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With the 2018 season fast approaching the Bears are quickly becoming one of the most exciting teams in the league, with many people drawing parallels between this year’s Bears and last year’s Rams. While most people try to pump the brakes with this comparison, it could serve us well to take a closer look and see just how alike or different these two teams really are. This roster comparison inevitably comes with some depth chart predictions for next season so it won’t be an exact science, but it figures to be pretty close. All of these decisions are also strictly a matter of opinion so be sure to take the results with a grain of salt.

Head Coaching:

Rams 2017 Head Coaching

Sean McVay: After 8 years of coaching in the NFL with various teams, including 3 as the offensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins, McVay quickly proved his worth after winning NFL Coach of the Year in his first season with the team. Not even 31 years old when he took over, many people questioned whether or not he was ready to lead a team but he has since quieted any questions about his readiness to lead. His creativity with his offense was one of the prime reasons Jared Goff was able to explode for a pro bowl appearance in his 2nd season.

Bears 2018 Head Coaching

Matt Nagy: Coming from the illustrious coaching tree of Andy Reid, Nagy has been referred to as the “best head-coaching candidate he’s ever had” by his mentor. Those are big words for a guy that has produced other great head coaches such as John Harbaugh, Ron Rivera, Doug Pederson and many more. Much like McVay, Nagy is young, and only had 9 years of NFL coaching experience before getting tapped for the big job. While he has 2 years of experience as an offensive coordinator under his belt, he only handled play calling duties for a handful of games as that task was usually left up to Andy Reid. Touted as one of the best hires of the offseason, it remains to be seen whether he can help turn around an offense that was one of the worst in the league last season.

Advantage Bears. While the results speak for themselves with what McVay was able to do last year, going into the season he was relatively unknown and was younger than many players on the roster that he would be coaching. Coming from the Andy Reid tree has to count for something, and with the endorsement he got from his former boss, this one leans a bit in favor of the Bears.

 

Notable Coordinators/Assistant Coaches:

Notable Rams 2017 Coordinators/Assistant Coaches

Wade Phillips, Matt LaFleur, Greg Olson, Aaron Kromer: With over 40 years of coaching experience, including serving as head coach for an astounding 6 teams throughout his career, Wade Philips was the perfect hire for McVay to add some experience to his staff. He allowed McVay to focus on the offense while he could trust that Wade Phillips would handle all defensive duties. Along with McVay on offense, Matt LaFleur and Greg Olson garnered league-wide respect for what they were able to do for Goff, and they now both serve as OC’s for different teams.

Notable Bears 2018 Coordinators/Assistant Coaches

Vic Fangio, Mark Helfrich, Harry Hiestand, Dave Ragone: Similar to what McVay did with Wade Phillips, coach Nagy retained Vic Fangio to run the Bears defense so he could turn his focus to improving the offense. After decades of success with other teams, Fangio has brought the Bears defense up from a group ranking as one of the worst in the league all the way to being a top 10 unit. Retaining him and keeping that continuity on defense should go a long way for the Bears in 2018. On the offensive side of the ball Nagy has surrounded himself with a true brain-trust of coaching. After helping shape Marcus Mariota into a Heisman winner at Oregon, Mark Helfrich comes aboard to help do similar things for Trubisky. Keeping Dave Ragone in place for continuity’s sake should also help Trubisky much like Fangio and the defense. The icing on the cake was bringing Harry Hiestand back to Halas Hall after he coached for the Bears Superbowl team in 2006 and then spent a few years coaching Notre Dame players into first round picks. He should do a lot for young players like Cody Whitehair and James Daniels.

Advantage Bears. While the Rams had a lot of nice pieces on their coaching staff, the Bears coaches have more of a proven track record of success, and the Fangio/Phillips comparison is basically a wash. Harry Hiestand does a lot to shift this one in favor of the Bears, as he’s widely respected as one of the best O-Line coaches in the game at any level.

 

Quarterbacks

Rams 2017 Quarterback depth chart

Jared Goff & Sean Mannion: Coming off a rookie year where he made 7 starts, Goff came away with 0 wins. He also threw just 5 touchdowns to 7 interceptions while completing 54.6% of his passes on 205 attempts. All very underwhelming numbers for the #1 overall pick. Sean McVay played an integral role in his growth from year 1 to year 2, and he finished the season with 28 touchdowns to just 7 interceptions through 15 games. Mannion on the other hand has 3 years in the league but has only totaled 235 yards through the air on 50 passing attempts with 0 touchdowns and 1 interception. He can be a serviceable backup, but not a guy you would want starting for any extended period of time.

