BY CHARLES LUST
The only thing Bears fans could do was watch as the Saints crushed the Bears, 21-9, in the first round of the playoffs. The Bears were low on players on defense due to injuries to starting linebacker Roquan Smith, starting cornerback Jaylon Johnson, nickelback Buster Skrine, and safety DeAndre Houston-Carson. On offense, it wasn’t much better. Rookie wide receiver Darnell Mooney, a key part in Chicago’s offense, was out with an ankle injury, and wide receiver Anthony Miller was ejected in the third quarter. The Bears did not look good against the Saints, with Javon Wims dropping an easy touchdown catch and Mitch Trubisky taking several sacks. In all, the Saints put an embarrassing end to the Bears’ season.
Entering the offseason, several players are iffy on returning to the Bears. Wide receiver Allen Robinson is very likely to leave, and that will leave the Bears low on wide receiver talent. Kick returner Cordarelle Patterson’s contract is also expiring, and he is very important to the Bears. Defensive linemen Roy Robertson-Harris, John Jenkins, Brent Urban, James Vaughters, and Mario Edwards all have expiring contracts, and even though none of them were starters (except for Robertson-Harris), they were effective, with Edwards racking up 4 sacks. The defense could also possibly lose safeties Tashaun Gipson, DeAndre Houston-Carson, and Deon Bush, linebackers Josh Woods and Barkevious Mingo, and cornerback Sherrick McManis. The Bears don’t have much cap space (money) to re-sign some of those players because linebackers Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn, tight end Jimmy Graham, and defensive lineman Akiem Hicks all have big contracts. On top of all that, defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano is retiring, which means the Bears are going to have to find a new defensive coordinator.
Another Bears problem is the kickers. After Robbie Gould left in 2016, the Bears have had struggles finding a good kicker. Back in 2018, Cody Parkey “double-doinked” the game-winning field goal in the playoffs. Last year, Eddy Pineiro made a couple of game-winners in the regular season, but he got injured and was out for the whole 2020 season. The Bears signed Cairo Santos to a one-year deal, and he was automatic throughout the year. The problem is, Santos’s and Pineiro’s contracts are expiring, which means the Bears have a choice. Most likely, Pineiro or Santos is going to be leaving the Bears. If Santos continues to perform like he did in 2020, he almost certainly will be the one staying in Chicago.
The Bears’s last problem is the quarterbacks. They traded for Nick Foles before the season, but Mitch Trubisky started the first 3 games before being pulled in Week 3. Foles entered the game and led the Bears to a win, and then started Weeks 4-10 before getting injured late in Week 10 against the Vikings. After the Week 11 bye, Trubisky started Weeks 12-17 and also started the first round of the playoffs. The Bears have the 20th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, which they can use to draft another QB or a player of another position. Let’s hope the Bears can find stability at the kicker and quarterback positions and make a playoff run this upcoming season. Bear Down!