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Analysis Bears Editorials

Which Positions do Bears Need to Upgrade Most?

Last year at this time, the Ryan Pace Bears’ personnel department had their work cut out of them. They lacked star power and depth at edge rusher, they had injuries and holes all over the offensive line, and the receiver position was nothing short of a tire fire.

Clearly, the times they are a-changin’. The Bears finished the 2018 season at 12-4 and feature one of the most complete rosters in the NFL, and some (including myself) would say that they are entering their Super Bowl window.

That being said, there are still certain positions that Pace can and will upgrade in the next few months. These are the five spots, listed from least to most dire need, where the Bears must improve between now and the opening kickoff of 2019.

Note: for the sake of argument, this ranking takes only takes the players who are currently under contract. i.e. Deon Bush and Sherrick McManis are currently starters on the Bears’ defense.

Also, these are exclusively offensive and defensive needs. Kicker is not included. For more info on that situation, read this.

5. Safety

Adrian Amos is the incumbent here, but his contract will expire in March. Despite being a dependable starter on the back end, he was the 2018 Bears’ worst defensive starter and his chances of returning don’t look too good.

So with no proven replacement on the roster, you’d think it would be Pace’s top priority to find one, right?

Well, not exactly. When Eddie Jackson is one of your two safeties, he can conceal almost any flaw in his partner. Deon Bush played alongside Amos when Jackson went out with an injury, and he was fine. He clearly wasn’t the ballhawking stud that Jackson has become, but he made it clear that he wouldn’t be a liability, especially if given the chance to play with Jackson.

The other option to replace Amos would be signing another playmaker (which, and it seems I cannot stress this enough, Amos is not). Bring in someone along the lines of Eric Weddle (read more about him here), Tyrann Mathieu, Earl Thomas, or Landon Collins, who could elevate the defense from great to historic. But that would be a luxury signing, not one based off of necessity, so the safety position shouldn’t be near the top of this list.

4. Guard

The Bears enter the 2018 offseason with a grand total of two guards under contract. And one of them – Kyle Long – hasn’t been able to play more than 10 games for three years. Long is a clear candidate for release, and is not coming back at his current price, although I suspect he’ll be willing to take a pay cut in order to stay.

Even if they retain Long, the Bears can’t count on him to stay healthy and absolutely must acquire depth. Bryan Witzmann played fine in Long’s absence and could be worth keeping around, but he’s not a long-term solution. It would behoove Pace to draft a player to eventually take over at right guard, and if not this year, it will become a necessity in 2020.

Having Harry Hiestand to coach the O-Line will make up for many faults in personnel, which is why Witzmann starting Week One would not be the end of the world. They’re clearly capable of winning games with him in the lineup. What would be a problem, however, is down the road when Aaron Donald and Fletcher Cox come to town and he’s the only obstacle between them and the quarterback.

3. Edge Rusher

There’s a large gap between guard and edge rusher on this list. Though it may seem odd that Chicago has a large need at their best player’s position, it makes sense when you take a look at the rest of the roster.

While Khalil Mack is Khalil Mack, and Leonard Floyd is a suitable starter on the other side, the Bears’ third outside linebacker right now is Isaiah Irving. Irving is an interesting project and certainly deserves a roster spot, but when he’s one injury (which has been all too common for Floyd) away from a starting job, that’s a serious issue. Even if Mack and Floyd manage to remain on the field, Irving isn’t good enough against the run to warrant significant playing time and a much-needed break for the big guns.

Aaron Lynch played this spot well last year, but he’s an impending free agent and has well-documented injury problems of his own. Luckily, a ridiculously talented and deep free agent group offers solutions, as does as a promising draft class. The Bears should look to spend on a situational pass rusher or take a promising rookie in an attempt to create a three-headed monster at OLB.

2. Slot Corner

The ideal outcome – and the one that I expect – for the Bears’ need at slot corner is bringing Bryce Callahan back on an affordable contract.

If that doesn’t happen, they’re in deep trouble. Sherrick McManis held down the fort after Callahan went down in December, but he is neither a proven player nor a long-term answer at a position whose importance cannot be overstated.

The free agent cornerback market, especially in the slot, is a barren wasteland save for Callahan. If he walks, Pace will have to roll with McManis and a draft pick. There isn’t much variety in how the Bears can address the slot corner position, but if they address it incorrectly, the consequences will be disastrous.

