Chicago Bears 2021 Season Preview
Head Coach: Matt Nagy
General Manager: Ryan Pace
2020 Regular Season Record: 8-8
2020 Result: Lost in Wild Card Game
The Chicago Bears head into 2021 just 4 years removed from drafting Mitch Trubisky with the second overall pick. Trubisky is a member of the Buffalo Bills now via free agency. Enter the newly crowned saviour, Justin Fields, in which the Bears traded up to select with the 11th overall pick. These two quarterbacks couldn’t be any different coming into the league. Trubisky had seen very little experience at the college level, while Fields has been there and done that at Ohio State. He’s played for National Championships and won BIG10 titles. The Bears are hoping with his pedigree he can be the quarterback the franchise has been starving for.
The problem is that Matt Nagy has been committed to starting Andy Dalton in week 1 of the NFL season. There are only two logical reasons as to why Nagy would go with an aging never-was QB in Dalton. The first is that Nagy believes playing Dalton this season will buy him more time as the Bears head coach. By sitting Fields for the majority of the season he can say to management and ownership that he wants to take it slow with their star QB and in turn he’ll earn another season at the helm. The other could be to keep Fields from making his first NFL start against the league’s top defense in the Los Angeles Rams. Going on the road against Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey isn’t ideal for any QB let alone a rookie in their first appearance.
Justin Fields reminds me so much of Deshaun Watson. Both quarterbacks were seriously overlooked in the draft process after playing at an elite level in college. They displayed elite athletic traits and were proven winners but for some reason teams wanted to go with another guy. Fields natural rushing ability isn’t quite at the level Watson’s was but he’s got great touch with the football and had a 70% completion percentage in his final season at Ohio State.
Let’s get into the rest of the offense. Whoever is in at QB they’ll have one of the most consistent and reliable targets in the NFL in Allen Robinson. Robinson hasn’t missed a game since 2018 and is likely to see 150 targets again in 2021. Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet had solid rookie seasons and should see expanded roles this season. Mooney was the field stretcher the Bears had been missing, his 23 deep targets ranked 11th in the NFL in 2020. Kmet really developed into a solid option between the 20’s last season, he had a true catch rate of 93.3% which ranked 4th at the position.
The offensive line is a major question mark for this offense. Teven Jenkins is having back surgery and could miss the entire 2021 season. Jenkins was taken in the second round in this years draft and was expected to immediately fill in on the left side. PFF ranked the Bears as the 28th overall offensive line with Jenkins on the unit. Yet another reason for the more mobile Fields to be under center this season.
There has been some important turnover to take into account with this defensive unit. Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano retired after the 2020 season so Sean Desai was internally promoted to take over this year. The team also moved on from a staple in the secondary in Kyle Fuller. They spent a pretty penny on Robert Quinn on the defensive line to take some attention away from Khalil Mack. Eddie Goldman also returns after opting out of the 2020 season.
Desmond Trufant and sophomore Kindle Vildor are competing for the second cornerback spot behind Jaylon Johnson. Eddie Jackson is going to need to have a bounce back season at free safety. The pass defense was questionable last season so Johnson is going to need to take a sizeable second year leap to improve their result.
Roquan Smith is a budding star at the lineback position. His sideline to sideline work led the Bears great rushing defense. Opponents averaged 4.1 yards per attempt last season and opponents also had less than 1 touchdown per game on the ground. Look for the group up front to continue their high level play agianst the run in 2021.
CHICAGO BEARS 2021 RECORD: 9-8
This prediction is undoubtedly predicated on Justin Fields getting on the field after week 1. The Bengals are a much better team to start your career against. Fields is going to set the football world on fire and win his first 4 starts in the NFL. Otherwise, this defense should still be one fo the leagues top units in 2021 and will carry this group to some wins. Picking up those divisional wins against Detroit and Minnesota will be crucial to competing for a wild card spot.