The players, coaches, broadcasters, etc. who will make their way into storylines during the 2017 season will start to slide into the spotlight as we move through OTAs and approach the start of NFL training camps. With that in mind, ESPN’s Dan Graziano has created a list of the 99 people who will shape the NFL year to come.
And, yes, that list does include three members of the Chicago Bears.
We’ll start with Jordan Howard, who makes the list as one of the “Fantasy party crashers” after rushing for 1,313 yards while supplanting Jeremy Langford as the team’s lead back. Fantasy implications aside, Howard has the potential to be more than just a guy who carries your fake team to glorious bragging rights. A toned up and trimmed down Howard is expected to be the focal point of a Bears offense that lacks stability at wide receiver, has question marks at tight end, and has two unknown quantities at quarterback. Will that produce a ton of fantasy points? As the only option on an offense with that many potential holes, probably. But Howard’s value extends beyond that.
In that vain, we’ll transition to a tandem on Graziano’s “Hot-seat watch” with quarterback Mike Glennon and head coach John Fox.
This probably isn’t a segment of the list you want to be on, but it’s exactly where the Bears head coach and quarterback currently stand. The Bears are 9-23 under Fox, who will look to Glennon to move an offense and produce enough points to keep the team competitive, steal a win or two, and maybe even stay out of the NFC North cellar. Or, at minimum, avoid another 3-13 season. Of course, that is a lot to ask of a quarterback who hasn’t started a game since 2014 and has thrown just 11 passes since 2015. Then again, it is Glennon’s year, after all.
Both Fox and Glennon will be feeling indirect pressure from rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky, whose presence as the quarterback-in-waiting is inadvertently is shaping the respective years of two people who are expected to shape the 2017 NFL year. How meta?
A handful of people with ties to the Bears also make ESPN’s list, and their progress in 2017 will be worth watching as a sidebar to whatever is going down at Soldier Field and Halas Hall.
Alshon Jeffery is listed as an “Immediate-impact signing” after inking a one-year prove-it deal with the Philadelphia Eagles in free agency, where he is expected to be a major contributor if – and stop me if you’ve heard this before – he can stay healthy. Martellus Bennett, another former Pro Bowl pass catcher for the Bears, also makes the cut as he enters the season as the Green Bay Packers’ top tight end. I have a funny feeling Bennett’s performances against the Bears will shape the team’s season in some fashion.
Former Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase is listed in a grouping of coaches that shouldn’t be forgotten. The Miami Dolphins overcame a 1-4 start to make the playoffs as Gase guided the ship to a 10-win season.