1. Running Back

If Jordan Howard was drafted fifteen years ago, he would have been a multiple-time all-pro. He shined in John Fox’s anemic offense with his hard-nosed, physical style of running despite deficiencies in other parts of his game.

Now that Matt Nagy is in charge, Howard’s career with the Bears is likely about to come to an abrupt end. He brought an offense more in tune with the modern NFL, and it requires an all-purpose back, preferably one with significantly more speed and agility than Howard currently possesses.

That’s why running back is the Bears’ most desperate need. It’s not necessarily the position where their personnel is the worst, but it’s what currently holds the team back the most.

So who can replace Howard as the Bears’ lead back? Tarik Cohen is awesome in so many ways and it was clear that Nagy’s offense works best when he was a featured part of it, but he will never be a primary ballcarrier. There are some tantalizing veteran free agent options, like Tevin Coleman on the younger side and Mark Ingram on the older side. LeSean McCoy is likely to be released and would be a risk, but he is an option. Of course, a certain former Chief will be in the mix, but it ownership would have to be persuaded on that front.

Whatever Pace does in free agency, I suspect that he’ll look to draft a back in the third or fourth round. Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller suspects that there will be instant starters available in those spots, and in order for Nagy’s offense to work as it should, it would be in Pace’s best interests to find one.

Follow Jack (@jacksobleTLS) on Twitter

 

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17 comments on “Which Positions do Bears Need to Upgrade Most?

  1. How can a guy that just came short of 1000 yards rushing ve our biggest liability?????

    • Jack Soble

      It’s not that Howard is a liability. It’s that not having an all-purpose back with speed is holding the team back more than anything else.

      • Jerry Sternadel

        Jack I can usually agree with you, can’t on this one. Even if Howard is the third, much better than their third and fourth back now. Why cut a guy on a cheap rookie deal that if you do draft someone better, move him down a notch. You just improved the running back group.

      • Jack Soble

        I don’t think they should cut him. I think they should upgrade and trade him. If no one wants him, keep him for another year but they have to upgrade.

    • ITS A TOP PRIORITY BECAUSE AS GOOD AS THIS TEAM WAS, WE COULDNT SCORE MORE THAN 15 POINTS IN A PLAYOFF GAME!!! THE OFFENSE NEEDS TO HELP THIS GREAT DEFENSE.
      A BETTER BACK WOULD GET 1500 YARDS IN THIS OFFENSE AND OPEN UP OTHER OPPORTUNITIES.
      HOWARD IS A GREAT BACK BUT NAGY DOESNT RUN THE BALL 50 TIMES PER GAME AND THATS WHAT HOWARD NEEDS IN ORDER TO ACHIEVE SUCCESS. WHEN FOX DID RUN HOWARD FREQUENTLY, THE BEARS WENT 5-11.
      KAREEM HUNTS ROOKIE SEASON 1300 YARDS. WITH HUNT BEING ON CLEVELAND NOW, WE WILL NEED TO DRAFT A BACK WITH SIMILAR STYLE. IS THERE A BIGGER NEED ON THE OFFENSE RIGHT NOW? I DONT THINK SO.

      • AND TREY BURTON CAN MAKE SOME PLAYS, I DONT THINK HE SHOULD BE A STARTING TE. WE NEED TE IS A THREAT EVERY GAME. ITS A NO BRAINER WE ARE GETTING ANOTHER KICKER. I THINK AN UPGRADE AT RB & TE WITH THE OFFENSE IN THE 2ND YEAR. TRUNISKY, COHEN AND CURRENT WR WILL BE TEARING UP DEFENSES.

  2. Lol A list of the top 5 needs and you list RB instead of kicker???

  3. Ricky Ball

    Chi Offense 21st overall
    No WR or TE in the top 30 in receiving with Cohen being second on the team in receiving yikes!
    J Howard 14th in rushing 935 +145 receiving
    J Howard 9th overall in rushing TD’s
    Cohen 444 rushing 725 receiving
    Tribuski 20th overall in passing

    Howard and Cohen are the two most productive guys on offense. The scheme is the problem, the offense did not execute the scheme effectively Howard is the least of the Bears worries!

