Chicago Bears Season Preview
NFC North - Chicago Bears
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Round 3 – Running back, David Montgomery, Iowa State
Round 4 – Wide receiver, Riley Ridley, Georgia
Having traded away their top two picks in the 2019 NFL Draft last year in return for linebacker Khalil Mack and wide receiver Anthony Miller, the Chicago Bears were forced to wait until the middle of day two to make their first selection. Iowa state running back David Montgomery was the pick after the Bears had made another trade with the New England Patriots to move up 14 spots in round three and he should figure to see significant playing time as a rookie after the loss of Jordan Howard.
Lacking the top end speed and agility of some of the more dynamic backs in the league, Montgomery still projects to be a three-down option thanks to his abilities as a blocker and a receiver. Used correctly, the former Iowa State product offers value as a powerful runner between the tackles but is likely to struggle if asked to run outside.
Riley Ridley may not have let college with the same level of hype that surrounded his brother Calvin when he was selected by the Atlanta Falcons in the first-round of the 2018 NFL Draft, but there is a lot to like about his potential. Blessed with most of the qualities required to excel at the professional level, while Ridley might not have the elite speed of some of his peers, his strong hands and route running ability should see him establish himself in the Chicago offense as a rookie. Ridley projects to be a complimentary possession receiver who could flourish in the right system.
A relatively quiet offseason saw most of the available money spent on retaining existing players rather than signing new ones, with offensive tackle Bobby Massie the biggest beneficiary. The loss of safety Adrian Amos to the Green Bay Packers and cornerback Bryce Callahan to the Denver Broncos were the most notable departures, with the trade of running back Jordan Howard to the Philadelphia Eagles the most significant subtraction on offense in terms of name recognition.
Former New York Jets defensive back Buster Skrine was their most expensive addition during free agency, closely followed by former Washington Redskins safety Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix. Both will help compensate for the loss of Amos and Callahan but will struggle to play at their level. Former Seattle Seahawks running back Mike Davis and New England Patriots wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson were the highest profile free agent additions on offense, but neither is expected to be much more than a role player.
With Vic Fangio taking over as the Denver Broncos new head coach, Chicago turned to former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator and Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano as his replacement. Given the success of the 2018 unit under Fangio, Pagano will have big shoes to fill this season.
After watching him miss a 43-yard field goal that cost them a victory against the Eagles during the playoffs, most Bears fans will be pleased to note that kicker Cody Parkey will not be back in 2019.
There are few bigger defensive stars in the NFL than Mack and his efforts during his first season in Chicago did little to suggest that the Bears had overpaid for his services last year. Few linebackers are as impactful as the former Oakland Raider and he is a force as both a pass rusher and a run stopper. One of the rare defenders capable of changing the course of a game on a single play, Mack is unquestionably the best at his position in the league right now.
Mack is not the only talented name on defense, with cornerback Kyle Fuller and safety Eddie Jackson two budding stars in the secondary. Akiem Hicks is the star player up front, part of a defensive line that projects to be one of the best in the NFL this season.
The talent on offense is relatively meager by comparison, with third-down running back Tarik Cohen arguably the team’s only real playmaker of any note. And while much is expected from Mitchell Trubisky heading into his third season, he will need to make significant improvements before anyone confuses him with an elite quarterback.
A 12-4 record in 2018 will have some Bears fan gearing up for a potential Super Bowl run behind a defense that has the potential to go all the way, but Chicago will ultimately only go as far as the offense can take them. While the Bears might have no problem stacking the wins during the regular season, they will need to be much better on offensive if they want to be able to compete with the top teams in the conference.
A stable of quality backs running behind one of the league’s better offensive lines should have no trouble moving the ball on the ground, but if forced to put the ball in the hands of Trubisky, life might not be so comfortable for Chicago. Struggles progressing through his reads and accuracy issues with his deep throws will need to be addressed if the Bears are to make waves in the postseason, as will his interception totals. Trubisky has the feel of a game manager rather than that of a dynamic passer, but for a player selected with the second overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft, he needs to prove he can be more of the latter this year.
The NFC North should be more competitive in 2019 and it is far from a given that Chicago will finish ahead of Green Bay and Minnesota again this season. Both teams had down years in 2018 and the Bears are unlikely to see a repeat of their 5-1 record against their divisional rival this season.
Oddschecker spokesperson Pete Watt: “There remains a feeling at Soldier Field that perhaps they should have done more last season; with no first-round pick due to the Khalil Mack trade, Bears’ fans might need to expect a regression from last year’s total of twelve wins.
Surprisingly, Mitchell Trubisky is deemed the most likely Bear to win MVP this year, despite Mack’s transcendent 2018.”
Based on the 2018 record of their opponents, Chicago will theoretically have the 5th hardest ranked schedule in the NFL heading into 2019. They will face teams that accumulated a combined record of 131-121-4 last season for a winning percentage of .520.
With perhaps the easiest part of a challenging 2019 schedule coming before their Week 6 bye, Chicago will need to start quickly if they hope to keep pace in the division. The last five games of the year on the road to all three divisional opponents and at home to the Dallas Cowboys and Kansas City Chiefs could be a nightmarish way to finish the season.