Dhruv Koul answers your questions from this week’s Bears Mailbag. Follow him on Twitter @DhruvKoul to continue the conversation.
In last week’s Bears Mailbag, I touched on what kind of surprises Ryan Pace might pull this off-season, and I led with the potential signing of former Kansas City RB Kareem Hunt. The pros/cons and other discussion points are in the Mailbag.
Since that post, Hunt signed a deal with the Cleveland Browns, ending any theoretical conversations about what it would mean for the Bears to sign him.
However, that does not eliminate Chicago’s need for a RB like Kareem Hunt in Matt Nagy’s offense. There are plenty of potential options via free agency and the upcoming NFL draft. A few of my favorites in the draft include David Montgomery, Devin Singletary, and Darrell Henderson.
There’s still about a month to go before the new NFL league year starts and the off-season craziness begins.
That said, let’s reach into this week’s Bears Mailbag. Thank you to everyone who submitted questions! I always appreciate the participation.
Q: There have been some Bears schedule leaks going around. Thoughts on what they all mean? — Nicole B.
Apart from the known opponents (NFC North home/away games, the AFC West and the NFC East), there are three specific pieces of information that have been made available to us (though 2/3 have not been confirmed yet) about what the Bears’ schedule will look like:
- The Bears might host the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field to kick off the NFL season.
- The Bears might play the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day at Ford Field again.
- The Bears will be traveling to London to play their road game against the Oakland Raiders, likely at Wembley Stadium.
What these three leaks tell us is that the Bears will have at least three nationally televised games next year, and that doesn’t even take into account the following teams/story lines, of which some (if not most) will likely be thrust into prime time:
- Chiefs-Bears at Soldier Field — Andy Reid vs. Matt Nagy. Patrick Mahomes vs. Mitch Trubisky. The storylines are epic.
- Saints-Bears at Soldier Field — Ryan Pace’s old team and a matchup between Sean Payton and Matt Nagy. Two of the NFC’s best teams battling.
- Cowboys-Bears at Soldier Field — Because these are two of the NFL’s biggest perennial ratings’ draws.
- Bears-Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field — A rematch of the NFC Wild Card game that ended so miserably. And again, two of the NFL’s biggest perennial ratings’ draws.
- Bears-Rams at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum — A rematch of last year’s heavyweight bout that set the blueprint for the Patriots’ destruction of L.A. in the Super Bowl.
- Bears-Broncos at Mile High Stadium — Vic Fangio welcomes the Bears to Denver and takes on his former team.
Not to mention other intriguing ratings’ draws on Chicago’s schedule, including: Chargers-Bears, Giants-Bears, Bears-Washington, and Bears-Vikings / Vikings-Bears.
The Bears’ schedule is a doozy, and it seems clear that they will have very few games starting in the typical, and likely preferred, Sunday noon CT slot. Many of the games that don’t get booked in prime time will likely be flexed to the later time slot of 3:05pm CT or 3:25pm CT.
Everyone wants a piece of the Bears now that they’re good — as they should. But that means a lot of weird watching schedules for fans.
Oh well, it’s worth it! I just hope the Bears don’t play much on Monday Night Football. I have no interest in having Jason Witten broadcast anything related to this team.
Q: Who has to take the biggest leap next year for this team to reach new heights? — Alex U.
Mitch Trubisky is the obvious answer. He showed growth from Year 1 to Year 2, especially after the first three weeks of the 2018 season. He needs to be even better next year, and cement his spot as a franchise quarterback, for the Bears to get back to the playoffs and beyond with the schedule they play next year (as I outlined above).
Other than Trubisky, how about whoever the new kicker is? Seriously. The Bears haven’t been able to get this position right since they released Robbie Gould, and their kicking situation has cost them at critical spots time and again — none bigger than Cody Parkey’s now infamous double-doink. The Bears would’ve had at least two additional wins with competent kicking, including an appearance in the Divisional Round. The Bears need to be able to get points on drives that don’t result in touchdowns when going up against elite competition next year. The kicking HAS to be better.
And how about one more — I’m going to say the entire running game has to be better. From the run-blocking to Jordan Howard to Tarik Cohen to whoever the Bears bring in as their Kareem Hunt type of back, that entire unit needs to improve. It’s honestly pretty remarkable that Trubisky did what he did last year without a reliable running game. Look for everything to open up when they can consistently churn out solid yardage on the ground.
Q: Free agent targets you like? — Chris T.
I’d say let’s wait until the new league year begins, or until it becomes much more obvious as to who all will be available at that point. The Bears certainly have needs to address, such as depth at EDGE, on the offensive line, CB and safety.
They first have to make cuts — Look for Dion Sims to be released, and perhaps Sam Acho as well. You know Cody Parkey is gone, but he’ll likely be a post-June 1 cut.
When it comes to their own free agents, they have to decide what they’ll do about Adrian Amos, Bryce Callahan, and Aaron Lynch. I’d love for all three of them to return at the right price — but it doesn’t seem like that’s going to the case.
There are plenty of intriguing safety options that are slated to become available. While Landon Collins will likely be franchised (at least) by New York, Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix is a very interesting target, as is Tyrann Mathieu, though neither really replaces what Amos specifically did, they can be argued as upgrades.
As far as availability for the other positions, let’s see what shakes out with re-signings and releases — it’s less obvious what’s going to happen there. Let’s wait until we get closer to that March date and re-evaluate then.