Thompson’s In-Depth Power Rankings: #27 Chicago Bearsby Mason Thompson June 24, 2021 1 comment
A second NFC North team is unveiled in today’s power rankings article. The Lions were revealed as the 30th-ranked team a few short weeks ago, and now it is time for the Chicago Bears dissection as the 27th-ranked team following the Eagles and Dolphins in recent days.
Bears fans will be upset with this ranking, and understandably so. Chicago has their new quarterback of the future with Justin Fields at the helm, although he may not start. Along with Fields, the Bears had one of the best drafts this year. Unfortunately, some questionable moves in the free agency process leave many questions for Chicago as a whole, along with the front office and coaching staff remaining from the last few years.
Be sure to check out all of my in-depth power rankings.
Mitchell Trubisky is gone. The former Chicago starter signed with the Buffalo Bills to back up Josh Allen. The Bears brought along Andy Dalton to be the starter while Fields gets ready to lead the franchise into relevancy past October. Dalton has spent most of his career with the Bengals but was signed to back up Dak Prescott in Dallas last year until Prescott went down with his grueling injury. Chicago missed out on some of the big-name quarterbacks that were in the free agency market while also missing out on trade candidates like Carson Wentz and Sam Darnold. Dalton will likely start the first few games, and while the coaching staff hopes he starts the whole season to keep Fields development on a nice steady pace, we’ve seen how that’s worked out in the past for other rookie quarterbacks.
After months of discourse that seemed to lead to a departure of Allen Robinson from the Bears, the two sides appeared to work things out surprisingly, and it has led to Robinson signing his franchise tag for the 2021 season. Thankfully, Robinson returning to the team doesn’t put as much pressure on the rest of the receiver room as it would have if he weren’t on the team.
Kyle Fuller was one of the best players on the Chicago roster for a long time, especially during their impressive run that came to the end because of the infamous double-doink. Fuller was released before the draft and promptly signed with the Denver Broncos to reunite with Vic Fangio. To slightly dampen the loss, the Bears brought in Desmond Trufant. Trufant will pair nicely with the new number one cornerback, Jaylon Johnson. Another loss is Roy Robertson-Harris, who signed with the Jaguars in free agency on a three-year contract.
A Great Draft
As stated earlier, Chicago had one of the best drafts in the league. The Bears ended up trading up two times in the first two nights to get two top 25 players in the class. On night one, Fields was acquired by trading up with the Giants. To move up nine spots, Chicago gave a fifth-round pick this year and first and fourth-round selections in 2022. On day two, the Bears moved up 13 spots using picks 52, 83, and 204 to move up with Carolina to receive picks 39 and 151 to select Teven Jenkins. He was a right tackle during his time at Oklahoma State, but shortly after the draft, the Bears released Charles Leno, opening a gaping hole at left tackle. The right tackle spot is still a big question mark.
On day three, the Bears continued to add talent, especially later on. Khalil Herbert, Dazz Newsome, Thomas Graham, and Khyiris Tonga were great value selections, and Larry Borom could compete for the starting right tackle job.
While the draft was great, there were a few questionable decisions made in the free agency and post-draft process. When many thought the tackle situation was figured out following the Jenkins selection, Chicago released Leno, which promptly moved Jenkins to left tackle. The cutting of Fuller opened up a hole at the cornerback spot, and the secondary outside of Johnson and Eddie Jackson still has some weaknesses, specifically at the other safety spot.
- Overall – 77.08 (27th)
- Offense – 73.29 (31st)
- Defense – 80.58 (17th)
- Coach and Culture – 72.25 (29th)
Quarterbacks – 74, 25th (26 percent Overall, 39 percent Offense)
While there is a positive outlook for the future for Fields, the coaching staff has said over and over that Dalton is the starter for 2021. In 11 games last year, the Red Rifle completed about 65 percent of his passes for 2,170 yards, 14 touchdowns, and eight interceptions. Ultimately, injuries kept him out of a few games to end the season, but Dalton looks poised to be the starter for Chicago in 2021. While the defense in Chicago is better than he had in Dallas, the offense is nowhere close to as good. The offensive line is undergoing a makeover, and the weapons aren’t as good, though there are some intriguing weapons outside of Robinson.
