In Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, a town without hope recruits seven heroes to defend them against bandits. Remade as The Magnificent Seven, the tale is the same: a town in despair finds seven remarkable men who give them hope. The Chicago Bears are going through rough times, and so the writers got together and chose our own Magnificent Seven–seven players who we think are the building blocks for the future success of the Chicago Bears.
Here are the only instructions: “I am proposing a roundtable for us to look on the upside. I suggest that each of us pick 7 players we think are the foundation for the future, ranked 1-7. Write up at least 3-5 sentences on why that guy is your choice. If you want proof on the field, that’s fine, but it can also be ‘I just have a feeling’ or ‘love watching him play.’ I’ll score the candidates (1st place = 7, 2nd place = 6 points, etc).”
This series will include the results, counting down to #1. First, however, here are the honorable mentions:
Eddie Jackson (9 points)
Lester: He’s under contract through the 2024 season, and even though the turnovers aren’t there, he’s still a good coverage safety and a chess piece you can move around to help disguise coverages.
Rob S: When building a modern defense, you start from the back and work forward — yes, the 2018 defense received incredible play from Akiem Hicks, Khalil Mack, and Eddie Goldman, but it was the coverage net behind them made up of Prince Amukamara, Adrian Amos, Bryce Callahan, Kyle Fuller, and yes, the much-maligned Eddie Jackson that made Fangio’s legendary unit what it was. With that in mind, the 15-million-dollar safety is an easy choice for me — he’s Sean Desai’s primary tool when disguising coverage for a reason (exceptional pre-snap mobility and post-snap awareness) and has plenty of good football ahead of him (only 27 years old!), so while he’s a bit expensive for what he’s worth he’ll still be a foundational part of the Bears’ future. Ranking him above Mack was hard, but I think he’ll bring more to the table defensively than 31-, 32-, and 33-year-old Khalil when all is said and done.
Jack Salo: It’s been nearly two years since he signed his contract extension, but despite some forgettable performances on the field, his salary cap hits are about to remind us that Jackson was once worth being the top paid safety in the league. Turnovers have become such bread and butter of the league; even if you don’t score, if you take the ball away from your opponent you keep them sidelined while the clock ticks. After the Bears cut Kyle Fuller, they really don’t have a ballhawk on this defense except Eddie Jackson. I would argue his returning to form is just as crucial as Khalil Mack’s
James Daniels (5 points)
Jeff: Daniels entered the league at 20 years old so he’s only 24 now with experience playing both guard positions and center. You need five offensive linemen who are at least “solid” and while I’m higher on Daniels than most, it would be tough to argue he’s not at least a solid pro. He would also be the only proven lineman on the team who will still be in his 20s next season. The Bears need to decide if they give Daniels a second contract this offseason and the answer is rather obvious to me.
Josh: Full disclosure, I was holding out hope that I could use this slot for Tarik Cohen, but his injury news just keeps getting worse. However, I had a backup in mind. It doesn’t seem to matter who is in at running back, the interior of the line is giving them some opportunities. I’ll be honest and admit that I haven’t broken down every play, but I do know that I have seen flashes from the young man. While Daniels has struggled at times, I also have to wonder how much of that is on Nagy’s playcalling. Finally, Daniels is just now getting to the same age Kyle Long was when he was drafted. I think he can be an okay building block for the next offensive line if he can just get a chance to settle into a better rhythm.
Trevis Gipson (1 point)
Jack Salo: Much of the foundation of the future will come in the next couple drafts; the Bears began the season with the second-oldest roster (per OTC), after all. In a video game world of 100% health, the Bears field two starters at edge rusher who are both in their 30s: Mack and Quinn. They’re both great players, but the (fingers crossed) future at edge rusher cannot be overlooked.
Robert Quinn (1 point)
ECD: His resurgence in the 2021 campaign has presented the opportunity for the next coaching staff to inherit a dominant pass rush tandem off the edge, provided Khalil Mack returns in full capacity for the 2022 season. Of course, if the Bears deem fit, there’s also an out built into Quinn’s contract. Yet his outstanding and consistent play this year almost ensures he’ll be back in 2022 and beyond, and for good reason.
Cole Kmet (1 point)
Rob Z: I’m not sure what to think of Cole Kmet. The moments of brilliance are too far and thin between the terrible drops, the ungraceful turns and penalties. This is more praying that he’s a viable No. 1 tight end because I think he can be in a normal offense. It says something to me that Justin Fields likes to go his way so much. That sort of connection might be lethal for years, if it all works out.
Those are our honorable mentions. Starting tomorrow we will count down from #7 to #1.