Chicago Bears Scouting Profile: Leonard Floyd

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By Bryan Dietzler

With their first pick in 2016 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears selected, from the University of Georgia, outside linebacker Leonard Floyd.  Chicago had problems at the outside linebacker position in 2015 and they didn’t have much of a pass rush.  Their hopes, by taking Floyd, were that they would be able to upgrade the pass rush and make it much better in 2016 and beyond.

There were some that questioned the pick as they felt a couple different things about it.  First, they felt that the Bears didn’t need to trade up two spots to get Floyd because he wasn’t going to go anywhere prior to the Bears selection at number 11.  Another feeling some had was that he went too early and may not have even been worthy of a first round selection.  All that aside, the Bears thought that he was worthy of first round selection and they picked him hoping he will upgrade their defense.

The following is a detailed look at Floyd.  There is some insight into his upside as well as his downside.  At the end there is some detail about how he might fit in with the Bears and how he might perform in the future.

When looking at Floyd’s upside, it’s noted that he has a good combination of length and athleticism.  He is very rangy and has great speed to chase down ball carriers from sideline to sideline.  Floyd also has a good change of direction and for his body style, he has long limbs and twitch which allows him to get to the tackle from far away, he can bend very well and has the ideal height and frame to add more weight without losing speed.

Floyd can work well against the run, at times, and if he is not blocked he will chase the play down from the backside and stop it.  When it comes to taking on blockers, Floyd is elusive in open areas and can get around blockers working his way through traffic to get to the ball.  When he is in coverage, he shows the ability to be effective covering backs, tight ends and receivers but might need some additional work in that area.

Floyd’s specialty is rushing the passer.  Some of the positives that he has in that area include that while acting as an edge rusher, he is able to burst off the line and cover a lot of ground with his long second and third strides.  His best move is an up-field burst which is followed by a jump-cut that he adds an inside club to and gets to the quarterback that way.  He is very good when blitzing underneath and is able to get through the A-gap when standing up.  Overall, Floyd is a natural pass rusher who has a variety of pass rushing moves and a unique ability to get to the quarterback.

Floyd has several qualities related speed and quickness.  He is very fast and has a very quick first step.  He is explosive and gets up the field in a hurry.  His quick first step and explosiveness off the edge forces offensive tackles to change their angles to meet the oncoming threat.

There are several other things about Floyd that can be considered positive.  They include the fact that he is a very athletic performer and has good length.  He is very well adept in pursuit and he has a unique ability to bend despite his tall and lanky frame.  Speaking of his frame, he needs to work to add weight to it but not sacrifice any of the speed that he possesses.  Floyd has experience lining up in a few different spots including on the edge, off the ball and over the slot.

Floyd is ready to come in and contribute as a starter immediately (and this may have justified that he be selected in the first round where he was picked) so that is an advantage.  He plays well in space, runs hard all the time and can close in on a play very fast by taking fewer strides than other players have to take.  When it comes to off the field issues, Floyd doesn’t have any and he loves the game of football.

Every player has a downside and there are a few things that can be considered drawbacks or things that Floyd needs to work on.  One very noticeable thing about him is his frame.  His is thin and somewhat gangly and therefore lacks the ideal strength that you would like to see a player at his position have.  Being this thin will cause him problems when he matches up against bigger NFL players so he might be relegated to playing in sub-packages as opposed to being on the field more often.  He also needs to add strength to shed blocks.

Floyd does not set the edge real well and he struggles to gain arm extension with blockers.  He will often lose the fight for the neutral zone at the point of attack and when it comes to taking on blocks, he has problems shedding blocks which moves him down the field more instead of getting into the backfield to make the play.  When it comes to making the tackle, Floyd is more of a pull down tackler that doesn’t possess much power or pop on his tackles.

When it comes to defending against the run, Floyd needs to get stronger.  He has to get better and tougher against runs coming straight at him.  Another thing that he needs to work on is his strength.  He needs to improve the strength of his base and, overall, needs to get stronger so that he can maintain his feet.  With that, due to his lack of strength in his lower body he will tend to lose his feet at times.

Due to some of these drawbacks, especially his size, Floyd may be relegated to situational play in sub-packages as he may not be an every down defender.  For the Bears, this may mean that he would come into the game in passing situations only.  It may appear that spending a first round pick on a situational player may not have been such a good idea.

There are a few other minor things that come to mind with Floyd that are drawbacks.  One other item is that when he played in coverage, he looked rather awkward and perhaps shouldn’t be asked to cover receivers too much.  There are some that feel that he had successful pass rushing production against lower competition in college (while perhaps not doing so well against tougher competition).  Finally, Floyd won a lot of his battles in college thanks to his athleticism rather than pure pass rushing skill.

There is a lot to like about Floyd.  He has all the skill to rush the passer and be effective at it.  On the other hand, he may be too undersized to be an effective every down player in the league and may not be able to come into the game in certain situations.  Being used just as a pass rusher may make it seem like the pick the Bears used on him is somewhat of a “wasted” pick because he may not be able to play that often (full time).