Fields is the future. While the team has stated they want to develop him slowly and seemingly redshirt him, if things get out of hand quickly, Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace might have to turn to Fields to save their jobs. Fields is an intriguing prospect, and while many were high on him and had him as their second-ranked quarterback in the class, there were many concerning aspects of his game, which were seen clearly in the Indiana game. While there were also highs, the lows were seemingly disregarded by the many that had Fields as QB2 in the class. Unfortunately for Nagy and Pace, seeing what the rookie has may end up saving their jobs if the Bears struggle early on.
Nick Foles was traded to Chicago before the 2020 season. With Trubisky struggling, adding Foles created a massive quarterback controversy that continued throughout the season with the two flip-flopping starts. Dalton has a much higher floor than Foles, and the former Super Bowl-winning quarterback will likely stay on the roster as a mentor to Fields.
Running Backs – 77, 23rd (4 percent Overall, 5 percent Offense)
Yes, Bear fans, I know you have David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen, Damien Williams, and Herbert. There are other teams higher than this ranking that have more depth and a better number one back than Montgomery. Each team in their division has a better number one running back than Montgomery. He finished with over 1,500 yards from scrimmage and ten total touchdowns during the 2020 season. With the additions of Williams and Herbert, plus Cohen coming back from injury, those numbers will dive, especially in the receiving categories.
Cohen only had 20 touches in three games last season. The offense seemed to struggle without him, and while he hasn’t had over 100 carries in a season, he adds another element in that aspect to Montgomery and is on a whole other level in terms of his receiving production.
After Clyde Edwards-Helaire was the choice after Kansas City won the Super Bowl in the first round, many wondered what the team would do with Williams. Ultimately, he opted out of the 2020 season. Kansas City didn’t retain Williams, and Chicago picked him up before the draft.
Not only was Herbert added via the draft, but so was CJ Marable. Herbert will likely make the roster, while Marable will battle for a spot alongside Ryan Nall. All of Montgomery, Williams, and Herbert share similar skillsets. Cohen will be one of the only ones with a significantly different role from the rest.
Pass Catchers – 75, 26th (10 percent Overall, 16 percent Offense)
Robinson returning makes the receiving core a lot better than it would’ve been. Last year he had 102 catches for 1,250 yards and six touchdowns. I, myself, am a Darnell Mooney stan and knew the Bears made an excellent choice by selecting him last year in the draft. The Tulane product finished his rookie campaign with 61 catches for 631 yards and four touchdowns. If Robison had left and not been franchise tagged, Mooney would have likely been the number one receiver this year. Robinson and Mooney are a great top tandem, but the rest of the receiving depth takes a significant drop off after those two.
After Robinson and Mooney, Anthony Miller is the third receiver. That is if he isn’t traded. Rumors swirled during the offseason that Miller was on the trade block, but nothing has happened with the situation yet. After being a fourth-round pick, Riley Ridley has only caught ten passes in two seasons. Not great. Javon Wims has had his fair share of moments here and there, but he is most known for getting ejected for punching Chauncey Gardner-Johnson.
Damiere Byrd and Marquise Goodwin were brought in during the offseason to add an element of speed and deep-threat ability to the Chicago offense. Byrd started 14 games for the Patriots in a depleted receiver room. He finished with over 600 yards and a touchdown. Goodwin opted out of the 2020 season but looks to make the roster. He hasn’t had a spectacular season since 2017, where he finished with over 900 yards and two touchdowns. The additions of the two speedsters will create bigger plays for the Bears this season in hopes of stretching defenses, something they couldn’t do last year. Newsome will likely find a role this season as a rookie somewhere in this group.
Old-man Jimmy Graham was, for some reason, not released before the offseason. He was a red-zone threat last season and caught eight touchdowns for Chicago. Cole Kmet only caught 28 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns after being a second-round pick. Chicago is hoping Kmet can produce soon and hope he doesn’t turn out like Adam Shaheen. This week, the Bears added Jake Butt to the fold as another tight end option, because why not? The Bears love to add multiple tight ends to their roster, and the trio of Graham, Kmet, and Butt are the only three worth noting in the receiving room from a tight end standpoint.
With Cohen back, the production out of the backfield will be at a different level than it was last year. Before his injury last season, Cohen had over 50 receptions in each of the first three years he was in the league. Montgomery, Herbert, and Williams all have some receiving capabilities, but nowhere close to Cohen.
