2015 Chicago Bears Team Preview

Team Info
Chicago Bears
Head Coach: John Fox
2014 record: 5-11 overall, 1-5 NFC North
2014 Postseason results: None

Betting Info
Odds to win Super Bowl 50: 110/1
Odds to win NFC Championship: 38/1
Odds to win NFC North Division: 31/2
Regular season wins: under 7 -160 / over 7 +130
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Chicago looks to improve from a 5-11 season last year under new coach John Fox.
Chicago looks to improve from a 5-11 season last year under new coach John Fox.

After two seasons, the Chicago Bears fired coach Marc Trestman. He went 13-19 in two seasons including a dismal 5 win season last year. Trestman had won two championships as head coach in the Canadian Football League with the Montreal Alouettes. Trestman had been a successful offensive coordinator in the 90’s and early 2000’s, but hadn’t been in the league since 2004 before Chicago hired him. Trestman was hired as the offensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens.

Chicago hired John Fox as the new coach. Fox had previously been the head coach of the Denver Broncos for four seasons. The Broncos won the AFC West in all four seasons, and even made a Super Bowl appearance.  Still, Fox and the Broncos mutually agreed to part ways after last season. Before his stint with the Broncos, Fox spent 8 seasons as the head coach of the Carolina Panthers and also took them to a Super Bowl.

Expectations are pretty low for this team coming into 2015. Only the Washington Redskins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have worse odds to win the NFC Championship than Chicago, according to 5Dimes Sportsbook. The Bears did not have a win over a team with a winning record last year. The season ended on a 5 game losing streak. Even so, the low point had to be getting outscored 106-37 combined by the Patriots and Packers in consecutive games.

Offense

Last year, Chicago averaged 327 yards per game on offense, including 237 passing and 90 rushing yards. The Bears were #21 in total offense and #27 in rushing. Chicago was #23 in scoring at 19.9 points per game. Adam Gase came over with Fox . Gase had been the Denver offensive coordinator for the last two seasons. He interviewed for some head coaching positions but decided to stay with Fox.

Quarterback Jay Cutler is back, but at this point his first name might as well be embattled. Cutler was actually benched in week 15 last season in favor of Jimmy Clausen, but Clausen suffered a concussion in that game. Cutler would start the last two games of the season. There was some off-season talk of Chicago releasing or trading Cutler, but nothing really came of it. Cutler threw for 3,812 yards with 28 touchdowns and 18 interceptions, and rushed for 191 yards on 39 carries with 2 touchdowns. Clausen returns as the back-up but second year player David Fales and rookie Shane Carden are also on the roster.

Matt Forte is still one of the best running backs in the league, but at 30 he is starting to decline as most running backs do at that age. He enters his contract year. Last year, he had 266 carries for 1,038 yards with 6 touchdowns, and also caught 102 passes for 808 yards and 4 touchdowns. Forte was only the second player in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards and record 100 catches in the same season along with LaDainian Tomlinson. Ka’Deem Carey was the back-up but he only had 36 carries for 158 yards and had 5 catches. The Bears also drafted Jeremy Langford in the fourth round out of Michigan State. He will get some carries as well.  Cutler was the second leading rusher. No other back had more than 6 carries with the workhorse Forte in the backfield.

The Bears traded receiver Brandon Marshall to the New York Jets. Marshall had 61 catches for 721 yards and 8 touchdowns. Alshon Jeffery is back after making 85 catches for 1,133 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Bears drafted Kevin White in the first round out of West Virginia. Unfortunately, White is out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his shin. He could miss the entire season. Tight end Martellus Bennett had 90 catches for 916 yards with 6 touchdowns. The Bears picked up Eddie Royal from the San Diego Chargers. Royal had 62 catches for 778 yards and 7 touchdowns for the Chargers last year. Marquess Wilson looks to stay healthy after a fractured  collarbone in training camp kept him out of all but the last 7 games of the season.

The offensive line struggled last year by not allowing 41 sacks and not opening up holes for Forte. However, they were devastated by injuries. The best part of the line last year were the guards Kyle Long (son of NFL legend Howie) and Matt Slauson. Jermon Bushrod will start at left tackle and Jordan Mills will start at right tackle. The Bears signed center Will Montgomery from the Broncos. However, he is only keeping the seat warm for third round pick Hroniss Grasu out of Oregon. Grasu gained some notoriety when he appeared in an ad for Yahoo Sports. Michael Ola played every position on the line last year except center. He is a versatile back-up.

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Defense

The Chicago defense was abysmal last year. The Bears allowed 377 yards per game on defense, and only the Saints and Falcons were worse last year. Chicago allowed 264 passing yards and 113 rushing yards per game. The Bears were also #30 in pass defense. Chicago was #31 in points allowed at 27.6 points per game.

Chicago will use a 3-4 defense for the first time in franchise history. Fox brought in Vic Fangio as the new defensive coordinator. Fangio had been the coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers for the last 4 seasons. The 49ers had one of the top defenses in the league during Fangio’s tenure.

Chicago signed defensive ends Jarvis Jenkins from the Redskins and Ray McDonald from the 49ers because of their 3-4 experience. However, McDonald was released by the Bears after a May arrest for domestic violence and child endangerment. Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton will also see time at end. Eddie Goldman was drafted in the second round out of Florida State and will start right away at nose tackle. Pernell McPhee is a hybrid outside linebacker/end who had 7.5 sacks last year for the Ravens despite being a back-up.

Jared Allen and Willie Young move from defensive ends to outside linebacker in the 3-4. The duo combined for 15.5 sacks in 2014, but there will be an adjustment. Lamarr Houston also moves to outside linebacker. Young tore his Achilles’ tendon in December,a nd Houston tore his ACL midway through the season. Chicago added free agent linebackers Michael Acho from the Cardinals and Mason Foster from the Buccaneers to man the middle along with Jonathan Bostic and Shea McClellin.

Charles Tillman is now with the Carolina Panthers. He tore his triceps in the second game of the season last year and would not play again. His leadership will be missed in the secondary.  The Bears signed safety Antrel Rolle from the Giants. Ryan Mundy will start at the other safety. The corners will be Tim Jennings and Kyle Fuller, a first round pick in 2014.

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Special Teams

Veteran kicker Robbie Gould had arguably his worst year as a pro converting only 9/12 field goals. He looks to bounce back from a quad injury that kept him out of the last 4 games. Punter Pat O’Donnell had an up and down rookie season, but has potential to be a solid if not good punter. Mark Mariani will likely return kicks and punts in 2015.

Schedule

The September schedule is very tough with home games against the Packers and Cardinals, and a road trip to Seattle to face the Seahawks. All three were playoff teams last year with at least 11 wins. October isn’t much better with a home game against the Raiders and road trips to Kansas City and Detroit. Chicago goes on the bye in week seven. November brings home games against the Vikings and Broncos, and road games against the Chargers on a Monday night, Rams, and Packers on Thanksgiving. In December, Chicago hosts the 49ers and Redskins, before road games at the Vikings and Buccaneers. The Bears close the season at home against the Lions.

Outlook

Some experts are predicting this team will go 3-13 and be the worst team in the league. I think that is a little extreme. Still, this team will not be very good. I think they win around 6 or 7 games. Fox can build a contender if given enough time, but the defense will struggle.

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