The Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Potash breaks down the gains made and questions looming for the Bears heading into the 2017 season:
Mike Glennon will … be better in the regular-season than he was in the preseason, but never quite good enough to silence the call for rookie Mitch Trubisky to be the starter. The tumult of training camp/preseason made Glennon look worse than he is, but he’ll need a lot of things going his way to keep the wolves at bay.
Mitch Trubisky’s first start will come … against the Browns in Week 16. The Bears will stubbornly cling to Glennon as their starter throughout the season. Not until they finally are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs will they turn to the future and give Trubisky a shot in a comfortable spot: a home game against the wretched Browns.
Biggest upgrade from 2016 … the secondary. With cornerbacks Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper, safeties Quintin Demps and Eddie Jackson and nickelbacks Bryce Callahan and Cre’Von LeBlanc, the Bears have upgraded at every position. More than that, though, an improved front seven will create opportunities that last season’s corners and safeties did not get.
Biggest downgrade from 2016 … wide receiver. No Alshon Jeffery and now not even Cam Meredith. Kevin White was a non-factor in the preseason. And Markus Wheaton did nothing because of injuries. The Bears have what has to be the most unproven wide receiver corps in the NFL. Tight end and running back production in the passing game will mitigate the problem, but the Bears don’t even seem to have much room for growth here.
The team MVP will be … outside linebacker Leonard Floyd looks primed for a huge second-year jump. He’ll be at least one difference-making player who provides not only big-play, game-turning production but hope for the future.
Biggest X-factor: Injuries, of course. Already the Bears have several key players in question for Week 1: linebacker Pernell McPhee is just off the physically unable to perform (PUP) list; guard Kyle Long and linebacker Danny Trevathan did not play in the preseason; defensive end Jonathan Bullard (glute), cornerback Prince Amukamara (ankle) and nose tackle Eddie Goldman (concussion) missed practice last week. And nickelback Bryce Callahan is coming off a hamstring injury. The issue — particularly with McPhee, Long and Trevathan — is not only who will play, but how long they will last.
Projected record: 6-10. The Bears still have the potential to be one of the NFL’s surprise teams this season, but an awful lot has to go right. They have more players with growth potential that can accelerate the rebuild — Floyd, Hicks, Bullard, Jackson, Shaheen, Cohen, Whitehair and Gentry among them. But after nine non-playoff seasons in the last 10 years, including nine victories in two difficult years of the Ryan Pace/John Fox regime, you still have to see it to believe it.
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