Offensive Line – 72.5, 26th (13 percent Overall, 19 percent Offense)
The right tackle spot is a major eyesore on the offensive line. Jenkins will likely have some growing pains at left tackle after spending most of his time at Oklahoma State as the right tackle. The interior seems to be set with Cody Whitehair, Sam Mustipher, and James Daniels. Germain Ifedi currently projects as the starting right tackle but could have some competition from Elijah Wilkinson and fifth-round pick Borom out of Missouri. With both tackle spots in reconstruction, there could be some issues early, but once Jenkins gets it figured out on his island on the left side of the line, the only issue will be at the right tackle spot.
If Jenkins gets hurt, both tackle spots will be in big trouble. The depth on the interior is better with Alex Bars and Arlington Hambright, but a lot of reconfiguring will need to be done along the offensive line if Jenkins is hurt, or anyone, for that matter. The right side of the offensive line is far worse than the left, and that is projecting that Jenkins gets off to a decent start at his new position.
Run Defense – 82.5, 15th (2 percent Overall, 5 percent Defense)
One of the top players on the Chicago roster is Akiem Hicks. Although he isn’t the same player he once was, Hicks can still be a force in both run defense and pass rush. With Chuck Pagano retiring, Sean Desai comes in. He is said to be using a blend of Vic Fangio and Brandon Staley’s schemes. In Staley’s scheme with the Rams last year, the interior of the defensive line was the focal point of the defense as well as the secondary. Aaron Donald was a perfect fit in his scheme, and while Hicks isn’t on the same level as Donald, or even what he was at his prime, he should be able to mesh well with Desai in the new scheme.
Eddie Goldman returns after opting out of the 2020 season. Losing Goldman’s presence last year was bigger than it seemed, especially with Hicks not performing like he used to. Like Hicks, Goldman had a down season during the 2019 campaign, and after a year off, it is unknown if Goldman will return to his pre-2019 form. With Goldman opting out, that opened the door for Bilal Nichols to have more playing time, and he made the most of it. Nichols started all 16 games and finished with 12 tackles for loss, five sacks, and an interception. The trio of Hicks, Goldman, and Nichols will likely be the main three players on the line.
The Khalil Mack trade was supposed to set the franchise over the hill and to Super Bowl stardom. Unfortunately, even with Mack, the Bears were unable to make it to the promised land and very well could be past their championship window. Mack is still a great player, and he is a good run defender. One of the moves Pace wishes he wouldn’t have made was handing Robert Quinn a massive contract. Quinn had his worst season as a pro, only collecting two sacks, and was a sore spot on the defense last year.
The Bears signed Jeremiah Attaochu during the offseason as insurance if Quinn continues to struggle. Attaochu had his best season since 2015 and could play more snaps than many expect him to. Trevis Gipson and Charles Snowden are the only other two edge-defenders, and both haven’t played many snaps.
Roquan Smith is one of, if not the best player on the Chicago roster, a hot take, I know. Smith is one of the best linebackers in the league and is one of the best run-defending linebackers in the league. Pair Smith with Danny Trevathan, and you have a lethal linebacker duo in run defense.
Pass Rush – 82.5, 14th (12 percent Overall, 25 percent Defense)
Mack and who else is seemingly what the question is from a pass-rush standpoint this season. He finished with nine sacks last year, which was over 25 percent of Chicago’s sack total last year. Nichols and Edwards combined for nine as well. Quinn needs to kick it into gear, or the contract that Pace handed him before last season will look even worse. If he doesn’t, the Bears will desperately need another player off the edge to pair with Mack. Maybe that player is Gipson, but he played sparingly during his rookie season.
Attaochu getting signed is already putting pressure on Quinn to pick it up, or he won’t be playing as much. Snowden is an intriguing piece in the edge rotation and will likely make the team after going undrafted. Hicks hasn’t produced like he once did. He may be past his prime, and Chicago needs to keep him fresh to keep the pass-rush coming at all times.
Linebackers – 85.5, 9th (5 percent Overall, 13 percent Defense)
Smith is one of the best rising linebackers in the league. He may have even surpassed Mack as the most important piece on the team. Smith is a complete linebacker and isn’t a liability in pass coverage. He finished with 139 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, seven pass deflections, two interceptions, and four sacks. Smith is one of the most underrated players in the league and is a cornerstone piece for Chicago for years to come.
Trevathan is worse in pass-coverage by a lot. That was seen when Marquez Valdes-Scantling was schemed up against him on a vertical route over the middle of the field for a touchdown. Trevathan had 112 tackles last year. The depth behind the two isn’t great. Josh Woods returns, and he will likely battle for a roster spot with Joel Iyiegbuniwe. Christian Jones was added via free agency and provides a more stable third linebacker than either Woods or Iyiegbuniwe.
