All the talk has been around the Khalil Mack trade and the Roquan smith hold out during pre-season. This defense has taken a step forward without doubt, but what about the rest of the team?
Reasons to be cheerful?
Jordan Howard is a stud running back who still has so much to offer. 9 rushing TDs last season against defences who expected the run at every snap was an excellent effort, if Howard can up his targets in the passing game and improve on the 1 TD catch over his 1st 2 seasons then the bears will have opened up a whole host of options. Tarik Cohen got a lot of the 3rd down work last season and seems likely to do so again, but the bears should aim to get both players on the field at the same time to maximise their effectiveness against opponents’ coverages.
After Kendall wright led the team in receiving yards last year with just 614 and scored a single TD, the Bears added WR Allan Robinson from the Jags, and Trey Burton at TE from the Eagles. Burton had 5 TDs in the regular season last year and Robinson had 20 scores between ’15 and ’16 before getting injured in game 1 of last season and sitting out the year.
As mentioned above the defense is the bears strongest suit, Mack will demolish opposing O-Lines whilst Smith, Danny Trevathan and Eddie Goldman will disrupt run plays at and around the line of scrimmage. Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamura make a good cornerback duo too, preventing easy targets downfield.
Reasons to be fearful?
Mitch Trubisky needs to take a huge leap forward for this team to stand any chance of success. In 12 games last season he attempted just 330 passes (comp 59.4%) at an average of 6.6 yards per pass. Going 7-7 TD to INT was unimpressive. Tyler Gabriel has been brought in from Atalanta to stretch the field but the addition of he, and all the aforementioned weapons, will only be of use if Trubisky can find them.
The NFC North has 3 Elite QBs in Rodgers, Cousins and Stafford. Lets be honest, Trubisky has so far to go before he’s even in their wake that I doubt he can see them from his vantage point!
Expectation could be something to fear. Too much pressure on Trubisky and the coaching staff to make use of their new toys could send the season hurtling in a direction that is most unwanted. Be patient Bears fans, your team is still in rebuild mode and doing a good job.
How does the season shape up?
I think I’ll be one of a small number of people to say the Panthers don’t make the post season this time around. The Division works against them, Cam doesn’t have enough good target-men to tie up defences and the defense always looks rudder-less whenever Kuechly misses games. Ron Rivera will keep all the games interesting, the Wildcard will never be quite out of reach but they wont control their own destiny.
Playoffs? Sadly not, despite having players who deserve to be in the post season there simply isn’t a way for them to leap above enough NFC opponents to make an impact…barring injury of course.