|By Shawn Childs, Thursday, June 25, 2015|
The Bears have faded badly on defense over the last two years, which has led to two straight years of regression. They allowed 442 points (31st) while allowing the 30th-most total yards (377.1). Marc Trestman went 13-19 over his two years as head coach, which led to the Bears bringing in John Fox to run the franchise. Over the last three years as the head coach for Denver, Fox went 38-10. His career record is 119-89 with seven playoff appearances over 13 seasons. Adam Gase held the offensive coordinator job under Fox for the last two years with the Broncos. Gase has 12 years of NFL experience. Vic Fangio will take over the defense. Vic has spent the last four seasons as the defensive coordinator for the 49ers. Fangio has made the calls in 11 different seasons in his 24 years in the NFL. Chicago's offense took a huge step back in production last season. The Bears finished 23rd in points scored (319) whiling average (327.1 years per game – 21st). Chicago hasn't made the playoffs since 2010.
Chicago lost top WR Brandon Marshall to the Jets. Brandon is one of the top playmakers in the game and had great chemistry with QB Jay Cutler. The Bears replaced him with former San Diego Chargers WR Eddie Royal. Eddie is a low level possession WR with quickness being his best asset. Royal had his best season (91/980 and five TDs on 126 targets) of his career in 2008 with Cutler throwing him the ball. Backup WR Josh Morgan left to play with the Saints.
They made a couple of minor changes on the offensive line. The Bears cut 36-year old C Roberto Garza and brought in Will Montgomery from Denver to take his place. Montgomery will offer upside in run blocking while holding his own in pass protection. G Vladimir Ducasse was added for depth. Ducasse struggled last year after offering league average value in sporadic duty over his previous few seasons.
Antrel Rolle was brought in from the New York Giants to take over at strong safety. Rolle is coming off a poor year against the run. Antrel is a former first-round draft pick with declining skills. Defensive end Stephen Paea is coming off his best season of his career after being selected in the second round of the 2011 draft. Paea had five sacks, 11 QB hits, and 31 QB hurries but provided negative value against the run. LB Mason Foster was added for depth. Foster has been a below average player during his four years in the league. Linebacker Pernell McPhee was added to help improve the pass rush. Last year Pernell had nine sacks, 24 QB hits, and 40 QB hurries. Corner back Alan Ball was added for depth in the secondary. His season was cut short in 2014 due to a biceps injury. Ball had success in 2013 in pass coverage and has been an average defender throughout his career.
In the first round, Chicago drafted WR Kevin White. The Bears are hoping his skill set is high enough to replace Brandon Marshall in the starting lineup. White flashed elite speed (4.35 forty) and strength (23 reps in the bench press) at this year's NFL combine. Kevin has upside in the open field and has shown tremendous work ethic.
Defensive tackle Eddie Goldman was added in the second round. Goldman should be an instant upgrade to the run defense but there are still questions about his pass rushing skills.
With their third pick, the Bears selected Hroniss Grasu. He'll offer steady production from the center position with no clear edge in his skill set. Grasu hustles extremely hard, often outworking his defender.
Chicago drafted RB Jeremy Langford in the fourth round. He has elite speed (4.42 forty), but lacks the power to be an every down back at this point of his career. Jeremy has upside as a pass catcher and he handles himself well in pass protection. Langford will only offer upside if Forte goes down with an injury.
In the fifth round, Chicago drafted S Adrian Amos. Adrian has excellent size (6'0" and 218 lbs.), but he lacks the nastiness to give the Bears an edge against the run. However, his quickness suits him well in pass coverage.
Tackle Tayo Fabuluje has enormous size (6'6" and 353 Lbs.), but he needs to add more strength in his upper body (16 reps in the bench press). Tayo will have more value in the running game than passing game until he improves his technique.
Chicago Bears WR Kevin White
Chicago ended with the 27th-ranked rushing offense (1441 yards) while gaining 4.1 yards per carry and only eight touchdowns. The Bears produced a league-low of five runs of 20 yards or more and no runs longer than 40 yards.
Jermon Bushrod has to be one of the weakest left tackles in the league. At best, he is a neutral player in the running game with high risk in the passing game. Last year, Jermon allowed five sacks, nine QB hits, and 31 QB hurries.
Left guard Matt Slauson missed three games early in 2014 with an ankle injury. His season ended early after tearing his right pectoral muscle. Over the course of his career, Matt has been an average lineman, providing a slight edge in the run game.
