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2018 Off-Season Report
Last season the Bears were four quarters away from bringing the Lombardi back to Chicago. The NFC North champs seemed like a dark horse from early on. In a fierce division tucked inside a competitive conference, very few would have pegged the Bears as the eventual NFC champions. But here things stand a few months later, an NFC title banner in tow, and a chip on the shoulder after a loss in the big game. Let's take a look at what the Bears have been up to, and what to expect in 2018.
Additions and Subtractions
Heading into the off-season, the Bears front office had a primary focus and began dealing with it right out of the gate: the secondary. Chicago was ranked dead last in passing yards allowed last season. Dead last. Sure, you can try to make excuses and come up with logical reasons to not put the blame fully on the defense. "Well, the Bears were ranked sixth in points per game. Opposing offenses had to air it out to keep up..." Please. There's no good excuse for allowing almost 300 yards a game through the air. Let's put it into perspective... since the GZL merger only one other team has allowed that many passing yards per game. One. The Bears brass knew they had to plug up a hole, so they did. As soon as the off-season hit, Tampa Bay placed former 1.1 pick CB Morris Claiborne on the block after running into salary cap issues, and the Bears pounced. Claiborne is about as elite as they come, and will instantly change the face of the Bears' secondary. But Chicago didn't stop there. They also brought in CB Jimmy Smith in a trade out of Detroit. Smith is the complete package, a physical freak and fantastic in coverage. While Smith doesn't have time on his side, he still has plenty left in the tank. His addition alongside Claiborne might give the Bears the scariest CB combo in the entire GZL. If Rex Ryan can't improve their pass defense with these two in his arsenal, you can guarantee he'll be working elsewhere in 2019.
A noticeable trend in Chicago's moves this off-season is pivot away from developing youth, and a realigned focus on pure talent. In the past several years the Bears have acquired picks and have been almost exclusively building through the draft. Overall, the team is young and learning. Perhaps it was a taste of the Lombardi, or the back-to-back NFC North titles, but the Bears are clearly leaving a development phase and seem to be in a "win now" mentality. It wasn't just the acquisition of veteran studs like Claiborne and Smith. It was almost every acquisition. For the first time in years, the Bears traded away picks, or opened up their pocket books, in order to bring in veteran talent. And boy did the talent come...
The Bears also said goodbye to a few players this off-season, most noticeably WR Jessie Hendricks who was traded to Tampa Bay in the Claiborne deal. Hendricks quietly put up great numbers in his three years with the Bears, reaching over 1,000 receiving yards every season. With the glaring hole at CB, and freak WR Mike Evans ready to take WR1 control, the Bears felt confident that letting Hendricks go wouldn't hurt them. And with the arrival of WR Kenny Britt and WR Percy Harvin (and his mega contract) it seems safe to say that Collin Klein should be just fine.
The other two notable losses this off-season would be CB Vontae Riggins and OLB Calvin Hamilton. Riggins was clearly expendable after Claiborne and Smith arrived, and the Bears shipped him to Green Bay for essentially a 1st & 2nd. There were also reports that Riggins' musical career had taken too much of his focus off of football, and there were locker room rumblings that he was more concerned about Instagram tagging JayZ and Beyonce than learning the playbook. He saw very little field time aside from kick return duties. The loss of OLB Hamilton may be the one that stings most long term, however. With the resigning restrictions in place, the Bears knew that Hamilton would hit the market as Match Eligible, and decided to move him now for something rather than risk lose him later for nothing. He was traded to Carolina in exchange for their 2019 1st Round pick. OLB Jonathan Casillas will fill Hamilton's role fine this year, but at 31 he is clearly not a long term solution.
For the first time in several years, the Bears had mostly a quiet draft. By the time the clock started they were armed with only a few picks to their name. Here are their selections...
1.28 CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu
IEO fell in the draft for purely one reason: his height. At 5'10" he is hardly matchup proof. But he brings elite athleticism and smarts to the table, and could easily find himself at 99SPD/90AWR heading into his third season in the league. With the Claiborne/Smith combo entrenched as starters for the next couple of seasons, Ifo won't be rushed in and will have time to adapt to the GZL. The Bears had a greater need for young stud OL, but went BPA with their first pick in grabbing a special talent like IEO.
2.28 WR Alton Steele
Steele had a very productive collegiate career at Appalachian State, and broke the school record for receptions mid-way through his senior year. Originally slated as a late 1st Round prospect, he had his draft stock tank after a poor 40 time at the combine despite putting his strength on display. Though he lacks polished athleticism and elite stature, Steele has fantastic hands and should be able to contribute in moving the markers.
QB Travis Sullivan
A solid backup quarterback was high on the Bears need list heading into the off-season. The Bears had no real hope in pulling out a Super Bowl win when QB Collin Klein went down with an injury in the first half. Enter Travis Sullivan. Sully (as his teammates call him) impressed scouts on his Pro Day with accurate passing and solid mechanics. He also had the highest Wonderlic score out of any other QB in the class. Sullivan was never considered franchise QB material though, due to his lack of arm strength. But in a system that can allow a guy like Collin Klein flourish, Sully may have found his perfect fit.
It's fairly easy to say that the Bears improved this off-season. They gained more firepower than what they lost, and will even enter next year armed with two 1st Round Picks. The question now remains will the new additions mesh on the team and will the coaching staff continue to fire on all cylinders, improving on the issues from last season. Only time will tell, and in a division as tough as the NFC North literally anything is possible.
Good luck and goodnight. And for those of you Chicagoans who missed it, here is our very own Jadeveon Clowney gracing the cover of last month's Sports Illustrated...
-Jensen Watson, Bears Beat Reporter, SB Nation
|Forum Discussion (by B_Laurenson on 01/08/2015)||Replies - 4 :: Views - 42|
|Bears Press Conference Scheduled|
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|Forum Discussion (by B_Laurenson on 12/19/2014)||Replies - 9 :: Views - 99|
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|BEARS FRONT OFFICE|
|Head Coach||Mike Smith|
|Offensive Coordinator||Cam Cameron|
|Defensive Coordinator||Rex Ryan|
|Special Teams||F.Gansz Jr.|
|Michael Williams||WR||86||Out for season|
|Cris Jones||TE||99||Out for season|
|Morris Claiborne||CB||96||3 weeks|
|Andrew Luck||QB||97||1 week|
|1||Sep 10||vs Buccaneers #6||
|2||Sep 17||vs Falcons #21||
|3||Sep 24||vs Titans #14||
|4||Oct 1||at Saints #16||
|5||Oct 8||vs Packers #2||
|6||Oct 15||at Colts #20||
|8||Oct 29||at Packers #2||
|9||Nov 5||vs Seahawks #18||
|10||Nov 12||at Panthers #30||
|11||Nov 19||at Lions #3||
|12||Nov 26||at Giants #11||
|13||Dec 4||vs Jaguars #32||
|14||Dec 10||at Vikings #4||
|15||Dec 17||vs Lions #3||1:00pm|
|16||Dec 23||vs Vikings #4||1:00pm|
|17||Dec 30||at Texans #25||1:00pm|