The Bears were awful in 2016, but are they really as bad as they looked? Is there hope for the near future, beyond a season riddled with injuries, suspensions, and inconsistency across the depth chart, or are the Bears really that far away from contention?
The Chicago Bears ended the worst season in franchise history on a bad note, losing 38-10 to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday afternoon. It was an ugly loss, but it helped the Bears lock up the number three overall pick in this year’s NFL draft.
Nothing is a sure thing with this organization. However, it’s nice to believe that this disastrous season hasn’t been for nothing.
Before everyone tries to forget about this awful season, let’s take a look at the full season report card of the 2016 Chicago Bears.
Quarterback: Anytime a team has to use three starting quarterbacks in one season the results aren’t going to be very good. Let’s begin with Jay Cutler, who started just five games in 2016 due to various injuries. Cutler completed 81 of 137 passes to go along with four touchdowns, five interceptions, and two fumbles.
Cutler didn’t play very well when he was on the field. With that being said, you kind of wonder what the Bears record would be if he was healthy for the entire season.
Brian Hoyer started six games in place of the injured Jay Cutler before fracturing his forearm against the Green Bay Packers. In those six games, Hoyer completed 134 of 200 passes, that included six touchdowns and zero interceptions. Ultimately, Hoyer’s inability to throw the ball down field and win games was his downfall in 2016.
Matt Barkley surprised many people in 2016. He completed 129 out of 216 passes but threw 14 interceptions to just eight touchdowns. If Barkley proved anything in 2016, it’s that he could be a solid backup in the NFL.
Bears quarterbacks overall had a rough 2016 season. Whether it be turning the ball over or getting injured.
Running Back: The Bears may have struck gold with Jordan Howard, who was second in all of the NFL in rushing yards (1,313). That’s impressive considering Howard didn’t start until week four.
On Sunday, Howard also made history, passing Matt Forte for the most single-season rushing yards by a rookie running back in franchise history. Howard is going to be a core player going forward, the opposite can be said about Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey, who were basically non-existent in 2016.
Receivers: The wide receiver position was an interesting one for the Bears in 2016. Alshon Jeffery was suspended four games for a PED violation, and Cameron Meredith proved that he, not Kevin White, is the best young wide-out on the roster.
Eddie Royal was yet again plagued by injuries, as was Kevin White.
Many players got opportunities in 2016 but didn’t make the most of it. There were also far too many drops. Silver lining, Cam Meredith will continue to grow as a pass catcher and route runner, while Alshon Jeffery’s mediocre statistics should make his price tag cheaper this offseason.
Inconsistent quarterback play did have a negative effect on these positions, but the NFL is about production.
Offensive Line: The offensive line was one of the few bright spots in 2016. Josh Sitton proved to be a very nice addition. While Cody Whitehair may be the center in 2017 and beyond. The Kyle Long injury hurt, and he needs to focus on getting healthy for next season.
Jordan Howard proved that the run blocking was much better than 2015. The pass blocking could have been a little more consistent. Overall, a very good season considering the injuries to key personal like Kyle Long and Hroniss Grasu.
Defensive Line: Like several other positions, the Bears defensive line suffered many injuries in 2016.
Eddie Goldman is going to be a very nice piece going forward but needs to stay healthy. Akiem Hicks proved to be a very valuable acquisition. He finished the year with a career-high 7 sacks, and Pernell McPhee had a down year after missing the first six games.
Willie Young started the season off hot then fizzled out as the season went on. The inability to stay healthy and consistently rush the quarterback had a very negative ripple effect on the rest of the unit. The Bears are one or two players away from really being a force up front.
Trevathan brought championship experience. While Jerrell Freeman led the team in tackles, even after missing four games after violating the NFL’s PED policy.
Rookies Nick Kwiatkoski and Leonard Floyd both proved they have a bright future. Floyd finished the year with seven sacks, and showed us all why the Bears took him in the first round. Kwiatkowski lived up to his reputation of being a sound tackler.
Danny Trevathan’s injuries and Jerrell Freeman’s suspension really hurt the defense. Depth pieces got valuable experience, but they performed like depth pieces.
Let’s just say the grade would be a lot higher if the unit was healthy throughout the entire season.
Secondary: Yikes, pretty much sums up the Bears secondary in 2016.
Tracy Porter was very inconsistent and eventually benched. Safety Harold Jones-Quartey had some serious problems in coverage throughout the entire year. Adrian Amos had some tough moments, though that’s expected out of a second-year player.
One of the only bright spots in the secondary was Cre’Von LeBlanc, who the team signed from the New England Patriots. He still has a lot of work to do and so does Ryan Pace to fill these holes this offseason.
For the first time in a long time, the Bears actually had a decent season on special teams.
The coverage teams had a very solid season. Very rarely did they give up large returns that put the defense in a bad spot. The one downside if you could even call it that, was the return game. As Bears fans, we expect a lot out of our returners considering we were all spoiled with Devin Hester.
This unit was one of the few bright spots in 2016.
Regardless of what anyone else says, coaching in the NFL matters. It’s safe to say that some of the Bears staff has room for improvement.
Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains was very inconsistent throughout the year. Too many times did he abandon the run game. He also at times expected way too much out of a depleted offense. It also took him and the rest of the coaching staff too long to realize that Jordan Howard was the clear cut starter.
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio deserves a lot of praise considering what he did with the personnel he had around him. Still, there were too many times where he failed to adjust and that made his unit vulnerable in certain situations.
Around the league, John Fox is known as a great coach Monday through Saturday, not so much on Sunday. That narrative was true several times during the season. Whether it be not throwing the challenge flag in certain situations or choosing not to go for it on fourth down against the Green Bay Packers in week 15.
With all of the injuries that the Bears suffered in 2016, an accurate assessment cannot be made of the coaching staff, which is probably why John Fox will still have a job come next season.
If one change is going to be made it could be at offensive coordinator.
General manager Ryan pace has a lot of work ahead of him. The Bears finished with a record of 3-13 in 2016 for several reasons. Having 19 players on injured reserve didn’t help.
Who would have thought that the Bears would finish 2016 with Matt Barkley as their starting quarterback? The majority of the season was played without many of the team’s starters and the results speak for themselves.
The Bears have some nice talent that can be developed and the offseason will help regular contributors get healthy. Still, the front office needs to address several key positions, including the most important one, quarterback.