For the first time since 2013, the Detroit Lions will open their season against a divisional foe. Despite the shortened offseason, the lack of a preseason and bunch of changes to their roster, the Lions cannot afford a slow start to the season in 2020 because the Green Bay Packers are right there waiting on Week 2.
While the Lions went through a ton of overhaul on defense this offseason, the Bears are the exact opposite. After failing to grasp head coach Matt Nagy’s scheme last year, the Bears overhauled their coaching staff to help Mitchell Trubisky and company reach their full potential.
But with the lack of offseason workouts and no major changes to their personnel, do the Bears have a shot to really improve this year?
Let’s take a closer look at the Lions’ Week 1 opponent:
8-8 record (3rd in NFC North)
29th in points scored, 4th in points allowed
Overall DVOA: 18th (25th on offense, 10th on defense)
Last season was a huge disappointment for the Chicago Bears. After coming into the season with Super Bowl aspirations, Chicago found themselves realistically out of the playoff race by the start of December and were officially eliminated with two weeks left in the season.
It’s easy to see where everything went wrong for Chicago: their offense was absolutely terrible. Of course, at the center of the discourse was quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who saw his stats plummet in 2019.
2018 Trubisky: 66.6 completion percentage, 7.4 yards/attempt, 24 TDs, 12 INTs, 95.4 passer rating
2019 Trubisky: 63.2 completion percentage, 6.1 Y/A, 17 TDs, 10 INTs, 83.0 passer rating
But Trubisky was only half the problem. The Bears also had one of the worst running games in the league. As a team, they averaged just 3.7 yards per carry (29th in the NFL). Their offensive line was a huge problem, ranking 29th in adjusted line yards. As a result, the Bears struggled in short-yardage situations, converting just 50 percent of the time (31st).
The Bears still managed to play .500 football simply because of their defense. It may have seemed like a down year for guys like Khalil Mack (8.5 sacks) and Roquan Smith (2.0 sacks), but the truth is this team still thrived as a defensive unit. They allowed a passer rating of just 85.2 last season (eighth) and just 3.9 yards per carry (sixth).
Really, the only significant regression this unit suffered from 2018 to 2019 was their ridiculous turnover rate. After leading the league with 36 forced turnovers in 2018 , the Bears had just 19 takeaways last year (t-23rd). Turnovers are one of the most fickle year-to-year stats, so many were predicting such a regression.
Key free agent additions: QB Nick Foles, TE Jimmy Graham, WR Ted Ginn Jr., G Germain Ifedi, EDGE Robert Quinn, LB Barkevious Mingo, S Tashaun Gipson
Key losses: QB Chase Daniel, G Kyle Long, TE Trey Burton, EDGE Leonard Floyd, DT Nick Williams, CB Prince Amukamara, S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, DT Eddie Goldman (opt-out)
2020 NFL draft picks:
Round 2 - TE Cole Kmet
Round 2 - CB Jaylon Johnson
Round 5 - EDGE Trevis Gipson
Round 5 - CB Kindle Vildor
Round 5 - WR Darnell Mooney
Round 7 - G Arlington Hambright
Round 7 - G Lachavious Simmons
Fired: Offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, OL coach Harry Hiestand, TE coach Kevin Gilbride, assistant ST coach Brock Olivo
Hired: Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, QB coach John DeFilippo, OL coach Juan Castillo
To fix their offensive problems, the Bears focused their efforts on the coaching staff rather than adding a bunch of talent. Their choices on coaches was a mixed bag. John DeFilippo is a guy who had head coaching pedigree just a couple years ago, and has a good history with quarterback development. Bill Lazor, however, only lasted two years in each of his last NFL offensive coordinator gigs. While the Juan Castillo hiring just feels like head coach Matt Nagy grabbing a friend of his.
In terms of roster moves, it doesn’t appear the team got any better on offense. They lose former Pro Bowl guard Kyle Long and replaced him with Germain Ifedi, who fell out of favor in Seattle. As for weapons for Trubisky, their additions fell flat. Ted Ginn Jr. has never lived up to his talents and Jimmy Graham is in the twilight of his career.
The defense, however, should remain elite. With Akiem Hicks back and healthy, they may not feel the losses of Nick Williams and Eddie Goldman, the latter of which opted out earlier this offseason.
Robert Quinn brings some Thunder to Khalil Mack’s lightning, and Tashaun Gipson is a nice veteran replacement for the struggling Clinton-Dix.
The biggest question with the Bears defense is at cornerback. Still looking for a partner with Kyle Fuller, the Bears are expected to start rookie Jaylon Johnson—a dangerous proposition for any rookie corner.
Key injuries: K Eddy Pineiro (IR), RB David Montgomery
The status of David Montgomery is unknown right now. He suffered a groin injury a couple weeks back at camp. Latest reports suggest he’s back at practice, but his level of participation is still unknown. The first official injury report, due Wednesday, should tell us more.
More notably, Bears kicker Eddy Pineiro was placed on injured reserve this week. That means Chicago will be going with Cairo Santos as their kicker for Week 1. Santos was just 4-for-9 (including two misses from 30-39 yards) with the Titans last year. However, that was an outlier for his career, in which he’s made 80.6 percent of his attempts. Still, it’s a shaky situation for the Bears, as Santos has played for five different teams since 2017.
Biggest strength: Defensive line
Even with the opt out of Eddie Goldman, this is one of the best defensive fronts in the league. Hicks will be a huge disruptive force in the running game, while a fresh Khalil Mack -Robert Quinn pairing is downright scary.
Biggest weakness: Quarterback
Nick Foles couldn’t beat out Mitchell Trubisky. That really says it all.
I know Trubisky has beat up the Lions defense in his last three outings, but what quarterback hasn’t?
Vegas line for Sunday: Lions by 3.