Chicago Bears: 2016 Outlook
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Chicago Bears

By Shawn Childs, Sunday, December 13, 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.

Free Agency

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

Offensive Line

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.

Schedule: Offense

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.


Week 14 DFS Update (12/12): Cutler only has one combined TD in his last three games, with short passing yards in his last two starts (200 and 202 yards). In his 10 full games he has two 300-yard passing games and one game with three TDs. The Redskins rank 14th in the league in QB Fantasy defense, with one team scoring more than 30 Fantasy points (22 passing TDs allowed). Pure gamble with one elite passing option (Jeffery).

Week 13 DFS Update (12/3): Cutler has two 300-yard passing games in nine full games played, with only one game with more than two TDs. Last season he threw for 176 yards and four TDs vs. the 49ers. San Fran ranks 21st the league in QB Fantasy defense, with two teams scoring over 30 Fantasy points. Five teams have over 300 yards passing against the 49ers with 17 passing TDs allowed. Alshon Jeffery has the elite/impact look so Cutler may be serviceable at this price point in a WR hookup.

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


Week 14 DFS Update (12/12): Forte had some fire at the goal line because he can sense his window as the goal line back is closing in Chicago. The Bears gave him 26 touches in Week 13, which was in line with his early season opportunity. He was on the field for 44 plays, compared to 28 by Langford, so continued success may offer less upside than meets the eye. In his nine games played Forte has averaged 22.6 touches per game, with four TDs and one 100-yard receiving game. The Redskins are league average defending RBs, with five TDs allowed to RBs and a 4.6 YPC average. Playing better, but his touches and TDs have more risk over the last month of the year with Langford still in the mix for playing time.

Week 13 DFS Update (12/5): Last week the Bears gave Forte 37 of 67 RB plays, which led to 16 touches for 53 yards. Over the first six games of the year, he averaged 24.5 touches per game with one 100-yard rushing game and three TDs. The emergence of Jeremy Langford is going to steal his upside and I believe Langford will have the edge in goal line touches. The 49ers allow the 3rd-most Fantasy points to RBs, with five teams scoring over 30 Fantasy points. San Fran allows 4.1 YPC and 15 TDs to the RB position (eight in the last five games). Favorable matchup, but he looks to be overpriced based on his expected split role.

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


Week 13 DFS Update (12/5): Langford saw about 45 percent of the RB action for the Bears in Week 12 with Matt Forte back in the starting lineup. He saw action at the goal line in one series leading to a TD, but Chicago gave Forte a similar chance later in the game. Forte was unable to score, which supports my thought process that Langford will have the most value at the goal line. His quickness and first step give him a much better chance of scoring while Forte tends to be a looker in short yardage plays. Langford really doesn't have a winning opportunity in the daily space due to his split role.

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.


SLEEPER ALERT! Update: August 8: Fantasy owners shouldn't ignore the early developments out of Bears Training Camp. Jeremy Stoltz from 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.


White had an exceptional showing at this year's NFL combine when he ran a 4.35 in the 40-yard dash and showed plenty of strength when he benched 225 lbs. 23 times to lead all WRs. After being a non-factor for West Virginia in 2013 (35/507/5 in 11 games), Kevin made a huge step forward in 2014 when he caught 109 passes for 1447 yards and 10 TDs. Over the last couple of years, we've seen WRs from the Mountaineers with huge catch totals (Tavon Austin - 225 in 2011 and 2012) and Stedman Bailey - 114 in 2012) struggle to make an impact in the NFL. The Bears are hoping they have found the replacement for Marshall, but there is no way he can match Marshall's ability to run multiple patterns in the short area. I like the combination of speed and strength, but it takes solid route running to make an impact at the next level. This year, the Bears will try to get White the ball close to the line of scrimmage and allow him to use his quickness after the catch. I expect White to start this year, but he will probably be the third option in the passing game behind Forte and Jeffery plus TE Martellus Bennett will get in the way. He should have an opportunity to catch 70 passes for 900 yards with a handful of TDs. White projects to be a mid-level WR3, which is supported by the early draft results. White has an ADP of 74 as the 32nd WR off the board.


Gould was DOA to fantasy owners in 2014. In 12 games, he only attempted 12 field goals. From game seven through game 11, Robbie didn't make one field goal (only two chances). He converted a career-low 75 percent of his kicks with no made field goals from 50 yards or longer (one try). For his career, Gould has made 85.6 percent of his field goals while making 16 of 22 chances from long range. His season was cut short after 12 games due to a quad injury. Chicago scored 40 TDs with a league-low 12 FGs on their 182 possessions. It's been seven years since Robbie has made 30 field goals. I like his leg and the Bears don't run the ball well in the red zone, but a weak defense tends to force Chicago to bail on the kicking game late. Gould will only have value in a couple of games with favorable matchups.


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.