As the season resumed 10 days ago, ChiCitySports.com will try to answer the question on everyone’s mind. Can we make the playoffs this year?
From the offense, defense, quarterback, to the coaching staff, we are going to put our beloved football team under the microscope and find out if they are true postseason material.
Two years ago, the Bears had a fabulous season, finishing with a 12-4 record. They lost to the Eagles in a wild-card game on a missed field goal that bounced off both uprights. In the end, the Bears were eliminated in a game that represents the archetype of bad luck.
There were good hopes for Chicago in 2019. But they fell apart. The Bears didn’t make it back to the playoffs. In an arduous and exciting division such as ours, there is little to no room for error. In 2019, the Bears finished with a record of 8 wins for 8 losses. And one man on the team took the blame for this collapse: Mitchell Trubisky.
So the Bears made it their priority for the post-season to get a quarterback who could carry the team forward. They signed Nick Foles, an experienced QB who has already won a Super Bowl; it was in 2018 during the Super Bowl LII. The first Super Bowl in history for the Eagles, who won 41-33 against the Patriots.
The burning question for the Bears in 2020: Will Chicago be able to return to the playoffs?
Will Nick Foles Take Trubisky’s spot?
Mitchell Trubisky in 2019:
3129 yards, 326 completions out of 516 attempted passes (63.2%); 17 touchdowns, and 10 steals.
Chosen second in the 2017 Draft, Mitchell Trubisky simply collapsed in 2019. Even though he ended the season with a decent stat line, he was never decisive. He didn’t live up to the expectations we can have in a player drafted ahead of Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson. That’s why the Bears decided not to activate the fifth year of their rookie contract.
This will force Trubisky to raise his level of play. Even though he was struggling in his rookie season, he had an interesting 2018 year, leading the Bears to the division title. He was even selected for the Pro Bowl.
This year Trubisky will be playing for his future with the Chicago franchise. If he doesn’t perform at a satisfying level, the Bears probably won’t keep him. With this in mind, the Bears would do well to take the necessary steps to have a choice in the Top 3 of the 2021 Draft and select Justin Fields, the Ohio State Buckeyes’ QB.
Before that, Trubisky will already be under pressure with Nick Foles. Even though Nick Foles is far from his old self who led the Eagles to the first Super Bowl in their history, he’s still an experienced player. A cold-blooded, sometimes mind-boggling player who can carry a franchise on his shoulders.
Foles will find himself in a situation that is very similar to the one he had known in Philly. He will be the understudy of a QB that came out of the first round of the Draft. This time, he will not be expected in the event of Trubisky’s injury, he is here in case of a potential Trubisky lack of performance.
Certainly, the pressure Nick Foles will put on Trubisky just by being in the roster can help the young QB push forward. Or simply make him collapse for good. Either way, Foles’ experience will be an asset to Trubisky because he will be able to learn from him. If Trubisky makes it through, he will have a mentor, a player who has won, and who will be able to guide him. If not, the Bears will have a quality back-up until they can rebuild and find a sustainable option in this position.
An attack that lacks targets and a non-reliable offensive line in 2019
The Bears attack in 2019:
280 points scored (17.5 on average per game); twenty-ninth in the NFL
21 sacks conceded is too much, way too much. With a QB still learning the ropes, far from his top form, this was definitely a major problem.
The Bears’ offensive line must absolutely get back on track in 2020. The cast will not be much different because four of the five offensive linemen will return in 2020. But with a new formula: a new offensive line coach, Juan Castillo. We will have to see if this new coach will be able to better exploit the potential of these men. Left tackle Charles Leno Jr, right tackle Bobby Massie, center Cody Whitehair, and left guard James Daniels who will return in 2020 to hopefully do better than last season.
The only new addition to the O-line is Germain Ifedi. He joined the Bears during the off-season from the Seahawks. He had been chosen in the first round of the 2016 Draft, but he was not really up to the task. He was the one who conceded the most penalties last year (16 in 16 games).
Salvation is also unlikely to come from Lachavious Simmons, who was selected in the seventh round of the 2020 Draft.
On to the receivers now. Allen Robinson II returns after a very good 2019 season. He was the Bears’ leader at the receiving end and will, without a doubt, continue to be so. With 98 catches for 1147 yards and 7 TDs, he was a must-have in your fantasy football team last year.