Bears 2018 Quarterback depth chart

Mitchell Trubisky & Chase Daniel: In his rookie year Trubisky made 12 starts compared to Goff’s 7 and managed to win 4 out of those 12 games. Completing 59% of his passes he threw for a fairly pedestrian 7 touchdowns to 7 interceptions. While his numbers don’t exactly stand out, he did show some flashes on a couple great plays like the 3rd and long throw he had against the Ravens in overtime on his way to a win. Meanwhile through 9 years in the league Chase Daniel only has 78 pass attempts to his name, good for a whopping 480 yards with only 1 touchdown and 1 interception. Much like Mannion he’s proven himself to not be a complete liability when on the field, but again, he’s not a guy you want leading your team for a full season.

Advantage Bears. With very similar quarterback situations I give the advantage to the team with more game experience and more wins. Only time will tell if Trubisky can make a 2nd year leap like Goff did, but rookie year was certainly better.

 

Running Backs

Rams 2017 Running Back depth chart

Todd Gurley & Malcolm Brown: Gurley was one of the best, if not THE best back in the league last year. A true dual-threat player, he racked up over 1,300 yards on the ground and nearly 800 yards as a receiver. A 1st team all-pro and Offensive Player of the Year, he helped carry his team to its 11-5 record after a bit of a sophomore slump the year before. Backing up Todd Gurley, Brown saw the field very little last year, totaling only 299 all-purpose yards on the season. He was pretty much a non-factor for the offense.

Bears 2018 Running Back depth chart

Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen, Benny Cunningham: Neither Bears running back has the raw talent that Gurley does, but the 4th and 5th rounder’s certainly have the ability to combine for similar production at a much cheaper cost. Jordan Howard has averaged over 1,200 yards rushing yards through his first 2 years in the league, while Tarik Cohen and his 4.4 speed managed 353 receiving yards in an anemic offense as a rookie. Expect both players to increase their numbers in a more creative offensive scheme this year. Cohen should see a lot more opportunities as a receiver than he did a year ago, and Howard shouldn’t have to face 9 men in the box every time he touches the ball. Benny Cunningham also provides a solid presence as a 3rd down back who has proven he can make plays when his number gets called.

Advantage Rams. Jordan Howard might’ve been a pro-bowler as a rookie and Cohen might just be lighting in a bottle this year, but neither one of them figure to become 1st team all-pro’s or Offensive Players of the Year any time soon. Those are accolades you simply can’t ignore.

 

Wide Receivers

Rams 2017 Wide Receiver depth chart

Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, Tavon Austin, Cooper Kupp, Josh Reynolds, Mike Thomas: While Sammy Watkins was the big name from this group, he only totaled 593 receiving yards in 2017 with 3rd round rookie Cooper Kupp leading the team in yards after picking up 869 on the season. Nobody from this group had that spectacular of individual seasons, but the whole was greater than the sum of its parts as Jared Goff was able to spread the ball around fairly evenly.

Bears 2018 Wide Receiver depth Chart

Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller, Kevin White, Josh Bellamy, Javon Wims: Allen Robinson is the stud from this group, and with a pro bowl selection to his name he is without a doubt the best receiver from either team. It remains to be seen whether he can fully return to form after the ACL tear, but if Nagy’s offense spreads the ball around anything like McVay’s he might not need to. Early results from training camp also have Anthony Miller looking like a rising star, and Taylor Gabriel has proven to be a lethal deep threat. Josh Bellamy has shown he can’t be counted on for much, but he can contribute in a limited role. Any production from either Kevin White or Javon Wims is an added bonus. Not on this list is running back Tarik Cohen who figures to see some time in the slot and could possibly even line up on the outside occasionally as a pass catcher.

Advantage Bears. The top end talent of the Bears group is better than that of the Rams, and while some of the younger players will have to prove they can handle their presumed roles this season, many of the young guys from the Rams had to do the exact same thing last year.

 

Tight Ends

Rams 2017 Tight End depth chart

Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, Derek Carrier: The 3 tight ends from the Rams combined for only 610 receiving yards last season. 2nd year pro Tyler Higbee led the group with 295 yards after totaling only 85 as a rookie. The tight end position clearly wasn’t a main feature in the Rams offense last year, but the team seemed to do just fine without much production from them.

