The Bears' trade for veteran quarterback Nick Foles became official on Tuesday after logistical delays stemming from the COVID-19 outbreak. Teams can't bring newly acquired players to their facility to sign contracts while social distancing is in effect, and Foles was no exception.
Foles shared the pen-to-paper moment on Twitter. The Bears' social team got involved too, publishing this video message from the team's new (maybe?) signal-caller:
"I just want to send a quick video and just say how honored I am to be a part of your organization and a part of your city," Foles said. "My family and I are looking forward to getting out there and getting to work. Until then, there's a lot more pressing matters in the world right now, so our prayers are with everyone. I hope everyone is staying safe, our love is with you, and Bear down."
Foles is headed for a training camp competition with Mitch Trubisky for the starting quarterback job, but there are clashing opinions about how fair the competition will be. The Bears want Trubisky to be the guy considering how much has been invested in him and how relatively young he is in his development as an NFL player.
It's not entirely unfair to suggest the best thing Foles can offer the Bears is the right level of competition to bring the best out of Trubisky. But even if Trubisky flops, having Foles as a legitimate option to turn to is something Chicago hasn't had in the quarterback room for a very long time.
The strength of the Chicago Bears over the last few seasons has been their defense, led by Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks and Eddie Jackson. And while the 2019 season wasn't as dominant of a performance by the defense that 2018 was, there are still high expectations for the group entering 2020.
In a recent ranking of all 32 teams' defenses entering this season, the Bears checked-in among the best once again:
7. Chicago Bears
With a change in management from Vic Fangio to Chuck Pagano, the Bears’ defense remained consistently above-average even with a down year from Khalil Mack, and an offense led by Mitchell Trubisky that seemed destined to put that defensive in difficult situations more often than not. Then again, given the Bears’ history of quarterbacks, it’s something the franchise is used to. One thing that will help in 2020 and beyond is the fact that Chicago absolutely stole Utah cornerback Jaylon Johnson with the 50th overall pick in the second round — Johnson carried first-round talent with him throughout his collegiate career. If Mack is able to once again become the dominant force he has been, there’s enough dangerous talent on this defensive roster — defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, linebacker Roquan Smith, and safety Eddie Jackson primary among them — to make this defense a top-five unit and almost make up for the quarterback shenanigans.
There's one glaring omission from this analysis, and he's the player who could elevate Chicago's defense from really good to downright nasty: Robert Quinn.
The Bears signed Quinn to a five-year, $70 million contract in free agency with the hope that he'll provide Mack with the kind of pass-rushing sidekick that he so desperately needs. Former first-round pick and current Los Angeles Ram, Leonard Floyd, never became that guy and it really cost Chicago. Now, with Quinn in the fold, the Bears' pass rush should be almost unstoppable.
This ranking feels fair considering everything that went wrong for the Bears in 2019. It also has the potential to be way too low with the abundance of high-end talent Chicago has on defense. It's reasonable to think this unit can be a top-3 squad by season's end, and if they are, the Bears will be back in the playoffs.
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Look at this tremendous man:
Such grace, such elegance. We could all learn something from that beard. But times are different; Illinois football's days as being the laughing stock of the B1G are over. They played in the 2019 RedBox Bowl, you'll remember. Did they win? Up for debate, but they were there. It counted.
The winds of change are blowing through Champaign, and Lovie Smith knows this. It explains this picture, tweeted from the Illinois Football account on Wednesday night:
It's a new (old?) normal, and one we'll all have to get used to. But Illinois football is BACK.