  4. Justin Bouchard

    Wide receiver is our biggest need. Allen Robinson is a legit number one, when healthy. Anthony Miller is serviceable at two if he can stay healthy, but his shoulder dislocates more than Mel Gibson’s in Leathal Weapon. We can not have Joch Bellamy competing for the third spot with Taylor Gabriel. Gabriel never had more than 35 or so catches coming into this season. He was never going to be the Zebra/Cheetah.

    All of our receivers (including Robinson) have a problem falling after the catch and staying in bounds after the catch. Our team YAK is terrible. That’s partly on Trubisky, but he needs better play from the receiver group. Trubisky’s development depends on it.

    I can’t believe how many people say RB is our biggest need. If Kyle Long is healthy, we’ve got a great running game. If not, we’re a pass first team. Either way, our running backs are pretty good.

    • I don’t think saying the bears could USE an upgrade at running back as far as STYLE, ( Speed, agility) etc… is saying the bears are bad at running the ball. It’s just with Nagys system, he does need a running back with more agility and speed for 3 downs. They have all the skills they need at running back now , yes . However it’s between 2 Guys. They need to find that in 1 guy. It will open up this offense a lot more . They definitely need to draft a young guard to keep the line strong. Long won’t play a full year as much as I love the guys heart .

  5. The constant hate towards Howard is amazing.. The guy was an absolute stud his first two years, he always breaks the first tackle and is more agile than people seem to give him credit for. He is a bruising back which means when he is at 15+ carries a game he does better.. This offense was I it’s first year but you can see in many games where if Howard would of had more carries Bears would be 13-3, 14-2.. they had the lead in all the games and he wasn’t used appropriately. Nagy will recognize this and he will be a vital part of this offense and back to around 1300 rushing yards next year. Give the man respect, he can run the rock.. not to mention his biggest Flaw last off-season was his catching ability but he drastically improved and made some great catches throughout the year.

    • Howard didnt average 5-6 yards per carry so how would giving him the ball more equal better offense? you can run for 3 or 4 yards when you are 2nd and 15 or 3rd and long. You become 1 dimensional like how bears have been for a good part of the last decade. More so under Fox. Running the ball all the time might get Jordan Howard 1100-1200 yards but we went 5-11 doing that. A Running back similar to Kareem Hunt would be a better fit. Pairing him with Tariq Cohen who will continue to evolve and be a Tyreek Hill type threat. Having Cohen & Hunt( or similar back) would be a nightmare. It opens up for the WR & TE. I think the passing game will continue to get better in the 2nd year but i think TE could use an upgrade as well.

      • Ricky Ball

        How can RB be the most pressing issue when the WR/TE or QB did not produce consistently? The scheme is wrong for this group of players. They are not the Kansas City Chiefs. The QB, WR, TE and both RB’s in KC are suited for that system. In fact they are statistically better players for that system. Naggy needs to develop a scheme to better suit the tallented players on the roster. New England develop players and have established a culture of discipline both financially and in the locker room that’s the winning formula.

    • I love Howard. Trust me bro. However since the Bears have Nagy, to make this offense really take off, they need a Kareem Hunt type back. Basically someone that is a 3 down back with more agility and speed. Someone that brings a little more fear. It really would open up this offense. I have no hate on Howard at all. It’s just the honest truth of you want to see the bears offense taken to another level. Personally I’m dumb founded why the bears didn’t use Cunningham more . He to me has a lot of the skills of Tarik and Howard in one . As far as power speed and elusiveness.

  6. Chris Conley

    Amos is a much better safety than Weddle. Don’t let big names skew your evaluations

  7. bielakbuilds

    It’s appalling to see how much people hate on Howard. He started slow because Nagy used him wrong. Good playcallers use the talent that they have. Once Nagy started using Howard correctly, Howard turned it up by the end of the season. Howard is a great through the gaps runner, not sideline to sideline runner. He gets a lot of extra yardage as he has a knack for falling forward. When you shoot him running routes to the side you eliminate his effectiveness. and it took Nagy about 7 games to figure that out.

    We need another #1/#2 receiver. We have A-Rob and a bunch of #3/#4 options. Anthony Miller is not there yet and I think he’s more fitted for a slot role.

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