The Chicago Bears have made some significant changes since the end of last season, acquiring multiple free agents, drafting nine rookies with plenty of upside and establishing a new culture under head coach, John Fox.
However, there are still concerns that surround this team …
Here are five potential problems for the upcoming season.
1. Lack of Turnovers
The Bears have always identified themselves with having a good defense and used to pride themselves by creating turnovers. Over the past four seasons, the once proud defensive team has lost its historically engraved identity.
Last season, the Bears were ranked 28th in the league with 17 turnovers, eight being interceptions and nine fumbles. The defense did not give the offense many short-field opportunities to score and with an offense that isn’t the most dynamic, every yard is important.
Under defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, the defense forced less turnovers than the previous season with Mel Tucker in charge. Tucker’s defense forced 24 turnovers and was ranked 20th in the league.
With new players at each position on defense, it will be interesting to see if Fangio now has the personnel to increase the turnovers, like he once helped do with the 49ers.
For the Bears, creating turnovers will be a top priority for next season if they want to continue to make strides in the right direction.
As the old saying goes and still remains true: Defense wins championships.
2. Special Teams Struggle
Bears kicker Robbie Gould used to be automatic when it came to hitting field goals and this earned him the nickname “Good as Gould.”
That wasn’t the case last season: Gould missed a potential game-winning field goal against the 49ers and then a game-tying field goal the following week against the Redskins. The Bears ended up losing both games.
Can Gould be trusted when his number is called to kick that game-winning field goal? Who knows.
Gould isn’t the only potential problem on special teams, the Bears gave up three returns for touchdowns last season, two kickoffs and one punt, which was good for the most in the league.
On the flip side, the Bears didn’t have a single return for a touchdown. Remember when a guy by the name of Devin Hester would not only return kicks and punts for touchdowns, but he would do it multiple times in a game?
The Bears are long gone from the good old Hester days, but the team needs to find someone who can provide a spark when it comes to the return game.
3. Progression of Jay Cutler
If there is one characteristic to label the Bears starting quarterback it would be inconsistent. With yet another new offensive coordinator, nobody for sure knows how the 33-year-old will perform.
Last season Cutler had arguably his best season statistically, where he had a career-high 92.3 quarterback passer rating. Yet, that was with offensive coordinator Adam Gase, who is now the head coach of the Miami Dolphins.
When you go back to 2014, Cutler was benched at the end of the season and his future as the Bears signal caller was unknown.
It will be interesting to see if Cutler can take command of offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains’ offense and continue to make more strides in the right direction.
But, the question remains which Cutler will we see for this upcoming season? Will it be the one who played smart and with patience like a season ago or the one who carelessly throws the football into double coverage?
Cutler will always be a controversial figure, but this will be a huge season for him if he wants to silence some of his critics and help the Bears to be a contender in the NFC.
4. Strong Safety?
One of the big questions for the Bears is who is going to start at safety, opposite of first-year standout Adrian Amos?
The Bears drafted two safeties in the 2016 Draft: Deon Bush from Miami in the fourth round and DeAndre Houston-Carson from William & Mary in the sixth round.
There are also players like Harold Jones-Quartey and Omar Bolden who have had some experience at the safety position.
Regardless of whoever ends up winning the starting strong safety job, this will be a weak point on the defense.
For a team to have a strong defense there needs to be clear and precise communication from all the players, especially the defensive backs. Whoever does end up being the starting strong safety, that player needs to develop a strong chemistry with Amos, which could take some time.
If there isn’t that strong chemistry between the two safeties, you can expect to see a lot of big plays and blown coverages from the defense.
5. Health of Receivers
Last season almost every single wide receiver went down for the Bears and the team was forced to rely on players like two-year pro Cameron Meredith and kick return specialist Marc Mariani to step up.
If the Bears have to count on Meredith and Mariani to play big roles for next season, they will most likely be battling for last in the NFC North once again.
There are several questions surrounding the position …
Can the Bears’ receivers stay healthy this season?
Alshon Jeffery will hopefully make it to training camp at some point, but will he be able to stay on the field this season?
Kevin White is projected to be a starter if he doesn’t have any setbacks, but will his body be able to hold up for the grueling 16-game NFL season?
Eddie Royal and Marquess Wilson both have potential, but like White and Jeffery, can they remain healthy?
If injuries do happen again, the Bears didn’t address the wide receiver position by adding depth this offseason. Seventh round draft pick Daniel Braverman was the only wide receiver added by the Bears.
The Bears were hit with the injury bug last year, but hopefully it stays away this season and possibly travels up north to … you know who.
Despite the Bears trending in the right direction, there are still plenty of concerns for them going into the 2016 season.