State of the NFC North: The Chicago Bears

Dec 6, 2020; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bears outside linebacker Khalil Mack (52) practices before the game against the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

With free agency dying down, now is time to take stock of where each team in the division stands. This article will be part three of a four-part series where we will look at where each team in the NFC North stands in terms of roster build and how their outlook for the future looks. The Chicago Bears finished second in the NFC North in 2020, with an 8-8 record. 

Strengths and Weaknesses

While this may not be the 2018 Chicago Bears, there is still a ton of talent on the defense. Khalil Mack is a premier edge rusher in the league and has Eddie Goldman and Akiem Hicks alongside him. Roquan Smith had a stellar 2020, and Eddie Jackson is still great even if he hasn’t fully returned to 2018 form. On offense, Allen Robinson leads the way, being one of the most underrated receivers in the entire league. Darnell Mooney had a solid rookie campaign that looks to set him up nicely as the #2 receiver behind Robinson. David Montgomery had a breakout season, and he looks to improve upon it. 

The team also has major red flags, however. This roster has gotten old over the past couple of seasons, which resulted in moves such as cutting Kyle Fuller. The offensive line is not great, but with Cody Whitehair and Charles Leno, it’s not complete liability. The glaring issue of the roster, however, is the quarterback position. Andy Dalton is a solid player, but with an aging roster and a closing Superbowl window, he is not the right guy for the Bears. The problem is, there is no viable way for the Bears to improve at quarterback either. There are also some question marks around the secondary. Desmond Trufant, Duke Shelley, and Deon Bush are mostly unknowns. Jaylon Johnson had a good rookie season but will now be the #1 cornerback for the Bears. This offseason will be crucial for the direction of the franchise. 

Draft Outlook

The biggest needs for the Bears right now are quarterback, offensive tackle, and safety. They are unlikely to have a quarterback available at the 20th overall pick, but this could be a blessing in disguise. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah could be available, and he would be a day one starter at linebacker or strong safety. Trevon Moehrig is considered the best safety in this class and would be there for the Bears to pick. The Bears could also take a chance at one of the best offensive line drafts in recent years. Christian Darrisaw, Samuel Cosmi, and Teven Jenkins would all be great picks for them at tackle. Rashod Bateman or Elijah Moore would be another great option to add to the offense, to give Andy Dalton the most help. There are a plethora of options for the Bears here, which is a good sign. 

The Bears could also gamble. They don’t have a ton of draft capital, but general manager Ryan Pace has shown he’s ready to risk for a quarterback. The Bears could go all in and try to trade up to the #4 pick and take the best quarterback left. This scenario is unlikely as other quarterback-needy teams would have more to give up, but if the Bears could pull it off, they might finally be able to leave the dreaded NFL purgatory. 

2021 Season Expectations

The Bears are a tough team to evaluate. They have talent on their roster and could easily be in the playoff mix, but at the same time, they have some glaring holes which could cause them to fall flat. The Bears have enough firepower to beat up on bad teams, but not enough to take down serious title contenders, such as the Green Bay Packers. In the end, the most likely scenario is for the Bears to finish around 8-9 or 9-8. Another mediocre season might not be the end of the world, though. It could be the final nail in the coffin for the front office and cause the Bears to move on. Moving on from Ryan Pace would be a long-term win for the front office, and that should be the expectation from this season.