Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:
“Which aspect of this Bears team has exceeded your expectations the most? — @kylebeckrich
“The Bears have exceeded expectations in a lot of areas to begin 7-3. One area they’ve been much better in is health. After battling through injuries for much of the last three seasons, they’ve been far more durable in Nagy’s first year, and that is a credit to the entire organization. That’s been one of the big reasons for the Bears’ success to this point.”
Biggs is, of course, quite correct in that this is a major factor in the Bears success. But I wouldn’t say that they exceeded expectations in this area in that I had no expectations beyond the usual number of injuries.
And even then, I’d argue that the loss of personnel like Kyle Long for the season should count for something. Losing Khalil Mack for two games (effectively three and a half as he wasn’t healthy for part of the Dolphins game and all of the Patriots game) was a big blow. I’d also point to the loss of Adam Shaheen for long periods of time this year as a factor as the Bears were obviously counting on him to play a major role in the offense as the blocking tight end who could also do some damage in the passing game. In this, Dion Simms has largely been a disappointment, at least in terms of the passing game. Losing Mitch Trubisky (it appears) to injury against the Lions is a factor that will have to be overcome as well.
So, though they have been relatively healthy, they haven’t been that healthy.
The thing that has exceeded my own expectations the most has been the Bears depth. Before training camp, I repeatedly cited this as a major factor for why the team wouldn’t be able to compete in the NFC North this year. But as soon as the preseason started it became evident that I was under-estimating them.
James Daniels and Eric Kush have done a credible job at guard and, along with the acquisition of Bryan Witzmann, they have done a pretty good job so far of making up for the loss of Long. Roquan Smith has effectively added depth to the linebacker position in the form of Nick Kwiatkoski.
But what has really stood out is the unexpected quality play of the back ups at the defensive line and the outside line backer positions. From the very start of the preseason, players like Roy Robertson-Harris, Jonathan Bullard, Bilal Nichols, Kylie Fitts and Isaiah Irving impressed me with the degree to which they developed. In the case of Nichols and Robertson-Harris, that has translated onto the field during the regular season. The others like Fitts and Irving will undoubtedly prove their worth as their chances to do so increase.
It now evident to me that the Bears have the depth to withstand a reasonable number of injuries at most of the positions on the team. To me, that’s the biggest surprise.