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It’s been an exciting offseason for the Bears, so it’s easy to get excited for the regular season too. If everything goes right, it’s not unreasonable to think Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace could field a 10+ win team. But not everything will go right. At some point, the Bears will face adversity, and they’ll have to find a way to overcome it. As things stand now, these are the five most-concerning things before the Bears start training camp, and the 2021 season.
The departure of All-Pro corner Kyle Fuller leaves a big void in the Bears’ secondary. The team is confident that second-year DB Jaylon Johnson can step up in his place, with Desmond Trufant, Artie Burns and Kindle Vildor competing for the starting spot opposite Johnson. But besides Vildor, all of those backs, including Johnson, have dealt with significant injury histories. If a couple of these guys go down again this year, the defense could be left scrambling to find replacements.
Offensive line play
The O-Line started to finally gel towards the end of the 2020 season, but it took the Bears several different tries to find a starting lineup that meshed well. They’ll trot out a new lineup again this season, no matter who makes the cut, as Charles Leno is out and either Teven Jenkins or Elijah Wilkinson steps in. Plus, the team will have to re-integrate James Daniels, who got hurt in Week 5 and never returned. If the Bears want to have success on offense this year, they’re going to have to find a starting unit that plays well together much more quickly than they did last year.
Sean Desai’s playcalling
Throughout the offseason, players and coaches alike have raved about Desai’s start as the Bears defensive coordinator. By all accounts he’s great at gameplanning, an excellent teacher and will put players in a position to succeed on the field. But the one thing we don’t know— and won’t know until the lights come on in Week 1— is how he fares as a play caller on gameday. Doing your homework is one thing, but executing during the exam is something else entirely. There’s no reason to doubt Desai’s ability in-game, but again, we won’t know until we see it.
Generating more pass rush and more sacks
The Bears have two of the most tenacious defensive players in the league in Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks, and added a Pro Bowl caliber player in Robert Quinn last offseason. Yet Quinn was a dud in 2020 and the team as a whole only managed to notch 36 sacks, which tied for 15th across the NFL. With almost the exact same personnel this year, Desai is going to need to find a way to get more production from the front, especially when you consider the aforementioned concerns in the secondary.
Organizing the run game
When the Bears have employed multiple running backs on the 53-man roster, you could say execution of the run game was haphazard, at best. When Tarik Cohen went down with an injury last season, more of the spotlight shifted onto David Montgomery, in a good way, but there were still head-scratching play calls featuring Cordarrelle Patterson in pivotal moments. Now, Cohen will be re-integrated into the offense, along with the addition of Damien Williams and rookie Khalil Herbert. While Herbert will likely contribute mainly on special teams, it’s still a lot of running backs to incorporate. Given the Bears’ past struggles in the run game they’ll likely have to try something new to get things going.
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