He has the skill and ability to be an effective pass rusher for the Bears if he can add some weight without reducing his speed which is one of his greatest assets.  At the NFL Scouting Combine, Floyd showed up a little heavier and did display great speed for a player of his size so it looks like he can add weight and still be effective.  The Bears will most likely have him add some weight and do some weight room work to get bigger and stronger to become a more effective NFL pass rusher.

Floyd is going to be one of those “wait and see” types of players.  He should be able to step in and start right away but he is most likely not going to be a full-time starter at the outset.  He will probably be used strictly as a pass rusher at the beginning of the season and then, as he feels more comfortable and the coaching staff feels more comfortable, he will be used on a regular basis.  The Bears need to get a solid pass rush going and one of the ways that they are going to be able to do it is get Floyd going strong this season.

Predicting how Floyd is going perform this year is going to be a little bit difficult.  He has a lot of work to do this offseason and in training camp to get NFL-ready but the coaching staff will push him along to get him prepared for the start of the 2016 season.  If he is ready and if he can perform at or above the level he did in college then he could have a stellar first season with the Bears.  There will be some growing pains but if the Bears can coach him up, get him physically ready and have him adjust to their scheme, he could be a solid player and a good contributor on defense for the Bears for several seasons to come.

Chicago Bears Insider: Bears Release Rolle and Slauson

Dec 1, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Chicago Bears guard Matt Slauson (68) against the Minnesota Vikings at Mall of America Field at H.H.H. Metrodome. The Vikings defeated the Bears 23-20 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

By Bryan Dietzler

A day after the 2016 NFL Draft, the Bears got a little bit busy with their roster and made a couple of moves that may either shock fans or make them think that the moves were coming.  One move, the release of safety Antrel Rolle, doesn’t come as much of a surprise while the Bears letting guard Matt Slauson walk is somewhat of a shocker.  We will take a look at these two moves, see how they impact the team and see what the future holds for the Bears.

The Bears brought in Rolle last year to help shore up what had been a weak safety position from the years before.  He signed a three year deal and with his veteran experience and solid play over the previous seasons made the Bears believe that he was going to be able to shore up that position for at least the length of his contract.  Rolle played in just a few games in 2015 as he was injured for a better part of the season.  When he was in the lineup, his play was steady but not spectacular.  He clearly showed signs of being an older player that struggled at times when he was in and wasn’t that effective.  The Bears probably saw this, brought in some youth at the position (through the draft), and decided to let Rolle go.

Rolle’s exit wasn’t a clean one however.  He fired back at the Bears and said a couple things that you would expect someone who felt scorned by another person (or team in this case) to say.  He stated that the facilities were less than stellar and that the field that he practiced on when he suffered his injury caused his injury.  He also stated that he hopes that he goes to a team that plays the Bears this year so he can “bust their ass”.  He did have some good things to say about the Bears but his parting shots upset some fans and could have upset the Bears as well.

Chicago has some untested talent at the safety position to replace Rolle so it’s a little odd that that they would put their trust in these untested rookies.  They must have felt that Rolle was expendable and let him go thinking that they would give their new guys a chance.  This has worked out for the Bears before (last year Adrian Amos started at safety as a rookie and played pretty well all season) so the team will hope that it works out again for them.  Rolle probably won’t be missed and the Bears are likely better off without him.

Slauson is a different story.  Slauson, who came to the Bears as a free agent a few seasons ago, was a vital part of the offensive line especially last season where he had to step in and play at a couple of positions due to injury.  Nothing has been shown to indicate that his play was less than suitable for the Bears and he was an asset to the team.  So why would they let Slauson go?

The Bears drafted a new guard, Cody Whitehair and may have assumed that he would be more than capable of playing this season as a starter.  With that, Chicago may have thought that Slauson was expendable and therefore they let him go.  The Bears must have a lot of trust in Whitehair to feel that letting Slauson go was the right move.  The Bears needed to do some work to enhance their offensive line and they did a lot of that through free agency but this one piece in the draft could be all they needed to finish up fixing their line.

Unlike Rolle, Slauson didn’t have any hateful or nasty remarks to make about the Bears upon his exit.  He was probably shocked that he was let go and most likely didn’t expect it.  I don’t think a lot of people expected it as Slauson was a solid player and a good performer during his career with the Bears and they will miss him.  It will be interesting to see how the Bears make up for his absence in 2016.  Will they have success or will they regret letting him go?  We will find out next season if letting Slauson go was a good move or not.

So the Bears, in essence, by making these moves elected to go younger with their players rather than stick with older more experienced veterans.  The Bears have desired to get younger and the youth movement is in full swing as we can tell.  Will this pay off or will they wish they had the veteran players back to allow the younger players to grow into their positions and then eventually take over instead of starting right away?  Time will tell but one thing is for sure and that is the Bears are going younger and trying to build for the future.

