The 2018 Chicago Bears are the New 2017 LA Rams

The Chicago Bears are reportedly signing Allen Robinson, finally adding to the WR corps that was possibly the league’s worst the year before. Da Bears have been making interesting moves all summer, mostly off the field, getting a new offensive minded head coach in Matt Nagy and filling up his staff with people who have good resumés.

The most important change for Chicago, apart from their #9 draft pick, will be the development of their young squad and particularly their 2nd year quarterback. Does it sound familiar? The 5-11 Bears from last year might be following the blueprint of the 2017 Los Angeles Rams. Here are some similarities:

2nd Year QB Who Was a High Draft Pick

The 2017 Rams: Jared Goff (Picked 1st in 2016)
The 2018 Bears: Mitchell Trubisky (Picked 2nd in 2017)

Both QBs were picked high in the draft, but they also had a lot of doubters after being chosen in the top 2. Goff was able to prove his doubters wrong last season after looking like a bust in the 7 games he got in his rookie campaign.

The 2016 Rams used Case Keenum and Nick Foles before they went with Jared Goff. None of them looked good that year, despite how much success all 3 had last season. Keenum and Foles found success as eventual starting QBs elsewhere, but don’t expect the same from Mike Glennon and Mark Sanchez. Jared Goff became the starting QB for the Rams 2017 season, and showed us why he was a high pick.

Trubisky on the other hand is still an unknown quantity. He certainly showed some promise, especially working out of the bootleg and various trick-plays that new HC Matt Nagy will look to use more of. Under last season’s head coach, the conservative John Fox, cursed with a WR corp where the best player was Kendall Wright, it was difficult for Trubisky to fulfill his potential.

Run, Run, Pass became a familiar play-calling tactic for the Bears, and while the opposition stacked the box to stop Jordan Howard, the Bears WRs failed to take advantage. Nagy will look to change up this formula and trust his quarterback more to get the best out of Trubisky.

While neither Goff or Trubisky look likely to outperform their fellow top drafted QBs Carson Wentz and DeShaun Watson, they both have potential to become SuperBowl winning QBs in the future. Hey, if Eli Manning did it, why not Trubisky?

New Offensive Minded Head Coach

New 2017 Rams Head Coach: Sean McVay
New 2018 Bears Head Coach: Matt Nagy

LA Rams’ Sean McVay took the NFL by storm last season and ended up winning Coach of The Year. Taking a 4-12 team and make them win 11 games the next season is no easy feat, but with McVay’s high powered offense, his Rams did just that. The 31(!) year old former Washington Redskins OC was a breath of fresh air after several mediocre seasons under NFL veteran coach Jeff Fisher and the Rams reaped the rewards.

The 2018 Bears are hoping for a similar change. As I mentioned, the old-school John Fox wasn’t working out for the Bears. Matt Nagy on the other hand comes from the successful coaching tree of Andy Reid and is the former Kansas City Chiefs OC, like last year’s SuperBowl winning head coach Doug Pederson was.

While Andy Reid has tutored guys like Pederson, Ron Rivera, John Harbaugh and new Giants head coach Pat Shurmur, Reid himself claims that Matt Nagy is the best head coaching candidate he has had. High praise from one of the league’s premiere head coaches. Let’s hope Matt Nagy won’t have as many time-managing issues.

A Young, Hungry, Developing Defense

The 2017 Rams Defense (YouTube Link)
The 2018 Bears Defense (YouTube Link)

The turnaround on offense was the main reason the 2017 Rams ended up being a success, but their defensive prowess earned their top defender, Aaron Donald, a fully deserved Defensive Player of The Year award. The Rams defense last year, ranked 6th in defensive DVOA, made them one of the top defensive units in the league.

Just below them that year, were the underrated and overlooked Chicago Bears defense. Da Bears ranked 14th in defensive DVOA (Don’t ask for Offensive DVOA). The 2017 Bears defense were probably better than the average 2016 Rams defense.

The main reason for that is while the Rams just hired new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips last year, the Bears already had their man in place with Vic Fangio. These DCs could be a separate similarity by themselves, as both are old veterans who complement their young offensive minded coaches really well.

Wade Phillips came from the 2016 SuperBowl Champions Denver Broncos and their vaunted defense, while Vic Fangio came over to Chicago in 2015 after coordinating the 49ers defense that took Colin Kaepernick all the way to a SuperBowl in 2013. He has steadily improved what started as a bottom 5 defense into almost a top 10 defense. With a new contract for Fangio, Da Bears defense is set to improve even more this coming year.

They might not have a stud in the mold of Aaron Donald, but they are stacked with mostly young talent. They have guys ready to usher in another dominant defensive Bears era in Leonard Floyd, Eddie Goldman, Akiem Hicks, Eddie Jackson, Adrian Amos and the breakout player from last year, former 1st round pick Kyle Fuller.

Speaking of 1st round picks… the Bears are drafting at #9. That is not similar to the Rams, who traded their 2017 1st rounder for Goff. With the #9 draft pick, the Bears could possibly draft another top young talent on defense like the athletic linebacker Tremaine Edmunds or the best corner in the (college) game, Denzel Ward. The CB position is deep in this draft, so getting someone like Mike Hughes or my personal favorite Joshua Jackson in the 2nd round is also a possibility.

