A handful of key Bears players are heading into the final year of their contract, which is putting a lot of pressure on them to prove why they are worth a big check from Bears general manager Ryan Pace.
Here’s a breakdown of which Bears players really need to bring it this season if they want to remain in Chicago.
1. Mitch Trubisky
The fourth-year quarterback has one more year to show why he is at least partially worth the second overall pick back in the 2017 NFL Draft. No matter how you craft it up it comes down to this season. I want to preface with I am someone who is on the more forgiving side for Trubisky, and I think he receives more blame than he should.
Let me explain why …
Last season, the Bears’ receivers ranked third highest in drops. Keep in mind, they only threw the ball the 14th most across the league. Now, Trubisky had one too many missed throws in key moments, no doubt. However, the 25 drops sure don’t help a struggling QB to keep his confidence up and the chains moving.
Let’s talk about that lack of a run game, too. For the first time since 2014, the Bears finished in the bottom ten in rushing yards per game with 91.1 yards. A huge drop off from 121.1 yards per game a season ago. The run game only accounted for eight touchdowns, 28th in the league, as well. The blame for this regression on the ground can be spread around to Nagy and even Trubisky.
However, the offensive line has to put their hands up the highest. Per Football Outsiders, the O-line was charged with 124 blown blocks last season. They were ranked 29th in the league and it showed after right guard Kyle Long went down.
Trubisky has to make a huge leap forward to stay in Chicago after this season. Former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles is in camp, which may provide that competitive spark that wasn’t truly there with backup QB Chase Daniel. All eyes are on Trubisky this season to see if he is going to get re-signed or if the Bears will be looking for another QB.
The QB position has truly haunted the Bears for over a 100 years. What’s really weird is if Trubisky can throw for a little over 3,000 yards this season, he will rise to third in franchise history for passing yards. That’s how bad it has been for the Bears under center.
2. Allen Robinson
Robinson is truly turning into a special player for years to come.
Since signing a three-year, $42 million contract in 2018, he has been the go-to guy on virtually every big pass play. From Year 1 to Year 2, he made a huge jump in the offense, drawing 60 more targets, 274 more yards and celebrating three more touchdowns.
In a frustrating 8-8 season, Robinson did more than his part to keep the offense on the field. He picked up a team-high 63 first downs. The next highest receiver was Anthony Miller with 34.
The six-year veteran has also stayed relatively healthy the last two seasons, only missing three games since tearing his ACL a few snaps into the 2017 season with Jacksonville.
With all signs pointing towards Robinson being the focal point of the air attack again this season, the Bears will most likely look to help finance a high-rise apartment on Lake Shore Drive and keep Robinson in Chicago for longer. The only way I see him not being brought back is if the Bears have a total meltdown of a season and Pace is relieved of his duties.
3. Tarik Cohen
The swiss-army knife running back has become a fan favorite across the city by maneuvering behind his giant offensive linemen to break out for big plays. Nicknamed “The Human Joystick,” Cohen’s quickness and agility allow him to bounce around the field to open patches of grass with ease.
Cohen really took off in his second season, going for 1,169 yards from scrimmage thanks to his pass-catching abilities. Like most of the offense, Cohen’s numbers fell like the stock market crash this past season. He dropped to 669 yards from scrimmage and scored five fewer touchdowns in 2019.
Running backs in this day and age of the NFL come and go like delivery drivers during quarantine. Pace showed he does not have much of an attachment to the position when he traded away RB Jordan Howard after a very successful start to his career in Chicago.
Cohen is a jack of all trades and does not take as much of a bruising as other backs do, which works in his favor. He was used in a variety of ways and is a perfect player for the type of creativity Nagy uses in his plays.
If the offense can rebound from last season and Cohen cuts down on his team-high nine drops last season, “The Human Joy Stick” should be able to find himself a new contract.
4. Cordarrelle Patterson
Patterson played a huge role in why the Bears led the league in return yards last season. The journeyman was put on this earth for special teams. His speed and size make him a nightmare to bring down, and he puts in the effort on kickoff and punt coverage too. How different the Packers Week 16 game would have been if he wasn’t flagged for playing football. Horrible call.
Patterson signed a two-year contract before last season, and the Bears backloaded it so they could back out if he didn’t impress in the first season. Well, Patterson lived up to every penny of his $4,250,000 million cap hit.
His snap percentage has continued to dip each season, which makes it tough for a GM to give that kind of money to a pure special teams player. Then again, if any team would do it, it would be the Chicago Bears.
In his seven seasons, Patterson has missed only one game. That kind of durability usually turns into dollars.
Another successful special teams season and a few big plays on offense may result in Patterson sticking around Soldier Field for another season or two. However, at 29 years old, his age could be worrisome for GMs, which makes next season even more of a prove-it year for the Bears or possibly another team.