Chicago Bears Insider: 2016 NFL Draft Review

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By Bryan Dietzler

The 2016 NFL Draft has come and gone and the Chicago Bears have made their picks hoping that the players that they have selected will help them out in the short and long term.  The Bears made a somewhat surprising move to start the draft, trading up a few spots in the first round to make a selection that we will look at shortly.  This was a somewhat uncharacteristic move by the Bears but one that they must have felt that they had to do to get the player they wanted.

The following is a look at all of the Bears draft picks in the 2016 NFL draft.  There is a little insight into the player, the value of the pick and how he might fit on the team in the immediate future.  Full profiles of these players will be coming later on this spring.

The player the Bears traded up for, thinking that he wouldn’t be there at number 11 (in their normal spot) was Leonard Floyd, an outside linebacker from Georgia.  The Bears needed speed and pass rush ability and they got that with Floyd who could be just what they need to help them get more sacks and more pressure on the quarterback.  Some experts feel that Floyd may have been taken a little too early and that the Bears really didn’t need to move up to get him (it cost them a fourth round pick in the process) but the Bears knew what they were doing and went ahead and did it.

Some of the major upside to Floyd is that he is very fast and possesses a lot of quickness.  He is explosive, a natural pass rusher and has a variety of pass rushing moves that he can use to get to the quarterback.  He loves football and has no off the field issues.  He doesn’t appear to have much downside but is a little thin, needs to work on defending the run a little bit better and needs to get stronger.  His strengths do outweigh his weaknesses however.

The pick of Floyd could be a little bit of a head scratcher but in the end it just might pan out.  The Bears really need a pass rusher and it looks like they got one in Floyd.  Now if he can just develop into an NFL pass rusher, earn a starting spot and play well the Bears will come out looking like big winners with this pick.

We will take a deeper look at Floyd a little later on.

In the second round, the Bears moved around a little bit, trading back twice and grabbed guard Cody Whitehair from Kansas State.  Whitehair has a lot of starting experience and started at several positions during his career in college.  The drafting of Whitehair prompted the Bears to release last year’s starter at guard Matt Slauson as Chicago may think that they have found a solid youthful replacement in Whitehair.  Whitehair has a lot of good qualities and hopefully he will be able to step in and start right away (which the Bears think he will be able to) and play well.

In the third round, the Bears selected defensive end Jonathan Bullard from the University of Florida.  The Bears came into this draft looking for pass rushers after going through 2015 without much of a pass rush.  They took Floyd in the first round and then took Bullard in the third to help bolster that part of their defense.  Bullard is a pretty good player and may have been a bit of a steal at the point the Bears picked him in the third round.  Chicago may use him as part of a rotation on the defensive line to give the line fresh bodies to get to the passer.  The Bears need all the help that they can get rushing the quarterback and Bullard should be able to provide the help they need.

The Bears started off taking their bevy of fourth round picks early when they selected West Virginia linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski.  The Bears had a need at the linebacker position heading into this draft and they picked up some of that much needed depth with Kwiatkowski.  Look for him to be a depth player at the linebacker position and also participate on special teams.

With another fourth round pick, the Bears took safety Deon Bush out of the University of Miami.  The Bears needed help at the safety position as it lacked depth and had some issues with injury last year.  The drafting of Bush may have been the signal for the end of Antrel Rolle’s career with the Bears because the Bears let Rolle go the day after the draft.  Will Bush now get the opportunity to start at the safety position opposite Adrian Amos?  The Bears did have success with Amos, a rookie, last year so perhaps they are thinking that they will have the same results with Bush.  We will soon find out.

Another player the Bears got in the fourth round was Northern Iowa cornerback Deiondre Hall.  Hall is from a smaller school than most of the players the Bears drafted but has a lot of upside.  Hall, with some work in the NFL to learn and grow, could end up being a strong nickel corner or fifth defensive back with the Bears in possibly a season or two.  What he can do right away is help out on special teams so look for the Bears to use him there to start and then allow him to grow into a bigger role as time goes on.  Hall could surprise a lot of people because he is very talented.  Look for him to make an impact on the team at some point in his career.

In the fifth round, Chicago went for offense as they selected running back Jordan Howard out of Indiana.  It was almost a given that the Bears would select a running back in the draft because they are going to be needing some help at the position this year.  The Bears do have Jeremy Langford (figured to be the starter) Ka’Deem Carey and Jacquizz Rodgers but they could be adding Howard as the fourth back to give them some depth as well as have someone that could play special teams.  Howard has a good shot of making the team and being the fourth running back as well as helping out on special teams.

The Bears chose DeAndre Houston-Carson, a safety from William and Mary with their sixth round pick in the draft.  This was the second safety that the Bears took in the draft bolstering that position even further.  Houston-Carson is a small school prospect and will take some time to develop but he can help out immediately on special teams and can provide some depth at the safety position next season.  The Bears will hope that he develops into a strong backup that can step and start if needed.

