I’ve always believed the Bears Roster was better than the popular opinion. My contention was always about the injuries Bears have sustained. Not just ordinary injuries but injuries to key players for long stretches. Especially to a roster lacking depth. Well, depth is no longer an issue it would appear.
Ryan Pace has done a masterful job building the roster from the ground up. In four years he has used many avenues to pluck talent from and add to this current collection of the 53 man roster and 8 practice squaders. Through the draft, veteran and college Free Agency and via trade it looks as if the core of the team is now in place to compete for post season glory in the pursuit of championships.
There is no bigger evidence of this belief that this is the majority of the squad than the acquisition of Khalil Mack. Not so much in the financial investment which is quite significant in itself but in the draft capital given up as well.
Clearly, Pace and Matt Nagy feel they don’t need to nurture a bunch of young players along until they learn how to win. No, they now feel this team is ready to compete and compete immediately. Even more importantly they convinced ownership that this is the time to be aggressive and throw all available resource into acquiring a player that can be the last piece to the puzzle filling the biggest hole the team had.
However, how close does this offseason’s moves get them to their rivals in the NFC North? I’ll be comping the Bears Roster with the rest of the division’s position groups by position groups and ranking them from 1 – 4. Than we can see how well this team’s talent stacks up to the rest of the division.
Offense – Quarterback:
1.) Packers: No one in the entire game of football at any level can compare to the talent level of Aaron Rodgers. Not as a whole anyway. So the Packers win hands down at the most important position in Football. How deep are they? Who cares. They have Rodgers. However, they did trade for Deshone Kizer who is immensely talented and was a very high 2nd round pick last season for a reason so, their backup situation appears to be solid.
2.) Lions: Matt Stafford has accomplished a lot in This league without much of a defense and running game. I wouldn’t even include top of the league coaching as something he’s had which make his Hall Of Fame worthy numbers even more impressive. As for his backup, veteran Matt Cassel gives the Lions a solid option should Stafford go down.
3.) Vikings: Kirk Cousins is another extremely accomplished Quarterback in this league who has had enough around him for his development, but what can’t be minimized is the fact he was a third round pick that had to overtake a first round pick in the same draft on the same team in the highly regarded Robert Griffith III. They also have Trevor Siemian as their backup who did pretty decently for the Broncos as their bridge starter.
4.) Bears: Mitch Trubisky is talented but unaccomplished in the NFL and an unknown to this point. So therefore I have no choice but to list him as last in this division. By seasons end Trubisky may very well vault himself as high as the second best Quarterback in the division. He has the running game, weapons, Protection, Defense and coaching to have a very good season. He has a lot of pressure on him. Can he get past that and master the offense this season? As the the backup, the Bears probably have the best one in the division in Chase Daniel who has mastered the offense Nagy will run.
1.) Bears: There may not be a better duo of Running Backs in the game of football than Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. It’s at the very least arguable. In his two seasons Howard is third in yards only to fellow third year back Ezekiel Elliott and All Pro Le’Veon Bell. I think his drop rate is a fluke and he will have a good year catching the ball too. He’s also very smart and a great blocker in pass pro. He’s also among the very best in the league in yards after contact and explosive runs.
Cohen is one of the most elusive and explosive backs in the league who may very well be the best receiving option out of the backfield in the league. As far as elusiveness goes no other player in the NFL had a higher ratio of missed tackles to touches than Cohen.
Add to that Benny Cunningham is no slouch as a third down specialist and is a core special teamer.
On top of that, they have the very promising Ryan Nall waiting in the wings as a do it all back who can factor in the passing game as well as a runner. Add to that he showed he can play a little Fullback too.
2.) Vikings: When the Vikings picked Dalvin Cook with their 41st overall 2nd round pick last season they had in place possibly the offensive rookie of the year that solved the hole they had at Running Back. He was off to a great start before his devastating season ending injury. If fully recovered he could possibly be the division’s most talented Running Back which is saying a lot in a division that has Jordan Howard in it.
Latavius Murray is a former starter in this league who gives the Vikings a capable backup and Michael Boone is a pro day star with loads of potential the Bears were interested in as a possible priority Free Agent from this past draft. Roc Thomas is another rookie with loads of athletic ability and a former top 5 Running Back recruit out of High School.