The Bears will also be able to count on Anthony Miller, who will have to improve his game in 2020 as he finished the 2019 season with only one TD. It should be noted that he is coming out of a shoulder injury.
Apart from these two players, the Bears lack high-level targets. In the fifth round, they drafted Darnell Mooney, a fast and explosive receiver. His size is a bit of a problem and because of that, he shouldn’t be on the field too often. He can still however be able to serve and make an interesting impact for his rookie season.
The Bears have also signed Jimmy Graham, the Packers’ tight end. An experienced player for sure, but on the downhill phase of his career. However, he could offer a good attacking presence and his experience will be an asset for the Bears.
They also picked up in the second round of the Draft a TE: Cole Kmet from Notre Dame. He is expected to make his debut early in the season. He is an interesting player and will be a great asset to the Bears. He could actually be the rookie with the biggest impact for Chicago this season.
The Bears could have counted on David Montgomerry to run the games, but Montgomerry was injured at the end of August at training camp. He is expected to be out for two more weeks. Tarik Cohen, who had been very good in 2018, posted slightly lower numbers due to too many diagonal runs. He finished the season with an average of 3.3 yards in the race. He still continued to show good landing qualities and is expected to play an even bigger role next year.
A Skilled Defense
298 points conceded (18.6 average per game); fourth in the NFL
The Bears’ defense has talented players. At the top of the list comes Khalil Mack. With his 5 selections in the Pro Bowl, he is a certain value in defense. But Mack has not been as good as he was in 2018: he recorded an average of 8.5 sacks in 2019, compared to 12.5 in 2018. The Bears will need him to be even more dominant in 2020.
The Bears will also be able to count on Akiem Hicks, whose absence was noticed last year. After his injury in the third week of competition, the Bears went from an average of 13 points conceded to 20. A significant difference.
Cornerback Kyle Fuller will also be back, as will safety Eddie Jackson.
The Bears also brought in an experienced linebacker, Robert Quinn, who has recorded 80.5 sacks in his career, including 11.5 last year.
The Bears, however, lost a CB who was a strong force on defense, Prince Amukamara who went to the Raiders. We will see if Artie Burns is able to take his place. In case he doesn’t, they still have the LSU Tigers player: Kevin Toliver.
The Chuck Pagano Problem
It’s hard not to point the finger at him. In his first year in Chicago, he seems to have failed to exploit the potential and talent of a defense that appeared to be established. We’ll see if 2019 was just an adjustment year. With such a talented defense, he has no excuses and should perform way better than he has. That’s the main argument of this team, the basis of their game. This is what makes them impressive and capable of making it to the playoffs.
The Bears will have a new coach for the offensive line, which was too disappointing last year. Juan Castillo probably can’t do worse than his predecessor. This change is the X factor that could help the Bears do better in 2020, especially Trubisky, who has already shown weaknesses when his offensive line is not able to protect him.
Can The Bears Make The Playoffs This Season?
The Bears team in 2020 will not be much different than last year. Almost the same men will be back. That’s not a problem, on the contrary. Because most of the players have performed very well in 2018. So they will have to start again on that basis.
The few adjustments made were necessary and intelligent. We can think first of all of Nick Foles’ signature, which will allow us to have a credible replacement for Trubisky. To put pressure on him as well, even to advise him. On the attack, we can regret the lack of arrivals, especially among the receivers.
The new offensive line coach is a very good point because it aims to fix this team’s 2019 major problem.
The Bears can do better in 2020. Much better. We know that. But they’ll have to get back on track, and/or the new additions will have to take over. No more room for error for Trubisky. The Bears this time will not wait until the end of the season to replace him if he doesn’t step up. If the stars align, we have a very good shot at making the playoffs, our estimate at the time of writing: 60%.
The Vikings are very strong in this NFC North and are among the favorites. The Packers are in a weird spot with their QBs. Meanwhile, the Lions and the Bears are outsiders that need to be taken seriously.
Jonathan is a marketing specialist, passionate about sports, technology, and travel. He writes about soccer, tennis, basketball, and owns a blog that caters to all athletes aspiring to reach their full potential. Learn more at TheChampLair.com