Where Does the Chicago Bears Roster Stand?

On offense, the biggest question that was answered during the Chicago Bears season last year was that Jay Cutler was the only reason the Bears even won games. Cutler only threw 11 interceptions in 15 games started while throwing 22 touchdowns to a wide receiving core void of talent due to the continuous absence of Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal, and Kevin White. Cutler had the highest quarterback rating, 92.3, of his career.

Where Does the Chicago Bears Roster Stand?

The cause for concern, however, is that offensive coordinator Adam Gase left the Bears for the Miami Dolphins head coaching job. The Bears chose continuity by elevating quarterback coach Dowell Loggains to replace Gase. With a healthy wide receiving corps that includes Kevin White’s delayed arrival, Cutler’s production and the Bears offense as a whole should improve significantly. However, with Martellus Bennett having been traded to the Patriots, there’s a void at tight end even with Zach Miller still with the team.

Like tight end, the running back position could be a gamble since the Bears chose not to re-sign the Bears’ second leading rusher in franchise history, Matt Forte, due to his age. Jeremy Langford and Ka’deem Carey, a pair of fourth round picks, look like they can be dynamic together, but neither is a proven entity. Lastly, the offensive line, giving up 29 sacks with Cutler as the starter, had its ups and downs because of early injuries to Jermon Bushrod, Will Montgomery, and the moving of Kyle Long to right tackle a week before the season started. The void at guard was in no way filled by the likes of Vladimir Ducasse nor Patrick Omameh. On the other hand, Charles Leno played well enough to receive praise from Pace. And Bobby Massie, the former starting right tackle for the Cardinals, was signed to a three-year, $18 million contract. On paper, the Bears have two elite guards with respect to versatility in Kyle Long and Matt Slauson. This should help Hroniss Grasu, the rookie center who struggled at times last year.

The defense was in much worse shape than the offense with respect to talent, yet the defense finished 14th in total defense according to ESPN metrics while the offense finished 21st in total offense. This means that the Bears defensive staff utilized more out of the defensive players than the offense. It also marked an improvement from 30th overall in total defense under Marc Trestman from the previous year.

Surprisingly, in his first draft, Pace only took two defensive players: Eddie Goldman and Adrian Amos. Amos started over 99% of the snaps at safety and was consistent throughout the year while Eddie Goldman improved at an astonishing rate and led all 3-4 nose tackles in sacks (4.5). Pernell McPhee, the prized free agent, was dominant early in the season sacking quarterbacks six times in the first seven weeks until he hurt his knee in the Lions game and was hobbled the rest of the season. Willie Young was arguably the best defensive player when Mcphee went down, while Lamarr Houston led the team with eight sacks. None of the three are particularly fast or have a signature speed move.

The defensive line outside of Goldman was below average and a liability in the run game. Misfits like Will Sutton are better fitted in a different defense while Ego Ferguson hasn’t shown anything worth remembering in his career to this point. The last of the front seven included the likes of Shea McClellin and Christian Jones.

Pace went into free agency with a plan and signed two top ten inside linebackers according to Pro Football Focus in Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman. Both of these two had over 100 tackles last season and complement each other with Trevathan being a stud in coverage and Freeman excelling in pass rushing from the inside.

The Bears general manager also addressed one of the defensive end positions by signing Akiem Hicks. Hicks is a natural fit in a 3-4 defensive system and has the length and size valued at his respective position. The Bears had the fourth overall rated passing defense with respect to yards yet had the 25th best passing defense with respect to passing touchdowns scored on them. This means they struggled in the red zone, a place where playmakers are crucial.

Another thing Pace made clear is that the defense lacked playmakers, and he planned on adding them in his second offseason. Kyle Fuller led the team in interceptions, while Tracy Porter looked like a Pro Bowl corner at one point. Bryce Callahan was sufficient when healthy in the slot. Antrel Rolle, however, was brought to Chicago as a stop-gap but failed to stay on the field. That left Chris Prosinski and Harold Jones-Quartay exposed week in and week out. Adrian Amos proved to show he could start in the NFL at free safety but will need to show he can do also create turnovers, a thing he didn’t do this past season.

In all, while the defense proved to be void of talent, the defensive coaching staff was able to get the most out of their players. The offense should get an adrenaline shot with a healthy wide receiving corps. Expect improvement in the upcoming season on both sides of the ball, but the defense should really take a big step forward this year with the free agent additions and the strong defensive draft.

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