The Chicago Bears (7-8) close out their disappointing 2019 season on Sunday in Minneapolis as they face the Minnesota Vikings (10-5). This year has been such a colossal bust that it’s hard to watch this Bears team play. Luckily we’re finally in Week 17. The end can’t come soon enough for a squad that must be ready to pack it in for the winter. However, Bears head coach Matt Nagy always has his players giving full effort while the Vikings are locked in as the 6th seed in the NFC Playoffs. Subsequently, rumors abound that Minnesota will rest many of their starters including starting quarterback Kirk Cousins.
Improvements for 2020 Chicago Bears
2019 Chicago Bears Review
The 2019 Chicago Bears never had it right from the very start. The lack of preseason preparation started the team on the wrong path. The Thursday night opening game against their division rivals, the Green Bay Packers, previewed problems to come in an awful 10-3 defeat. Then the injuries started in Week 4 as quarterback Mitchell Trubisky hurt his left (non-throwing) shoulder. Then Akiem Hicks went down with a gruesome elbow injury in Week 5 versus the Oakland Raiders in London, England. Coupled with that heartbreaking defeat, the Bears seemed to lose their attitude, their luck, and their mojo. In a season that had so much promise, including a prediction for a Super Bowl championship by this very writer, needless to say it has been an incredibly disappointing year. What do the Bears need to improve in 2020?
What Chicago Needs to Improve in 2020
The first thing the Chicago Bears need to improve in 2020 is a good, reliable Tight End. Nagy’s offense is similar to the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles offenses run by Nagy’s mentors. What do both successful offenses have that Chicago does not? They have supreme weapons. The biggest difference in those offenses are the tight ends. The Chiefs have Travis Kelce while the Eagles have Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert. The NFL is a tight end league. Look around. Most successful offenses have fast and physical tight ends that create matchup problems. Teams are looking for specimens like Rob Gronkowski, Jason Witten, Greg Olsen, Tony Gonzalez, Eric Ebron, George Kittle, T.J. Hockenson, Noah Fant, Antonio Gates, O.J. Howard, Evan Engram, and Hunter Henry.
What do the Bears have? They have a major free agent bust in Trey Burton and a major draft bust in second rounder Adam Shaheen. Other than those two major disappointments, Chicago has tried Ben Braunecker, Bradley Sowell, Eric Saubert, Jesper Horsted, and J.P. Holtz this season. None of those players has more than 91 yards this year. General Manager Ryan Pace needs to invest heavily in new tight ends this off-season.
The Bears offensive line started the year with the oft-injured Kyle Long at right guard. He was ineffective and placed on Injured Reserve early in the season, unlikely to ever play for the Bears again. As the season wore on, both his replacement Rashaad Coward and right tackle Bobby Massie have been injured too. Left tackle Charles Leno leads the team in penalties with 13. The left guard Cody Whitehair and center James Daniels switched positions in the middle of the year due to ineffectiveness.
So is anyone on this line having a solid year? Both the run blocking and pass blocking have been suspect. Fans wonder why Trubisky and running back David Montgomery aren’t producing. Look no further than the poor offensive line. Along with tight ends, this is the first or second most important position group that Pace needs to look at going into 2020.
Health, Confidence, and Takeaways From the Defense
The offense was the main culprit for a poor 2019 season but Chicago’s defense wasn’t without blame too. Before the season we probably overlooked new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano taking over for the departed Vic Fangio. This was not the biggest issue this season but it was partially to blame. The players had some trouble adjusting to Pagano’s scheme. It seemed to take away some of the Bears defensive aggressiveness. That is probably why the defense forced only 16 takeaways after leading the NFL with 36 takeaways last year. The lack of takeaways along with plenty of injuries to key starters such as Akiem Hicks, Danny Trevathan, and Roquan Smith caused the Bears defense to drop from the league’s most dominant unit in 2018 to just an above average, 11th ranked unit this year according to Troy Aikman‘s Efficiency Ratings (AER). This Bears defense isn’t going anywhere. Next year should be a better season with better health and more confidence in Pagano’s system.
Playcalling That Includes Some Trick Plays
Remember when Nagy was all the rage in 2018 because of his trick plays? Where did they go? For some reason Nagy refused to call trick plays this year. It snowballed due to his stubbornness to call tricks because “the team didn’t earn it” with a consistently solid offense. So what? This offense needed a shot in the arm all year and they never had the chance. Coach Nagy refused to let the boys have fun.
It was shocking that we didn’t see one single trick play all year. No flea flickers. No Philly specials. Nothing. It was completely surprising and odd. If Nagy had called a trick play in the Oakland game or the Los Angeles Chargers game, maybe Chicago pulls out a win or two. Get a victory in one or both of those games and who knows what happens. Instead, Nagy stuck to his guns. They’re still in the holster and waiting to be used in 2020.
Better Quarterback Play
Finally, every Bears fan knows that Mitch Trubisky must get better. Whether you’re a Trubisky hater or a Trubisky apologist, we can all agree he just simply needs to be better. The question is, how? Outside of the theories listed above, in general the team needs to surround the quarterback with better playmakers. Cris Collinsworth said in last Sunday night’s NBC broadcast that Allen Robinson would likely be the Chiefs third or fourth weapon — and that he’s the only weapon the Bears have.
So the Bears need a better line, better receivers, and a better running game. They desperately need a tight end. They need a playcaller who helps rather than hinders. Trubisky will be just fine as he gains experience. He’s being overcoached by Nagy. Trubisky is paralyzed by overanalysis. He’s thinking too much instead of just going out and playing.
Is there a chance that Nagy ruined Trubisky? Possibly. Can Trubisky overcome the overcoaching through hard work, a change in perspective, mentoring help, and better surrounding weapons? Absolutely. Trubisky has great physical tools. He has a strong arm and mobility. Trubisky shows flashes. He needs experience, blocking, and some good luck. Trubisky could still be the answer but the Bears can’t put all the pressure on him. Give the guy a break. Cheer for him. Instead of bagging on him, give him a hand. He just might surprise you.
In this, the season finale, we have a caveat for our Crystal Ball. With the 6th seed locked up win or lose, will the Vikings play their starters? If they do, I think they’ll win. However, if the Vikings don’t play the starters while the Bears do play their starters, that changes the prediction for us.
IF the Vikings try: Minnesota Vikings 23, Chicago Bears 14
IF the Vikings bench Cousins and their starters: Chicago Bears 20, Minnesota Vikings 10
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