This article is part of our Team Previews series.
The offense is hoping to take a big jump in the second season of the Matt Nagy-Mitchell Trubisky experiment. If the weapons surrounding Trubisky show improved cohesion and Nagy's playcalling maximizes the talent, the Bears could be a lethal unit, both on the ground and through the air.
THREE THINGS TO KNOW
TRUBISKY TRENDING UPWARD
After a handful of big performances early last season that stemmed from his dual-threat abilities, Mitchell Trubisky looked as if he was bursting onto the scene. In his first nine games, he managed at least 300 passing yards on four occasions and multiple touchdown throws six times. Plus, he averaged 7.8 yards per carry and scored three TDs on the ground during that span. An injury to his right throwing shoulder forced Trubisky to the sideline Weeks 12 and 13, and he was far less effective upon his return. Through the Bears' wild-card loss to the Eagles, he put up only 6.7 yards per pass attempt (as opposed to 7.9 before the absence) and dashed for a measly 3.4 YPC across five games. As he gears up for a second year under coach Matt Nagy, Trubisky will be looking to take the next step with familiar faces at wide receiver and tight end, and some new ones at running back. Trubisky has an alpha receiver in Allen Robinson and matchup problems in change-of-pace back Tarik Cohen and tight end Trey Burton. Along with that trio, Taylor Gabriel can take the top off defenses, and young wideouts Anthony Miller and Riley Ridley are waiting in the wings. Even if Trubisky doesn't experience much of an uptick in his 31 passes per game from 2018, he'll be on the fantasy radar with the help of his skill-position mates and his own noted mobility.
CHANGES BREWING IN THE BACKFIELD
The Bears leaned on Jordan Howard after drafting him in 2016, and he rewarded them by averaging more than 1,300 yards from scrimmage and eight touchdowns per season. However, with Matt Nagy installing a new offense last year, it was clear that Howard's lack of receiving skills made the offense too predictable when he was on the field. As a result, Howard was dealt to the Eagles in March. After the Bears traded up to select David Montgomery in the third round of the draft, he seems to be a top candidate for work on early downs and occasionally in passing situations. The latter will remain the domain of Tarik Cohen, but Montgomery displayed some acumen as a receiver at Iowa State, hauling in 71 passes across three collegiate seasons. The Bears also made the free-agent addition of Mike Davis, who made an impact in the Seahawks' similarly run-heavy scheme in 2018 with 728 scrimmage yards and five TDs on 146 touches. The presence of the 5-9, 217-pound Davis throws a wrench into the pecking order of this backfield. Both Davis and Montgomery (5-10, 222) are capable of handling most scenarios, so whoever gets a leg up between the two may see the largest share of snaps given to running backs Week 1 and beyond. Meanwhile, Cohen is unlikely to deviate much from his week-to-week volatility from last season.
DEFENSE SHOULD OVERCOME LOSS OF FANGIO
Replacing defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, now the coach of the Broncos, will be no small feat. For years, his ability to confuse quarterbacks through scheme made his defenses greater than the sum of their parts. No matter, the Bears have a talent-laden unit that should keep it among the league's finest. As always, the pass rush will be crucial, with the trio of Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks and Leonard Floyd in search of another 50-sack campaign. At inside linebacker, Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan possess a mixture of range and tackling ability to limit opposing rushing attacks. With a stout front seven intact and playmaker Eddie Jackson holding down the fort at free safety, steady cornerback play is needed, and Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara provide just that on the outside. If there's a weakness at any level, free agency is to blame after slot corner Bryce Callahan and safety Adrian Amos found new homes in Denver and Green Bay, respectively. Those spots are expected to be taken over by experienced but less-renowned players like Buster Skrine and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, which could leave the Bears somewhat vulnerable down the middle. In the end, though, the rest of the defense is so well-stocked, and system ingrained, that losing Fangio and two key members of the secondary shouldn't cause a drastic dip in performance.
