2018 record: 12-4 (1st in division)
Head Coach: Matt Nagy (2nd year with team)
General Manager: Ryan Pace
Projected Salary Cap Space: $10.9 million
2019 Draft Picks: 3rd (87), 4th (126), 5th (162), 7th (222, 238)
2018 in review:
The Chicago Bears broke through in a big way in 2018, winning the NFC North in Matt Nagy’s first year as head coach with relative ease. The acquisition of star linebacker Khalil Mack from the Oakland Raiders added another dimension to an already stout defense, and the implementation of Nagy’s exotic offense helped several young offensive players make improvements.
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The Bears had little trouble separating themselves from their NFC North counterparts, compiling a 5-1 record within the division. The Lions were no match for them in 2018, losing both games including a 23-16 home loss on Thanksgiving Day at the hands of backup quarterback Chase Daniel.
In addition to Mack’s impact on defense, the Bears fielded a deep and talented secondary which helped them finish with a league-leading 27 interceptions. Cornerback Kyle Fuller led the way with seven picks, tied for best in the NFL. Overall, the Bears’ defense finished in the top five in sacks, interceptions, defensive touchdowns, fewest rushing yards allowed, fewest total yards allowed and fewest points allowed. Wow.
Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky continues to be a work in progress. He made strides in year two, but simply doesn’t seem like he’ll ever be a legitimate downfield bomber, finishing just 19th in yards per passing attempt. His mobility is arguably his biggest strength, as he totaled 421 rushing yards and three scores on the ground.
The Bears’ season was notoriously ended by a game-sealing blocked field goal in the divisional round against the Philadelphia Eagles. The culprit, placekicker Cody Parkey was released in February.
The Bears will be limited not only in their free agent pursuits due to their cap constraints, but also in the draft. At present, the they do not select until the third round, and have a total of just five picks. Thus, they will be counting on development from their young players, as well as continued dominance from a defense full of veterans in their prime.
One position group to watch is the running backs. “Satellite” back Tarik Cohen proved to be a great fit in Nagy’s system, totaling over 1,000 yards from scrimmage, along with a league-leading 411 yards on punt returns. This came partly at the expense of a former 1,000 yard rusher, running back Jordan Howard, who regressed with the focus shifting towards Cohen. The Bears could elect to move on from Howard, but will need a replacement if they do.
Trubisky will also be under the microscope leading up to 2019 across the league in his second year under Nagy. The Bears defensive prowess allowed them to win each of his three lowest passing yardage games in 2019. If the Bears’ offensive line can continue to protect him like they did last season with only 33 sacks allowed, it could allow Trubisky to continue his upward trajectory.
Lastly, don’t discount the Bears’ change at defensive coordinator. Before leaving to become the new head coach of the Denver Broncos, Vic Fangio was the mastermind behind the Bears’ recent defensive success.
Should there be too much of an adjustment period with new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano in the fold, the other teams in what projects as one of the NFL’s most competitive divisions could be ready to take advantage.
Which of the Detroit Lions’ divisional opponents will you be watching closely this offseason? Tell us in the comments section below.