Bears

Denver vs. Chicago: Which Broncos player would be an upgrade for Bears?

Denver vs. Chicago: Which Broncos player would be an upgrade for Bears?

It may only be Week 2, but the Chicago Bears are facing a critical moment in their 2019 season. And it's not because dropping to 0-2 would end their season; instead, it's about building confidence. If the Bears can re-establish themselves among the NFL's best teams by putting a whooping on the Broncos, all will be right in Chicago again.

Unfortunately for Bears fans, it won't be easy. Despite losing to the Raiders in Week 1, Denver is a very talented team coached by one of the NFL's most respected defensive minds. Chicago saw firsthand just how much of an impact Vic Fangio can have on a gameplan, and his familiarity with the Bears' offensive personnel will give him an even greater advantage than he normally has when scheming for an opponent.

Fangio also has the benefit of some great talent to work with. But would any of them be an upgrade for the Bears?

Let's start with Von Miller, the all-world pass-rusher who has 98 sacks since entering the league in 2011. For 30 other teams in the NFL, he'd be a marked upgrade and a must-have. In Chicago? Not so much. Khalil Mack is two years younger than Miller and is just as effective as a pass rusher. Sure, Miller would be an upgrade compared to every other edge defender on the roster, but that's just not fair. Especially when Mack is already on this squad. Advantage? Bears.

How about Bradley Chubb? Miller's pass-rushing running mate has already established himself as one of the NFL's top young sack artists after registering 12 sacks as a rookie in 2018. Compare that total to Leonard Floyd, who had just 15.5 sacks over three seasons coming into 2019. Floyd did have a two-sack game against the Packers in Week 1, but it's not enough to ignore the obvious: Chubb would be a fantastic upgrade for a Bears defense that would go from elite to historic with him running alongside Mack.

The good news for Bears fans? The list of potential upgrades stops there. It's Miller and Chubb. That's it. 

No player on Denver's offense -- from Joe Flacco to Emanuel Sanders to Courtland Sutton or any of the running backs and offensive linemen -- are better or offer someone with more upside than who the Bears already have on the roster. Flacco truthers would argue he's a better choice than Mitch Trubisky, but at this point in both quarterbacks' careers, give me No. 10.

The only exception may be rookie tight end Noah Fant, the former Iowa star who was selected by the Broncos in the first round of April's NFL draft. But we're only one game into his career; there's no reason to suggest he'll be any better than Trey Burton until he proves otherwise.

On paper, it looks like the Bears have a significant talent advantage heading into Sunday's Week 2 matchup. Sadly, it looked that way in Week 1, too.

What say you? Head over to Twitter and tell us which Broncos player you'd like to see on the Bears.

Contract decisions coming for Bears defense as questions hang over LB Danny Trevathan

Contract decisions coming for Bears defense as questions hang over LB Danny Trevathan

As 2018 came to its bumpy playoff-loss ending, the Bears could look toward the coming offseason without major crisis decisions looming for what was then an elite defense. They’d prepared contingencies for possible departures of safety Adrian Amos and nickel back Bryce Callahan.

This offseason they will have further-reaching calls to make, beginning at inside linebacker where two of their top three players are coming out of a contract: Danny Trevathan, also off an elbow injury suffered against Detroit, and Nick Kwiatkoski, coming off a second defense-leading performance in a backup role.

The Bears made a decision earlier this year to keep Nick Kwiatkoski for the final year of his rookie contract. The former college teammate of wide receiver Kevin White had played his way under the NFL’s “Proven Performance Escalator” from $720,000 up to a fourth-year salary $2.025 million, a not-insignificant tab for a reserve linebacker on a defense fortified with major dollars invested on the line (Eddie Goldman, Akiem Hicks), at linebacker (Khalil Mack, Trevathan) and cornerback (Prince Amukamara, Kyle Fuller), with decisions pending at both safety spots.

Possibly before this season is done, the Bears could secure Kwiatkoski with another deal, particularly after Kwiatkoski has stepped in and keyed the defense in place of Roquan Smith (Minnesota) and on Sunday when Trevathan went down with a severe elbow injury.

