By Ryan Bukowiecki (@ryanbski)
Well folks, wasn’t sure that this point was going to come, but the NFL season is all full steam ahead and its opening game is already behind us.
Now we turn to our first full game day of 2020 and the rest of the league kicking off, including the Chicago Bears, who will get started against a long-time division rival in the Detroit Lions. It’s on theme for 2020 that the Bears kick-off their season against a hated foe given how full of drama this entire year has been.
It will be a very weird start to the NFL season with out basically any run-up to it, i.e., any preseason games. The thought that no team in the league — no elite quarterback, no anticipated rookie, no fading veteran looking for one more shot at glory — will take an official snap until game 1 of the regular season is crazy. And the NFL is already a crazy league to begin with, so trying to predict this year might be harder than brain surgery or rocket science (shout out to Matt Patricia).
On every fan’s mind in every NFL city is how ready is my team for the challenge that awaits this year. Specifically, in Chicago, the average fan’s mind is racing about the QB position and if the offense can somehow get itself close to the defense’s level.
Find out all the answers to your Bears questions in the final part of WARR Media’s 2020 Bears Season Preview.
Coaches Feeling Hot (Seat)?
Head coach Matt Nagy had an unbelievable 2018 where he won NFL Coach of the Year largely due to an elite defense and a workable-to-threatening offense. Last year saw a total regression of the offense where they simply didn’t do anything well and the hard-working defense suffered to the point of losing several key players to injury and just losing steam at key moments that led to close losses.
In the time since, multiple assistant coaches were fired and coaches familiar with this system were brought in. Now the offensive coaches must figure out a no-excuse way of getting this offense back to a workable/threatening level at least. Nagy will be at the forefront of any improvement — as the head coach and play caller there is no reason why this offense can’t run effectively or be changed if needed.
Defensively, the team felt the loss of coordinator Vic Fangio after the 2018 season. Chuck Pagano stepped in and as an experienced coordinator did a nice job but certainly left some room for improvement.
To get an even deeper look at what the Bears’ coaches are facing, click play on the video above.
Every football team has its issues in the off-season in addressing all of their problems. No team is ever perfect and no team ever has enough talent or depth. Football is a war of attrition and sometimes the simplest key to success is having enough players that can execute on Sundays. So besides the issues talked about in our preview there are other areas of concern.
For example, the offensive line took a major step back last season and have only added one new face in guard Germain Ifedi. The belief by Bears brass is that the offensive line will mainly fix itself for improvement. This idea isn’t too dissimilar to the approach to a few other positions like running back, wide receiver, corner back and kicker. But how much realistic improvement can any position group make without a talent infusion, let alone any preseason games or a lot of padded practices?
The main challenge for 2020 for a lot of teams is trying to get players to develop and improve during a season stripped down by a pandemic. Coaching is going to matter a lot this year and more so than in average years. Nagy has a pedigree of getting his team ready effectively, but like his players, can he improve in the areas he needs to to give himself an advantage competitively? Lots of drama awaits.
A final prediction before the season opener is for the Bears to compete for a wildcard spot, ending the season with a 9-7 record.
Defense is King
A marked regression in 2019 for the NFL’s best defense in 2018 may have been the least welcome development for a Bears team that saw more drastic fall-offs from their offense and coaching.
Though it was still a top-10 unit, the defense last year definitely had some slippage. That said, injuries played a big part in the slippage and in multiple ways the unit still managed to take care of most business.
Once again the defense is going to be heavily counted on for the entire team to have a successful season. Some troubling issues with depth in the secondary could derail things, but there is just as much a chance the group takes a big step up and rounds out another top-ranked squad of defenders.
Extreme Tight End Makeover
Dating back to well before Matt Nagy’s term as head coach, the tight end position has escaped the Bears’ control, much like the quarterback position.
In an effort to re-do the room a few biggish names were brought in to spruce the place up: Jimmy Graham, Demetrius Harris and top draft pick Cole Kmet. These three guys alone should greatly enhance the production of the tight end position from a year ago. Honestly, how hard can it be to improve on 36 receptions for 416 yards and only two touchdowns? That’s all the production the Bears got out of the entire tight end group in 2019.
Quarterback Battle Royal
The battle of the quarterbacks hasn’t lived up to the hopes of Bears fans and analysts alike entering the off-season. Other than one friendly Madden 21 simulation, many believe the Bears will still continue with lackluster quarterback play that will sink the team’s chances at competing.
Whether its Mitchell Trubisky or Nick Foles calling plays for Chicago, either man can take solace in knowing that they should have a top defense in the League to back them up. Therefore the key with this position is going to be getting to a competent level of quarterbacking that is more similar to the division-winning run in 2018 than the limp playoff chase of 2019.
Ryan Bukowiecki covers the Chicago Bears and professional football for WARR