The Chicago Bears have gone 9-23 in John Fox’s two years with the team, but the head coach believes the team is ready to turn a corner.
“This is the deepest, most competitive team we’ve fielded so far,” Fox told the media during his joint camp-opening press conference with GM Ryan Pace.
You can excuse Fox for coming into Year 3 in Chicago with a renewed sense of optimism. The 2016 season was a slog that featured three different starting quarterbacks, eight starters among the 19 players who finished the season on injured reserve, and countless head-scratching follies along the way. Living in the present, the Bears are mostly healthy (for now), have a completely remodeled quarterbacks room, revamped secondary, and a bit of roster depth sprinkled throughout the roster.
Earlier in the offseason, Fox said the team was within striking distance – presumably of being a competitive team. And using the team’s depth chart via Pro Football Focus, an argument could be made for the Bears having the most well-rounded (if not, best) overall team in the division. Hey, at least they aren’t projected to be the worst team in the NFC North. That counts as progress, right?
Using PFF’s grades and projected depth chart as our guide, the Bears have two projected starters (quarterback Mike Glennon, outside linebacker Leonard Floyd) who graded as below average, and two others (tight end Dion Sims, cornerback Marcus Cooper) who graded as poor. The rest of the lineup for the Bears’ base and nickel packages features one player who graded as elite, two above average, five who were high quality, and 11 who were average.
“Our roster is at a point right now where it is competitive,” Fox reiterated during his media session.
Fox said he was impressed with how his team stuck together despite being dealt a losing hand last season. To that end, the group has been supplemented with a slew of new talent and as many as eight starters who weren’t with the team last year and signed as free agents during the offseason. Having a number of high-floor guys is probably something that drives Fox’s optimism, as those players represent an upgrade from the type of players the team finished with last season.
If the old adage that competition breeds excellence is true, then a healthy Bears team should be superb. Training camp battles at wide receiver, tight end, in the secondary, and along the offensive and defensive lines could elevate some players or weed out guys who aren’t short-term (or long-term) fits.
Fox is right to feel optimistic and even confident coming into the season, but only time will tell if his positive vibes will be rewarded.