By Chris Emma—
(670 The Score) During his decade in the NFL, Bears safety Quintin Demps has seen plenty. He has played for five different teams and experienced everything from the postseason to last place. So, serving as an elder statesman for his young Bears team, he delivered a resounding message last week.
The Bears had dropped five straight games and seemed to be regressing as Demps reminded the importance of their remaining games. He told them their standard was at stake, and his teammates were listening. They responded with a strong showing, winning 33-7 in Cincinnati last Sunday, then they went back to work with a sharpened focus.
“We’re trying to play for the culture – where we want to be next year,” rookie safety Eddie Jackson said after the win, relaying the words of Demps.
We’ve reached the time of year in which mock drafts are beginning to appear. The Browns are still winless and will likely pick first overall again. The Giants and Broncos will be looking to draft quarterbacks and pick up the pieces after lost seasons. The 49ers can hope to add another talented piece to foster their rebuild.
After their win Sunday, the Bears are now 4-9 and now reside in the seventh slot in the draft order. Alabama receiver Calvin Ridley and defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick present interesting possibilities for the Bears, but where will they be picking when the season comes to an end?
Tanking has been popularized in sports, but it’s a concept that doesn’t fit as well in football with its 53-man rosters. Hitting on a few draft picks usually doesn’t go as far in the NFL as it may in the NBA or MLB.
In the NFL, the idea of playing out a season with the intention of losing is usually reckless. There are only 16 games on the schedule, and there are too many pieces to the puzzle to put into jeopardy.
With that tanking comes losing habits and a lost standard. Players go through the motions during the month of December and miss out the opportunity for growth. For a Bears organization trying to develop a roster, victories are needed.
Many Bears youngsters took a step forward in Sunday’s win. Rookies like Jackson, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, tight end Adam Shaheen and running back Tarik Cohen thrived against a depleted opponent, while second-year running back Jordan Howard put together his latest strong performance. It’s exactly what one could’ve hoped for from this team.
The Bears need Trubisky to continue making progress as a young quarterback, using this season as his platform for what’s to come. They need Howard and Cohen to continue their development as a tandem, creating a balance for Trubisky and the passing game.
They need Shaheen to continue adapting to the speed of this NFL game, using his size and athleticism to become a dominant force in coverage on a team with needs at wide receiver. They need defensive linemen Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman to get after quarterbacks by learning to play off each other, for linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski to develop a better comfort as a starter and for Jackson to keep taking the football away.
What the Bears need is a strong finish to this season that marks progress for a roster with plenty of promise. Though there’s no postseason in play this season, they can lay a better foundation for contention next season if they’re better prepared. The building blocks are in place.
Root against the Bears if you will, but their future is better suited picking outside the top 10. That means something was going right in the final quarter of the season.
The Bears can set a new standard by changing the results. There are three games left presenting an important opportunity.
Injury report: The Bears have ruled Shaheen (chest), Goldman (hip) and safety Adrian Amos (hamstring) as questionable against the Lions on Saturday. Receiver Kendall Wright (shoulder) and linebacker Pernell McPhee (shoulder) both practiced in full Thursday and were cleared from the injury report.