5 Bears who could earn Pro Bowl honors after 2021 NFL season

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5 Bears who could make first Pro Bowl this year originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

After back-to-back 8-8 seasons, Ryan Pace and the Bears have brought in many new players, hired several new coaches, and are generally optimistic about their chances to win double-digit games in 2021. Improved quarterback play from either Andy Dalton or Justin Fields should help, but if Matt Nagy’s team wants to not only make the postseason, but win in the postseason, some of their younger players will have to take the next step in their development as impactful pros. Here are our choices for five players that could ascend this season and earn their first Pro Bowl honors.

Roquan Smith, Linebacker

It feels a little unfair to start off with Smith, since he’s played at an extremely high level for a while now. Last season, Smith had a genuine gripe for not being named a First-Team All-Pro, let alone being snubbed for the Pro Bowl. If he continues to play at the level he did last year it would be unfathomable for Smith not to earn a trip to Las Vegas.

James Daniels, Offensive lineman

Before he went down with an injury in Week 5, Daniels looked like the Bears best offensive lineman. If the Bears’ offense has any hope of succeeding in 2021, their O-Line will need to play well right out the gate, as opposed to taking more than half the season to get in a groove, like last year. Daniels specifically will be key as he presumably returns to left guard, since the Bears will have a new left tackle, whether or not rookie Teven Jenkins debuts there.

Eddie Goldman, Nose tackle

Ask anyone on the Bears defense and everyone would tell you that Goldman is a critical figure in the middle of the defensive line. But it wasn’t until 2019 that Goldman started to garner some national attention as one of the premier nose tackles in the league. He was on track to develop into a Pro Bowl player in 2020 before deciding to opt out of the season due to COVID-19. It remains to be seen whether resting for a year will help or hurt Goldman, but if he picks up where he left off, his presence alone should help the Bears become an elite run-stopping team again.

David Montgomery, Running back

As previously mentioned, the Bears offensive line struggled to find their footing for most of 2020, and that negatively impacted Montgomery’s ability to impact the game. In the first 10 games of the season, he only managed 3.6 YPC. But over the last six games, when the O-Line picked up its play, that number shot up to 5.2 YPC. Further, his usage increased over that same time period, from 14.6 carries/game to 19.2 carries/game. If that trend continues not only could Montgomery earn a Pro Bowl honor, he should take pressure off of whoever lines up at quarterback.

Cole Kmet, Tight end

Without a formal training camp or preseason, it took Kmet a few weeks to really make an impact in the offense on Sundays last year. But as the season went on he got more and more playing time, and started popping more and more on the field. His relationship with Jimmy Graham has been well documented, so another year learning from one of the best to ever play the position could help Kmet develop into the fearsome weapon fans hoped he would be when Pace drafted him in the second round of the 2020 draft.

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