Scouting the NFC North: Can the Detroit Lions take the division in 2020?

Amani Oruwariye, Detroit Lions (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
Amani Oruwariye, Detroit Lions (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) /
4 of 5
Foles was brought in to compete for the starting job
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Chicago Bears offseason

Lastly but also certainly last in our hearts, are the Chicago Bears. The Bears and head coach Matt Nagy, now going into his third year, experienced the letdown that we talked about Matt Lafleur wanting to avoid in his second year, last year. In many ways, the Bears are the inverse of the Detroit Lions, their strength is their defense and they hope to hide their offensive deficiencies this year.

The Bears won the division with Vic Fangio leading the defense two years ago but after he left for Denver, Chicago came crashing back down to earth with an 8-8 record in 2019; many of those wins came when they were all but eliminated from division contention or the playoffs.

Chuck Pagano, the new defensive coordinator in 2019, was unable to replicate the turnovers and opportunistic scoring that Fangio’s defense generated, leaving Nagy scrambling to find ways to generate offense with a group of unspectacular offensive weapons. Most notably, his quarterback former first-round pick Mitchell Trubisky, who was drafted ahead of stars Patrick Mahomes and DeShaun Watson, has struggled to find consistent production.

In defense of Trubisky, the Bears and general manager Ryan Pace, in his fifth year, have not funneled huge draft resources into fixing the offense aside from the picks used to select their quarterback. The blueprint for the team seems to be trying to recreate a hard-nosed defense with a complimentary ground game and limited big shots down the field through the air.

The “Monsters of the Midway” as they were once dubbed, ranked 29th in points-per-game as an offense under Nagy while the defense was fourth in scoring defense under Pagano. That jibes with both the record being even and the uneven disbursement of draft picks, which have vastly favored the defense.

In terms of offseason moves, the Bears have been more active in the secondary market of free agency than the rest of the division. The big purchase was 30-year-old, edge-linebacker Robert Quinn, who was signed from Dallas to a five-year deal for $70 million dollars. You can see their signings and losses on these two NFL website pages.

Offensively, with Trubisky struggling to improve, Pace went out and got another quarterback to compete for the starting job, Nick Foles, who had his best run with the Philadelphia Eagles during their Super Bowl run two years ago. Foles was bounced off of the Jacksonville Jaguars after failing to stay healthy or outperform rookie Gardner Minshew.

Veteran wideout Ted Ginn, Jr. and tight end Jimmy Graham were signed to bolster the passing game to go with the second-round rookie, Cole Kmet; hold-overs Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, and running backs David Montgomery with speedster Tarik Cohen comprise the backfield. You can see their depth chart from the Ourlads website, here.

Tackle Jason Spriggs was signed from rival Green Bay to address line concerns as was Germane Ifedi from the Seattle Seahawks this offseason, plus two seventh-round picks were thrown at interior line depth after the retirement of Kyle Long.

On the flip side of the ball, after Quinn, the Bears had to replace cornerback Prince Amukamara, linebacker Leonard Floyd, safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, tackle Nick Williams who went to the Detroit Lions, and several other linebackers, Nick Kwiatkowski, Kevin Pierre-Louis, and Aaron Lynch.

Artie Burns, a cornerback, was brought over from the Pittsburgh Steelers and athletic edge-linebacker Barkevious Mingo was signed from the Houston Texans. The Bears also chose to retain some of their own as safety Deon Bush was re-signed, as were inside linebacker Danny Trevathan and defensive back Sherrick McManus, according to Spotrac’s website.

The depleted draft class also included good value from their other second-round pick, cornerback Jaylon Johnson, who should compete for playing time immediately. The Bears had no first-round picks from the previous trade that brought Khalil Mack from Oakland but they did possess the two number twos, three fifths, and two sevenths, tracker here.

The defense remains largely unchanged as does the offense, with the caveat that the quarterback position could be up for grabs come whatever training camp the NFL allows in this surprisingly normal NFL schedule to date. With Ginn and Graham past their primes, the hope that the offense can catch up some to the defense is probably just that, a hope. The defense was almost as good as it could be expected to be and the offense just isn’t pulling its weight.

Overall, the Chicago Bears don’t seem to have addressed their biggest problems offensively but their defense will keep them in many games. Their lack of ideal decision-maker at quarterback in a division with Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, and Kirk Cousins limits their ceiling. In this division, though, it could come down to injuries and just a few plays that decide the final order of the standings.