Ladies and gentlemen, after what seems like an eternity we have arrived. The offseason is entering rookie training camps, and OTAâ€™s are around the corner. After what I can call an absolute home run of a draft, the Chicago Bears have created a ton of buzz about the 2021 season. Statistically, however, the Bears have the 3rd toughest schedule, according to CBS Sports, with a collective opponent 2020 win rate of .550. The schedule appears to be designed with rookie quarterback Justin Fields in mind, as those crafty heads up at NFL HQ slated a majority of the Bears primetime match-ups towards the latter half of the season. You know, just in case Head Coach Matt Nagy pulls the plug on the Dalton experience and throws Fields into the mix.
With all this being said, this season is shaping up to define the direction of the franchise for the next 3-4 years. I donâ€™t foresee the Bears marching into Sofi Stadium in early February, but that doesnâ€™t mean there arenâ€™t a plethora of people and developments to watch this season. From returning talents like James Daniel and Eddie Goldman to the continuing development of Darnell Mooney and David Montgomery. This season is sure to excite any fan. Here are the top 5 things to be excited about as a Bears fan heading into the 2021 NFL season.Â
#5: The boys are back in town – Linemen win games
When burgeoning talent DT Eddie Goldman announced his decision to opt-out of the 2020 NFL season, it felt like being hit by a truck. I imagine thatâ€™s what opposing Centers and Guards felt as he tore through offensive lines with ease in 2019. I understand the decision though the game is just that – a game. Personal health and family safety will always be more important. I can only hope Goldman picks up where he left off, completing a key tandem with Akiem Hicks anchoring our rush defense.
Another returner this season is pro-bowl OL utilityman, James Daniel. This one gets me excited. After suffering a season-ending pectoral injury in week 5, Bers fans saw a carousel of line-men attempting to stabilize the front 5. Surprising breakout performances by former practice squad members Alex bars and Sam Mustipher indicate the front three interior linemen positions have both depth and talent on the roster. Daniels’ return also signals a much-needed return to stability.Â
Bears GM Ryan Pace clearly made improving the Offensive Line a top priority in the off-season. Bringing in Elijah Wilkinson in Free Agency, re-signing Germain Ifedi, and trading up in the second round to steal Oklahoma State stud Teven Jenkins, while selecting Missouri big man Larry Borom in the 6th. Charles Leno and Bobbie Massie will not be returning to Chicago this season. Honestly, I’m not all that upset about it.
Jenkins will most likely get the starting nod at the left tackle spot. This leaves the Right tackle spot an area for competition. Offensive life coach Juan Castillo told reporters that â€œLarry Borom will compete with Germain Ifedi at RT, but Ifedi will line up at RT to start the season.â€ That leaves the rest of us wondering if Daniels lines up at center as he did in 2019, or at guard allowing Sam Mustipher to continue his hot play. Regardless of the endless possibilities on the interior offensive line, it looks stacked. David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen (also returning from injury) are sure to eat up the run game with James Daniel’s return to the line.
#4: This is Desaiâ€™s world, weâ€™re just living in itÂ
Thereâ€™s a new defensive sheriff in town, and his name is Sean Desai. A branch off the oleâ€™ Vic Fangio tree, Sean Desai is a defensive secondary scheme savant. I love Chuck Pagano, an amazing man with an amazing story. But his secondary schemes did not play well to the secondary talent acquired under the Fangio years. After the 2018 Bears Defense dominated the league, the 2019 & 2020 Bears rewarded fans with a step back in just about every metric.
Under Desai, I strongly think the Bears defense is in store for a return to form. Desai is not only an actual professor, holding a Ph.D. from Temple University and teaching classes at Lake Forrest College, but he also schools offenses with his secondary schemes. Doc Desaiâ€™s ability to educate and communicate with players lead to his glowing review from DB Prince Amukamara. As Chicago Bears reporter with the Chicago Tribune, Brad Biggs reports, â€œAmukamara credits Desai for the first pick-six of his career.â€
Look, I still believe Eddie Jackson is a top 5 safety in the NFL. I hope he lives up to his reputation this year under a defense that will be built on the backs of the Bears secondary. Losing Kyle Fuller may throw a wrench in Desai’s plan, but young products like Jaylon Johnson and Kendel Vildor will continue to establish themselves as dominant forces. In a schedule that features quarterbacks such as Tom Brady, Matt Stafford, Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, Lamar Jackson, Russell Willson, and more. A staunch pass defense will be a necessity if the Bears hope to see success.Â
#3: From cubs into Bears – Offensive ProspectsÂ
The 2021 Chicago Bears roster is full of 2nd and 3rd years players poised to become household names.