3.) Packers: Jamall Williams and Ty Montogomery give the Packers a couple of big, fast and versatile backs who have formed a pretty formidable duo. Both can catch the ball (Montgomery a converted Wide Receiver), block and run with speed and power.
The Cowboys 2016 6th round pick Darius Jackson has a similar profile to both Montgomery and Williams but with even more athletic ability. His pro-day numbers are eye popping although his instincts seem to be lacking as his tape does not match his size and athleticism one would imagine it should have at the small school level and thus far at the pro level. Packers took a chance and plucked him off the Cowboys practice squad just after he was resigned after clearing waivers.
4.) Lions: The Lions added power running veteran Running Back Lagarrette Blount to stabilize the position that’s been a glaring weakness of theirs for years. The big question is how much does he have left in the tank on the wrong side of 30 especially at a physically impactful position playing the physical brand of of ball he has in his career.
The Lions have kept 5 backs on their roster. No doubt throwing numbers at the problem that has plagued them for years. Having a defensive coach in Matt Patricia undoubtedly means they intend on running the ball a lot. Even with gunslinger Mathew Stafford aboard.
One of the five, veteran Theo Riddick, is on the roster as their 3rd down specialist. They drafted Kerryon Johnson out of Auburn with their 2nd round pick who has three down back potential and no doubt will be developed as their eventual load back. Ameer Abdullah is still around but has been a bit of a disappointment. The Lions also have converted Linebacker Nick Bellore at Fullback they signed as an undrafted free agent this past spring.
1.) Lions: The Lions have a great tandem of Receivers in Golden Tate and Marvin Jones Jr. Both were 1,000 yard receivers a year ago. T.J. Jones and Kenny Galloday were extremely productive as the number 3 and 4 options for the Lions.
Brandon Powell and Bradley Marquez round out the unit as special teams specialists and depth
2.) Bears: The Bears have a few Questions such as, how will Allen Robinson’s knee respond to the rigors of a full NFL season after surgery the year before? Will Kevin White be a viable NFL Wide Receiver if he even stays healthy for most of the season if not all? How will the rookie Anthony Miller develop in his first pro season? Will Taylor Gabriel add enough production to justify his contract? Will Joshua Bellamy justify his roster spot and contribute to the offense and improving on his drop rate and thus reliability? And lastly will Javon Wims contribute enough to justify his retention on the Bears final 53.
While these questions are certainly valid, the Bears talent and depth are not to be denied and it’s more likely than not most of these questions will be answered on the positive side as opposed to the negative. By years end they may very well surpass the Lions as the best unit in the division.
3.) Packers: The Packers have some questions regarding their depth due to a lot of youth but their top two receivers are pretty good in Davante Adams and Randall Cobb. Geronimo Allison is a kid the Packers liked enough to draft but in year three it’s make or break time for Allison. Particularly with some talented young Receivers the Packers drafted this season in Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown and J’Won Moore breathing down his neck. Three big athletic Wide Receivers who should make great targets for Aaron Rodgers.
4.) Vikings: Being at the bottom of the rung of the division doesn’t mean the Wide Receiver group is a bad one. Not in this division. With a group that includes Stephon Diggs at Flanker, LaQuon Treadwell at Split End, and Adam Thielen as the Slot Receiver and Kirk Cousins throwing them the ball tells you the Vikings Wide Receiver group will contribute to a prolific passing offense when doing battle versus their opponents.
Their depth needs work, however. Stacy Coley has yet to catch a pass in the NFL. They did add Brandon Zylstra who led the CFL in receiving and receiving yards but the competition level in Canada is a far cry from the NFL. He has had an impressive camp by all accounts.
1.) Bears: The Bears have a whole lot of depth and versatility at the position. All four on the roster offer a viable receiving threat. Trey Burton will be the Bears U Tight End and receive the majority of the targets but can block as the H-back on occasion. Dion Sims can catch a little but he’s primarily on the roster to block. Ben Braunecker and Daniel Brown are versatile as receiving threats, blockers and special team contributors. They are both likely in competition to retain their roster spot after Adam Shaheen returns from his IR stint who will than give the Bears a formidable duo with Burton.
2.) Vikings: Kyle Rudolph is arguably the best Tight End in the division as a former pro bowler. David Morgan is their inline option and Tyler Conklin is a promising youngster that offers versatility as both a pass catcher and a blocker.
