Chicago Bears: 12 Rising and Declining Players
Chicago Bears: Rising and Declining Players
The Chicago Bears are having a ton of success this season, doing it with some young talent that is raising their game to another level. They also are doing it with experience veterans who are seeing career resurgence late in their careers.
Judging from the record and performance on the field this season, the Bears have certainly pass the Detroit Lions as far as talent throughout the roster, and is creeping up on the Green Bay Packers in that department also.
They have a young franchise quarterback who they believe they can win with in Jay Cutler; a top five talent at the running back position in Matt Forte, a top five talent at the wide receiver position in Brandon Marshall, and a group of complementary players to go along with their top players.
On defense, the group has its aging veterans, but also have young players that are playing key roles on a defense that has been arguably the best in the league.
Along with the good, there is also some bad with this roster. Some players are raising their game, but others are declining right before eyes. The writing is on the wall for some of these veterans after this year.
Some guys are in the final years of their contract, where either they are on the wrong side of 30 or just simply underperforming in a critical year for them.
We look at who is rising and who is declining on the roster this year.
Rising: Tim Jennings
Jennings late career resurgence this year for the Bears has been a bit surprising. Jennings has always been good in zone coverage, but has look like a whole different player in man coverage.
At 5-8 185 pounds, Jennings has developed into a pure ball-hawk for the Bears. His ability to read opposing quarterbacks eyes and drive on the football makes him a legit playmaker on the defensive side of the ball.
The question remains if Jennings can become one of the better cornerbacks in the league. In any other system, he’s probably your starting nickel back, but in Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli defense, he can be one of the better starting CB’s in the league for years to come.
Declining: D.J. Moore
From a rising ball-hawk to a declining one, if you poll a bunch of Bears fans before the season start which Bears defensive back is likely to struggle, Moore would probably be at the bottom of the group.
Moore has been an extremely solid NB for the Bears for the past two years, but this year he’s having a below average season. The missed tackles and blown assignments have fellow veteran Kelvin Hayden chipping at his playing time.
Moore has to turn it around quickly in the second half of this season. His contract expires after this season, and general manager Phil Emery doesn’t owe him anything considering he didn’t draft him.
Moore performance in the second half of the season will decide what the Bears front office will do with him after the season is over.
Rising: Corey Wootton
Although Wootton has been used sparingly in the Bears D-Line rotation, he has made an impact in both pass rushing and run defense whenever his number is called. At 25-years old, Wootton still has a lot of room to grow, and with more playing time he should only get better as a football player.
At 6-6 270 pounds, Wootton is a big physical presence against the run, but has the speed and agility to be an effective pass rusher. Wootton could potentially creep into the starting line-up sometime in the second half of this season.
Declining: Israel Idonije
Idonije has had a nice season for the Bears, so this spot is not particularly form a performance perspective. This has much to do with Wootton coming on strong against both the run and pass and has close to the same amount of sacks (3.0) than Idonije (3.5).
Idonije contract runs out at the end of this season, and with Wootton finally putting it all together, the Bears might go with the younger option for the long-term. The front office want to start infusing more youth into this defense moving forward; Wootton coming on strong puts Idonije future with the Bears in jeopardy.
Rising: Stephen Paea and Nate Collins
Paea overall is having a great season specifically against the run, as he has been stout in the middle of that defensive line. Not only that, he has contribute in the pass rush also, whether it’s occupying two blockers to create one-on-one match-ups for Henry Melton or hurrying the QB himself.
Collins was one of the team’s best interior defensive linemen in preseason, but struggle to be active on game day up until this past Sunday against the Panthers. Collins had a solid game against the Panthers, and is likely to get more playing time as the season moves forward.
Declining: Matt Toeaina and Amobi Okoye
Toeaina has only played in two games this season, which is an indication that he has fallen out of favor with the coaches. Lovie Smith wants to have more versatile defensive tackles active on game day, and Toeaina is strictly a nose tackle. We saw this happen with Anthony Adams last season, and it looks like Toeaina is following in that same path.
Okoye has been quiet the past few games, which has resulted in him being inactive against the Panthers this past Sunday. Okoye is on a one-year deal, but it looks like the Bears are comfortable going with younger guys in Henry Melton, Stephen Paea, and Nate Collins over the veteran.
Rising: Alshon Jeffery
Jeffery has only missed two games this season, but the Bears clearly are affected by his absence on offense. Yes he’s a rookie and is still learning, but he’s a big physical presence that opposing DB’s have to take account for. The other receivers Earl Bennett, Devin Hester, and Kellen Davis have struggled to step into the second primary receiver role.
Jeffery was starting to gain the trust of starting QB Jay Cutler, so when he comes back into the fold it will give Cutler another target he can count on other than Marshall.
Declining: Devin Hester
When Jeffery went down, it was Hester’s golden opportunity to regain his starting spot back. A lot of fans didn’t notice, but Jeffery quietly became the Bears number two WR on the team when early in the season, he was used mainly as a red zone option.
Hester in the past two games has looked awful at the position, to the point the coaches are anxious to get Jeffery back on the field. Not only that; QB Jay Cutler, WR Brandon Marshall, and offensive coordinator Mike Tice has come out and mention that they need to get Bennett more involved.
The coaches are quietly losing confidence in Hester as a WR.
Rising: Lance Louis
Louis you can make the argument has been one of the team’s most improved players this season. Last year was a rough one for Louis who got injured and lost his job to Chris Spencer at the right guard position. He filled in at right tackle for the rest of the season and also struggle at that position.
Tice decided to give Louis another opportunity at RG, and Louis has capitalize on the second chance. Through seven games, Louis has hands down been the team’s best offensive lineman, and might earn a second contract after this season.
Declining: Roberto Garza
Think we are starting to see the decline of Garza as a player, and with him turning 34-years old next year, the Bears need to find a potential or immediate replacement for Garza in the off-season. The Bears have done a poor job developing young talent at the Center position over the years. They believe they have the guy in Edwin Williams, but he has been inactive in all of their seven games.
The Bears will need to prioritize the center position after this year.