The 2016 season is in the books, and the Bears tallied only 3 wins. Despite the dismal record, I believe there are a few things to be excited for the Bears in 2017. 5 to be exact.
Jordan Howard– Jordan Howard came on when Jeremy Langford was injured. He got the job and clung to it like a steel belted radial on a Cadillac. That is exactly what Howard is: A smooth running, powerful vehicle. He finishes the season with 1,254 yards, breaking Matt Forte’s rookie record of 1,238. While Howard might not have the high end speed, his 5.1* yards per carry is pretty spectacular. Howard is a back the Bears can build behind, and looks to be the type of back that can carry a franchise for years to come. He will no doubt get stronger in his first off season with an NFL club.
Cameron Meredith– Maybe it’s because expectations have been lowered since 2nd year wide receiver Kevin White got injured, but Cameron Meredith has been a pleasant surprise at the position. He showed speed, route running, run after the catch, and pretty good body control since he was put into the lineup. He is a tall receiver who can also go get those tough catches. His best trait might be how strong and quick he is after the catch. He will also benefit by being in an NFL offseason. While Meredith may not be a #1 receiver, he clearly has shown he needs to be on the field as a 2nd or 3rd option at least.
The front 7– Even though there were injuries and suspensions, the Bears strength all season has been their front 7. They have a good core of talent up front, and will hopefully get healthy in the offseason. That said, they need to add a couple more pieces, and one more playmaker for sure. Leonard Floyd should get stronger in his first NFL offseason program.
Dowell Loggains– I know this won’t be a popular opinion, but let’s take a good look at the situation. Despite being on their 3rd QB, they were able to develop 2 rookies on offense: Howard, and Meredith. Brian Hoyer looked pretty good running the offense before he broke his arm. Matt Barkley looked pretty good until the last couple games. He actually looked better when he wasn’t trying to force the ball to Alshon Jeffery (sound familiar?). Also keep in mind this was Loggains first year as an NFL offensive play caller.
The 3rd overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft– I was a little critical of Ryan Pace at the beginning of the season (when White went down, and Floyd was struggling to get on the field) but as it played out, he had some good contributions from most of 2016’s draft class. Jordan Howard, Lenoard Floyd, Cody Whitehair, and Chris Kwiatkoski had solid or better seasons. If you can get 4 quality starters out of your draft class, you are doing something right. That said, his 2015 draft class has not showed up, save for Eddie Goldman–who also struggles to stay on the field. Still, I would say the needed is pointed up.
As of right now, it looks like the coaching staff will mainly be intact. There were lots of rumors swirling during the season, but John Fox has a track record of not firing his coaches. In fact he has only fired 1, in his career as a head coach.
*at posting, Howard’s stats were not updated with the final game of the season.