With their seventh round (and final) pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Bears selected wide receiver Daniel Braverman out of Western Michigan.  There are some experts that compare him to such players as Wes Welker and Julian Edelman and the Bears probably hope that he turns into a solid slot receiver for them.  Being a seventh round draft pick means it’s a longshot for him to make the team but you never know.  He could have enough talent to stick with the team and may be able to hang on thanks to solid special teams play.

A lot of experts had high grades for the Bears draft this year and consider it to be one of the better drafts in the NFL.  This writer feels that Chicago did pretty well from the second round forward but there are some questions with their first round pick, Floyd that will have to be answered.  Perhaps they didn’t need to move up in the draft to get him.  Was he worthy of a first round pick?  We will soon find out.

Look for more detail about the players the Bears picked in the draft in future articles.

Check Out the Sports International Football Camp June 27-30

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Will Sutton, Christian Jones, Khari Lee and Cameron Meredith are scheduled to instruct a football camp this summer for newcomer and seasoned players alike to learn individual and team techniques on both offense and defensive positions at the Sports International Football Camp held on June 27-30.

The football camp, offering both overnight and day camp options, will be held at Trinity International University. The camp is designed for players ages 7 to 18 and will feature daily instruction, lectures, and demonstrations from Bears’ defensive end Will Sutton, linebacker Christian Jones, tight end Khari Lee, and wide receiver Cameron Meredith. The college and high school coaches on staff will ensure each practice will be filled with in-depth instruction, lectures, and demonstrations. Campers will be grouped by age, position, ability and experience to allow coaches to progressively teach basic and advanced techniques to best benefit each group.

“The instruction these kids get from the coaches, as well as the various NFL players that attend this camp, is invaluable,” says Sutton.

Football newcomers and seasoned players alike will also experience teamwork, self-discipline, selecting the correct role models, and how to attain their sports and life potential. Even though this is not an “autograph camp,” members of the Bears will be available for autographs.

Obtain more information and request a camp brochure that includes an application by calling 301-575-9400, or by visiting www.footballcamps.com. Space in the football camp is limited and registrations will be accepted on a first come, first served basis.

Find out more by visiting online at www.footballcamps.com.

Chicago Bears 2016 Draft Quick-View

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By Bryan Dietzler

The 2016 NFL Draft will take place this Thursday night in Chicago and the Bears will be on the clock fairly early in the first round as they have the 11th pick in the draft.  This will be General Manager Ryan Pace’s second draft and the Bears need him to be on his game in drafting quality players that will help them out in the short and long term.  This team has built through free agency over the past couple of seasons and will need to use the draft to help supplement what they have already on the roster.

What are the Bear’s top needs heading into this draft?  They could use help at several positions but the positions that stick out include defensive line, cornerback, tight end, linebacker (both inside and outside) as well as running back.  The Bears have several picks in which to fill these positions and will work hard to try to make this team better.

The following is a look at the picks the Bears have, the round they are in and in what position in the draft these picks are in.

First Round: 11th selection overall.

Second Round: 41st selection overall.

Third Round: 72nd selection overall.

Fourth Round: 106th selection overall.

Fourth Round: 127th selection overall.

Fifth Round: 150th selection overall.

Sixth Round: 185th selection overall.

Sixth Round: 206th selection overall.

Seventh Round: 230th selection overall.

The Bears have a total of nine picks in this year’s draft.

For comparison, here is a look at last year’s draft for the Bears:

First Round: Kevin White, WR, West Virginia

Second Round: Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State

Third Round: Hroniss Grasu, C, Oregon

Fourth Round: Jeremy Langford, RB, Michigan State

Fifth Round: Adrian Amos, S, Penn State

Sixth Round: Tayo Fabuluje, OT, TCU

Out of last year’s draft the Bears got starting play out of four of those players.  White was forced to miss the season due to a leg injury.  The draft, overall, was pretty productive but would have been much better had White been able to play.

Hopefully the Bears will have as much or better success with this year’s draft and be able to bring in a lot of talent that will be able to start as soon as possible or a year down the line.  Let’s hope it’s a great draft for the Bears.

Chicago Bears Insider: 2016 NFL Draft Needs

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By Bryan Dietzler

The 2016 NFL Draft is almost here and teams around the NFL are preparing to bring in what they will consider the future of their team through the draft.  The Chicago Bears are in their second draft under General Manager Ryan Pace and Head Coach John Fox and they hope to do even better this year with the draft than they did last year.  While the jury is still out on how the Bear’s drafted last year they did get some positive returns on a few players that might make Pace look like he’s a pretty solid drafting general manager.  Year two, this year, is where he really has to shine and make this team better.

Chicago solved some of its problems and taking care of a few of its needs in free agency this offseason but there are still some needs that this team has.  There are basically three big needs that Chicago has heading into the draft and they will hope to fill them with the draft picks that they have.  The following is a quick look at the Bear’s draft needs and what they can do to fill those needs.

