The Chicago Bears went into this offseason with a fan base ready to start anew. The 2020 Bears may have made the playoffs, but they were not a competitive team, and it felt like another wasted year with one of the best defenses in the league.
And while it was a mostly quiet offseason for Chicago, one bold, critical move had fans believing the Bears could do something special in 2021... if only the coaching staff would give their shiny-new toy a chance.
Unfortunately for Bears fans, three weeks into the season, the team is 1-2 and fan morale appears to be lower than ever. The Ryan Pace/Matt Nagy regime is feeling the heat, and if they can’t turn things around soon—especially on offense—Chicago may be forced to enter a rebuild of their own.
Here’s a closer look at the Detroit Lions’ Week 4 opponent.
- 8-8 record, 0-1 in playoffs (2nd in NFC North)
- 22nd in points scored, 14th in points allowed
- Overall DVOA: 15th (25th on offense, 8th on defense)
We all know the story of the 2020 Chicago Bears because it’s the same story as the Chicago Bears for the past 30-some years. Defensively, it was still one of the best units in football. Offensively, due to bad quarterback play—and bad coaching(?)—they were bad.
Chicago lucked their way into a Wild Card spot, but no one really gave them much of a chance against the New Orleans Saints, and for good reason. Predictably, the Bears didn’t score a touchdown until time expired in the game, and they were outclassed 21-9 in the Big Easy.
Much to Bears fans’ dismay, that performance was good enough to keep around head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace. But there would be plenty of other changes to the Bears’ squad in the offseason.
Key free agent additions: QB Andy Dalton, WR Marquise Goodwin, WR Damiere Byrd, RB Damien Williams, OL Elijah Wilkinson, OT Jason Peters EDGE Jeremiah Attaochu, DL Angelo Blackson, LB Christian Jones
CB Desmond Trufant (cut)
Key losses: QB Mitchell Trubisky, WR/RB Cordarrelle Patterson, OT Charles Leno Jr., DL Roy Robertson-Harris, CB Kyle Fuller, CB Buster Skrine
2021 NFL draft picks:
Round 1: QB Justin Fields
Round 2: OT Teven Jenkins
Round 5: OL Larry Borom
Round 6: RB Khalil Herbert
Round 6: WR Dazz Newsome
Round 6: CB Thomas Graham Jr.
Round 7: DT Khyiris Tonga
The Bears were active in free agency, but they mostly spent their time scraping the bargain bin. Undoubtedly Bears fans were dismayed by the replacement of Mitchell Trubisky with Andy Dalton. Elsewhere, much like the Lions, the Bears signed just about every face to a one-year, prove-it deal. Of all the players listed above in the key additions section, only Marquise Goodwin is currently listed as a starter for the Bears, and he has just five catches for 55 yards through two games.
Meanwhile, the secondary took a significant hit with the losses of Kyle Fuller and Buster Skrine. They are now starting two 2020 draft picks: fifth-rounder Kindle Vildor and second-rounder Jaylon Johnson.
The more important moves the Bears made in free agency were retaining Allen Robinson via the franchise tag, and re-signing defensive end Mario Edwards (three years, $11.5 million) and safety Deon Bush (one year, $1.5 million).
Of course, their 2021 offseason will be defined by their draft. Chicago got extremely aggressive—once again—in getting their quarterback of the future. The Bears moved up nine spots, giving the Giants their fifth-round selection this year and a first and fourth next year to get Ohio State’s Justin Field. They also addressed their needy offensive line by snagging Teven Jenkins in the second round, but sadly, Jenkins underwent back surgery this offseason and will miss a significant portion—if not all—of his rookie season. In response, the Bears signed 39-year-old Jason Peters to be their left tackle.
- Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano (retired)
- Pass game coordinator Dave Ragone (took Falcons pass game coordinator job)
- RB coach Charles London (took Falcons QB coach job)
- DL coach Jay Rodgers (took Chargers OLB coach job)
- OLB coach Ted Monachino (took Falcons OLB coach job)
- ILB coach Mark DeLeone (took Lions ILB coach job)
- Defensive coordinator Sean Desai (promoted from safeties coach)
- Pass game coordinator John DeFilippo (promoted from QB coach)
- RB coach Michael Pitre (from Oregon State)
- DL coach Chris Rumph (from Texans)
- OLB coach Bill Shuey (promoted from pass rush analyst)
- ILB coach Bill McGovern (from University of Nebraska)
The Bears saw somewhat of a mass exodus in their coaching staff this year. Pagano retired and three positional coaches on defense left to take other jobs—most of them taking lateral moves. Chicago found half of their replacements by promoting from within, giving Sean Desai—just 38 years old—his first crack as a defensive coordinator ever.
2021 season thus far (1-2)
Week 1: Lost to Rams, 14-34
Week 2: Beat Bengals, 20-17
Week 3: Lost to Browns, 6-26
- 31st in points scored (13.3 PPG), 19th in points against (25.7 PPG)
- 28th overall in DVOA (31st on offense, 9th on defense, 2nd on special teams)
Shockingly, the Bears’ decision to basically stay the exact same as last year while only minorly upgrading quarterback has resulted in minimal changes. Their offense is among the worst in just about any category you want to look at. They’ve scored 40 points through three games and seven of those were thanks to a pick-six from Roquan Smith. Here are some fun stats:
- 3.3 yards per play (32nd)
- 46 first downs (31st)
- 3 touchdowns (31st)
- 2.7 net yards per pass attempt (32nd)
- 65.6 passer rating (30th)
- Sacked 15 times (t-32nd)
To be fair, the Bears’ run offense remains palatable. They rank 12th in DVOA and 14th in yards per carry (4.2).
Defensively, the team has rebounded nicely after getting worked by the Los Angeles Matthew Staffords in Week 1. Though they rank 20th in passer rating allowed (103.3), they held Joe Burrow and Baker Mayfield to three touchdowns and three interceptions the past two weeks. They managed to hold the Rams (3.2) and Bengals (3.5) well below their rushing yards per carry average, but last week the Browns gashed Chicago to the total of 215 rushing yards at 5.1 yards per carry.
Overall the defense is still plenty good, but just not quite as strong as we’ve seen them in the past.
Key injuries: OL Larry Borom (IR), OT Teven Jenkins (IR), Danny Trevathan (IR), Trik Cohen (PUP), QB Andy Dalton (knee), QB Justin Fields (Hand), DT Eddie Goldman (knee), S Tashaun Gipson (hamstring)
Chicago only has three players on injured reserve, but losing Jenkins and Trevathan definitely hurts.
As for current injuries, it’s unclear if Dalton and/or Fields will be cleared to play this week, as head coach Matt Nagy said basically any quarterback on the roster could be their starter in Week 4. Eddie Goldman and Tashaun Gipson both missed last week, but both got at least one practice, so they could be in play against the Lions.
In addition to this list, Khalil Mack suffered first-half foot injury against the Browns, but because he returned for the second half, I’m going to go ahead and assume he plays this week.
Biggest strength: Front 7
Despite the change in coaching staff, this defensive front remains extremely talented. Akiem Hicks is still one of the most underrated run-stuffers in the league. Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn have already combined for seven sacks, and Roquan Smith is quickly developing into a great all-around linebacker.
Chicago is currently third in overall sacks (11) and sack rate (11.2 percent).
Biggest weakness: Pass offense
Currently just one of the Bears’ starting offensive linemen has a PFF grade above 60. They’ve curerntly got the second-lowest graded center (Sam Mustipher), their guards rank 44th (Cody Whitehair) and 63rd (James Daniels) out of 73. And their right tackle (Germain Ifedi) ranks 58 of 75 offensive tackles. The only player that hasn’t been a nightmare is the aforementioned Peters, but even he gave up three pressures last week.
As a result, well... you saw all the stats above, right?
Vegas line for Sunday: Bears by 3