Secondary – 79.5, 16th (13 percent Overall, 27 percent Defense)
Johnson was one of the positives for a defense that took a massive step back last year. With Fuller in Denver, he is now the number one cornerback in a room that is surrounded by a lot of question marks. As a second-round pick, Johnson finished ninth in the league with 15 pass deflections. If he has recovered from his shoulder injury, expect Johnson to take another leap and be talked about as one of the top young cornerbacks in the game.
The starter opposite of Johnson is a big talk in Chicago’s camp right now. Many project Kindle Vildor to be the man to step up to the plate for the starting role. Vildor filled in for Johnson at the end of the season, and while he didn’t do fantastic, he did show some promise. The rookie allowed a passer rating of 131.9 and was targeted 15 times, allowing 11 catches for 105 yards and two touchdowns. While those numbers aren’t great, Vildor is said to be a very confident player and will be a name to watch for ahead of the preseason. If he isn’t ready Trufant will likely start the first few games.
Another major question is who starts at nickel for the Bears. Buster Skrine has left, and now it seems as though two players. Those players are Duke Shelley and Graham. Graham will likely get the nod as the better player, but Shelley has been with the team longer, so that may give him a slight advantage.
Former High Draft Picks
Artie Burns was a first-round choice by the Steelers a few years back. He had a few solid seasons but ultimately wasn’t the player that Pittsburgh thought they were getting when they selected him in the first round. Teez Tabor was once a second-round draft choice by the Lions, who only made it through two years with the team before being cut. Burns will likely make the team, while Tabor will be battling for a roster spot.
Jackson is still one of the better safeties in the league. Unfortunately, the Bears thought letting Adrian Amos go and replacing him with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix a few years back would still manage to keep the defense at the level it was. They stand corrected. Amos is one of the most underrated players in the league and has made a dynamic safety tandem in Green Bay with Darnell Savage. The Bears, meanwhile, have had a revolving door at his former spot with Clinton-Dix and most recently Tashaun Gipson. Gipson was re-signed following the draft, but Chicago made a horrific decision to let Amos walk.
Coach and Culture – 72.25, 29th (15 percent Overall, 21 percent Offense, 30 percent Defense)
Chicago’s offense was a mess last season. Nagy and offensive coordinator Bill Lazor kept alternating who was calling the plays offensively. It is unknown who will be calling plays for the upcoming season. There are a lot of moving pieces on the Chicago offense compared to last year. Nagy’s indecisiveness and the win-or-die attitude that is at his hands this season has the Chicago offensive coach and culture ranking 30th in the league.
The loss of Pagano is a big one, similar to when Fangio left for the Denver head coaching job, but not of the same magnitude. The defense seemingly didn’t care how they played last season, knowing the offense wouldn’t do them any favors. With players like Hicks, Mack, Smith, and Jackson, the Bears should continue to rank in the top half of the league defensively. Unfortunately, a new scheme means there could be some growing pains. Desai is implementing a scheme that many players think will work, and the players seem to be confident with him as the new coordinator. With all the murkiness going on in the organization, along with a new scheme and a lot of shifting in the secondary, the defensive coach and culture rank 21st.
Yes, the Chicago Bears made the playoffs last season. Chicago also had a great draft. The Bears rank so low is a lot of questionable decisions in the front office, including the releases of Fuller and Leno. The quarterback controversy is a big question mark as well, along with the cornerback room.
The Bears have a brutal first half of the season. They open up on the road against the Rams on Sunday Night Football, followed by a game against the revamped Cincinnati offense, and the Browns, who may be the potential favorite in the AFC. The schedule lightens up in Weeks 4 and 5 with games against the Lions and Raiders but ramps right back up with games against Green Bay, Tampa Bay, and San Francisco in Weeks 6-8.
Before their Week 10 bye, the Bears head to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers. Following the bye, the schedule eases up slightly, but not right away as the Bears have a game against the Ravens right out of their bye week. The final stretch includes four divisional games, including two against the Vikings. Also sprinkled in are matches with Arizona, Seattle, and the Giants.
According to Odds Shark, the Bears have an over/under at 7.5 wins, which could go either way. The first half of the schedule is a gauntlet, and while the team is trying to save Fields and develop him, he may get thrown to the wolves sooner than expected due to the difficult schedule.
Season Prediction: 6-11
*NOTE* Some teams higher in the rankings will have worse records than others. The rankings aren’t based upon the record but the overall talent of the roster.