Defensive Line-The Bears did some work on the line during free agency bringing in Akiem Hicks but didn’t do much else and may have even lost a little bit (with the departure of Jarvis Jenkins).  They do have Eddie Goldman who should be coming back healthy and entering his second season in the NFL so they have that much going for them but they might be weak with other starters and depth along the defensive line.

There are several decent prospects available at the top of the draft that the Bears might consider.  Picking 11th in the draft leaves the Bears in a good position to find some talent and there should be some good talent along the defensive line when they pick.  The biggest question is will they decide to do with that pick?  Will they go defensive line or will they look elsewhere?

The Bears may choose to work on their defensive line a little later on in the draft as well but they do need to do some work here to make this unit better for the upcoming season and beyond.

Tight End-The Bears let their top tight end, Martellus Bennett, loose in a trade and now only have Zach Miller and Rob Housler on the team to work at the position.  Miller had a breakout season of sorts last year but really can’t be counted on to be the number one tight end for the team.  So, as a result, the Bears are going to have to be looking for a tight end in this year’s draft.  They will need someone who can come in and be the number one tight end in the offense and that might mean that a tight end could be picked early in the draft for the Bears.

Would they pick a tight end with their first round pick?  Is there a tight end that’s worthy of the number 11 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft?  Probably not so the Bears will most likely wait until the second or third round of the draft to take a tight end.  But they need to take one or else they will be very weak at the position next season.  So look for the Bears to make a move on a tight end early in the draft.

Cornerback-Some might consider this a position of strength as the Bears have Kyle Fuller and Tracy Porter available but while Fuller is pretty solid, Porter is just an injury away from making this position weak.  Porter has had problems with injuries in the past (before he arrived in Chicago) and is getting up there in age so he isn’t a good permanent solution at the cornerback position even though he is a pretty solid player.  The Bears may decide to grab a cornerback that can either start right away or sit and start next season in this draft.

Where do they take a cornerback?  While it might not be the most pressing position on the team it’s still one that they could attend to early in the draft.  Take a cornerback at number one you say?  It’s possible but Chicago may decide to hold off on that and wait till a little bit later (but perhaps not too late) round to take a cornerback.  They could develop someone to be the starter in the future while allowing Porter to be the “guy” for at least another season.

There are other needs on the Bears that are worth mentioning.  They do need to stock up on depth at both the inside and the outside linebacker positions even though they have made those areas somewhat more solidified thanks to free agency.  They may also want to look at some additional depth on the offensive line (even though they added a lot in free agency) and may even want to take a look at bringing in a quarterback that they could develop into a possible starter for the future if quarterback Jay Cutler ever leaves or becomes injured.  That’s a long shot but it’s definitely in the realm of being possible.

Another position that may get a look in the draft is running back.  The Bears let Matt Forte go in free agency and have Jeremy Langford as their starter but they tried to go out and get additional help in free agency with no success.  If the Bears find a good running back in the later rounds of the draft they may decide to select one and bolster the position.

This is going to be an important draft for the Bears as they have a lot of work to do to help make their team better and get them into the playoffs.  This draft is going to be key because it will help bring the players that will help bolster the team from this year forward and give them the players they need to compete.  They have a fairly easy schedule this coming season so they should be able to win more games, compete for a playoff spot and with the talent they have and will acquire they should be able to do that.

Chicago Bears Insider: The 2016 Schedule Released

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 22: The Chicago Bears huddle up prior to the NFL game against the Denver Broncos at Soldier Field on November 22, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

By Bryan Dietzler

The NFL just released the 2016 NFL schedule and every team and every fan knows who will be playing who and this coming season.  It’s an exciting time of the year as everyone will get to see when their favorite team plays.  Will it be a regular old Sunday afternoon game?  Will they have some Monday night games or will their team be locked out of prime time.

For Bears fans, this year’s schedule looks pretty interesting as the Bears have some night games and some holiday games to play.  The following is a complete look at the Bears schedule with a look at the opponent and a little bit, not knowing too much at this point, as to how the Bears might do in each game.

Week 1: September 11th at Houston 1 p.m.- The Texans are coming off a season in which they went to the playoffs and this team is looking to improve, especially at the quarterback position, for next year.  The Bears are looking to improve as well and will be sporting new looks on their team heading into this game and the new season.  If everything shakes our right, this should be a game between two evenly matched teams with a winner that’s hard to predict.  The Bears may have the upper hand in this one thanks to the better play at the quarterback position but the Texan’s defense is tough and could give the Bears problems.  Look for this to be a close game.

Week 2: September 19th vs Philadelphia Monday Night Football- The Bears will get a Monday night game against one of league’s weaker teams from 2015.  The Eagles, like the Bears, are doing some rebuilding so, similar to the first game of the year, these two teams could be evenly matched and this could be a good game.  Look for this to be close and a nice matchup between two teams that hope to win a lot of games in 2016 and play better than they did the previous year.

