The Chicago Bears won the 2018 offseason. General manager Ryan Pace made several headline-grabbing moves that focused on rebuilding an offense that finished as one of the NFL's worst in 2017.
The biggest changes come at wide receiver where Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller were added in free agency and the NFL draft. All three will be big-time contributors in coach Matt Nagy's offense. And don't forget about former first-round pick Kevin White. He's had a great offseason and may finally be ready to become the player Pace envisioned when he selected him seventh overall in 2015.
Pace and the Bears have been praised for their efforts since free agency and now, on the eve of training camp, the new-look offense is regarded as one of the top-10 offensive arsenals in the NFL. But it's not necessarily the new names that have outlets like ESPN so excited. Instead, it's the return of one of the league's top young backfields that gives Chicago a leg up on the competition.
What pushes the Bears up these rankings is their one-two punch at halfback. Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen will combine to post a cap hit of about $1.4 million in 2018 and might very well project to be the best pair of running backs in football, if Ingram and Kamara slip. Cohen's versatility seems far more likely to be rewarded by Nagy than it was by departed offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains.
The Bears' running game was effective in 2017 even without a downfield passing threat. Howard finished the year sixth in rushing and was facing stacked boxes week in and week out. When factoring talents like Robinson, Gabriel and Burton into a more creative passing attack this season, the upside -- all around -- for Chicago's offense is higher than it's been in many, many years.
The Bears were not at their best against the New England Patriots on Sunday. They made plenty of mistakes on all three phases and gave Tom Brady too many opportunities to control the game.
It wasn’t all bad from Chicago, though. Trey Burton emerged as a new favorite weapon of Mitchell Trubisky, and the tight end was the Bears’ highest-graded player in the game by Pro Football Focus.
Burton had a career high 11 targets, nine catches and 126 yards with a touchdown, giving Trubisky a 144.7 passer rating when targeting his top tight end.
Seven of Burton’s targets and six of his catches traveled 10 or more yards in the air, according to PFF.
Defensively, safety Adrian Amos led the pack with a 74.6 overall grade. He did not miss a tackle after missing a career-high five last week, and he allowed only one catch for eight yards against the Patriots.
On the bottom of the scale, outside linebacker Leonard Floyd received the second-lowest grade of his career (38.9 overall) for his performance. He did not record any pressure on the quarterback in 13 pass rushing snaps, and he allowed two catches for 13 yards and a touchdown in coverage against running back James White.
Wide receiver Allen Robinson had a career-low grade as well at 44.9 overall. He was clearly limited by his groin injury, targeted five times with one catch for four yards and a dropped pass.
Overall, the Bears were able to stick with one of the top teams in the AFC while also leaving a lot of room for improvement. It’s a step in the right direction from where Chicago was in recent seasons.
Take a look over the NFC landscape and try to find me a team that can compete with the Rams.
Packers? Held back by Rodgers' knee and Rodgers' coach. Saints? Might not even win their own division. Washington? Does Alex Smith really scare anyone in the playoffs?
The Rams have one of the easier paths to the Championship Round/Super Bowl that we've seen in some time. Will it likely stay that way? Probably not. But there's a difference between parity and mediocrity and right now the NFC is toeing the line HARD.
Outside the NFC's "elite", how did your team do this week?
You can take a look here and see where they landed.