David Montgomery went on a tear ending the season, with over 100 yards in three out of six games. Finishing the 2020 season with just a hair over 1000 yards, I am confident we will see another 1k yard season in 2021. Iâ€™m putting my money around 1400. Expect Monty to continue his elite ability to break open-field tackles. His vision is one of the best in the league and I can’t wait to see him put defenses on notice.Â
Darnell Mooney What another mid-round steal for Ryan Pace. This kid is fast, has elite hands, and is first among rookie WR’s in broken tackles according to PFF. Any rookie that buys a Juggs machine with his first paycheck then proceeds on to drop only one pass after being targeted 98 times in a season is good in my book.Â His speed and route running abilities will be a feature of this offense as Justin Fields establishes himself as QB1. Mooney has a knack for burning nickel corners and getting behind safeties. Fields has a knack at throwing incredibly accurate deep balls. Let’s hope Jalen Ramsey can keep up this time.Â
Anthony Miller — This one is a controversial take, a bit spicy if you will. Miller has every tool needed to be an elite slot in the NFL. He just hasnâ€™t taken the next step. With his career on the line, I think he has every reason to do it this year. Thereâ€™s valid concern around Millerâ€™s maturity. After his late-game ejection against the Saints, many called for the Bears to ship him off during the season. I think it was a wise decision by the front office to keep Miller on staff. As wide receiver coach Mike Furrey stated, â€œThereâ€™s a small increment in improvement so heâ€™s done great, heâ€™s been in our rooms, no issues.â€ Drafting speedy slot Dazz Newsome also sends a blunt message to Anthony Miller, saying â€œwe have a replacement, let us know when we need to put him in.â€
#2: The Packers? What is going on over there?Â
How does it feel to have talent surrounding a big question mark under center? Thatâ€™s what being a Bears fan has felt like for the past three decades. Aaron Rodgers doesnâ€™t want to play in Green Bay, and I donâ€™t blame him. The team is refusing to let him walk, and I donâ€™t blame them. Regardless of what happens, I have to admit this has all been extremely amusing. If Blake Bortles becomes QB1 for the Green Bay Packers, this will be one fun show to watch.Â Â
#1.5: Getting to see live football again
My first live Chicago Bears game was in the 2015 preseason against the Kansas City Chiefs. We got blown out. But seeing Cutler, Jefferies, and Howard live was amazing. Itâ€™ll feel even more amazing to see Justin Fields and this talented unit out on the field again. Thereâ€™s nothing quite like being at a Football game. I canâ€™t wait to go back.Â
#1: Fiel- I mean the Rookies.Â
Paceâ€™s trade with the New York Giants to move up to pick #11 and snag Justin Fields was the shot of adrenaline the Bears fanbase needed. After two consecutive years of letdowns, it seems like the Front Office has finally started listening to the fans. This was Ryan Paceâ€™s best draft as GM. No contest. Pace was able to steal early-round talent late in the draft with picks like Khalil Herbert, Thomas Graham Jr., and Dazz Newsome. He filled needs in the Offensive Line with Maulers like Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom.
Iâ€™m stoked to see Justin Fields on Soldier Field. Also, these UDFAâ€™s are fantastic as well. Charles Snowden, an early-round talent, went undrafted. The 6â€™7â€, 240 lb monster of a man is listed early as a defensive lineman. To all the rookies, if you ever end up reading this. Take a breath. Welcome to the greatest city on Earth. Congratulations, and get ready to play some Bears football.Â
Altogether, buckle up Bears fans. Though we may not win a ton of games, this team is poised to turn heads. I havenâ€™t been this excited about a season since, well, honestly I canâ€™t remember!Â