The Chicago Bears front office enacted sweeping changes in order to upgrade an offense that was punch-less, lackluster, and frustrating to watch during the John Fox era.
But count ESPN’s Bill Barnwell in among the believers in the new-look Bears offense. Barnwell ranked the offensive weapons for each of the NFL’s 32 teams, and placed the Bears just barely inside the top-10 – before the group has even played a single down together. That’s high praise and it says a lot about what football analysts believe about the job GM Ryan Pace did in the offseason to revamp the offensive side of the roster.
The idea here was for Barnwell to get a grasp of each team’s skill-position talent and projecting how they will perform in 2018. Certainly the Bears have more talent, and thus, a higher ceiling when it comes to projections. Barnwell’s rankings skew more toward receivers, of which the Bears added plenty during the offseason. HOWEVER, Chicago finds its weapons ranked among the league’s best because of a pair of players returning from last year’s squad.
“What pushes the Bears up these rankings, instead, is their one-two punch at halfback,” Barnwell writes. “Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen will combine to post a cap hit of about $1.4 million and might very well project to be the best pair of running backs in football, if (Mark) Ingram and (Alvin) Kamara slip.”
Howard and Cohen were the bright spots in what otherwise were dark times for Dowell Loggains’ offense. Howard rushed for more than 1,000 yards and scored nine rushing touchdowns, while Cohen was more of a factor as gadget player and receiver out of the backfield. Between adding a new coaching staff, playbook, and receivers on the outside, the Bears’ running back tandem figures to be even more potent than it was last year.
To be clear, Howard and Cohen alone don’t push this group into the top-10. Having a clear-cut No. 1 receiver option in Allen Robinson goes a long way toward pointing this offense in the right direction. Fellow free agent additions Trey Burton and Taylor Gabriel each have upside they can tap into with the additional playing time they’ll receive in Chicago that they weren’t getting in their previous spots. The drafting of Anthony Miller in the second round helps round out the group and give it some much needed depth.
Because of the group assembled by Pace and the front office, quarterback Mitch Trubisky won’t have to do it all and shoulder more than his share of the offensive load. This is good news for Trubisky and the organization as a whole. And while the group has yet to play a single down, the expectations are that they’ll look good once all the pieces are in place and on the field together. That journey begins a week from today when players start reporting to training camp at Bourbonnais.