As Training Camp draws near, fans spend time envisioning what their new team roster will look like. The hype train starts to leave the station and speculations arise if this could be the year that their team makes it to the Super Bowl or even just the playoffs would be a major step in the right direction for most teams.
As far as the Bears go, there are definitely some things to be excited about. We all want to see if Jordan Howard can improve on his record breaking rookie season and there will be a new quarterback for us all to evaluate week to week. Will Kevin White finally live up to his first round draft selection? Are the additions to the secondary going to be enough to compliment the front seven of the Bears defense?
Training Camp will should at least shed some light on what the 2017 Chicago Bears will have in store for the NFL, but since that is still a few weeks away, I have a few bold predictions of my own that I would like to share.
The Bears pass defense will be ranked in the Top-5 – Last year under Vic Fangio, the defense allowed the seventh least amount of passing yards and passing yards per game. With the additions of Quintin Demps, Prince Amukamara, & Marcus Cooper, who had a total of six interceptions between them in 2016, I don’t see why the Bears defense can’t move up two spots to be in the top-5. It might take a healthy Pernell McPhee, Leonard Floyd, and company to put more pressure on the opposing quarterbacks. This brings me to my next prediction.
Both Pernell McPhee & Leonard Floyd will have double digit sacks – In 2016 Pernell McPhee started the season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. McPhee did not play a game until week 7 against the Green Bay Packers and did not get his first sack until week 8 against the Minnesota Vikings. By the end of the season McPhee compiled four sacks total over nine games. Leonard Floyd on the other hand played in twelve out of sixteen games last year and got himself seven sacks his rookie year. McPhee did state in an interview that he lost 25 lbs. since last year and Floyd will be more polished and comfortable in the defense this year allowing him to be able to play/react more and think less. All these things added to the equation should result in double digit sacks for both McPhee and Floyd in 2017.
Jordan Howard will rush for 1,000 + yards again – Howard averaged the most yards per attempt of all rookies and fourth most in the entire NFL, only .3 separated him from the number one spot. Howard also forced the most missed tackles for rookie running backs according to Pro Football Focus, and averaged more yards per contact than Ezekiel Elliott. Even though Howard had 70 less attempts than Elliott, he still was only 319 yards short of surpassing him and everyone in the league for the rushing title as a rookie. Keep in mind Howard also didn’t start until Week 4 and still was able to break some Bears rookie rushing records. With Howard starting from Week 1 on, and some new quarterbacks under center, he should see more than his fair share of rush attempts. Not too shabby for a 5th round pick.
Bears Rookie of the Year will be Adam Shaheen – I do think Eddie Jackson will shine enough to become the starting Free Safety alongside Quintin Demps; however, the rookie who will make the biggest impact might be Shaheen. Not only is Shaheen a massive 6’6“and 278 pound target, but next to Jordan Howard he may be the offense’s best red zone weapon available. The wide receiver corps of the Bears is still unproven, and usually when a new quarterback comes to town they need a security blanket. Howard rushing the ball will be the first attack and then should be followed up with some passes to Shaheen through play action. I do have faith that either Kendall Wright or Markus Wheaton will step it up this year and become one of the best slot receivers that the Bears have had but that will also open things up for Shaheen as well.
I look forward to seeing how this new Bears offense and defense perform in 2017. Don’t get me wrong, I do hope that Mike Glennon is a rock star of a quarterback for Chicago but I just have a feeling that Trubisky is the real deal. Let him stay on the bench for now and continue to learn and grow so that he can hit the ground running when his name is called. John Fox and Vic Fangio are the best tandem the Bears have had in quite some time. Bears fans want these guys to stick around as long as possible, and the only way that can happen is for the Bears to win games. It’s time for the Bears to take back the NFC North.