. “I can’t trick him. He knows it all.”

During Nagy’s first training camp in 2018 the Bears ran plenty of 12 personnel, but injuries seemed to scrap the double tight end plan during the regular season. I’m curious to see how the Bears line up this year.

LT: Charles Leno Jr.

LG: James Daniels

C: Cody Whitehair

RG: Germain Ifedi

RT: Bobby Massie

The Bears felt great about their offensive line after 2018, bringing the same crew back last season. They still have mostly the same group, but no longer feel so good. Nagy expressed confidence that tackles Bobby Massie and Charles Leno Jr. will bounce back after the Bears fell from 11th to 25th in PFF’s overall O-line rankings last year.

Massie battled injuries, the right guards were bad all year, and Leno took some time to adjust to the new holding rules, not to mention the Whitehair/Daniels swap — then swap back — stunted their cohesiveness. If the 25-year old Ifedi is just average back playing guard, and the other guys are relatively healthy, I expect this unit to bounce back.

DEFENSE

DE Akiem Hicks

DT Eddie Goldman

The interior defensive line depth is better than at outside linebacker. The Bears love Roy Robertson-Harris and Bilal Nichols rotating opposite Akiem Hicks, who was sorely missed when he missed 11 games with an elbow injury last season.

Just a reminder, nickle is really the new base defense as teams spend more time with five defensive backs on the field these days. When the Bears are in their regular 3-4, it’ll be Nichols at the other defensive end spot.

OLB Khalil Mack

OLB Robert Quinn

The defensive front seven is essentially the same as a year ago, except with Robert Quinn replacing Leonard Floyd as an edge rusher. That’s an upgrade if Quinn stays healthy, which he’s struggled to do for much of his career. If Quinn gets hurt, there’s not much behind him.

Quinn’s injury issues have been overblown, as the only two years he missed significant time was 2015 and 2016. He’s only missed missed three games the last three years.

ILB Danny Trevathan

ILB Roquan Smith

The Bears re-signed Danny Trevathan this offseason, indicating they will remain one of the few teams that plays two inside linebackers nearly every down. It’s a big year for Roquan Smith. Bears fans and coaches swear by him, but his PFF ranking last year was in the bottom half of inside linebackers, matching a second season without many standout moments.

Rosenthal references the Bears lack of depth at outside linebacker, but I’m more concerned with their depth at inside backer. Both Kevin Peirre-Louis and Nick Kwiatkoski left in free agency and the players behind Trevathan and Smith haven’t done a thing defensively in their respective careers. Smith was a disappointment in 2019 with personal issues affecting him early in the year and a torn pec landing him on injured reserve late in the year.

CB Kyle Fuller

CB Jaylon Johnson

CB Buster Skrine

Chicago drafted cornerback Jaylon Johnson in the second round to start sooner than later opposite Kyle Fuller. There isn’t much competition with Prince Amukamara gone, with former Steeler Artie Burns being one candidate for snaps.

The more I watch Johnson’s tape from Utah and hear what his coaches think of him, the more I think he’s going to starting opposite Fuller week one. Skrine was a good fit last year at nickle, but the Bears have a couple young slot corners in that could push for playing time.

S Eddie Jackson

S Tashaun Gipson

The Bears fell from No. 1 (by a lot) in defensive efficiency in 2018 to No. 8 last year, per Football Outsiders. It’s still a talented group, but 2018 was lightning in a bottle, rather than a realistic goal for the 2020 Bears under defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano.

The quickest route to improvement is probably through Chicago’s top defensive players (Khalil Mack and Eddie Jackson) playing their best after relative down years.

I’m not sure how a guy that was All-Pro in 2018 (and a 2-time Pro Bowler) can be underrated, but with the way national analysts keep overlooking Jackson, that’s how it seems. Don’t let the lack of stats fool you into thinking that Jackson wasn’t damn good last year. If the pass rush can pick things up a bit and if Jackson and Gipson’s playing styles mesh, then expect E-Jax to be back on the All-Pro team.

Then of course there’s this too...

Now it’s your turn. How do you see the starting lineups shaking out for the Bears on week one of the 2020 season?