PIVOTAL PLAYER: Tarik Cohen
The Bears made changes to the backfield this offseason, leaving Cohen as the one proven entity. If he maintains his usage from 2018, he'll be a great source of catches, though his yardage totals could swing wildly. As evidence, he recorded 60 yards from scrimmage seven times last year while failing to reach 40 such yards on four occasions.
RISING: Allen Robinson
Not only was Robinson getting accustomed to a new offense and teammates in 2018, but he was returning from a torn ACL. After a slow start, he averaged 67 receiving yards over his last seven regular-season appearances.
FALLING: Taylor Gabriel
After putting up career highs in catches and yards in his first season in Chicago, Gabriel will have to contend with second-year pro Anthony Miller and rookie Riley Ridley for snaps and targets in the receiving corps.
SLEEPER: Trey Burton
Burton had a degree of success in his initial chance as a No. 1 tight end, going for 7.5 yards per target and six TDs. Assuming he recovers from sports hernia surgery, he could build upon those numbers in a TE-friendly system.
KEY JOB BATTLE – EARLY-DOWN RUNNING BACK
Mike Davis signed a modest two-year, $6 million contract in March, and after the trade of Jordan Howard to the Eagles later that month, Davis was looking like he'd take over the early-down running back role that previously belonged to Howard. Things changed at the draft when the Bears traded up to select David Montgomery with the 73rd overall pick. An August battle for those reps is now on tap between Davis and Montgomery. Although Davis made the most of his 112 rushes with the Seahawks last season by posting a career-high 4.6 YPC, he averaged 2.9 yards per carry prior to 2018. Moreover, his contract indicates he isn't the long-term answer for the job. No matter, if Davis outworks and outplays Montgomery in the preseason, he'd stake a claim to a gig that has been fruitful for years. Whoever wins the competition will be in line for a significant number of touches.
MIKE DAVIS – RB (from Seahawks)
A productive 2018 indicates he'll be reliable when called upon.
DAVID MONTGOMERY – RB (Rd. 3, No. 73 – Iowa State)
Could be an upgrade from Jordan Howard thanks to his versatility.
CORDARRELLE PATTERSON – WR (from Patriots)
Touches may be hard to come by, but he has utility as a returner.
RILEY RIDLEY – WR (Rd. 4, No. 126 – Georgia)
Savvy possession receiver likely to begin his career as a reserve.
JORDAN HOWARD – RB (to Eagles)
Heavily utilized since 2016 but not a great fit in Matt Nagy's system.
CODY PARKEY – K</i> (FA)
Missed tries in key spots kickstarted a wide search for a replacement.
ADRIAN AMOS – S (to Packers)
A steady tackler, his presence on back end of the defense will be missed.
KEVIN WHITE – WR (to Cardinals)
The 2015 first-rounder busted, with just 294 total yards in 14 games.
THE INJURY FRONT
Trey Burton, TE – After playing in all 16 games last year, Burton suffered a sports hernia injury that kept him out of the Bears' lone playoff contest and later required surgery. While he missed the entire offseason program, the Bears expect him to be on the field to start training camp. Because Burton doesn't have any real competition, he'll continue to build chemistry with Mitchell Trubisky in his second season in the system.
Anthony Miller, WR – Miller showed great toughness by suiting up for 15 games as a rookie despite dislocating his shoulder on multiple occasions, which ultimately required corrective surgery in January. The procedure kept him out of OTAs and minicamp, but he's slated to practice at the start of training camp. After notching a respectable 7.8 YPT and seven touchdowns on 54 targets in 2018, he'll enter as the No. 3 receiver, at least, and may even challenge Taylor Gabriel for slotting behind Allen Robinson.
Aaron Lynch, LB – Lynch re-signed with the Bears after making three starts for the team in 2018. In mid-December, he sprained his right elbow, which didn't require surgery, and he's expected to make a full recovery. During training camp, he'll look to retain his spot on the depth chart that currently has him as a backup outside linebacker.