The 2018 Bears defense might become one of the league’s best, especially if their offence can keep the defense off the field a bit more than they did a year ago. There are more signs that point towards that being the case, mainly:

New And Improved Wide Receivers

Rams WRs 16 -> 17: T. Austin, K. Britt -> S. Watkins, R. Woods, C. Kupp
Bears WRs 17 -> 18: K. Wright, M. Wheaton -> A. Robinson, C. Meredith, Taylor Gabriel, Trey Burton

I mentioned earlier how Chicago Bears’ best Wide Receiver last season was Kendall Wright, but the main option for the 2016 LA Rams was Tavon Austin. When used correctly, Austin is a very fun player to watch, but he is barely even a Wide Receiver. No wonder the Rams were so inept that they made the best RB in the game look bad. More on that later.

The 2017 Rams started fixing those mistakes, by trading for former #4 pick Sammy Watkins, signing the quick and promising Robert Woods and then drafting Cooper Kupp with the 69th pick. Nice turnaround for the Rams, who went from averaging the 5th least Yards per Reception in 2016 to the most Yards per Reception in 2017.

Similarly to the 2016 Rams, the 2017 Chicago Bears had the 5th least Yards per Reception in the league. They also had the least receiving yards total, something even the 2016 Rams Wide Receivers managed to avoid. It’s no surprise, considering they only had Kendall Wright, Marcus Wheaton (lol), the usual 4 games of Kevin White and a tryout for Dontrelle Inman at the end of the year.

Only veteran Tight End Zach Miller was an above average pass catcher for Da Bears and he suffered a brutal knee injury 8 games into the season that might have ended his career. He sacrificed it all to get a much needed TD, but the referees inexplicably reversed the decision, adding insult to injury. Get well soon Zach, we’re all rooting for one of the best people in the NFL.

So where do the Bears get their improvement from? Like I mentioned at the top of this piece, Allen Robinson is expected to sign when free agency opens Wednesday March 14th. In case you forgot how good ARob could be, here’s a reminder:

I had him in Fantasy team that season. I’ll be sure to draft him again.

Another potential Fantasy sleeper is Cameron Meredith, who I think was set to surprise a lot of folks last season before he suffered a season-ending ACL tear as the season was about to start. It remains to be seen how much that will effect him in his return, but his mini-breakout year in 2016 was good enough for Chicago to let go of Alshon Jeffery. A stupid decision nonetheless, but the former undrafted WR Meredith has potential regardless.

Kevin White was supposed to have a lot of potential when he was drafted as high as #7 in the 2015 NFL Draft. The Bears haven’t seen much of that talent when White has played, which has been a disappointing total of only 5 NFL games so far. The constant injury issues has made it tough for White, who so far looks like a bust.

To be honest, I have disregarded Kevin White as a factor for the Bears, but there is that ever so slim chance he could show why he was so highly regarded out of college. I’m not holding my breath.

Still, there are more options for the Bears to bolster their offence with some pass-catchers, either through more free agent signings or drafting one of the many WR prospects from the 2018 NFL Draft. There are no must-have WRs from the draft after Calvin Ridley’s disappointing Combine, but there is quite a lot of depth, like Christian Kirk or the beautifully named Equanimeous St. Brown. Kendall Wright might be re-signed as a WR3, not the WR1 he posed as last season.

UPDATE: The Bears just signed TE Trey Burton, who ironically gave the 2017 LA Rams trouble last season.

DOUBLE UPDATE: Bears also signed Taylor Gabriel, who contrary to popular belief is not a slot receiver.

Stud Running Backs

Rams Starting RB: Todd Gurley (YouTube Link)
Bears Starting RB: Jordan Howard (YouTube Link)

While both teams lacked receivers, neither team had a reason to worry about their starting running back. Gurley was an absolute beast in his rookie season, but struggled in his 2nd year with no passing attack to take the pressure off of him. With a new WR corps, Gurley returned to and even surpassed his impressive first year form. He finished 2nd in the MVP voting. THE MVP VOTING.

Jordan Howard might not have MVP potential, but he has possibly been the most consistent rusher the last 2 years. He has a combined 2435 rushing yards in his first 2 seasons, reaching the 1000 yard mark both times. Super impressive numbers for a 5th round draft pick facing stacked boxes every game.

Gurley separates himself by being an elite pass catcher though, while “Bear Jordan” had a couple of bad drops last season. Luckily for Chicago, they drafted another RB last season who complements Howard really well.

Some call him “The Human Joy-Stick”, others call him “Chicken Salad”, I call him one of the most exciting players in the game, Tarik Cohen.

He had an inconsistent rookie year, but a lot of that is because of John Fox’s predictable and stagnant offense. Not only that, but silly penalties by the Bears negated 9 plays by Cohen, diminishing his numbers even more. That includes a 90 yard kickoff return, a 15 yard TD reception and a 67 yard punt return. Tarik Cohen can do it all.

Not only do the 2018 Bears have a new head coach, but they got a new offensive coordinator as well. Mark Hellfrich has served as both head coach and offensive coordinator for the exciting Oregon Ducks. They reached the National Championship Game in 2015 with Marcus Mariota as QB and Hellfrich as head coach.

The hiring is good news for both QB Mitchell Trubisky and Cohen himself. They will be key contributors if Hellfrich wants to implement some of the innovative Oregon Ducks offense.

There you have it. 5 reasons why the 2018 Chicago Bears might be headed in the same direction as the 2017 LA Rams went. A promising QB, a new young head coach, a potentially elite defense, improved receivers and a stud Running Back. The 2017 Rams were a lot of fun to watch and hopefully Da Bears can be just as fun this season.

There are still free agents to sign and players to draft, but by signing Allen Robinson, the Chicago Bears might finally be on track to return to the playoffs.

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