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.

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

Tarik Cohen was Bears' best offensive player vs. Rams

Tarik Cohen was Bears' best offensive player vs. Rams

The Chicago Bears offense was uninspiring once again Sunday night in the team's 17-7 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. While they could've had another six points had kicker Eddy Pineiro connected on two early-game field goals, it still wouldn't have been enough to win the most important game of the season.

After 11 weeks (10 games), the Bears rank 28th in points per game with 16.9. To put their brutal season in perspective, the New York Jets, who've been atrocious this year, are averaging 16.4 points per game.

Essentially, Matt Nagy has coached Chicago's offense as effectively as Adam Gase has coached the Jets'. 

Still, it's worth acknowledging strong individual performances in the midst of an overall letdown, and in Week 11's loss to the Rams, it was running back Tarik Cohen who stood tallest among his Bears' offensive teammates.

Cohen posted Chicago's highest Pro Football Focus grade on offense with a 74.3. He logged 45 snaps, 10 more than David Montgomery, and was effective when he touched the ball. He totaled 74 yards and a touchdown on 14 touches en route to being the Bears' most effective running back against a tough Rams defensive front. Montgomery managed just 31 yards on 14 carries.

Cohen hasn't had the kind of season that was expected from his role as a do-it-all offensive weapon; he's way behind his normal pace of production as both a runner and receiver. Cohen had 99 carries for 444 yards and three touchdowns to go along with 71 catches for 725 yards and five scores in 2018. He's on pace for just 186 rushing yards and 402 receiving yards this season.

Still, Sunday night's effort was a step in the right direction for him and a sign that he may continue to get more touches as the season comes to a close.

Nagy took hard look at his duties as Bears offensive play-caller, opts to retain that role

Nagy took hard look at his duties as Bears offensive play-caller, opts to retain that role

During the Bears’ 17-7 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, quarterback Mitch Trubisky suffered a hip pointer, an injury that involved monitoring by the coaching and medical staffs from halftime on. Kicker Eddy Pineiro was missing field goals to the point of appearing to affect his coach’s decision-making. The offense was sputtering – again – and the defense, after some early takeaway success, appeared to be sagging emotionally. There were issues at tight end. Aaron Donald had to be accounted for and blocked.

All of which and more was on the head of Matt Nagy, now all of 27 games into being an NFL head coach, and who late in the game needed to stop and have a heart-to-heart, heads-together talk with his quarterback about how he was feeling.

The “and more” on Nagy’s head continues to include calling the individual plays for his bad-and-getting-worse offense.

So Nagy spent a chunk of his morning taking a hard look at whether defenses are on to him, presumably personally as well as schematically. And some of that hard look was whether he indeed should continue being the play-caller in the wake of the offense running 74 plays, netting 7 points and failing to gain 300 total yards for the ninth time in 10 games.

For now, after that look in the mirror, Nagy will remain in control of the play sheet.

“What I would say is this,” he said, acknowledging that if he felt he was the problem, “I’ll be the first to tell you, then we need to be better or if there’s a rhythm to something.

“I have zero ego and I have zero care of giving play-call duties to somebody else. I really do not care about that, and if that’s what we feel like from going through it that that’s what we need to do, then I would do that, I really would.

“But when you go through the tape and you look at things and you know schematically where we’re at and what we’re calling and when we’re calling it…. There’s without a doubt a few plays in that game that I would go back and say, ‘You know what, that’s our fault. We didn’t scheme it right,’ and that starts with me. And I need to be able to accept that and know how do I fix that. But we’ll do everything we can … we’re turning over every stone to get this thing right.”

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