3.) Packers: Jimmy Graham was a big signing for the Packers in the off-season but is not the same player he once was. Still offers Rodgers a Solid red zone target. Marcedes Lewis, Lance Kendricks and Robert Tonyan won’t keep Offensive Coordinators up at night game planning for them but offer some depth as solid role players.
4.) Lions: Luke Willson is the Lions number one Tight End on their depth chart which tells you all you need to know about their Tight End situation. The rest of the depth chart reads as so, Levine Tollolo, Michael Roberts, and Hakeem Valles. Yes you read that right.
1.) Bears: Part of the reason I rank them at 1 is their depth here. Particularly on the interior. So deep in fact they are sitting this year’s 2nd round pick (6th overall) James Daniels (who is the backup at all three interior spots) in favor of veteran Eric Kush at Left Guard. They are also versatile so if they get dinged up they can be moved like chess pieces at any spot on the interior. You can add Cody Whitehair to that scenario too. As a matter of fact in a pinch you can even sub him at either Tackle spot. The lone weakness on the line appears to be at Right Tackle where Bobbie Massie will need help when facing speed off the Edge. Charles Leno may just be the least respected Bear of them all. All he does is play every game and perform admirably.
Backing at Right and Left Tackle are Bradley Sowell and Rashaad Coward. Both surprises for different reasons. Sowell didn’t do so well this camp and looked horrid at times in the preseason games he played. Coward the opposite. He looked good and his acclamation from Defensive Line to the Offensive Line conversion has been swift and impressive. A testament to how good Harry Heistand is and Cowards athleticism and work ethic.
This group is also extremely athletic and will make their running game formidable and their RPO game effective.
2.) Lions: The Lions have the makings of a very special group. It seems they want to change their identity to more of a power running game. They are the only team to rival the Bears interior linemen in the division. Their starting Tackle tandem may be the best in the division with Taylor Decker at Left Tackle and Rick Wagner (who the Bears tried to sign last off-season to replace Massie with) at Right Tackle. Their interior starters are pretty good too. T.J. Lang a proven vet at Left Guard and rookie Frank Ragnow at Right Guard who was a number one pick as a Guard (which is rare) for a reason. Center Graham Glasgow is another high pick (2016 3rd round pick) who gives the Lions a stable leader for that group.
Their depth goes as such, Tyler Crosby, Joe Dahl, Andrew Donnal and Kenny Wiggins. Crosby is the eventual successor for Wagner.
3.) Packers: The Packers have a solid set of Tackles in Bryan Bulaga and David Bakhtiari. Their interior on the other hand is a mess. Guards Lane Taylor and Justin McCray might be the weakest tandem in the division and Center Corey Linsley is an athletic player that can get his line calls right and teammates lined up in the proper protections.
Their depth players read like this, Byron Bell, Lucas Patrick, and Jason Spriggs.
4.) Vikings: The Vikings have the worst offensive line situation in the division which is one reason I’m not as sold on them being one of the NFL’s best teams. They’ll try and get it done with these starters from left to right. Riley Reiff, Tom Compton, Pat Eiflein, Mike Remmers, Rashod Hill. Not exactly a line that puts fear in the hearts of opposing Defensive Lines.
Their depth rounds out like this. Aviante Collins, Brett Jones, Danny Isidora, Brian O’Neill.
When sifting through the rosters in one of the toughest divisions in Football the Bears stack up pretty good offensively on paper. However, there are variables that can play against them being successful in reality. Number one, how will Trubisky perform? That’s the key to it all. Will he make the right reads and call the right audibles in a complex offense? I think we all feel he has the natural talent to play the position, but is he experienced enough in year two with only 13 college starts and 12 NFL starts under his belt?
Variable two is about how key players come back from major injuries. If Kyle Long can’t stay healthy Daniels has to play. As a rookie – who the Bears don’t feel is quite ready to start yet – that can’t be an ideal scenario. Than there’s the question of performance. How will he perform? Will White show anything after 3 consecutive season ending injuries and only 5 games in 3 seasons under his belt. Than there’s Allen Robinson. Will he be at peak form this season after ACL surgery?
Variable three, Is Matt Nagy ready to lead the team as Head Coach and be the team’s primary offensive play caller in year one if at all? While I am a big fan and feel the answer is yes it’s still an unknown. Until he does it he hasn’t.
