Detroit Lions 2016 Opponent Preview: Chicago Bears

Jan 3, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Detroit Lions tight end Eric Ebron (85) scores a touchdown against Chicago Bears free safety Adrian Amos (38) during the second half at Soldier Field. The Lions won 24-20. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 3, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Detroit Lions tight end Eric Ebron (85) scores a touchdown against Chicago Bears free safety Adrian Amos (38) during the second half at Soldier Field. The Lions won 24-20. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports /

A week four road game at the Chicago Bears makes for a second-straight division road game to end the first quarter of the Detroit Lions’ 2016 season.

For the second year in a row, the Detroit Lions face three road games in their first four games of the season. That stretch concludes with an important game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.

To check in on the Bears, I got together with Bear Goggles On‘s Bill Zimmerman. Below are my questions followed by his answers.

1. How would you assess the Bears’ offseason? Did they do what they needed to do through the draft and free agency?

Like every team, no offseason can receive a perfect grade, but GM Ryan Pace did a very good job improving the roster. Via free agency, he has vastly improved the front seven with the acquistions of Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan and there have been a lot of good things out of Akiem Hicks during the offseason program.

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Bears fans are also very hopeful for another strong draft class. Cody Whitehair looks to start from week one on the offensive line and people are expecting big things from Jonathan Bullard, Jordan Howard, and Daniel Braverman. There are still a few issues surrounding the Bears. Pace chose not to make any significant moves in the secondary and that leaves that unit still very suspect. The tight end position is very thin. The Bears are hoping Ben Braunecker, an undrafted rookie, can step up at fill the TE2 role, which shows you just how thin they are at that spot. Also the offensive line could be questionable.

There is no unit that has been debated more this offseason than the Bears offensive line. Some people love the youth and potential, while others think that it’s a unit that could consistently get Jay Cutler flattened. Regardless of what you think of the starters, the depth of the offensive line is problematic and I would expect Pace to be active in improving the line in late August when veterans are released.

2. Which rookie are you most excited to see play in 2016 and why?

I think the overall consensus here is fourth round pick Jordan Howard. Most people understand that first round pick Leonard Floyd needs to develop and probably won’t have much of an impact in year one. Cody Whitehair is an offensive lineman so even if he’s spectacular, that isn’t going to move the needle.

Howard is a bulldozer that should move some piles and knock some safeties on their rears and that style of downhill running will be fun to watch. My personal favorite is DE Jonathan Bullard, their third round selection. He needs to work on his pass rushing technique, but he’s a monster against the run and I expect him to be in opponents’ backfields enough to be making highlight reels as a rookie.

One other rookie to watch is Daniel Braverman who some think may have been a seventh round steal and could become the Bears starting slot receiver sooner rather than later.

3. What is the biggest question that still needs to be answered heading into training camp?

As I mentioned previously, the three biggest questionable areas are offensive line, tight end, and secondary. Let’s put the tight end position aside because offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains should be able to cover up the warts at that position depending on formations and personnel. The offensive line has plenty of questions after Kyle Long. They will be starting a rookie at left guard in Whitehair, a second-year player at center in Hroniss Grasu who may not be ready, and the Bears think Bobby Massie will be very good at right tackle, despite coming off a pedestrian year.

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At left tackle, some analysts feel Charles Leno Jr is ready to continue on a solid second half in 2015 and continue to improve, while others quesiton if he has what it takes to be an every down left tackle at the NFL level. Despite all those question marks, the secondary still remains the biggest one on the roster.

At corner, Kyle Fuller has more bad games than good games, and Tracy Porter needs to repeat his 2015 performance (even though he was already fading by December). Bryce Callahan appears to be the nickel corner, but he was an undrafted rookie last season.

Speaking of undrafted rookies, Harold Jones-Quartey will most likely start at safety alongside promising second year man Adrian Amos. The depth behind this group consists of several unproven rookies and second year players. The starting players are suspect, and if this unit suffers any sort of injury, it could be have serious consequences for this unit. The Bears front seven must keep consistent pressure on the quarterback to help this unit out.

4. What are your expectations for the Bears in 2016?

The Bears are going to improve in 2016. Yes, the coaching staff lost Adam Gase but they elevated QB coach Dowell Loggains to offensive coorindator so that Jay Cutler won’t have to learn an new system. With a vastly improved front seven, I expect the defense to jump into becoming a top ten unit in the league and the offense should make enough plays to be average.

While that doesn’t sound overly exciting, it is for a Bears team that was an embarrassment to the city of Chicago just two seasons ago that cost Marc Trestman and Phil Emery their jobs. The Bears should push for a playoff spot but most likely come up a little short. I would expect this team to go 9-7, perhaps 8-8 and be every NFL expert’s pick for a breakout 2017 season.

5. Right here, right now, are you marking down the games against the Lions as a win, loss or toss-up for the Bears?

I think the Lions have plenty of issues facing their team, especially with the loss of Calvin Johnson. I would be very surprised if the Bears lost their home game to the Lions and would chalk that up as a win. The road game in Detroit is a toss-up. Barring injuries, the Bears should continually improve throughout the season as their new players and rookies develop and gel.

If the Bears played the Lions in Detroit early, I might say Detroit wins, but being that the game is week 14, I think that Chicago will go into Detroit and sweep the season series from the Lions.

Next: Checking in on the Green Bay Packers

For more on the Chicago Bears, check out Bear Goggles On.