Bears

Four Bears who need to improve over final 11 games of 2019

Four Bears who need to improve over final 11 games of 2019

Chicago Bears fans entered the 2019 season with expectations that, admittedly, may have been a bit too high. After last year's 12-4 finish, NFC North title and what should've been at least one playoff victory, it's easy to understand why. The defense was returning all of its key pieces and the offense was set to emerge in Year 2 under Matt Nagy.

And while a 3-2 start certainly isn't the end of the world, the Bears haven't looked like a team that can realistically win a Super Bowl. Sure, the defense is championship caliber, but the offense is nowhere close. 

But that was all pre-bye week. Is it fair to demand better results now that the coaches and players have had some time to step back and evaluate what's worked (and what hasn't)? Absolutely.

In order to really feel good about this team's chances at a Super Bowl run in 2019, a handful of players need to step their game up.

Here are four of those guys:

QB Mitch Trubisky

Trubisky represents the Bears' 2019 season perfectly. He's the classic case of in-season play not living up to the preseason hype. But, much like this team in general, he can quickly flip the narrative into a positive one if he gets off to a hot start in Week 7 against the Saints and over the next five weeks in general.

Trubisky is expected to start Sunday after injuring his shoulder in Week 4 against the Vikings, an injury that forced him to miss Week 5's loss to the Raiders. His absence was felt in London; backup quarterback Chase Daniel wasn't atrocious, but he showed he isn't the kind of player who can elevate his teammates and finish a rally. Trubisky has proven he can be that guy — at least, in spurts — and now has to put this offense on his back, carry it to more production, points and victories.

Statistically, Trubisky could be worse. He's completing over 65% of his passes, and while his yardage and touchdown totals aren't the kind that fantasy football owners desire, he's kept the Bears above water. It's time for him to turn the corner and start proving to Nagy and this fanbase that Chicago can win games because of him and not just because of the defense.

WR Anthony Miller

Miller was supposed to be the Bears' breakout star on offense. He was supposed to challenge wide receiver Allen Robinson for targets. He was supposed to be a touchdown-scoring playmaker. Instead, he has just eight catches for 80 yards and no touchdowns through five games. He's on pace for just 256 receiving yards this season. This, from a player the Bears invested a second-round pick in in 2018. 

Miller flashed his playmaking ability in Week 5 when he hauled in four passes for 52 yards against the Raiders. But he hasn't eliminated bone-headed penalties and still appears, at times, like he lets his emotions get the best of him. Miller has to mature as a route-runner and he needs to maintain a team-first attitude between the lines in order to reach his full potential. If he falls behind wide receiver Javon Wims in the pecking order after the bye, concern for his role in this offense moving forward is very, very real.

The Bears need Miller to emerge as an explosive after-the-catch mid-level target for Trubisky. Otherwise, the offense won't come anywhere near reaching its potential.

LT Charles Leno, Jr.

Leno has been one of the most consistent and reliable Bears players over the last few seasons, but he's off to a rocky start in 2019. He has Chicago's fifth-lowest grade on offense (via Pro Football Focus) and has been penalized a team-high eight times. Aside from Kyle Long, Leno's been the worst offensive lineman in the run game, too.

There's no reason to worry that Leno has suddenly regressed to a fringe starter. Sometimes, players go through a slump. But the left tackle is one of the most important positions on offense, and the Bears need theirs to be better down the stretch.

OLB Leonard Floyd

Week 1 seems like a long, long time ago for Floyd. He registered two sacks in the opener and it felt like we were finally seeing the emergence of the former first-round pick's pass-rushing upside. Now entering Week 7, Floyd is still sitting on two sacks.

To be fair, Floyd has been his usual solid self. He's playing sound football against the run and in coverage, but edge defenders will always be judged by how often they get to the quarterback. With each passing week, Floyd continues to cement his reputation as just-a-guy in that department.

A breakout from Floyd would put the Bears defense in a tier of its own over the final 11 games. In fact, if he can be that double-digit-sack guy to complement Khalil Mack, Chicago's defense will be of the quality that can win a Super Bowl with or without above-average play from Trubisky.

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Kindle Vildor dubbed Bears' rookie who could be surprise gem in 2020

Kindle Vildor dubbed Bears' rookie who could be surprise gem in 2020

Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace has a good eye for talent in the later rounds of the NFL Draft. He nailed picks like Eddie Jackson (fourth round), Jordan Howard (fifth round) and Adrian Amos (fifth round) over the years, and the hope is that one of his Day 3 picks in 2020 will continue that trend.

One player who has a chance to exceed his draft slot is Georgia Southern cornerback, Kindle Vildor, who Pace selected in the fifth round of April's draft. He was recently named the Bears' rookie who could be a surprise gem in 2020.

"We stress confidence when we talk about the corner position," general manager Ryan Pace told reporters. "And [Vildor] definitely has that confidence and that playing demeanor that we look for. A skill set that also translates well to special teams, which is going to be important especially in the early part of his development."

The two-time first-team All-Sun Belt performer will have to beat out a few veterans for reps, but his man-coverage and ball skills should fit favorably in the Bears' defensive scheme.

While most of the post-draft attention has been paid to another Bears rookie cornerback, second-round pick Jaylon Johnson, Vildor has a chance to earn significant playing time as a rookie. Only Kyle Fuller is assured a starting job at this point, and while Vildor faces an uphill battle to unseat Buster Skrine for reps, there's no reason to bet against him. Pace has always been a proponent of competition breeding the best results and if Vildor rises to the occasion, the Bears will waste little time inserting him into the lineup.

Vildor ended his college career with 94 tackles, nine interceptions and 25 passes defended.

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    NFL, players union agree on 5 year extension for 'Madden' video game

    NFL, players union agree on 5 year extension for 'Madden' video game

    Good news, Madden fans: you can officially continue spending $80 to complain about how the game hasn't been good in years. 

    According to Darren Rovell, the NFL and EA Sports have agreed to a 5-year extension: 

    Rovell says his sources have told him that, 'the deal is worth at least $1 billion to the NFL and $500 million to the players. The deal also includes at least $500 million in marketing commitments over the years.' 

    Congrats to everyone involved! Now more than ever, football fans need some good news. There's no tradition as timeless as throwing controllers through TVs and against walls when your friend runs four verticals with a Y skinny post over and over and over again. Madden exists solely to allow people cover to yell at the TV without the presence of, like, a real reason. What would we do without it?