Bears 2018 Tight End depth chart

Trey Burton, Adam Shaheen, Dion Sims: After seeing how Travis Kelce was used in the Chiefs offense, tight ends figure to play a large role in Nagy’s scheme this upcoming season. 610 yards isn’t a very high bar to top, and the Bears tight ends room should easily beat that figure. Burton’s most productive season as a receiver tops out at 327 yards, and Shaheen’s rookie year only saw him net 127, but Burton was arguably the 3rd option at his position with the Eagles and Shaheen had to make the jump from division II to the NFL.

Advantage Bears. This is admittedly a projection without many solid numbers to back it up, but as stated above, 610 yards shouldn’t be that hard to beat in Nagy’s offense. The Bears have more talent at tight end than the Rams did last year and they should play a large role in the offense.

 

Offensive Line

Rams 2017 Offensive Line depth chart (starters only)

Andrew Whitworth, Rodger Saffold, John Sullivan, Jamon Brown, Rob Havenstein, Darrell Williams, Austin Blythe, Aaron Neary, Cornelius Lucas: Health played a large part in this front line’s success last season which helped open up running lanes for Todd Gurley and keep Jared Goff on his feet. Both Andrew Whitworth and Rodger Saffold were all-pro’s and led this unit to a major improvement from the season before. While none of the other players had much star power, they proved to all be serviceable starters who missed very little time.

Bears 2018 Offensive line depth chart (projected starters only)

Charles Leno Jr, James Daniels, Cody Whitehair, Kyle Long, Bobby Massie, Eric Kush, Bradley Sowell, Jordan Morgan: Health will play a large role with this group as well, as a lot depends on how many games Kyle Long can play in. When healthy he’s an absolute beast, making 3 consecutive pro bowl appearances in his first 3 years in the league. Injuries have taken their toll on the mauler though, and he’s only played in 18 games over the last two years. The rest of the interior is made up of young guys who figure to have a lot of talent under the development of Harry Hiestand. The tackles meanwhile are good but not great although they’re certainly better than what the Bears have had in years past. If this group can stay on the field together for a full season there’s no reason to think they can’t be a top 10 unit with multiple players that have pro bowl potential.

Advantage Rams…for now. Most of the Bears offensive line relies on health and player development, neither of which can be counted on when compared to a line that has multiple all-pro’s on it. While the Rams offensive line isn’t leaps and bounds ahead of the Bears, they do have an advantage in a side by side comparison at this point, but that could all change by the end of this season.

 

Defensive Line

Rams 2017 Defensive Line depth chart

Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers, Ethan Westbrooks, Morgan Fox, Tyrunn Walker, Tanzel Smart: Any conversation about the Rams d-line has to start with Aaron Donald. With a Defensive Player of the Year award, 4 pro bowls, and 3 1st team all-pro nods to his name, he is one of the most dominant defensive players in the entire league. His mixture of power, quickness, and hands makes him truly unstoppable. With 39 sacks through his first 4 years, there’s really not much more than can be said about how good he is. The rest of the group are all serviceable (and they’ll get a big bump with Ndamukong Suh joining them) but this defensive front starts and ends with Aaron Donald.

Bears 2018 Defensive Line depth chart

Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Jonathan Bullard, Roy Robertson-Harris, John Jenkins, Bilal Nichols: Much like the Rams, the Bears defensive line is led by a stalwart. Akiem Hicks might not get the national recognition of Donald, but anybody who pays attention to this team knows just how disruptive the 6’ 5” 330 lb behemoth can be. Both a run stuffer and a pass rusher, he can truly do it all. Next to him is another unsung hero in Eddie Goldman. He’s another guy who doesn’t get a lot of national love but can certainly hold it down against both the run and the pass. The rotation on the other side of Hicks is made up of Robertson-Harris and Jonathan Bullard are no slouches either, with the former being a 6’ 7” 295 lb monster and the latter a former 3rd round pick who’s just coming into his own. Their mix of power and explosiveness should be on full display this season.

Advantage Rams. The Bears line might be a little deeper than the Rams, but nobody on the Bears is on the same level as Aaron Donald. He’s just too good for this to even be a discussion.

 

Linebackers

Rams 2017 Linebacker depth chart

Robert Quinn, Alec Ogletree, Mark Barron, Connor Barwin, Matt Longacre, Cory Littleton, Samson Ebukam, Bryce Hager, Carlos Thompson: While Robert Quinn’s production has tapered off in the last few years, he still is a 2 time pro bowler who has over 60 sacks in 7 seasons. On the opposite side, Connor Barwin is also a former pro bowler and a dependable starter. On the inside Alec Ogletree and Mark Barron are also solid starters, even if they’re not exactly headliners, and they help make up a very solid linebacker’s room.

