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Eye on the enemy: Should the Dallas Cowboys be worried about the Chicago Bears?

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Just how good are the Chicago Bears?

Wild Card Round - Philadelphia Eagles v Chicago Bears Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

With a playoff run in our sights for this years Dallas Cowboys team, we wanted to take a look at some of the potential teams standing in their way. A couple days ago, we examined the roster of the Seattle Seahawks. Today, our Eye on the Enemy series continues today with a look at the reigning NFC North Champions, the Chicago Bears.

It’s hard to believe that while the Cowboys were going 13-3 in 2016, the Bears were scraping the bottom of the barrel, finishing with a 3-13 record. Prior to last season, Chicago was coming off four straight years where they hadn’t eclipsed six wins on the season. But thanks to the help of their young general manager, Ryan Pace, the Bears have made some big moves and suddenly they are legit contenders.

Last years emergence from nowhere may have the feel of fluke type season, but make no mistake about it - this Bears team is laced with talent all across their roster.

Over the last couple years, the Bears have taken some big gambles on two of the most important positions. First, they gave up three draft picks (second, third, and fourth round) just to move up one spot in the 2017 NFL Draft to select Mitch Trubisky. That seems steep, but that’s the price teams tend to pay to grab the guy they hope will be their franchise quarterback for years to come. Then, last year - they gave up a couple first-round picks to grab one of the games best pass rushers in Khalil Mack. And just like that - they have their cornerstone players.

What’s holding this team back?

It’s easy to say that the kicking game is holding them back after what they endured last year. It was atrocious. Since losing Robbie Gould, the team hasn’t been able to find a viable replacement. The Bears lost four regular season games last year, and three of them were decided by three points or less. And that doesn’t even include their heartbreaking playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles where the potential game-winning kick double-doinked off the goal post. The Bears definitely need to find a better solution at the kicker position.

But it would be even better if the Bears didn’t have to rely on a kick to decide the game. Chicago’s offense showed great improvement last season, but they still were only ranked one spot ahead of Dallas in yards gained. There is room for improvement. The team has a young quarterback who’s trending up. They have some intriguing offensive playmakers like Tarik Cohen, Allen Robinson, and rookie running back David Montgomery. And their offensive line has some decent pieces like Charles Leno Jr., Cody Whitehair, and Bobby Massie. Can these young offensive players take the next step or will mediocrity along this unit keep them from hanging with the league’s elite?

Why they can be dangerous

The Bears defense just absolutely ferocious. They have an outstanding defensive line, filled out by Mack (All-Pro), Akiem Hicks, Leonard Floyd, and Eddie Goldman. Most of these guys are in their prime years. They have solid linebackers in Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan. And their secondary features two stars in cornerback Kyle Fuller and last year’s safety sensation Eddie Jackson - both All-Pros last season.

All eyes will be on new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano who took over after Vic Fangio left for a head coaching job in Denver. While losing a great DC such as Fangio may be worrisome, Pagano has demonstrated he can be very effective when he has the tools in place. In 2011 as defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens, he helped them dominate on defense, reaching the AFC Championship. Pagano had tools in Baltimore and he now has tools in Chicago.

Should we be worried about them in 2019?

All things point to - yes.

With a defense so stacked and an offense that is improving, this team is going to be tough to beat on Sundays. The running back trio of Cohen, Montgomery, and recent free agent acquisition Mike Davis should strengthen their running game. And with some nice upside young receivers like Anthony Miller, the potential to be a threat on offense is there. The Bears have been in the lower third when it comes to points scored for the last several years, but in just one year of being under Nagy, they managed to sneak into the top 10. If things get even better for them in 2019, they’re going to be a real force in the NFC.

Should we be worried about them for the future?

Absolutely.

The Bears have made the most of their early picks they gained from years of being terrible. And even though they’ve spent some of the top draft resources to get some of the players they covet, their scouting department has done a great job of finding talent late in the draft. Last year’s Pro Bowlers Eddie Jackson, Tarik Cohen, and Charles Leno were all found on Day 3 of the draft.

We don’t want to overreact to just one year as teams that go from worst to first with a new head coach doesn’t always produce a sustainable product. But credit the Bears for using all avenues of team building extremely well, and they’re a young team that appears to be going places. If Trubisky builds on a very good Pro Bowl season from a year ago, that could end up bringing good things back to the Windy City.


Notes:

A players value was determined using the Approximate Value numbers from Pro Football Reference. They were taken from the last season that player saw action and prorated over a full 16 game season (if a player missed games).

Not all contracts are created equal so the cost comes from cap numbers from Spotrac; however, the actual figure used is either cap hit, average salary, or yearly cash - depending on the nature of their contract. These values are selected to better represent the team’s investment in that individual player.