Training camp is open! And there’s a certain buzz surrounding the Chicago Bears as they prepare for the 2021 season with workouts and practices at Halas Hall. So with camp in full swing and the preseason approaching, let’s take an early look at who’s on the team right now.
• 2020 stats: 9.0 sacks, 50 total tackles, 11 tackles-for-loss, 13 QB Hits, 3 forced fumbles (2 recoveries), 1 interception, 3 passes defended; 92.5 grade from Pro Football Focus (1st of 108 qualifiers)
• Notable stats: 2.0 sacks, 20 total tackles, 0 tackles-for-loss, 6 QB Hits, 3 forced fumbles (1 recovery); 61.6 grade from PFF (67th of 108)
The New Guys:
Because of injuries, and the sake of depth with the idea of keeping the big dawgs fresh, the Bears have found a knack for bringing in new bodies at the pass-rushing outside linebacker position. And this year was no different, adding Jeremiah Attaochu via free agency. Attaochu, 28, spent the last two seasons with the Denver Broncos. Playing in Vic Fangio’s defense should give him an idea of what he is getting into in Chicago.
Don’t Forget About:
Trevis Gipson, a 2020 fifth-round pick, might as well have been wearing a redshirt last season. Gipson played in just 7 games and on just 7 percent of the team’s total defensive snaps. But he appears to be on a Roy Robertson-Harris type of path. One in which he slides into bigger roles with each year as he grows into his frame. If you happen to have been to Bears camp this summer, you might notice No. 99 looking more filled out as he enters his second year as a pro. And if you don’t, maybe you’ll hear his maniacal laugh from the sideline while making plays. All in all, Gipson is someone to keep your eyes on as he tries to climb the depth chart.
James Vaughters appears to have found a niche as a pass-rusher who serves as a key special teams contributor. Vaughters’ 152 special teams snaps are the fifth most among returners who also play defense.
What to Watch For:
Quinn’s health is at top of mind here. He missed just one game, but a foot injury might have been nagging enough to stifle his 2020 performance. The Bears are handling Quinn with care to this point, which makes sense considering a back issue has been bothering him at points throughout OTAs and training camp. But it’s not all bad news for Quinn, who can point to NextGenStats as a reason to believe there is a bounce back season on the horizon.
We Really Like:
We Might Be Worried About:
Between going to a new team in a pandemic year with an odd offseason workout schedule, I’m willing to write off the 2020 season as an outlier for Quinn. But he will need to play with the vigor and excellence he put on tape in 2019. There is no reason not to believe Quinn can rebound after a lost year, especially if advanced metrics show his speed burst is still present in his game. Nevertheless, I have my concerns about a 31-year-old pass-rusher with new injuries popping up and is coming off a season in which he was in on just 51 percent of the defense’s plays. Don’t get me wrong. There are reasons to believe Quinn will look better than he did last year. But how much better is the real question.
Khalil Mack’s production is a given. Even in years he doesn’t reach double digits in sacks, the guy is still wrecking opposing offensive lines. And with a little bit of help from his supporting cast, a position group in which the Bears have dumped a boatload of their salary cap space could look like an undeniable strength. Anything less and the rest of the defense could take a tumble.