For the Chicago Bears to contend for the playoffs this season, here are five players who can help make that happen:
Mitchell Trubisky, quarterback: Trubisky, whom the Bears drafted second overall in 2017, is the most important player on Chicago’s roster. The second-year quarterback spent all offseason learning the nuances of new head coach Matt Nagy’s offense -- the same system Andy Reid runs in Kansas City. The Bears struggled mightily on offense last year, but with better coaching and a better scheme, Chicago believes Trubisky can develop into a legitimate franchise quarterback. The Bears may surprise people in the NFC North as long as Trubisky takes a giant step from Year 1 to Year 2.
Jordan Howard, running back: Howard is the first player in franchise history to rush for 1,000 yards in each of his first two NFL seasons. The Bears have surrounded Trubisky with better weapons -- on paper -- in the passing game, but Chicago still needs to run the ball in order to win. Howard, whom Nagy confirmed will be the Bears’ featured back in 2018, has 12 100-yard rushing games since the start of the 2016 season. The Bears have decent depth in their backfield, but Howard is the most important member of the group. Howard needs to stay healthy for the Bears to reach their full potential on offense.
Allen Robinson, wide receiver: The Bears had the worst receivers in the NFL last year. To help remedy the situation, the Bears signed Robinson to a three-year deal in free agency that includes $25.2 million in guarantees. Robinson had a dominant season for Jacksonville (80 catches, 1,400 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns) in 2015, but he’s coming off a torn ACL that he suffered in Week 1 of last year. The Bears insist that Robinson, who missed almost the entire offseason program, will be full go when the club reports to training camp on July 19.
Akiem Hicks, defensive line: Hicks emerged as one of Chicago’s best defenders over the past two seasons. Formerly a member of the New Orleans Saints, Hicks registered a career-high 8.5 sacks last season after posting seven for Chicago in 2016. The Bears are once again counting on Hicks to generate pressure up front. Hicks, 28, has played at close to a Pro Bowl level since he joined the Bears.
Leonard Floyd, outside linebacker: Floyd, the ninth overall choice of the 2016 NFL draft, has tons of ability. When Floyd is healthy, he’s a disruptive force. The problem is that Floyd has missed 10 games in just two seasons. For the Bears to truly be a top-10 defense, Floyd has to (1) stay off the injury report and (2) be someone the Bears can count on for double-digit sacks. Floyd is tall, athletic and fast. But he has to prove he can play a 16-game season.