The Chicago Bears let yet another close game slip away from them on Sunday, falling to 3-11 on the campaign. Although, there has been a pair of bright spots in 2016, believe it or not.
The Chicago Bears, surged back from a 27-10 fourth quarter deficit against the rival Green Bay Packers, tying the game at 27, with just minutes remaining in regulation on Sunday afternoon. The stage was set for the Bears to knock off the Packers, and play the stickler in their playoff bid, marking one of the lone bright victories in 2016.
That was, until Aaron Rodgers hooked up with Jordy Nelson for a 60-yard reception, setting the Packers up for an eventual game-winning field goal and sending the Bears to a dismal 3-11 record with just a pair of games left on the 2016 schedule.
Sitting in the bottom third of the league in 2016, the Bears have been marred by injuries, PED suspensions and late-game collapses, leaving fans angered and bitter with their beloved Bears. Rightfully so, as the Bears have regressed from year one of the Ryan Pace and John Fox era significantly, giving fans a sheer sliver of hope moving forward.
I could go on for a while in regards to who I think should be held accountable for the hot-mess that is Chicago Bears football, in fact I did recently, but this is about shedding light on a pair of bright spots in what has been an otherwise forgettable season in the windy city.
Jordan Howard has been nothing short of phenomenal in his rookie campaign with the Bears in 2016. Howard took over the Bears starting running back role from the incumbent Jeremy Langford back in week four, and hasn’t looked back since.
Howard became only the fifth Bears running back to surpass the 1,000 yard rushing mark, with two games to spare in 2016. He is the third fastest Bears running back to reach that plateau as well, but Howard doesn’t seem to care about the statistical achievement and had this to say about the accomplishment, “I wasn’t really paying attention to that,” Howard said. “I was just coming into the game to try and get a win. …. At the end of the day, I would trade it all for wins.”
Howard, a fifth round draft pick out of the University of Indiana, has amassed 1,059 yards on just 211 carries, giving him a phenomenal 5.0 yards per carry mark in 2016. Howard has quietly put together an impressive season with the lowly Bears, ranking in the top ten in the NFL in rushing yards, yards per carry, yards from scrimmage, all purpose yards, and rushing yards per game.
His 1,059 rushing yards ranks eighth in the NFL, while his yards per carry rank fourth in the league. Howard has 1,348 yards from scrimmage, good for seventh in the NFL, and has firmly established himself as the Bears running back for the immediate future.
The Bears have had their fair share of issues at the wide receiver position in 2016, with Kevin White suffering another season-ending injury early in the season, Alshon Jeffery being hit with a four game PED suspension, and now Marquess Wilson suffering yet another season ending injury.
All of the instability at the wide receiver position has allowed second-year undrafted free-agent Cameron Meredith to showcase his abilities in 2016. The second-year, hometown kid has exceeded any expectations that the Bears may have had for him when they picked him up before the 2015 season.
Meredith hails from Westchester, Illinois, a western-suburb of the city of Chicago, where he was a quarterback at St. Joseph High School before converting to a wide receiver after his Sophomore year at Illinois State University.
Meredith has 53 catches for 692 yards, and three touchdowns over the course of twelve games in 2016. Making his numbers even more impressive, Meredith has only seen significant playing time and targets in a handful of those games. In six of the 12 games this season, Meredith has been targeted five or fewer times.
In half of the six games that he was targeted five or more times, Meredith has posted reception and yardage performances of 9/130, 11/113, and 9/104.
The former St. Joe’s Charger and Illinois State University Red Bird is averaging 13.1 yards per catch in 2016. We can look for Meredith to have a much more significant role in the 2017 Bears plans after his performance to date in 2016.
The Bears will want to quickly forget about the mess that was the 2016 season, and they certainly have some huge looming matters to tend to this offseason, but at least through the course of a injury-riddled season, they were able to uncover two diamonds in the rough.
Jordan Howard, a fifth round selection in the 2016 NFL Draft has been the teams best player in 2016. An undrafted local kid, Cameron Meredith, has forced his way into the Bears starting lineup, and earned himself a great chance to be a part of the Bears future plans at the wide receiver position.
These two youngsters have made their mark with the Bears, and if you’re not yet, you should get familiar with their names moving forward.