Week 3: September 25th at Dallas Sunday Night Football- The Bears will be on prime time for the second straight week in a row facing a Cowboys team that was less than stellar in 2015.  The Cowboys should have quarterback Tony Romo back for this game which means that they will be playing better than they did last year and could match up well with the Bears.  Both teams should be improved by the time they meet in this game and like the first two matchups the Bears will have this could be a pretty evenly matched affair.  This should be yet another good game for the Bears and one that is hard to predict.

Week 4: October 2nd vs Detroit 1 p.m.-The Bears will face their first division rival of the season in the Detroit Lions at home.  The Lions beat them twice last year and could be a more improved team this year thus giving the Bears some problems.  These are always good games (when these two teams get together) and this promises to be another good one.  It’s going to be too close to call.

Week 5: October 9th at Indianapolis 1 p.m.-The Bears will face the Colts for the first time in a few seasons and like so many other games before this one this will be a matchup of two pretty even teams.  The Colts are coming off of a tough season in which their quarterback, Andrew Luck, was hurt and they didn’t perform up to expectations.  They should be healthy and ready to go for this game.  This will be another (not to sound like a broken record) evenly matched game with two up and coming teams that are building towards the future.

Week 6: October 16th vs. Jacksonville, 1 p.m.-The Jaguars are an up and down team that had a bit of an up and down season last year and may still be in rebuilding mode.  The Bears are in a similar situation so like so many of the teams that the Bears play to start the season this will be another game that could be considered a toss-up.  In these games, if the Bears are even a little bit better than they were last season they will have an excellent chance of winning.

Week 7: October 20th-at Green Bay Thursday Night Football-This will be the first meeting of the year for these two division rivals and this could be a good game.  The Packers will be attempting to win the division and keep pace with the Minnesota Vikings who promise to have a good season again this year.  The question is, will the Bears be trying to keep pace as well and win the division?  This could be a very important game for both teams at this point in the season.  Who will come out on top?

Week 8: October 31st-vs Minnesota Monday Night Football-Chicago will play their second prime time game in a row and their second game against a division rival as they face the Vikings at home to close the month of October.  If these teams are playing well at this point it could be an important game in the division as the division is pretty much up in the air heading into this season.  Will the Vikings be as good as they were last year?  Will the Bears be better?  No matter what this promises to be a good game and one that could go either way.

Week 9: Bye Week-This will be a much needed by for the Bears as they are sure to have played several close games and will need a week to allow injured players to heal and get back in the lineup.  This will come at a good time and this will help launch them into the remainder of the season.

November 13th-at Tampa Bay 1 p.m.-The Bears will play what seems to be a once a season game against the Buccaneers.  The Bucs are going to be in rebuilding mode for a better part of the season that is coming and the Bears should be ahead of them when it comes to talent and ability.  This game should be a game that the Bears can win provided that they are playing well and are relatively healthy.  This could be just about the only guaranteed win for the Bears this season depending on how they are doing heading into this game.

Week 11: November 20th-at New York Giants 1 p.m.- If you haven’t noticed, the Bears schedule is fairly easy this coming season as most of the teams that they will play had less than stellar seasons last year.  The Giants are another team that didn’t do so well last year so, like several games the Bears would have played up to this point they will be playing against some of last year’s weaker teams.  Consider this a toss-up, like so many of their other games with this possibly being a close one with the winner hard to predict.

Week 12: November 27th-vs Tennessee 1 p.m.- The Bears will play one of last year’s worst teams in this game and have a good chance to win as long as Tennessee doesn’t do a complete 180 and become one of the better teams in the NFL this season.  The Bears should be better and should be the better team in this game.  Look for this to be a good win for the Bears and a win that will help keep them pointed in the right direction.

Week 13: December 4th-vs. San Francisco 1 p.m.- The Bears will be seeking some revenge over the 49ers in this game after last year’s heartbreaking loss.  The 49ers have a new coach and a new system so they will be a little bit behind when they play the Bears.  Hopefully Chicago is up to the task and plays the 49ers well enough that they can beat them and have a shot at making the playoffs at this point in the season.

Week 14: December 11th-at Detroit 1 p.m.- The Bears will take on the Lions for the second time and this could be an important game for both teams as the end of the season will be drawing closer and the playoffs could be in reach for them.  The Lions should be improved over what they were last season but the Bears should be as well so this could be a good game.  The Lions have been beating the Bears as of late and Chicago will want to turn this trend around.

Week 15: December 18th vs. Green Bay 1 p.m.- The biggest rivalry in the NFL happens again with the two teams playing their second game of the year.  Of course, at this time of the year, the playoffs are in full view at this point and these teams may be driving hard towards them.  It’s important for the Bears to beat the Packers for many reasons but the playoffs may be the biggest reason at this point in the season and keep going.  The Bears have played the Packers a little bit better as of late so this game may be closer and better than some think.

Week 16: December 24th-vs Washington 1 p.m.- Christmas Eve will see the Bears host the Redskins in a game where the Bears may want to get back at Washington for beating them last year.  Washington had a pretty good season in 2015 and will plan to build on that once again in hopes of making the postseason.  The Bears will probably still be up and coming but at this point in the 2016 season they need to be fully ready and winning games.  This will be an interesting game and one that could mean important things for both teams.