If the Bears can answer these questions in the positive they have a chance to be the biggest surprise and the most improved team in the league and have the chance to compete in Football games in January.
Defense – Defensive Line:
1.) Vikings: While I feel the Bears have the best front seven in the division I have to give the nod to the Vikings Defensive Line as best in the North. First of all, they have four down linemen to only three for the Bears. Secondly, look at the talent across the board.
With a starting Four of Everson Griffen, Sheldon Richardson, Linval Joseph, and Danielle Hunter from left to right you can argue that’s the best Defensive Line in all of football at any level yet alone the Division.
Tashawn Bower, Jaleel Johnson, Jayln Holmes, Stephen Weatherly, and David Parry give the Vikings a deep and talented group.
2.) Bears: As far as 30 fronts go the Bears have among the best. When Eddie Goldman is healthy he may very well be as good as any Nose Tackle in the league. No doubt He’ll be be anxious to go out and prove he’s worth every penny of his freshly inked extension. Akiem Hicks it can be argued has had the best past two seasons of any 3-4 Defensive End in the NFL and is an unblockable force when single blocked with his combination of speed and power. He should have a few single blocks given the recent addition I’ll get into shortly when I get to the Linebackers. Roy Robertson-Harris figures to get the most snaps at the other End position and although he’s a bit of an unknown is setup to have a great breakthrough season.
Jonathan Bullard will fight for snaps with Robertson-Harris and figures to give the Bears a starter quality backup who can play all three Defensive Line spots. As a matter of fact, he is listed as the starter which I expect to change. Bilal Nichols gives the Bears a young talented player who dared compare himself to Fletcher Cox and Nicholas Williams a veteran option who should give the Bears quality snaps when spelling Goldman.
3.) Packers: The Packers have a formidable starting duo of Mike Daniels and Muhammad Wilkerson at Defensive End although there are questions around how hard Wilkerson plays as his production has dipped with each passing season. Kenny Clark gives the Packers an explosive penetrating Defensive Tackle on the interior who can factor in the pressure scheme aswell as the run much like Goldman does for the Bears. They have a capable backup at End in Dean Lowry and versatility with Montravius Adams who can play all three Defensive Line positions.
4.) Lions: The Lions have a solid group but nothing anyone would confuse with dominant. Ezekiel Ansah can be an explosive pass rusher when matched up with a subpar linemen but is often times overpowered in the run game. Kerry Hyder Jr. is the starter for now but it’s only a matter of time before the Lions replace him with Da’Shawn Hand. Anthony Zettle is the primary depth player at End. The interior line is manned by veteran starters Ricky Jean Francois and Sylvester Williams who are both solid players, but A’Shawn Robinson is someone one would think the Lions are secretly wanting to overtake one of those Defensive Tackle spots as the starter.
1.) Bears: The starting Four and perhaps the first six linebackers on the depth chart may very well be the best in the entire world of football with Kahlil Mack and Leonard Floyd as the starters at the Edges backed up by Sam Acho, with Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith as the starters backed up by current starter Nick Kwiatkoski and promising rookie Joel Iyegbuniwe at Inside Linebacker. The Edge is backed up by the explosive Kylie Fitts, third year player Isaiah Irving and veteran Aaron Lynch. This could be the deepest group in the entire NFL along with the best quartet of starters at Linebacker after the huge trade for Mack.
2.) Vikings: Anothony Barr, Eric Kendricks and Ben Gedeon give the Vikings a solid if not spectacular starting three. Kendricks is a tackling machine that quarterbacks one of the best defenses in Football extremely well. Barr is an explosive freak size/speed backer who can do it all. Devante Downs is a capable backup to Kendricks as is Eric Wilson at both Outside Linebacker positions.
3.) Packers: Clay Mathews may have lost a step but he and Nick Perry are still a duo at the Edges to be concerned with when game planning against the Packers defense. However, depth is a potential problem with Reggie Gilbert and Kyler Fackrell don’t exactly inspire confidence should Mathews and Perry go down. The Inside Linebacker situation is ridiculously unspectacular with Blake Martinez and Oren Burks as the starters backed up by Antonio Morrison, Korey Toomer and James Crawford.