“Right now honestly I’m not thinking about it because there’s a lot of football to play and it’ll take care of itself,” he told NBC Sports Chicago last week. “For me, I feel like whatever happens, happens.”

What has happened is that twice Kwiatkoski, until now a four-phase leader on special teams, has helped the Bears make their decision. Against the Lions, Kwiatkoski’s third-quarter interception, the first of his career, set up the Bears’ third, final and ultimately deciding touchdown.

“Ryan [Pace, GM] and his personnel guys, they created this depth chart throughout our team where when guys go down you're able to have guys step up,” said coach Matt Nagy. “Kwit has done that, and that's what it's all about.”

Kwiatkoski’s is not the only critical depth-chart decision the Bears have upcoming for their defense.

Besides calls like whether Amukamara is playing at a level commensurate with a $9 million base, or whether to go longer-term on a deal for safety HaHa Clinton-Dix. Defensive lineman Roy Robertson-Harris will be a restricted free agent. They picked up Leonard Floyd’s fifth-year option but now need to assess whether he is worth either $13.2 million this year or a long-term deal.

And defensive lineman Nick Williams, leading the Bears with six sacks, is going to be worth more than the $895,000 they landed him for this year.

But the Trevathan injury, besides presenting player and team with a difficult decision on injured reserve, also adds a complicating factor in determining where the quarterback of the defense falls among their priorities. His four-year deal, with $15.5 million guaranteed, averaged $7 million per season, with base salaries of $5.8 million in the last two.

There is zero question where the former Denver Bronco wants to finish his career.

“This city’s been nothing but good to me,” Trevathan said. “It’s all I think about, all I want to be. Chicago is a linebacker’s dream. It’ll take care of itself, I’m sure.

“Everybody has a role. I just wanted to do my job and be the best ‘Danny Trevathan’ I can be, and the best Bear I can be. That’s all I can do. My Mom always told me that things would take care of themselves if you work your tail off.”

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Akiem Hicks talks patience and his friendship with Nick Williams

Akiem Hicks talks patience and his friendship with Nick Williams

The Bears have been playing without Akiem Hicks since Week 4 when Hicks was placed on injured reserve after dislocating his elbow during the Bears trip across the pond to the play the Oakland Raiders. If that Week 4 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings feels like a long time ago, it’s because it has been, and the Bears have been feeling Hicks’ absence.

Hicks spoke at an event at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago this week about his time on IR and when he thinks he’ll be back on the field.

“I try not to make too many projections,” Hicks said. “I have no projections, I just want to be healthy and contribute to this football team.”

When asked about what he missed most while being on IR, Hicks kept his answer simple.

“Just being with the boys,” he said. “It’s a different feeling Saturday night at the hotel when everybody is getting prepared and locking in for the game and you’re sitting there spectating. As much as you try to involve yourself, giving them advice and pushing them in the right direction, the true moment, the battle, the competition you’re going to miss. You just have to accept that.”

“One thing that has improved on my time away is patience, I understand that it was my moment and I have to be comfortable with this time away.”

Hicks was asked about Nick Williams, who has been filling in for him at defensive end, with Hicks having nothing but kind words to say.

“Just a stud,” Hicks said. “He’s shown that he can be a dominant defensive tackle.”

Hicks certainly isn’t wrong. Nick Williams is currently leading the Bears in sacks, with six sacks to his name this season. Hicks also touched on the long-standing friendship he and Williams have shared over their two years as Bears.

 “Myself and Nick Williams have a long relationship over these past two years,” Hicks said. “It feels like we’ve been friends forever. He was very supportive of me throughout his time here. It’s unfortunate that I’m on IR, but it’s a great opportunity to be supportive of him as well.”

“If there was anybody who was going to come up for me and play the time that I’ve missed, I’m glad it was Nick,” Hicks said. “I challenge you to pick somebody in the crowd more excited than me when he makes a play.” 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.