The Bears opened the year 0-3, but it could be noted that they lost to three of the final four NFC teams in the playoffs. In all, the Bears lost seven of their ten games to playoff teams. The Bears also went 5-3 on the road which is something to note. They seemed to thrive in the underdog role, and lost the only two games they were favored in, a loss at home to Washington, and their ugliest loss at home to the 49ers in which they let Blaine Gabbert hit a walk off after blowing a 4th quarter lead. Their win of the year has to be a Thanksgiving upset in Green Bay, a team that has owned them since Jay Cutler has been in Chicago. The hope would be that they can string together a couple of upsets next year, maybe win a game they are expected to win, and this team could be back in year two of John Fox.
John Fox did a fine job in year one. The offense and the running game were very healthy, and it led to Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase getting a head coaching gig, and stepping in his place in Dowell Loggains. Loggains has kind of bounced around the league since 2008, but he was the quarterback coach in Chicago, so a report with Cutler is good for first year OC. Vic Fangio had a rough time in his first year as the defensive coordinator, but to be fair he took over a roster that is suited for a 4-3 and installed a 3-4 defense. That should really show in how the Bears draft, and handle their roster this year as defense will certainly be the focus.
Jay Cutler had a typical Jay Cutler year, other than actually beating the Packers and playing well in Lambeau. The big difference now is that it appears the front office as well as the coaching staff are fully committed to Cutler. In backup quarterback moves, the Bears moved on from Jimmy Clausen mid season to promote David Fales to be a backup. It was speculated that with teams like the Colts and Cowboys in need of a quarterback that Fales was a much hotter commodity than Clausen, and the promotion gave Fales a guaranteeing his roster spot for 2016.
Running back play
While many running backs enter their last year of a contract they expect big numbers, for Matt Forte he saw the second lowest number of carries in his career, and saw a career low in yards with 898 following three straight 1,000 yard seasons. The Bears still ran effectively, and his 4.1 ypc was an increase from the year before, but at the end of the day it is clear where Fox and company are not going to break the bank, and think that they can find production elsewhere. In steps Jeremy Langford, who had 70 less carries in his rookie year than the veteran Forte. Langford showed big play ability, and while he cannot run routes and catch like Forte, he busted a couple of big passes and proved he can be the team’s top dog moving forward. Ka’Deem Carey will remain signed on to be the backup, and it leaves Forte expandable to move on, and while drafting a running back may be in the plans, it certainly isn’t a priority.
Wide Receiver Play
Alshon Jeffery, similarly to Forte missed time, and had a season worse than the two before. However, in Jeffrey’s case he still led the team in targets despite missing eight games and the notion would be that the Bears would be crazy to let Jeffrey test the market this year. While the Bears did draft Kevin White in the first round last year he was brought in to replace Brandon Marshall. With the money they saved letting Marshall go, and the money they will save in letting Forte walk, it should be a guarantee that Jeffrey is back. That said, with White, Jeffrey, and Eddie Royal and Marquesse Wilson manning the inside the Bears should have a formidable receiving staff.
In the name of freeing up money it will be interesting to see if the Bears trade or release Martellus Bennett in an effort to sign Zach Miller to a cheaper deal over two or three years. Miller started more games than Bennett in 2015, and while health isn’t a big issue for Bennett, Miller also had two more touchdowns and the same number of yards, despite having 34 less targets and 19 less catches.
Offensive line play
The Bears did a solid job running the ball, and really had one of the more underrated lines in 2015. Kyle Long in moving positions did not seem happy, but performed well as a right tackle and shouldn’t be a problem moving forward. The team would have assumed that him and Jermon Bushrod would be staring across from each other, however, in week 3 he missed time and Charles Leno stepped up and proved that he can man the position moving forward. Bushrod is scheduled to be the 2nd highest paid player on the team, and if the team doesn’t feel that him starting is the best option moving forward it makes the cut much easier. The team will look to sign on depth at guard and at center, but at every starting position there is a current starter returning from starting the majority of last year.
John Fox and Vic Fangio immediately turned this thing over to a 3-4 and the best thing they did was draft a nose tackle in round two Eddie Goldman to make the transition easier. Goldman is going to be a force in the league at the nose tackle position and it makes life much easier when overhauling a defense. The defense did have injuries in the back end, but for a rookie year he did well. Will Sutton also seemed to embrace moving to a 3-4 defensive end. He had a strong second year, and while they will need to address another starting end as well as line depth, it is a start to have two young players getting starting snaps.
The back end is what really needs some work and it starts with getting healthy at outside linebacker. Lamarr Houston was somewhat limited in snaps after an ACL tear but did post 8 sacks. Pernell McPhee posted 6 but really is a force against the run, but missed four games due to injury, including the 49ers loss. Willie Young missed a lot of time in and out of the lineup and rotation should be good if they can all come together at the same time. In the middle however they will need to make some moves. Trading off Jon Bostic was a start, and they will certainly be letting Shea McClellin go as well. They just don’t fit the new defense, and Christian Jones will have to prove this year that he can start in the middle for the future. I would assume a veteran could be added to make it less of a draft need, but it should be addressed in both depending who is around.
The secondary had some struggles as well dealing with the defensive transition. Kyle Fuller had an okay second year, and the key was he was healthy, and for a second year playing taking on the top wide out most weeks he wasn’t bad. Tracy Porter and Alan Ball are guys who may leave via free agency, but if he were to come back, cornerback, like middle linebacker should be addressed in both. At safety it is encouraging that Adrian Amos as a rookie started in all 16 games and he is a sure tackler against the run. He certainly had his weaknesses but overall a fine rookie year. He also only got to play seven games with his running mate Antrel Rolle, and in hoping good health for the 2016, it is fair to see the Bears defense taking even a small step from the bottom tier in which they sat on in 2016.
Where do they go?
With the new coaching staff In year two this is a team on the rise. Some defensive moves should be made, as well beefing up the depth of the line but overall they are going in the right direction. At the end of the day the big question will always be Cutler though. If he wakes up in a bad mood the game plan can only take you so far and it makes the Bears a wild card, but with another good draft things could be up in chi town.