Bears 2018 Linebacker depth chart

Leonard Floyd, Roquan Smith, Danny Trevathan, Sam Acho, Nick Kwiatkoski, Joel Iyiegbuniwe, Aaron Lynch, Kylie Fitts: This group is all about potential, and that potential can only be reached if everybody stays healthy. In a make or break year, Leonard Floyd could finally show what made him a top 10 pick as an edge rusher with a double digit sack season. Bookending him, Sam Acho is anything but a star, but he’s another dependable starter. Aaron Lynch and Kylie Fitts could both bring some pass rush as well, but they both have trouble staying on the field with lengthy injury histories (a problem that has plagued Floyd as well). On the inside, Roquan Smith has a chance to be a star if he ever gets his contract signed and Danny Trevathan is an above average starter who could even be a fringe pro bowl player. Nick Kwiatkoski and Joel Iyiegbuniwe also provide solid depth at ILB.

Advantage Rams. The Bears linebacking group could very well turn heads this season, but a lot of things have to go right for that to happen. The Rams might not have as big of names, but they have no glaring weaknesses. Production over potential in this scenario.

 

Defensive Backfield

Rams 2017 Defensive Back depth chart

Trumaine Johnson, John Johnson, Lamarcus Joyner, Kayvon Webster, Nickell Robey-Coleman, Kevin Peterson, Troy Hill, Maurice Alexander, Blake Countess, Cody Davis: A unit that came away with 13 interceptions in 2017 proved they could do just enough to win games. There are no real stars in this group, but Trumaine Johnson, Lamarcus Joyner, and Nickell Robey-Coleman all proved to be above average starters. With Aaron Donald collapsing the pocket they were often able to clean it up on the back end. Not an elite group by any means but definitely not a hindrance to the team. (Although with the additions of Marcus Peters and Aquib Talib they should become a true no-fly-zone in 2018)

Bears 2018 Defensive Back depth chart

Kyle Fuller, Adrian Amos, Eddie Jackson, Prince Amukamara, Bryce Callahan, Deon Bush, Deandre Houston-Carson, Cre’Von LeBlanc, Sherrick McManis, Michael Joseph: This is another Bears group with a ton of youth that’s full of potential. Kyle Fuller is quickly becoming a lock-down corner, and if he can build off his 22 pass deflections and 2 interceptions from last year he could be well on his way to his first pro bowl. Opposite of him, Prince Amukamara is another good cover corner although he only has been able to come away with 7 interceptions through 7 seasons. Adrian Amos and Eddie Jackson could eventually turn into Chicago’s own version of Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas, with Eddie Jackson functioning as a ballhawk while Adrian Amos lays the lumber on anybody coming over the middle. Bryce Callahan is also a solid nickelback when healthy. Together this group is brimming with young talent and could very well become one of the top units in the league with some time.

Advantage Bears. After returning all 4(5) starters for another year in Fangio’s scheme, the continuity should do a lot for this group. They already showed a lot last year, and now that have another year of growth they should be even better in 2018. By all accounts they’ve been lock-down so far in training camp.

 

Specialists

Rams 2017 Specialists

Greg Zuerlein (K), Johnny Hekker (P): What really needs to be said about these two? Both came out of 2017 as pro bowlers and 1st team all-pro’s. In a time where the 3rd phase is becoming more valuable than ever, these two set the standard for what other teams should try to look like.

Bears 2017 Specialists

Cody Parkney (K), Pat Odonnell (P): While both of these players are adequate at their respective positions, neither have demonstrated any real star power or pro bowl potential. They do their jobs but shouldn’t be counted on to really change the game.

Advantage Rams. One team has both specialists on the 1st team all-pro roster while the other doesn’t. This one’s as easy as it gets.

Overall these two teams are a lot more similar than they are different. By my count (all a matter of opinion) the Bears have the advantage in 6 position groups while the Rams have the edge in 5, although some of these could be decided by a coin flip. The Bears certainly have a lot to prove after stacking multiple years of losing seasons on top of each other, but they do have a lot of young talent and they really improved their roster a lot this year. A LOT of things have to go right for the Bears to make a jump like the Rams did in 2017, but it’s certainly not impossible. Many people have been talking about this comparison, but many people are also shying away from really being serious about it. The turnaround that the Rams experienced last year was certainly an anomaly, but the Bears have a prime opportunity to strike gold themselves in 2018. We’ll just have to wait and find out.

 

Photo by Ron Johnson/Peoria Journal Star via AP, File

 

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