Quietly, the Chicago Bears are a good draft and off-season or two away from relevance. John Fox is a decent coach, and this team doesn’t need that many pieces to contend in the division. Chicago flashed potential throughout the season despite the horrendous record. The team isn’t quite on the edge of Super Bowl contention, but there is reason for fans to have hope.
The Chicago Bears Future is Bright
Potential Laden Defense
Nobody noticed, but the Bears actually had a top ten pass defense this season. They allowed just 224.9 air yards per game, seventh best mark in the league. Just 22 passing scores allowed had them tied for seventh in that category as well, and a solid 37 team sacks put them at eighth in that stat. Their high ranking in pass defense wasn’t a fluke, either. Chicago faced high quality quarterbacks. They faced Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, and Sam Bradford twice each, and then the Bears dealt with the likes of Andrew Luck, Eli Manning, Marcus Mariota, and Jameis Winston. That adds up to ten games against elite or second tier quarterbacks, and the Bears defense held strong throughout.
Run defense was a problem, but something that can be remedied. Developmental solutions may be found in defensive end Akiem Hicks, linebacker Leonard Floyd, and safety Adrian Amos. Those players are important pieces who are all 27 or younger and a vital part of the future of this franchise. If given the time to grow and develop into something special, they’ll help make this defense scary one day.
In addition to the young trio, the Bears boast another big piece as well. Per Pro Football Focus, inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman graded out at 93.8, good for number one at the position. He was a monster, racking up 110 tackles and seven run stuffs, almost 30% of his career total. If Chicago can get a few more high level years out of him and add a few more run stopping pieces, this can shape up to be a good, well rounded defense within the next couple years.
A Quarterback Away
On offense, Chicago put up just 19 passing touchdowns all years in addition to 19 interceptions thrown. Quarterback was an abysmal position and as a result a team with major offensive potential struggled to put up points. They’ve got a top ten tight end in Zach Miller, a top ten running back in rookie Jordan Howard, and a top ten offensive line. Receiver Alshon Jeffery has proven he can play elite, and young Kevin White has shown potential during the little time he’s been healthy. All of the pieces to have a great offense are present, besides the most important one. Perhaps in the upcoming draft, where they own the third pick, they can acquire their signal caller of the future. Clemson’s DeShaun Watson holds promise and could be the man to take this offense to it’s true potential.
Chicago could go from a three win team to winner of eight or more if they play their cards right. Talent is present on both sides of the ball and just a few pieces could push the team to a new level. Acquiring a franchise quarterback, a defensive end, a top corner, and a right tackle should be off-season priorities. If the staff fills those big holes, this team can begin its ascent.