Bears' offseason rivalry report: Detroit Lions

Bears' offseason rivalry report: Detroit Lions

Now that we're three weeks removed from the NFL draft, and the main moves in free agency are in the books, it's perhaps time to take a step back and check out some of the additions and subtractions from the last time the Bears met the Lions and Packers and Vikings. 

There are numerous sites and odds and articles that say while the Bears will be improved from their 6-10 finish last season, it may not translate into an improved position in the 2016 NFC North standings. At best, they could leap the Lions, but they still aren't on the level of the Packers and Vikings.

What we do know is John Fox and his staff have plenty of new parts to work with, especially on defense, where it's been primarily an offseason of addition, not subtraction. Akeem Hicks and Jonathan Bullard could be new bookends for Eddie Goldman in the base 3-4. There's little argument that Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman will be an upgrade at inside linebacker from last season's carousel of inexperience. They added speed off the edge in top draft pick Leonard Floyd. And while there weren't any splash additions in the secondary via free agency, they've added depth, athleticism (but yes, nothing more than potential) to compete with the incumbent defensive backs that position coach Ed Donatell will try to mold into quick-impact assets, as he did with Vic Fangio in San Francisco.

The questions on offense are a little deeper: Coordinator Adam Gase is gone. So are playmakers Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett. Hopefully part of that will be offset by Kevin White. But can Jeremy Langford and Jordan Howard combine (behind what they hope is an improved offensive line) to provide what Forte did so well for eight seasons? If Zach Miller can remain healthy, that's one less concern. But history shows that's a big "if."

We'll start our three-part series in Motown, where Jim Caldwell was left twisting in the wind as head coach until Bob Quinn was finally named general manager and settled on another chance for Caldwell and his staff.

Detroit Lions

Additions of note: WR Marvin Jones, WR Jeremy Kerley, RB Stevan Ridley, T Taylor Decker (2016 first-round pick, No. 16 overall), C Graham Glasgow (2016 third-round pick, No. 95 overall), G Geoff Schwartz (2016 seventh-round pick, No. 241 overall), DE A'Shawn Robinson (2016 second-round pick, No. 46 overall), DE Wallace Gilberry,  LB Jon Bostic, S Miles Killebrew (2016 fourth-round pick, No. 111 overall)

Subtractions of note: WR Calvin Johnson, RB Joique Bell, G Manny Ramirez, DE Jason Jones, CB Rashean Mathis, S James Ihedigbo, S Isa Abdul-Quddus

Another expected subtraction, though not yet official, is that of their leading tackler, Stephen Tulloch. They've kept him on the roster long enough to give him his bonus, but contractual issues have led him to be a no-show, with his camp saying his days in Detroit are over, and coaches and management mum on the issue.

They will get stud linebacker DeAndre Levy back from injury, and Ihedigbo lost his starting safety spot opposite Glover Quin late last season to Abdul-Quddus, a special teams standout who gave the position an upgrade when he was promoted. Ihedigbo remains a free agent.  Kinnebrew's a hard-hitter and is expected to be given more than an opportunity to win the job versus two free agent backups who were brought in, Rafael Bush and Tavon Wilson.

But this is Ziggy Ansah's defense now, and if Robinson rotates in on the line regularly, with or in place of Haloti Ngata, it may be an interesting watch the next several years since the Bears traded down from a pick they could have used on the Alabama star. Another second-round trade down later, they picked guard Cody Whitehair.

It seems a long shot that Bostic can force out Tahir Whitehead and Josh Bynes to play with Levy at linebacker.

Offensively, Ridley replaces Bell to mix in with sophomore Ameer Abdullah in the Lions' never-ending attempt to establish a running game (ranked an average of 25th the past four seasons). But no one replaces Megatron. It's easily the biggest impact loss within the division (though Bennett and Forte fans might make a 2-for-1 argument). 

So the Lions went out and paid a premium for the biggest free agent wideout in Jones (65 catches, four TD's in Cincinnati), while hoping Kerley can add depth opposite Golden Tate, and 2014 first-rounder Eric Ebron can make an even bigger jump from the step forward he took last year. 

And let's not dismiss Theo Riddick's effectiveness in the passing game (as the Bears can attest). Eighty receptions isn't shabby.

Of course this all revolves around how well Matthew Stafford can be protected, and if that line can help spring the running game. They've invested in LT Riley Reiff, RG Larry Warford, C Travis Swanson, and G Laken Tomlinson over the first three rounds in the past four drafts. 