4.) Lions: Devon Kennard and former Bears backup Christian Jones form a decent starting duo at the Outside Linebacker spot with capable backups Eli Harold and Jalen Reeves-Maybin there should an injury occur to the starters.
Former 21st overall pick out of Florida Jarrad Davis gives the Lions an athletic and cerebral leader who can make plays and lineup his teammates in Matt Patricia’s defensive scheme. He is backed up by Marquis Flowers.
1.) Vikings: The Vikings arguably have the best two starters in the division and very good depth as well in Trae Waynes and Xavier Rhoads. Both play a physical downhill brand of ball at corner who have ball skills. First round pick Mike Hughes figures to compete for snaps at nickel with former 2016 2nd round pick MacKenzie Alexander. They are backed up by Marcus Sherels and Holton Hill.
2.) Bears: The Bears have an excellent trio of starters with Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara on the outside and Bryce Callahan at Nickel back. Fuller and Amukamara figure to increase their interception totals with the improved pressure they’ll get out of the front seven with the Mack affect. Callahan always makes plays but has to stay healthy. In a surprising move the Bears cut Cre’Von LeBlanc in favor of physically impressive cornerback Kevin Tolliver who was not impressive in the preseason. Sherrick McManis is a core special teamer who was part of a special blitz package of Vic Fangio‘s creation.
3.) Packers: The Packers may have drafted the two most talented Cornerbacks in this year’s draft in Josh Jackson and Jaire Alexander. It appears to be the only a matter of time until they both start. Kenny King figures to be a part of that starting trio but had a rough rookie season last year. However, he offers an intriguing combination of size and speed that is hard to ignore. Veteran corner Tramon Williams is holding on for dear life as the starter and needs a big year to stave off their promising youngsters the Packers have compiled. Davon House is a pretty reliable league vet backup.
4.) Lions: The Lions may have the best corner in the division in Darrius Slay but offer little else at the position. Opposite starter Nevin Lawson is nothing special. Jamal Agnew and Dee Virgin are depth pieces but the Lions have to hope former number one pick Teez Tabor takes the next step and solidifies the other side of the field opposite Slay at corner.
1.) Bears: The Bears suddenly have two solid starters at safety and a ton of depth. Eddie Jackson and Adrian Amos form an exciting young core on the backend and appear set there for the first time in a long time. Deon Bush and DeAndre Houston-Carson are the backkups.
2.) Vikings: Harrison Smith is the division’s best safety and may be the league’s best. You can do worse than Andrew Sandejo as the other starter. Late signing and veteran George Iloka leads the list of backups with Jayron Kearse and Anthony Harris rounding out the depth chart.
3.) Packers: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is a solid starter but there is a big falloff from there. Kentrell Brice is possibly the worst starting Safety in the division. Josh Jones is an interesting athlete but has yet to show anything that says he has the makings of a starter in this league to match his physical abilities. Jermaine Whithead and Raven Greene hold up the rear of the Safety depth chart.
4.) Lions: The Lions have the worst Safety situation in the Division. With Quandre Diggs and Glover Quin as the starters and Tavon Wilson, Miles Killebrew, Tracy Walker and Charles Washington as the backups it’s not hard to see why.
Specialists – Kickers:
1.) Lions: Matt Prater is the most accomplished and most productive place kicker in the division.
2.) Packers: Mason Crosby has hit some big field goals in his career and is reliable.
3.) Vikings: The Vikings invested a 5th round pick in Daniel Carlson who was one of college football’s best kickers in 2017.
4.) Bears: Cody Parkey was a big free agent signing for the Bears in hopes of stabilizing the Kicker position but has been shakey in the preseason.
1.) Lions: Sam Martin has the best leg in the division and his nearly 47 yard average tells you that.
2.) Bears: Pat O’Donnell is Maybe the best directional punter in the division.
3.) Vikings: Matt Wile is a steady vet who gives the Vikings a stable force at the Punter position.
4.) Packers: JK Scott has a lot of potential as a rookie but has yet to prove it at the NFL level.
Defensively the division is stacked with talent. The Bears appear to be as talented as any roster in the division. Add to that the stability and continuity of the coaching staff and system they may actually be the best by seasons end which says a lot given highly regarded and ranked Vikings defense is also in the division. This looks to be an exciting season for the Bears if not highly successful.