If the 2020 Chicago Bears are going to return to the playoffs, there’s a good chance that the players on this list are going to be the ones who lead them there. They have three players among the top three at their positions and a handful more who are near the top. Four of the top 10 players earned All Pro honors in 2018 and should be back to that level in 2020. Another one of the players is consistently underrated, despite being pretty much perfect.
The Bears top 10 players just might stack up with anybody else in the league.
10. Tarik Cohen, RB/Specialist
Coming off a horrendously inefficient season, there’s plenty of reason to think Cohen will play more like the 2017 and 2018 versions of himself. What we learned in 2019 is that Cohen can’t be the star of the offense. He a gimmick, someone who needs others to open the field for him. Once it’s open, he’s still dangerous.
9. Danny Trevathan, ILB
Trevathan was having a career year before injuries hit. In nine games he had 50 solo tackles and seemed to be all over the field, every single week. The 30-year-old is the leader of the defense.
8. Roquan Smith, ILB
Smith gets too much grief for his 2019 campaign. Despite inconsistent play early in the season, he finished with 101 tackles (five behind the line of scrimmage) and two sacks in 12 games. Before he was injured late in the season, Smith was playing the position better than anyone else the Bears had last year. If he played 16 games like he played his last eight last year, he’s going to be known as one of the premier defensive players in the league.
7. Kyle Fuller, CB
He has mostly escaped criticism, but 2019 was as rough for Kyle Fuller as it was for anyone else on the defense. Fuller allowed a passer rating of 102 and missed 12 tackles — an astronomical 12.8 percent of his attempts. He still had some ball production with three interceptions and 12 PBUs, but he didn’t play at the level the Bears expect. That said, he’s still a really good player and he can’t take all the blame as a dormant pass rush can make life difficult for any defensive back.
6. Robert Quinn, Edge
Re-emerging on the scene after a handful of so-so years, Quinn could be the key to the Bears defense going to the next level. After collecting 40 sacks in three years, Quinn struggled with injuries with the Rams, but was still productive on a per-game basis. Even in Quinn’s worst year — 2018 — he had more pressures and sacks than Leonard Floyd managed in either of the last two years. Those numbers figure to go up as Quinn plays opposite Khalil Mack. For his career, Quinn has averaged more sacks per game than Julius Peppers.
5. Cody Whitehair, C
Whitehair was one of the few good things the Bears had going along the offensive line. After a slow start, Whitehair very much looked like the player the Bears invested in before the season.
4. Allen Robinson, WR
After a slow start in his first year with the team, Robinson looked like the player the Bears thought they were signing from the Jaguars. The slow start in 2018 wasn’t his fault, Robinson was still recovering from a torn ACL that cost him almost all of the 2017 season. But in 2019, he was a baller, catching 98 passes for 1,147 yards and seven touchdowns despite being the only player teams actively had to fear on a down-to-down basis. And we don’t even need to get started on the quarterback play. If the Bears offense functions as it should, Robinson will see fewer targets in 2019, but his efficiency should sky rocket.
3. Eddie Jackson, Safety
While the lack of pass rush might have hurt Jackson’s interception total, he was still an elite safety. Teams simply didn’t give Jackson the opportunity for interceptions last year as they were able to choose to throw elsewhere. Still, opposing passers had a rating of just 57.6 when targeting Jackson’s area, completing just 53.5 percent of their passes. He still had two interceptions and a forced fumble and with improved pass rush, he should get back to intercepting passes.
2. Akiem Hicks, DL
The Bears defense wasn’t broken without Hicks, but it wasn’t close to the same. Hicks being out hurt production across the board as three 2018 All Pro players had what many considered to be down years. The run defense was gashed and the pass rush disappeared without Hicks. He is the lynchpin in the middle of the defense and just might be the perfect defensive lineman for this scheme.
1. Khalil Mack, Edge
During his press conference last week, Mack kept talking about how good he was feeling and how much he thought the 2020 season was going to be “fun.” (Proving that only he could make the word “fun” sound terrifying.) Mack is so good that he finished seventh in the league in pressures and it was still considered a bad year. He was one of two players (Nick Bosa is the other) with at least 45 pressures who failed to have 10 sacks. He kept getting close to the quarterback, but the quarterback was always able to move because the Bears had no pressure from the middle of the defense or the other side.
Opponents throw everything they have at Mack and he typically handles it just fine. He seemed to confirm in last week’s presser that he was playing injured in 2019. He’s healthy and has some more help. So 2020 should be fun for Bears fans and terrifying for everyone else.