Montgomery will battle rookie Grasu for the starting center job. Montgomery is a veteran player and solid run blocker. Last year, he started the last nine games for Denver, which led to only one sack and limited pressure. His experience may help him win the job. Grasu is a gamer who works hard. He was a four-year starter at Oregon where he played on a team with an elite offense. Hroniss tends to grab when beaten, which will lead to holding calls at the next level.
Right guard Kyle Long is by far Chicago's best offensive lineman. Kyle provides a slight edge in the run game and allowed no sacks in 2014. After being drafted in 2013, Long showed great improvement in 2014.
Right tackle Jordan Mills was poor in pass protection (six sacks, six QB hits, and 31 QB hurries) in his second year in the league. On the bright side, he did improve from 2013 (three sacks, 13 QB hits, and 62 QB hurries). Mills was a neutral run blocker last year. His biggest threat for playing time is rookie RT Tayo Fabuluje. Mills has a ton of work to do if he plans on keeping his starting job.
The Bears allowed 41 sacks last year while finishing 15th in the league in passing yards (3792). Chicago had 30 TDs and 19 INTs.
There is a ton of risk on this line with only one elite player. With better play at center and right tackle, the Bears could have upside on the right side. In order for this to happen, Grasu will need to be ready to make a step forward. Overall, this line ranks well below league average.
The above data shows the strength of schedule as far as rushing attempts (RATT), rushing yards (YDS), yards per attempt rushing (YA), rushing TDs touchdowns (TDs), completions (COMP), passing attempts (PATT), passing yards (YDS), yards per attempt passing (YA), and passing TDs (TDS).
This information is based on 2014, which will work as our starting point for 2015. We'll look at all the changes on offense on each team in the NFL plus the upgrades and downgrades on each team on the defensive side. We'll update this table when we finish the research on all 32 teams.
2014 Average: The league average of all stats from all 32 teams in 2014.
2014 Results: This is the result for each team in the NFL.
2015 Adjustment: Based on the 2014 league average and the 2014 results for each team, this number will show if each team is above or below the league average in each stat and the basis for strength of schedule.
On the surface, Chicago has the second-toughest run schedule with Seattle, Denver, and two games against Detroit on the schedule. The Lions won't match last year's success against the run with DT Ndamukong Suh no longer on the roster. Chicago has seven games against teams with a below average run defense. The Bears also have the toughest schedule in the league against the pass due to nine unfavorable games. The Seahawks will be their toughest matchup in the passing game by a wide margin. Chicago has just three games against poor pass defenses – the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Arizona Cardinals and the Washington Redskins.
The Bears ran the ball only 36.9 percent of the time in 2014, which led to only 354 rushing attempts. They offset this weakness by throwing 27.3 percent of their completions to the RB position. In addition, the short passing window created by poor play by the offensive line led to 26.8 percent of Chicago's completions to TEs. WRs caught 182 passes for 2139 yards and 18 touchdowns. The change in coaching staff will change this team structure slightly, but Forte is still going to catch a ton of balls with question marks at WR after the change in personnel.
QB Jay Cutler - Bust (overvalued)
Update: August 10 - Jay Cutler has been going off the boards as QB22. While we technically did label him as a BUST, there's not too much risk in him at this point in the draft and actually, he should easily surpass QB22 production which last season was only 220 pts. We feel he's being underdrafted at this point. Don't be afraid to lock him in as your QB2 in the QB15-20 range.
It's been seven seasons since Cutler passed for over 4000 yards. During his career, Jay has averaged only 32.5 passing attempts per game. He set a career high in completion rate (66.0) and TDs (28), which was a result of 214 completions to RBs and TEs. For the second time in his career, Cutler led the league in interceptions (18). His yards per pass attempt (6.8) were the fewest in his last five seasons. Jay had four 300-yard passing games in 2014 and three games with at least three touchdowns. I don't like the Bears' offensive line and they have a tough schedule against pass defenses. The loss of Marshall will limit Chicago's explosiveness in the passing game and Alshon Jeffery needs to prove he can deliver elite stats with more attention in pass coverage. Cutler will provide value for Fantasy owners in 25 percent of his games. He is no more than an average backup Fantasy QB with more downside than upside. I expect Cutler to produce only an average season of 3800 yards and 25 TDs.
Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler
RB Matt Forte - Stud (low risk)
UPDATE (11/18): Forte has been sidelined the past two games with an MCL injury, but is once again an excellent Fantasy option. Every year we predict his demise and every year he makes us look silly. In seven games, he's racked up 767 yards from scrimmage, with 25 receptions and three touchdowns. Once he's healthy, he's a must-start.