Reiff's headed into a contract year following a pedestrian first four seasons, and Swanson's been a disappointment. Warford is Pro Bowl-caliber, and while there's still hope 2015 top pick Tomlinson can prove his status, he was bumped from the starting lineup during the season by current Bear Manny Ramirez. 

Thus, three of their top five picks last month were on O-Linemen (Decker, Glasgow, and fifth-round guard Joe Dahl).

Next: Green Bay

Bears still see Dion Sims as a valuable piece to their offensive puzzle

USA Today Sports Images

Bears still see Dion Sims as a valuable piece to their offensive puzzle

Dion Sims is still here, which is the outcome he expected but perhaps wasn’t a slam dunk — at least to those outside the walls at Halas Hall. 

The Bears could’ve cut ties with Sims prior to March 16 and saved $5.666 million against the cap, quite a figure for a guy coming off a disappointing 2017 season (15 catches, 180 yards, one touchdown). But the Bears are sticking with Sims, even after splashing eight figures to land Trey Burton in free agency earlier this year. 

“In my mind, I thought I was coming back,” Sims said. “I signed to be here three years and that’s what I expect. But I understand how things go and my job is come out here and work hard every day and play with a chip on my shoulder to prove myself and just be a team guy.”

The Bears signed Sims to that three-year, $18 million contract 14 months ago viewing him as a rock-solid blocking tight end with some receiving upside. The receiving upside never materialized, and his blocking was uneven at times as the Bears’ offense slogged through a bleak 11-loss season. 

“The situation we were in, we weren’t — we could’ve done a better job of being successful,” Sims said. “Things didn’t go how we thought it would. We just had to pretty much try to figure out how to come together and build momentum into coming into this year. I just think there were a lot of things we could have done, but because of the circumstances we were limited a little bit. 

“… It was a lot of things going on. Guys hurt, situations — it was tough for us. We couldn’t figure it out, along with losing, that was a big part of it too.”

Sims will be given a fresh start in 2018, even as Adam Shaheen will be expected to compete to cut into Sims’ playing time at the “Y” tight end position this year. The other side of that thought: Shaheen won’t necessarily slide into being the Bears’ primary in-line tight end this year. 

Sims averaged 23 receptions, 222 yards and two touchdowns from 2014-2016; that might be a good starting point for his 2018 numbers, even if it would represent an improvement from 2017. More important, perhaps, is what Sims does as a run blocker — and that was the first thing Nagy mentioned when talking about how Sims fits into his offense. 

“The nice thing with Dion is that he’s a guy that’s proven to be a solid blocker,” Nagy said. “He can be in there and be your Y-tight end, but yet he still has really good hands. He can make plays on intermediate routes. He’s not going to be anybody that’s a downfield threat — I think he knows that, we all know that — but he’s a valuable piece of this puzzle.”

Bears logo ranked in bottom five of NFL in recent fan poll

USA Today

Bears logo ranked in bottom five of NFL in recent fan poll

The Chicago Bears logo has withstood the test of time. In a sports era full of uniform changes, the Bears have maintained the classic orange 'C' for most of their nearly 100 years in Chicago.

Unfortunately, tradition doesn't equate to popularity.

Chicago's logo ranked 28th in the NFL, according to a recent poll of nearly 1,500 football fans. Only the Redskins (29), Bengals (30), Jets (31) and Browns (32) were worse.

I’m not sure how I feel about the underbite on the “C.” I can see how this would be a polarizing feature of this logo. I wish to an extent that it met up more evenly. I think they could have had the bottom meet up in a more even fashion and still maintained the sharpness, of the “C,” which I like. I don’t mind the point [ON THE BACK SIDE OF THE “C”], without the point it would be super boring. The point actually does add something from a design standpoint that makes it stand out.

Bears fans will take exception with the results. Wins have been hard to come by in recent seasons, but there's still something special about seeing the familiar navy and orange on Sundays in the fall. The 'C' is arguably the biggest part of that. Sure, it's not a complex design overflowing with colors, but it represents a long and storied history. 

It's interesting that each of the bottom five teams have struggled to string together winning seasons. On the flipside, teams like the Saints, Falcons, Rams, Vikings and Eagles rank in the top six. Maybe it's recency bias.

In the NFC North, the Lions rank No. 2 (which is a shocker) and the Packers are No. 20.