With free agency and the draft behind us, ESPN’s Mike Clay is steamrolling through his statistical projections for each of the NFL’s 32 teams.
Clay shared his projected stats for the 2018 Chicago Bears today, and there is a bunch to sort through:
— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) May 15, 2018
Let’s dig into some highlights:
Mitch Trubisky Will Take “The Big Step” in 2018
Everything GM Ryan Pace has done this offseason has been with quarterback Mitch Trubisky in mind. New offensive-minded, quarterback-friendly head coach, young pass-catching options, who were added via the draft and free agency, and everything else that was put together this offseason was done with the goal of maximizing their window while Trubisky realizes his potential as a franchise quarterback on a rookie scale contract.
Clay’s projections have Trubisky putting together a big year in the passing department, throwing for 3,951 yards and 23 touchdowns. The 13 interceptions would be in line with a 2.2 percent interception rate, but the 23 touchdowns would represent an increase in TD% from 2.1% to 4.1% – and that’s pretty darn significant.
If Trubisky was to live up to these projections, odds are we’ll be feeling good about what happened in 2018 and what could be on the horizon.
A Healthy Leonard Floyd Does Something Special
We’re entering Year 3 of the Leonard Floyd experience and still find ourselves waiting for the breakout. Floyd has shown flashes of big-play ability, and that his best games have come against the Green Bay Packers just pushes us to dream the biggest dreams about what he will look like if he can make it through an entire season healthy.
If Floyd can make it through without missing too much game action, it won’t be a stretch to envision the double-digit-sack season Clay’s projections have set for the University of Georgia product. The projections have Floyd leading the team in sacks (10) and tackles-for-loss (15) in a 940-snap season.
Floyd has 11.5 sacks in 22 career games, but has been bugged by slow starts and injuries in his first two seasons. He had a strong middle of the year in 2017 before a season-ending knee injury put an end to hopes that Year 2 would ultimately be his breakout campaign.
The Bears Will Have Impact Rookies on Both Sides of the Ball
Chicago made a shrewd move to slide back into the second round to take Memphis All-American receiver Anthony Miller with the 51st overall pick. It’s a move that will pay dividends for Trubisky and the rest of the offense, as Miller is projected to be the Bears’ second-leading receiver with 51 catches, 657 yards, and three touchdowns.
I suppose having Allen Robinson’s veteran presence on the other side of the formation. And by veteran presence, I mean a 73-catch, 1,046-yard, 7-touchdown season in the first year after signing a free agent mega-deal in Chicago.
On the other side of the ball, Clay’s projections see Roquan Smith living up to his first-round billing. A projected 92-tackle season would make for a solid year for Smith, who would be the team’s second-leading tackler behind Danny Trevathan, according to these projections.
Game-by-Game Projections Hint at the Bears Being Better
When it comes to the Bears’ projected record in 2018, we’re looking at a good news, bad news situation.
The good news is that the Bears will be markedly improved in Matt Nagy’s first year compared to where the team was in John Fox’s final season. But the bad news is that they won’t be nearly good enough to make a surprise postseason run. Darn.
Still, a projected 7.4 win total is nothing to sneeze at if we allow ourselves to take a step back and check out the big picture. A 7-win season would be a two-win improvement and could be viewed as a sign that the Bears’ arrow is truly pointing up. Chicago has a win probability of 50 percent or better in seven of its first nine games, but the team’s win probability dips to 45 percent or lower in six of their final seven contests.
An improved offense is projected by Clay to score 344 points. That’s 80 more points than last season and the most for any Bears team since 2013. Further, the team is projected to score 21 points in 13 of its 16 games. The Bears scored 21+ points nine times in the last two seasons and 17 times in the 48 games in which John Fox was the team’s head coach. Unfortunately, the 361 points allowed by the defense would be 41 more points than what was given up last season.