Week 17: January 1st-at Minnesota 1 p.m.- Chicago will close out the season playing a division rival in the Minnesota Vikings.  The Vikings were playoff bound last year and not much has changed with them so far this offseason.  This game could be critical for both teams when it comes to making the playoffs so look for them to play all out (just like these teams do every time they get together) and look for this to be an exciting game.

On paper the Bear’s schedule looks pretty easy.  They play some of the weaker teams from last year but in today’s NFL a team that had a bad outing one season can turn it around and have a good one the next so it’s impossible to tell how things will shake out for the Bears this year.  We can expect them to be better than they were last season but how much better will they be?  Will they win more games?  Will they make the playoffs?

A much more in-depth season prediction of the schedule will be published at a later date.

Chicago Bears Free Agency Update: April 2016

jerell freeman

By Bryan Dietzler

A lot has changed since we last checked in on the Bears and the free agency period.  Several more players have been signed, some have not been re-signed and some have been let go or traded away making the team look different than it did last year.  There are some new faces and some of the same old faces on this team and the Bears hope that this combination will make things better for them in the long run.

The following is a complete look at all the moves that the Bears have made during this offseason so far to include the signings they have made, the signings they haven’t made as well as any trades that may have taken place.  Finally, there is a look ahead to what the Bears needs may be in the upcoming 2016 NFL Draft.

New Free Agents

The Bears have signed eight new players to the team that were with other teams in 2015.  The biggest free agent signing of the period was their bringing in former Denver Broncos inside linebacker Danny Trevethan.  The Bears had their eye on Trevethan prior to the start of the free agency period and did all they could to bring him in.  If he can stay healthy he promises to be a very welcome addition to the team and should help bolster what was a weak linebacker group for the Bears last season.

Another strong addition to the team at the linebacker position this offseason was former Indianapolis Colts linebacker Jerrell Freeman.  Freeman will help make the linebacking corps even stronger and provide the Bears with some fine play at the position.  Look for him to be a force at the position for the Bears next season and beyond.

There were a few other free agent signings that may seem minor on their face right now but could pay big dividends for the Bears in the long run.  They got some help on their offensive line by signing guys like Ted Larsen, a guard and center formerly of the Arizona Cardinals, Bobbie Massie, a tackle formerly of the Arizona Cardinals and Manny Ramirez a guard and center formerly of the Detroit Lions.  It would appear as if Larsen and Massie are going to try to work their way into the starting lineup this season and for the money that was paid to Massie you can almost bet that he is going to be a starter.  Ramirez looks to give Hroniss Grasu a run at the starting center position as Grasu could take a little more time to develop.  It will be interesting to see what changes the Bears have on their offensive line as they head into the 2016 season.

Some of the other free agent signings the Bears have had so far this season include bringing in kick returner/safety Omar Bolden formerly of the Denver Broncos.  Bolden will help provide some depth on special teams and could even provide depth at safety.  Speaking of special teams, the Bears ended up bringing in another long snapper to try to shore that position up.  They signed former Denver Bronco Aaron Brewer to help them with their long snapping this season and he should do well in that role.

Finally, the Bears brought in former New England Patriot defensive linemen Akiem Hicks to help bolster their defensive line.  The Bears had some concerns on their defensive line last year with injuries and ineffective play.  The Bears could have done more to shore the lineup this offseason but they may choose to look towards the draft to put some pieces in place and get this part of the team ready for next season.

Overall the Bears signed some players in areas of need concentrating at the linebacker position and on the offensive line which were two areas of need.  If they get any kind of solid production out of these free agent signings it will mean a lot for their season in 2016.  One area, perhaps, they could have concentrated on a little more was the defensive line but they may work on this in the draft.

Free Agents Brought Back

Chicago brought back several of their own free agents during the offseason and a majority of these free agent players were solid in 2015 and should bring a lot to the team in 2016.  Cornerback Tracy Porter may be the second biggest re-signing of the period (after Alshon Jeffery).  He had a great year in 2015 and will be back, most likely as the starter, in 2016.  Linebacker Sam Acho was brought back and could either start or contend for a starting position.  It will be interesting to see what happens to him as training camp goes on.

Jeffery was the Bear’s biggest signing of the free agency period in terms of bringing players back.  The Bears really needed to have him back due to the unknown they have with last year’s number one draft pick Kevin White.  If Jeffery can be healthier than he was last year and productive he will make the Bears offense that much better and make the Bear’s front office look good for bringing him back.  Hopefully they can get him signed to a long term contract.

Wide receiver and third down specialist (as well as punt returner) Marc Mariani was re-signed and will be back for another season.  With the re-signing of Deonte Thompson, who will probably handle kickoffs this season, Mariani may be left out of both kick and punt returns (he may be off punt returns thanks to the signing of Bolden).  It will be interesting to see what the Bears decide to do on special teams this training camp and during the next season.

