While we obsess over potential coaching candidates to replace John Fox, we’re still mindful the Chicago Bears aren’t one coach away from being playoff contenders. Fox’s replacement will only be successful if his presence is supplemented with an upgrade in talent.
When Sunday’s games are settled, we’ll have a clearer look at what the future holds for the 2018 NFL Draft. Chase Goodbread highlights three Week 17 games that will determine the top of the draft order.
If you’re someone rooting for the Bears to move up from the ninth overall pick, here are the games to keep an eye on: Jets at Patriots, Chiefs at Broncos, 49ers at Rams, Bengals at Ravens, Raiders at Chargers, and Bills at Dolphins. The Bears, Jets, Broncos, and 49ers each have 5-10 records. Wins by those teams, coupled with a loss by the Bears could move Chicago all the way up to No. 6. But a Bears win, teamed with losses by the Dolphins, Raiders, and Bengals could drop Chicago out of the top-10.
We’ll have more once all of that gets settled.
- As important as draft positioning is for 2018, nothing matters more than Mitch Trubisky’s development. So in his last game, we’d like to see him build on what he did well in the team’s Week 16 win against the Cleveland Browns. Trubisky worked around the Browns stuffing the run game to still engineer three red zone scoring drives. Over at the Chicago Sun-Times, Adam Jahns sees six examples where the Bears have seen growth in their rookie signal caller. Some of the most encouraging signs of progress have come on little things, such as using his cadence to draw defenders offsides and learning how to move on to the next play and accept when a something isn’t there.
- Keeping Trubisky healthy in the season finale is the top priority, but it’s not the only important thing to keep an eye on in Week 17. Hub Arkush’s game preview at Pro Football Weekly suggests to watch for receivers Dontrelle Inman and Kendall Wright, who will make their closing arguments to return next year. Same for free agent cornerbracks Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller. The Bears are pretty much at a point where they can’t afford to lose Fuller and have back-to-back seasons in which starting caliber high-round draft picks leave via free agency and the team gets nothing in return.
- Trubisky’s training camp roommate Adam Shaheen will miss his third straight game on Sunday, which is a bummer for those of us who wanted to see him finish the season strong. But on the other hand, the tight end seems to have his head on straight and focused on the offseason ahead. Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune writes better health and improved preparation are top priorities for the rookie tight end looking to make a big leap in 2018.
- One of the most encouraging things Shaheen said in the piece linked above is how the game has slowed down for him. “It’s so much different. When I look at the game and see the X’s and O’s and see things before they might happen, it’s just completely different from Atlanta to Cincinnati. It wasn’t really a moment (that it started to click); it just progressed over the year. The more reps I got, the more things slowed down a little.”
- If he can follow this path, I imagine Shaheen developing more with a steadier wave of reps in 2018. Shaheen’s playing time was inconsistent in 2017, a season in which he started as the third-string tight end, lost passing-down snaps to fourth-stringer Daniel Brown, but also made seven starts (in 13 games) and was the league’s top-graded tight end in Week 11.
- Here’s a look at the rest of the Bears’ Week 17 inactives:
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) December 31, 2017
- Hopefully Deiondre’ Hall gets an extended look from whoever is coaching the Bears in 2018. He will finish the year as inactive in the last three weeks and having played just one defensive snap in 2017. Hall spent a good chunk of the year on injured reserve, but wasn’t inserted into the lineup when activated and the team was dealing with problems with safety depth. Hall was a fourth-round pick in 2016.
- The same can be said about nose tackle Rashaad Coward, who was promoted from the practice squad in Week 14 and played 10 snaps as a backup for John Jenkins when Eddie Goldman missed a game. It would be nice to see the Bears address their depth concerns with in-house candidates they either drafted or picked up as an undrafted free agent.
- Nick Kwiatkoski’s performance has mostly gone under-the-radar, but the second-year inside linebacker is positioning himself for a bigger role in 2018. JJ Stankevitz of NBC Sports Chicago writes Kwiatkoski is playing like someone who could be a key cog in the defense, no matter who is running it. Kwiatkoski has played in 10 games and made five starts in place of injured/suspended linebacker Jerrell Freeman. Kwiatkoski has played 45 defensive snaps or more in five of his last six games and has earned an 82.8 grade from Pro Football Focus, which ranks 16th among linebackers who aren’t edge defenders. Teammate Danny Trevathan ranks 10th at the position, which makes this tandem a potential position of strength for 2018.