Cre’von LeBlanc was an undrafted free agent who made his way to the Chicago Bears after being cut by the New England Patriots late in the preseason. For what it’s worth, the Bears got a good look at LeBlanc when the two teams practiced against one another last summer. And in the end, LeBlanc turned out to be a quality find by GM Ryan Pace.
Just check out how he performed compared to other rookie corners when it came to breaking up passes:
No rookie cornerback broke up more passes in 2016 than Jalen Ramsey. pic.twitter.com/tF8TRkQ3YM
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) June 26, 2017
While no corner played the ball like Jacksonville Jaguars rookie and first-round pick Jalen Ramsey, LeBlanc wasn’t too far behind as he found himself tied with Carolina Panthers third-round selection Daryl Worley with eight pass breakups. LeBlanc was a top performer in the Bars secondary, succeeding in the slot and having his best game against Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions, who was as hot as any top quarterback at the time.
After the 2016 season, the Bears’ secondary was littered with questions. Some of those were answered with how the Bears spent in free agency, but LeBlanc still figures to be in the equation, especially if he can replicate his rookie season.
- No position on the gridiron is under a bigger microscope than quarterback, so ESPN has offered up its top players at the position for every team and it’s up to you, the fan, to rank them. Because quarterback hasn’t been a position that has brought much pride and joy to Chicago, ESPN’s staff had to dive deep into the history books to come up with its top picks. Frankly, it says a lot about the franchise when you have to dig that far to find the top signal caller.
- Ideally, Mitch Trubisky will supplant Sid Luckman atop ESPN’s list of Bears franchise quarterbacks. And in Rick Telander’s world, his journey to the top would begin sooner, rather than later if the opportunity presents itself. Over at the Chicago Sun-Times, Telander explains why Trubisky should play this season by citing the success of players like Ben Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson, while also noting how Troy Aikman and Peyton Manning were thrown to the wolves as rookies, but eventually worked through and overcame their struggles.
- Of course, these are extreme outliers featuring one Hall of Famer, the second best quarterback of his generation, and two Super Bowl winners who are on Hall of Fame paths. All four of these examples had significant college experience (something Trubisky lacks) and were a part of organizations who did an excellent job building the rosters with a quality supporting cast. For Trubisky to find his own level of success, he’ll need to make the most of his reps in training camp and the players added in the offseason will need to aid in his progress.
- The last player who was tasked with being the Bears’ franchise quarterback can’t escape the shade of Brandon Marshall. CSN Chicago shares the Pro Bowl receiver showing off his autographed jersey collection, in which Marshall throws bouquets of compliments at each player on his wall … until he gets to Cutler. Awkward. The Cutler-Marshall bromance had Pro Bowl potential in Chicago, but as with his previous stops, his relationship with his quarterback/team disintegrated resulting in his moving on. With Cutler moving into the TV booth this fall, it will be interesting to see if he gets any New York Giants games, and perhaps we’ll get to the bottom of what went wrong here.
- Cutler’s first game behind the broadcast mic will come when the Bears travel to face the Tennessee Titans in the all-important third preseason game. This is the game that could end up deciding the futures of players on the fringe. Over at FanRag Sports, Dave Hogg writes the Bears should use the 2017 season as a building block for 2018. Hogg offers up some reasons for optimism, citing what he argues could be NFC North’s best front-seven, an upgraded secondary, and a top-notch lead back in Jordan Howard. With that in mind, the Bears need to use 2017 to shore up some of the positions that might not be on the same level as the team’s strengths – such as wide receiver and offensive tackle. If the Bears can develop those two groups, competing in 2018 wouldn’t be all that far-fetched – especially if Trubisky develops as expected.
- Of course, health will play a major role in how this season plays out for the Bears and the development of their most important players. Over at Bleacher Report, Gary Davenport lists Danny Trevathan as a player who could be a surprise starter for the Bears in 2017. It isn’t as if Trevathan starting would be a surprise, because he is a Super Bowl champion who has proven to be a quality NFL starter. But Trevathan ended the 2016 season on injured reserve and won’t be available for the start of training camp because of a knee injury that could take up to a full year to fully heal. If Trevathan turns out to be healthy and a starter for a majority of Bears games in the season to come, it will be a good sign for Vic Fangio’s defense and the players lined up with Trevathan in the front seven.