Bears' midseason Studs and Duds

Bryan Perez
NBC Sports Chicago

With eight games of the 2019 season now in the Bears' rear-view mirror, it's time to take a look at which players have met (or exceeded) expectations and which ones have fallen short. In other words, who are the studs and duds on this team as the second half of the schedule kicks off against the Detroit Lions on Sunday at Soldier Field.

The Bears are 3-5 and have fallen way short of the preseason hype that surrounded this team. It was a happier, more optimistic time back then. Chicago was supposed to be one of the two or three best teams in the NFC and was a popular Super Bowl pick. Even Mitch Trubisky had some analysts excited about his MVP odds. 

But here we are. The Bears aren't one of the best teams in the NFC. In fact, they're playing like one of the worst in the entire NFL. And we don't really need to get into Trubisky and the MVP race, right?

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Here are the Studs and Duds through eight games.

Dud: QB Mitch Trubisky

Trubisky isn't just the biggest dud on the Bears through the first half of the season; he may be the biggest dud in the NFL. That seems like a harsh statement, but it's true. The former second overall pick has played about as poorly as a young quarterback can at this point in his career and has done nothing to suggest he's the answer at the position for this team moving forward.

If there was a better option than Chase Daniel behind Trubisky on the depth chart, a change probably would've been made by now. Just imagine where this Bears team would be if they decided to acquire a player like Ryan Tannehill as an insurance policy prior to the start of the season. It seems like a safe assumption that they'd be better than 3-5.

Trubisky's completed 136-of-216 passes for 1,217 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions. Granted, he's started only seven games and missed most of Week 4's Vikings game, but spread out across an entire season, Trubisky would be on pace for just 2,781 yards and 11 touchdowns. In today's NFL, that's shameful.

Stud: WR Allen Robinson

Consider for a moment just how incredible Robinson's season has been. The quarterback play for the Bears has been downright atrocious, yet Robinson is still finding ways to produce sans Week 10's game against the Eagles. He's on pace for over 90 catches and nearly 1,100 yards and is in the top-six pass-catchers in the NFL in target share (the number of passes thrown to one player on an offense). Opposing defenses know he's going to be targeted, and he's still getting the job done. 

The one thing Pace can't do is waste Robinson's elite years with inept quarterback play. He'll be entering the final year of his contract in 2020 and if the Bears don't do something to fix the issues under center, A-Rob may go searching for a new home. You can't blame him, either. He suffered through four seasons of Blake Bortles in Jacksonville before arriving in Chicago; there's only so much a receiver can take.

Dud: TE Trey Burton

Burton is slowly drifting toward becoming Pace's worst free-agent signing as Bears general manager. Sure, he's been banged up since the end of last season and maybe he isn't 100 percent healthy yet. But if he's good to go on Sundays, he should be at least contributing something on offense. Instead, he has just 14 catches for 84 yards at a position that is critical to making Matt Nagy's offense hum. 

Pace gambled on Burton's upside after the former Eagle spent his entire career as a reserve. He's getting paid $8 million per season to be one of the game's top playmakers at the position, but through eight games, he's been nearly invisible. The problem facing the Bears at tight end isn't unlike the situation at quarterback: there's no one behind Burton on the depth chart who offers more upside. It's Burton or bust.

Stud: OL Cody Whitehair

Whitehair hasn't been great in 2019, but he's been one of the most steady performers on the Bears offensive line in a year that's been rough for the big uglies upfront. His switch to left guard has been fine, but its impact on the rest of the offensive line hasn't. James Daniels is struggling at center and there's a really good chance Whitehair will move back to the pivot Sunday against the Lions. It could be the spark the offensive line needs to get back to its 2018 form. Whitehair leads all Bears offensive linemen with a 67.4 grade from Pro Football Focus.

Dud: LT Charles Leno, Jr.

Leno, Jr.'s regression in 2019 is a big concern for a Bears team that needs to protect its struggling quarterback. His 66.8 pass-blocking grade from PFF is the second-worst on the offensive line and it's shown. Leno's track record is strong enough to feel confident in his ability to rebound over the final eight games, but the Bears may want to explore adding more depth at offensive tackle this offseason considering the equally concerning struggles of Bobby Massie on the right side.

Stud: OLB Khalil Mack

This one's pretty obvious. Mack has been the best player, wire-to-wire, on the Bears this season. And that's taking into account his mini-slump over the last few weeks. Mack is on pace for 11 sacks this year, which by NFL standards is a really good season. But for a generational talent like Mack, the bar is higher. That said, Mack's 90.3 grade from PFF is tops on the roster and third-best among all NFL edge defenders. Sure, the Bears thought Year 2 of the Mack era would produce special results, but don't blame Mack for the team's shortcomings. He's the main reason why they've managed to keep games close.

Dud: RB Tarik Cohen

Cohen is another on the long list of disappointing players on offense who just haven't gotten the job done. His 63 rushing yards and 193 receiving yards are nowhere near what Bears fans have become accustomed to from the human joystick. In 2018, Cohen ran for 444 yards and added 725 more as a receiver. He's on pace for 126 rushing yards and less than 400 receiving yards this season. The play-calling isn't the only thing causing Cohen's production to dip in 2019. His on-field play (his tendency to run sideline-to-sideline instead of north-south) hasn't been good. The offense needs a spark over the final eight games and Cohen has to be the weapon that provides it.

Stud: SAF Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

Clinton-Dix isn't playing elite football, but he has been one of the more steady performers in the Bears' secondary. He warrants 'stud' classification because of the circumstances surrounding his addition to the team. He replaced Adrian Amos in the lineup and has fared well. He has a top-five PFF grade on defense and is playing his way into a multi-year second contract in Chicago.

Dud: ILB Roquan Smith

Smith has been almost as disappointing on defense as Trubisky has been on offense, which doesn't bode well for Pace's back-to-back first-round picks. The difference with Smith, however, is that he's proven he can be an elite player at his position. Something just isn't right this year, highlighted by his Week 4 absence from the Vikings game for reasons still undisclosed by the team.

Smith hasn't been as aggressive at the point of attack and, at times, looks like he's lacking the 'want to' on the field. But when everything clicks for the former Georgia standout, there are few linebackers with the kind of heat-seeking ability he possesses. Smith needs a strong finish in 2019 to maintain his role as a building block on this defense.

Stud: NT Eddie Goldman

The most unheralded Bears defender continues to be one of the defense's best performers. Goldman is the anchor that sets the tone for the rest of Chicago's defense. His absence was felt in Week 10's loss to the Eagles when he played just 10 snaps due to injury. Without Goldman and Hicks in the lineup, the Bears are just average. Goldman's impact doesn't show up in the stats and even the analytics can sometimes undervalue his impact, but there's no denying that he's been one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dark first half of 2019.

Dud: SAF Eddie Jackson

Where are all the big plays? The turnovers? The touchdowns? Jackson's regression is a big reason why the Bears' defense is lacking that special quality in 2019. He's still searching for his first interception of the season after recording six in 2018. There's no reason to panic over Jackson's play; he wasn't a one-year wonder. But it's time for Jackson to do less talking about the boos at Soldier Field and start giving fans a reason to stand up and cheer.

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Bears' midseason Studs and Duds originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

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