The Bears defense hasn't been nearly as dominant this season as it was in 2018, and it's failed to live up to the near-generational hype it was receiving over the summer. But considering the devastating injuries to several key starters defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano has dealt with week after week, it hasn't been all that bad of a campaign.
The who's who of Bears defenders who've missed extended time with injuries include Danny Trevathan, Akiem Hicks and now Roquan Smith, who was placed on season-ending injured reserve with a torn pec on Monday.
Trevathan (elbow) hasn't played since Week 10 and his timetable to return is still unknown.
The same can be said (sort of) for Hicks, who's been rehabbing an elbow injury of his own. He's been out since Week 5. The Bears would probably shut him down for the year if they were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, but they're riding a three-game winning streak and still have a pulse. As a result, Hicks is targeting a return Sunday against the Packers.
At least, Matt Nagy hopes so.
“The mentality for [Hicks] is, ‘Try to get stronger each and every day,’” said coach Matt Nagy from Halas Hall on Monday. “He hasn’t been through any of the live stuff at all. Each day try to stay positive, try to get stronger and see where it takes us by the end of the week. But hopefully, he’ll be ready to go.”
If Hicks is sidelined again, the Bears will face an always dangerous Packers offense without three key starters in Hicks, Smith and Trevathan. Green Bay has a red-hot running back in Aaron Jones and a quarterback in Aaron Rodgers who tends to feast on Chicago even when they're armed with a complete lineup.
“One of the things I really focused on was just making sure my elbow was in the strongest place possible," Hicks said on Monday. "We still have some finishing up to do and there’s all these dates to make gains and get a little bit better. Just working on that.”
Hicks is a player who relies on his upper-body strength to shed blocks and make plays in the backfield. If his elbow isn't 100%, he won't be nearly as effective as Bears fans are accustomed to seeing. But even a partially healthy Hicks is better than not having him in the lineup at all.
Hicks is eager to return after seeing his teammates stay the course and stay alive.
“Just to see the adversity and the grit and the fight that these guys had to go through, and I couldn’t help," he said. "To be in this position at this time in the season, you have to take advantage of it.”
The Bears are one of the first teams mentioned when speculation about where New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady could play in 2020. The Bears are the most quarterback-needy club that also has a chance to make a Super Bowl run with a player like Brady under center, so it's logical to assume the soon-to-be free agent will at least entertain the idea of playing home games at Soldier Field next year.
Much of what happens with Brady will come down to how the Patriots view the 42-year-old (he'll be 43 at the start of next season). If all things are equal, and New England makes him a fair offer to come back, it's likely Brady would return to the only franchise he's ever played for. And if owner Robert Kraft's recent comments are sincere, it's more than likely that he will.
Kraft, who was in New York City on Tuesday, was asked by TMZ reporters whether the Patriots will re-sign Brady this offseason. His response?
"We plan to," Kraft said.
Well, there you have it, right? If the Patriots plan to re-sign Brady, then the Patriots are going to re-sign Brady; assuming, of course, you believe what Kraft is saying in January before New England's decision-makers have had enough time to assess their quarterback situation with, and maybe without, No. 12 under center.
Brady is coming off of one of his worst seasons as a pro, which is saying something considering he's been playing for two decades. His completion percentage was the lowest it's been in six years, his yardage total was the second-lowest in the last 10 years, and his 24 touchdown passes were the fewest he's thrown in a season since 2006.
It's natural to wonder whether Father Time has finally caught up to him. Maybe, however, his down year was a result of lacking talent at wide receiver and tight end. Regardless of the reason, his 2019 campaign has called into question where he'll be in 2020.
But there are those three words Kraft said — 'we plan to' — that can't be ignored. At the very least, Bears fans can't get their hopes up. The Patriots tend to get what they want, and if they want Brady back in 2020, they'll have him.
Add Dayton tight end Adam Trautman to the growing list of tight ends the Bears have met with at the 2020 Senior Bowl.
After confirming Purdue's Brycen Hopkins and Vanderbilt's Jared Pinkney spent time with Bears scouts (in the case of Pinkney, nearly 35 minutes), Trautman told NFL.com's Chase Goodbread that Chicago's scouts have expressed a strong interest in his skill set.
"They're interested in me," Trautman said of the Bears. "They tell me they like what they see."
Trautman had one of the best lines of the week when he said he prefers driving opposing defenders into the ground against their will over scoring touchdowns, and at a well-built 6-foot-5, 251 pounds, he has the perfect physical makeup to project as a guy who will do that on the next level. He needs development in that area of his game (run blocker), but his 'want-to' is half the battle.
Trautman wasn't the best tight end this week, but he was far from the worst. He's been consistent, and for a team like the Bears who are searching for a tight end who can be relied on as a second-level target for whoever is playing quarterback in Matt Nagy's offense, Trautman's consistency will be viewed as a plus.
Trautman had 916 yards and 14 touchdowns for Dayton in 2019. Scouts wanted to see whether he could handle the jump in competition at the Senior Bowl, and he's answered that question with a resounding yes.
He projects as a Day 3 pick with upside to develop into a starting quality tight end.