Forte set the NFL record for catches (102) by a running back in 2014. He is the third RB in NFL history to catch 100 passes or more. Matt was on the field for 1006 of 1092 (92.1 percent) RB plays, which was the best opportunity for success in the league. Forte finished with 374 touches (23.4 per game) for 1,846 combined yards and 10 TDs. Throughout his career, Matt has never tallied less than 1400 combined yards in a season. He has five 1000-yard rushing seasons and has missed only four games during his seven-year career. Forte's success in the passing game was created by defenses trying to take away Marshall and Jeffery and a poor offensive line. His volume of targets (130) doesn't seem repeatable, as he has never had more than 95 targets in any other season. In 107 games, Forte has scored 57 touchdowns. Last year he had three 100-yard rushing games and one game with more than 100 yards receiving. There's no doubt that the 29 year-old back will be a focal point of the offense again in 2015. This team isn't structured to play a wide-open style with Cutler taking plenty of sacks and throwing too many interceptions. There isn't one RB on the roster with a higher skill set in the passing game or in the running game. Forte has a 1500-yard opportunity as the minimum with high upside in catches. His TD production has never been elite in his career but Matt should be a top-five Fantasy RB in 2015.
Chicago Bears RB Matt Forte
RB Jeremy Langford - Super Sleeper (high risk/potential)
UPDATE (11/18): Langford has been tremendous while filling in for Matt Forte. As a matter of fact, he's been better. While he will likely be a Fantasy afterthought once Forte returns from his knee injury, it's clear that Langford is the future in Chicago. In the two games he's gotten the start, Langford has piled up 324 yards from scrimmage, 10 receptions and three touchdowns. He has been more than an adequate handcuff for Forte. Langford is a major dynasty asset.
Langford seems like the natural complementary back for Forte. He has game breaking speed with upside in the passing game. In his two-year college career, Jeremy ran for 2944 yards on 568 carries with 22 TDs. He also caught 39 passes for 219 yards and a touchdown. After a slow start over his first three games in 2014, Langford produced 10 straight 100-yard rushing games and scored at least two TDs in each of his last seven games. His game has much higher upside than Rodgers and I expect Langford to be the handcuff to Forte in 2015. Even with a RB3 ranking on the depth chart before the season, he is the back the Bears would lean on to run the ball if Forte were to miss any time. He has no value without an injury.
WR Alshon Jeffery - Stud (low risk)
UPDATE (11/18): Jeffery has been one of the top receivers in the league when healthy. However, he's been plagued by injury all season. He's dealt with hamstring, calf and groin injuries. In the three games he started and finished healthy, he caught 28 passes for 414 yards and two touchdowns. Unfortunately he's only appeared in five games and was limited for two of them. Still, he did total eight receptions for 101 yards in those games as well.
UPDATE (10/1): A hamstring injury has derailed the opening weeks of the season for Alshon Jeffery. Even upon his return, Fantasy owners should be mindful of a possible re-injury, but also the Bears' offensive struggles. Despite playing only one game, Jeffery is still the position leader with 78 receiving yards. Jeffery and this offense have to be downgraded, especially if Jimmy Clausen continues to start in the short-term.
This year, the Bears are going to lean on Jeffery as the number one option at WR. His 2014 season (85/1133 and 10 TDs) was a step down from his breakthrough 2013 year (89/1421 and seven TDs). Overall, he had almost the same number of targets (148 in 2013 and 145 in 2014). The decrease in production was due to fewer yards per catch (16.0 in 2013 and 13.3 in 2014). Last year, Jeffery finished with four 100-yard receiving games and five games with 12 targets or more. Over his last 10 starts, Alshon recorded more than 95 yards receiving just once. His was successful early on in the season when Marshall was used as decoy after suffering an ankle injury. Throughout Jeffery's short career, he's caught 58.1 percent of his targets. Jeffery has upside at the goal line plus he'll have value in the deep passing game when matched with one-on-one coverage. His opportunity has a chance to grow by 10 percent in 2015, which gives him an outside shot at 100 catches with over 1,300 yards and double digit TDs. The development of Chicago's offensive line will be the key to his opportunity. Alshon is an excellent top-10 WR in Fantasy Football this year.
Chicago Bears WR Alshon Jeffery
WR Eddie Royal - Sleeper (undervalued)
SLEEPER ALERT! Update: August 8: Fantasy owners shouldn't ignore the early developments out of Bears Training Camp. Jeremy Stoltz from BearReport.com reports that Eddie Royal will be an integral part of this offense. Royal set career highs with Cutler in Denver as a rookie. They've been on the same page and he's looked very hard to stop in one on one drills. He's a weapon in the red zone, 15 TDs the past two years and he's taken on a leadership role, seen mentoring some of the younger wide receivers in camp. His presence has been very positive so far. Don't be surprised if he's the second most productive Bears receiver this season.
