It’s been an offseason of much-needed improvement in Chicago, and it has mostly been welcomed with open arms.
- Need a new coach to lead quarterback Mitch Trubisky and a new era of Bears football? Enter Matt Nagy.
- Need targets for Trubisky? Sure thing. The Bears signed three free agent pass catchers (Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Trey Burton) and drafted two more (Anthony Miller, Javon Wims).
And even the things that didn’t change are kinda new.
- The retention of a popular (and wildly successful) defensive coordinator was requested and granted. Welcome back, Vic Fangio …
- Oh, and here is All-American linebacker Roquan Smith to quarterback your defense for the foreseeable future.
And yet, an active free agency period and productive draft still have the Bears clamoring for just a little respect.
In ESPN’s latest post-draft power rankings, Chicago falls in at No. 28 which is the same place they were in the site’s post-free-agency power rankings. Blergh. And the only teams ranked lower than the Bears are the Cincinnati Bengals, Miami Dolphins, Cleveland Browns, and Indianapolis Colts. Double blergh. That’s not the kind of company you want to keep if you’re a Bears fan.
Despite a highly-acclaimed effort on draft weekend, the Bears were leap-frogged by the Arizona Cardinals, who are sitting at No. 23 after the draft, despite being No. 29 after free agency. Not only do I not get it, but browsing through Bleacher Report’s power rankings for both sides of the ball have me wondering what they see that ESPN doesn’t.
Bleacher Report’s Chris Roling lists the Bears as the No. 11 offense in the site’s post-draft power rankings. The only NFC teams ranking ahead of the Bears in this power ranking are the Packers, Falcons, Rams, Saints, and Eagles. Those are some heavy hitters on the offensive side of the ball, so being lumped in with that group is nothing to shake your head at – especially since the Bears are the only team in that group that hasn’t taken the field together yet.
It’s a surprise pick, but Roling calls Trubisky “franchise-quarterback material” and notes that he gets to throw to a much more talented group of pass-catchers – including Anthony Miller, who he views as one of the draft’s steals.
Roling is also high on the offensive line, even going as far as to say left tackle isn’t a concern with Charles Leno Jr. holding it down and the addition of James Daniels to the interior offensive line. Tack on the running back tandem of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, and the Bears’ offense looks to be sneaky good with the arrival of Nagy and new offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich.
Maurice Moton handles the defensive power rankings for Bleacher Report, and once again you’ll see the Bears among the upper crust of the league – No. 9 in this iteration.
No shocker here, especially since the Bears’ defense ranked ninth in points and 10th in yards in an injury-mired 2017 season. The gang is back together with Fangio and his three top cornerbacks (Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara, and Bryce Callahan) returning to the fold. Chicago’s secondary being in tact for a second straight season should make for some good chemistry for a group that will be challenged by some of the NFL’s most prolific passers. The front seven added help in free agency with outside linebacker Aaron Lynch, as well as the draft with Smith and depth pieces such as Bilal Nichols, Joel Iyiegbuniwe, and Kylie Fitts. And if Lynch and Fitts are productive in 2017, it would go a long way toward offsetting the departures of Pernell McPhee, Willie Young, and Lamarr Houston.
A top-10 defense and an offense that finds itself just barely on the outside of the top-10 looking in at the probably shouldn’t add up to a ranking among the bottom-5. And while I’m not sure the Bears are on the cusp of being a top-10 team in the league, I’m guessing they’re closer to that than the bottom five.
Frankly, there’s no doubt the Bears look better now than they did at this time last year, or at any point last season. Sure, every team has made its share of improvements – Chicago isn’t alone in that regard – but ranking them 28th feels too low when you take everything into consideration.