The tight end position is going to look a bit different next year.  The Bears traded starter Martellus Bennett away (more on that later) but did bring back two players at the position who should be active there next season.  Budding star Zach Miller was brought back and after his breakout season in 2015 he should have a good season in 2016 as long as he can stay healthy.  Chicago also re-signed Rob Housler as a backup tight end and depending on how well he does in training camp we may see a lot more of him next year.

When it comes to the running back position things are going to be different this year.  Matt Forte is no longer a member of the team so that leaves Jeremy Langford as the starter.  The Bears did try to bring in Broncos running back C.J. Anderson but failed so they are most likely set with the running backs they have at the position right now.  They did decide to bring back one running back who missed a majority of last season with a broken arm.  That player is Jacquizz Rodgers.  Rodgers could be a third down option for the Bears this season and catch passes out of the backfield.

Some of the other players that the Bears brought back include offensive lineman Nick Becton, cornerback Sherrick McManis, safety Chris Prosinski and defensive lineman Mitch Unrein.  Prosinski was a bit of a surprise because he didn’t play that well towards the end of the season but the Bears are bringing him back because they must see something in him they like.  McManis is kind of in the same boat.  Not an overall spectacular player but the Bears wanted him back so they re-signed him.

Players that Signed with Other Teams

The biggest name on the list of Bears that signed with other teams this offseason is Forte.  The Bears decided not to bring him back for another couple of seasons so he signed with the New York Jets.  What is interesting is that the Bears went after another running back in free agency and didn’t make the effort to re-sign Forte.  Forte still has some production left in him and would still be a valuable asset but the Bears didn’t see it that way.

Chicago let it be known that they weren’t going to bring back offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod and he has signed with the Miami Dolphins.  A player that played well last year but Chicago decided not to re-sign is defensive tackle Jarvis Jenkins.  Jenkins is headed to New York where Forte is going (the Jets).  It’s tough that the Bears will lose him.

Another player that won’t be playing in Chicago next season is Shea McClellin.  McClellin, who signed with the New Patriots had a much maligned career with the Bears.  Many fans may be happy to see him gone but he just didn’t have a home in Chicago.  Perhaps he can restart his career in New England and play better.  Finally, one more player that won’t be coming back to the Bears in 2016 is linebacker LeRoy Reynolds.  Reynolds signed with the Atlanta Falcons this offseason and the Bears may miss his depth although they should be able to find some help to replace him.

Forte will be the biggest loss of this group and the Bears will miss Jenkins.  Hopefully the Bears will get a lot of production out of Langford and won’t regret letting Forte go.  The others didn’t have much of an impact on the team and the Bears will probably not miss them.

Free Agents Not Re-Signed

There are several players that remain unsigned by the Bears or any other team for that matter so far this offseason.  Some of those players include cornerback Alan Ball, guard Vladimir Ducasse, safety Sherrod Martin, center Will Montgomery and safety Ryan Mundy.  The Bears haven’t made a single move to resign any of these players.  Ball was kind of a bust last season as was Ducasse.  Sherrod Martin may be brought back during training camp but he isn’t as strong as some would like him to be.  It’s interesting that Chicago didn’t bring Montgomery back yet.  He suffered a broken leg during the season last season but the Bears have brought in other help at the center position and have Grasu as well so they will probably not be bringing him back.

Trades

The Bears made one significant trade this offseason, so far and that was to allow Bennett to go to the New England Patriots for a draft pick.  Bennett wasn’t a good fit in Chicago and was having his struggles off the field, for the most part and wasn’t meshing with the team.  Chicago decided to let him go and have him seek his fortune elsewhere.  Was this a good move by the Bears?  Perhaps not.  It leaves them without a top flight truly tested tight end so they may be seeking one in the draft this year.  It’s too bad they had to downgrade the position because it was very productive for them over the past few seasons.

Draft

Speaking of the draft, the Bears go into this draft with several needs despite the fact they took care of some things in free agency.  They probably won’t be as likely to select an outside linebacker with their first pick and may instead go for a solid defensive lineman with that pick to help bolster that unit.  Further on down the line the Bears will probably take a look at a tight end a little early in the draft (probably not in the first round) and should be looking for some help at the cornerback position and some depth along the offensive line.

Of course the Bears could always select a linebacker in the draft and it’s very possible that they could do that just not, as mentioned, with the first pick.  It depends a lot on how they feel about the current group of linebackers.  They could add some depth or some players that they feel could eventually come in a start a few seasons.

It will be interesting to see what the Bears decide to do in the draft this year.  There will be more coming on their draft strategy in later articles.

So the Bears had somewhat of a busy offseason adding several players and losing a few.  The losses shouldn’t impact them much except perhaps for the loss of Forte who is going to be missed.  The additions well outweighed the losses in this instance and the Bears should have a much more talented team in 2016 than they did in 2015.  As long as these players can stay healthy (and health has been an issue for the Bears over the last couple of seasons) then Chicago should get good production out of these players.  It should be a more improved and better season for Chicago in 2016.

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