Previous Update: June 25 - The Chargers found a way to use Royal's quickness over the last two years to create great value at the goal line (15 TDs). After three straight subpar years, Eddie was finally able to become Fantasy-relevant again in 2014. Royal caught 62 of his 91 targets for 778 yards and seven TDs. His success led to him becoming the 32nd-ranked WR in PPR leagues. Eddie had three games with double digit targets and one game with 100 yards receiving. As good as his progression may look, Royal caught three passes or less in eight games. I believe his opportunity was created by the injury to RB Danny Woodhead. In his rookie season with Cutler throwing him the ball, Eddie set a career high in catches (91), yards (980), and targets (129). His opportunity will take a step back this year. He is no more than a gamble as a bye week cover. I expect him to catch less than 50 passes for less than 600 yards.Injury Status: Out - Knee
WR Kevin White - Quality Backup
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WR Marquess Wilson - Gamble (high risk)
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TE Martellus Bennett - Stud (low risk)
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Chicago Bears TE Martellus Bennett
PK Robbie Gould - Bye Week Fill-in
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Chicago - Not Draft Worthy
Chicago will only face two teams with strong defenses—the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers. They have six games against teams with below par rushing attacks – two vs. the Detroit Lions and one against the Arizona Cardinals, San Diego Chargers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders. The Bears have eight games against below average passing teams. Their toughest two opponents against the pass are the Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers, whom they face twice.
The Bears allowed the 17th most rushing yards (1803) while allowing 4.3 yards per carry and 12 rushing touchdowns.
Defensive end Jay Ratliff is coming off a nice steady season where he delivered positive value in each game he played, providing strength against the run and upside in the pass rush (seven sacks, seven QB hits, and 19 QG hurries). His downside is his injury risk due to age (34 in August). Over the last three years, Jay has missed 26 games. Last year he battled a concussion and later a knee issue. 2015 second round draft pick DT Eddie Goldman is expected to earn the starting nose tackle position. He'll upgrade the run defense, but he may turn into a rotation player against the pass in his first year in the league. Defensive end Ego Ferguson was a one-dimensional run defender in his first year in the league after being selected in the second round. The defensive line lacks impact pass rushers after the loss of DE Willie Young (10 sacks) due a torn Achilles and Stephen Paea (five sacks) signing with the Redskins.
Pernell McPhee is coming off of his best season in the NFL where he delivered career-high nine sacks. Linebacker Jon Bostic played much better against the run with no value in the pass rush after struggling in his rookie season as a second round draft pick. Jared Allen has been an elite passer rusher throughout his career. Last year he tallied six sacks, 20 QB hits, and 32 QB hurries with slightly below league average value against the run. Chicago will move him to linebacker with the hopes of creating more space to attack the QB. Allen will start the year at age 33. The last linebacker job will be a battle between Mason Foster, Christian Jones, Shea McClellin and Cornelius Washington. McClellin has the best pedigree (first round pick in 2012). Last year Shea showed growth as a run defender with low value in the pass rush.
Cornerback Tim Jennings had much more success as the second cornerback on the Bears when Charles Tillman was on the roster. Over the last two years, he's been average in pass coverage. Last year, Jennings allowed 50 catches for 658 yards and five TDs on 82 targets. 2014 first-round draft pick CB Kyle Fuller played well early against the pass before fading badly in pass coverage over his last 13 games. He allowed 64 catches for 841 yards with five TDs but recorded four interceptions on 101 pass attempts. Antrel Rolle is a NFL veteran with value in pass coverage, but age has led to less value against the run. There is a good chance that 2015 fifth-round draft pick Adrian Amos wins the starting free safety job. Amos should play will in pass coverage with work to do in the run game.
Chicago recorded 39 sacks in 2014, which was right at the league average. They allowed the 30th-most yards in pass coverage (4,230) and 34 passing TDs with 14 Ints. QBs gained 8.1 yards per pass attempt (3rd highest in the league).
The Bears won't pressure the QB with their defensive line, but they should be slightly better against the run. Allen and McPhee will help attack the QB at the linebacker position. The secondary needs Fuller to play at an elite level and Amos needs to improve his game against the run. Chicago doesn't have one elite player and has risky players at two levels of their defense. However, this defense may surprise in some games against teams with poor QB play and second tier receivers. The Bears will only be a matchup play as a backup Fantasy defense.