- Losing defensive coordinator Vic Fangio will have an impact, and Mitchell Trubisky will need to do more for the Bears' offense to keep up.
The 2019 NFL season is just a few weeks away, so Andy Benoit makes a few predictions for each NFL team. Today he considers the Chicago Bears, who finished 12–4 and won the NFC North last year.
The NFL’s best defense takes a step back. Losing coordinator Vic Fangio to the head job in Denver proves huge. Fangio’s scheme, which was built on blurry matchup-zone coverages, was the soundest in football. Its presnap two-deep safety looks and complex coverage rotations protected corners Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara, who in turn could aggressively play the ball. New coordinator Chuck Pagano is an accomplished defensive play-caller, but his system is built more on blitzing, which means one deep safety and man coverage on the outside. This exposes Chicago’s secondary, which is also simply less talented after replacing safety Adrian Amos and slot corner Bryce Callahan with erratic free agents Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix and Buster Skrine, respectively.
The front seven masks some—though not all—of the defense’s back slide. Because it’s not like Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks aren’t still superstars. And around them are a host of dirty work run defenders like dexterous nose tackle Eddie Goldman and outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, who is skinny for his position but improved greatly at setting the edge in 2018. Plus, electric second-year linebacker Roquan Smith, with his sensational all-around playing speed, flourishes under Pagano.
Head coach Matt Nagy’s offense expands. A system built on the bells and whistles of presnap motion and post-snap misdirection gets more dimensional with the continued development of third-year scatback Tarik Cohen, last year’s second-round receiver Anthony Miller, flexible tight end Trey Burton, speed receiver Taylor Gabriel and newly acquired gadget weapon Cordarrelle Patterson. The rhythm that Nagy’s group has shown on scripted plays trickles into more of the non-scripted plays, and the Bears keep expanding their no-huddle tempo. Their unbalanced 1x3 formational concepts, with Burton and Cohen working together on the weakside, also grow.
The offensive growth asks more of Mitchell Trubisky. There’s still a lot to like about the third-year QB, who is one of football’s better out-of-pocket quarterbacks. But with a downgraded defense, the Bears simply need to score more points. Nagy can no longer afford to accommodate Trubisky with rudimentary route combinations. The offensive expansion demands the QB make more plays from within the pocket, which he does, but his inconsistent footwork and unripe decision-making also lead to more mistakes.
BOTTOM LINE: The Bears are still better than in their pre-Nagy years, but reductions on defense and improvements from the NFC North’s other three teams result in a pre-Nagy-like record.
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