Two years ago, the Chicago Bears went from last to first in the NFC North, finishing 12-4 and were a double-doink away from possibly making a deep run in the playoffs. Fast forward a year, and the Bears did not take the next step, falling to 8-8 and not even making the playoffs.
Matt Nagy enters his third year as the head coach of the Monsters of the Midway, and undoubtedly made mistakes throughout last year, starting was back in the preseason where he played his starters sparingly at best. Quarterback Mitchell Trubiski played only three snaps, all in the second preseason game, and all three were handoffs to the running back.
Offseason Coaching Changes
Nagy and General Manager Ryan Pace have made plenty of moves ahead of the 2020 NFL Draft, with a majority of them being on offense. That makes sense considering that the Bears defense was still extremely good last year, ranking as the 4th best defense in points per game. The offense on the other hand struggled mightily, the 29th ranked offense in the league, only ahead of such juggernauts as Cincinnati, Washington, and the Jets.
To start with, Nagy cleaned house with the offensive coaches underneath him, letting go of Offensive Coordinator Mark Helfrich, Offensive Line Coach Harry Hiestand, Tight Ends Coach Kevin Gillbride and Special Teams Assistant Brock Olivo. He brought in Bill Lazor, who most recently was the Offensive Coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals from 2017-2018, and the same position with the Miami Dolphins in 2014-2015.
John DeFilippo was added to the staff as the Quarterbacks Coach, who was with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2017-2018, helping Nick Foles come off the bench to win the Super Bowl in 2018. Offensive Line Coach Juan Castillo joined the staff, as well as Clancy Barone as the tight ends coach. Every one of these men were brought in to make the offense better. Nagy knows another season like last year and he may not get another.
Major Offseason Additions
Robert Quinn – DE
As much as we have spoken about the Bears need to improve offensively, potentially the biggest free agent addition was on defense with the signing of defensive end Robert Quinn from the Dallas Cowboys. A former Defensive Player of the Year from his time with the Rams, fans are excited about the idea of Quinn matching up opposite Khalil Mack, who received his own Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2016. Plus defensive tackle Akhiem Hicks will be coming back from injury, making it tough to double and triple team Mack as most offenses did last year.
Nick Foles – QB
The next biggest splash made by the Chicago Bears was trading for quarterback Nick Foles. Quarterback was obviously a position of need coming into this offseason, with Mitchell Trubiski regressing last season. Foles is familiar with the system that Nagy runs, so although he would have to win the starting job from Trubiski, he is more than capable of running the system, as shown in his time with Philadelphia. In addition, with this offseason being like no other with the pandemic basically shutting down the country, there will not be as much on the field time to get up to speed, so being familiar with the system no doubt had a lot to do with the Bears going after Foles.
Tre Roberson – CB
Playing in the CFL the previous 2 seasons with the Calgary Stampeders, Roberson was signed by the Bears before February in the largest CFL-to-NFL compensation since Cameron Wake joined the Miami Dolphins. Roberson will have the opportunity to win the starting spot opposite Kyle Fuller, with Prince Amukamara being released before the start of free agency.
Jimmy Graham – TE
Two years ago Ryan Pace added tight end Trey Burton from the Philadelphia Eagles, and it looked like the perfect match. The Bears had a need at tight end, and Burton was behind perennial Pro-Bowler Zach Ertz in Philadelphia. During his first year with the team that appeared to be true. Burton finished with 54 receptions, 569 yards, and 6 touchdowns.
Before the Bears first playoff game in 8 years, Burton injured his groin the night before the game, and was unable to participate in the contest. He was sorely missed as Trubiski struggled throughout the game without his safety valve across the middle.
Unfortunately the injuries continued to hinder his performance throughout the 2019 season, eventually landing on injured reserve, finishing his season. Soon after free agency started, the Bears cut him with an injury designation, which allows the team to spread his salary cap hit over two seasons.
Enter 34-year-old Jimmy Graham, who played for the New Orleans Saints when Ryan Pace was general manager for the team. His best year are behind him, but Pace and Nagy believe that he still has a little left in the tank. Playing the previous two seasons with the Green Bay Packers, Graham saw a drop off in production, but was still more than all the other tight ends on the Bears roster combined.
Germain Ifedi – OT
Ifedi came from the Seattle Seahawks, where he was a former first round pick. He played right tackle for the Seahawks, but he has experience at guard as well. The flexibility will help the Bears who will look to improve a lackluster offensive line from a year ago, that was riddled with injuries and bad play.
Ifedi himself struggled with penalties, ranking among the most penalized offensive lineman over the last three years in which he played a majority of Seattle’s games. Hopefully a fresh start will help, as well as joining new offensive line coach Juan Castillo.
Even with the additions of Jimmy Graham and Germain Ifedi, look for the Chicago Bears to draft both offensive line help and possibly a tight end with their 2 second round picks. Obviously they do not have a first round pick, which went to the Raiders in the Khalil Mack trade, but I fell that most fans are ok with having Mack on the team.
Many draft experts have the Bears looking at Notre Dame tight end Cole Kmet with one of the second round picks (43 and 50th overall). Some of the offensive lineman that have been mentioned with the Bears are Lloyd Cushenberry from LSU, Isaiah Wilson from Georgia, and Jonah Jackson from Ohio State.
After the second round they do not have another pick until the 5th round, unless Pace goes against his natural instinct and trades back in the draft to get more picks. Look for the Bears to add depth to their secondary with these later draft picks, unless somebody like Grant Delpit falls to them with the 43rd overall pick, the safety from LSU.
The Bears still have most of the core from the team that went 12-4 two years ago and was considered a Super Bowl contender going into last season. They are currently tied for the 11th best odds to win the Super Bowl, with the Los Angeles Rams at 25-1.
Having a backup for Trubiski in case he continues to struggle gives Nagy a little breathing room, but the reality is that he needs to improve the offense and improve it now. The defense is without a doubt a Super Bowl caliber defense. Unfortunately, this wouldn’t be the first time that the Chicago Bears wasted a very good defense with a sub par offense.
What do you think about the upcoming Bears season? Will they get back to the playoffs or continue to be stuck in mediocrity? Let me know in the comments below!