Silvy: My 5 Bears concerns for the 2024 season

Chicago Bears head coach Matt Eberflus listens to reporters during a news conference before the NFL football team's rookie camp at Halas Hall in Lake Forest, Ill., Friday, May 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Forget organized team activities. OTAs might as well stand for outstanding times abound.

I’ve spoken to many Bears employees, and they all say there’s a new excitement at Halas Hall. There’s a swagger within the fan base. The Bear claw movement is here and rightfully so.

As the Bears rookie class started working with veterans this week, Caleb Williams is throwing passes to DJ Moore, Keenan Allen, Rome Odunze, Cole Kmet, Gerald Everett, and D’Andre Swift.

OTA: Offense that’s awesome.

On defense, Montez Sweat arrives for his first Bears camp, Jaylon Johnson with his new mega-contract, and playmakers who can take the ball away and a unit that should reside in the top 10 the entire season.

OTA: Opportunistic takeaway aggressors.

We all played the famous win/loss schedule game last week and it felt great. I landed on 11 wins. And even the most skeptical Bears fans have them with at least a winning record. Vegas has the Bears as a favorite to make the postseason.

It’s fun to daydream about the possibilities but now the hard part starts, execution.

Optimism is fantastic but let’s remember, this is still a team that has won 10 games in the past two years.

It’s a team that hasn’t beaten the Packers in 10 straight meetings. It’s a team that has gone 2-10 in the division under Matt Eberflus. It’s a team that carried a 14-game losing streak into October of last year.

So this is going to take more than waiving your Bear claws in the air like you just don’t care. As the doors open to the media, here are the things I will watch with great interest that could prevent the Bears from achieving greatness.

While Ryan Poles did outstanding work this offseason, his team still has holes and question marks. I present to you my top 5 concerns:

1. Offensive line

This was probably the Bears’ biggest void under Poles since the rebuild began and he didn’t exactly attack it during the offseason. Third-round draft pick Kiran Amagadjie is a project and neither Coleman Shelton nor Ryan Bates are top-tier centers.

The Bears have always liked Bates, signing him to an offer sheet a couple of years ago, but the Bills matched it. And while he started a bunch in 2022, he rode the bench most of 2023 and has very little center experience. So consider me skeptical that the Bears have a true answer in the middle of their line. Tevin Jenkins could be the most talented of anyone on the line, but will he be able to shake off injuries and be available?

And speaking of dependability, Nate Davis wasn’t able to show much of anything in 2023 and needs to prove his worth. Then there’s Braxton Jones who showed promise in his rookie season but regressed a bit last year while playing through a neck injury. The Bears easily could’ve drafted his replacement with their second first-round pick, but couldn’t pass up Rome Odunze. Four of the five Bears starters on the line are in prove-it years, not exactly the best stability for your rookie quarterback.

2. Pass rush

Even with the addition of Montez Sweat, the Bears still finished 31st in the NFL in sacks last season with 30. To put that in perspective, 25 teams had at least 40 sacks. The top team, Baltimore, doubled the Bears total with 60.

Sweat needs more help but where will he get it from? Gervon Dexter is hoping to take the next step on the interior after showing promise in the second half of last season. DeMarcus Walker is a complimentary piece and rookie Austin Booker will be extremely raw. Sure the Bears can resign Yannick Ngakoue but which of his four sacks last year was your favorite? Plus, he’s coming off a broken ankle. Poles has tried signing veterans just before camp the last two years and neither Riley Reiff nor Ngakoue panned out well. I don’t expect whoever comes in at this stage to help a ton and the Bears will still have some pass rush issues putting more pressure on their talented back seven.

3. Coaching

If you’re a regular reader of this column, and why wouldn’t you be, you know that I’ve been critical of Matt Eberflus. I don’t believe he properly had his team prepared to open the 2023 season and his defensive play calling was a big reason the Bears gave away the Broncos, Lions, and Browns games. While the Bears elected to draft a new quarterback, I thought the sound approach was to pair the new QB with a new head coach on the same timeline.

Instead, Poles elected to rebuild the entire staff but keep Eberflus. Shane Waldron enters from Seattle with a strong connection to Caleb Williams. Eric Washington has prior Bears ties and is the new DC but Eberflus will most likely still call the plays. New look staff. New look Matt. Is it enough to get new results and get all of us to see what Poles believes in Eberflus? If the Bears win, that’s all that matters and Eberflus will be extended.

4. Quarterback

I expect Williams’ rookie season to be comparable to what both Derrick Rose and Kris Bryant did in their rookie seasons. Not only win the rookie of the year award but become a force in the league immediately and lead his team to the playoffs. So why is this listed as a concern? Williams is still a rookie quarterback, these are still the Bears, and I am still a scared scarred Bears fan. I love that Poles talks about breaking the cycle, but until the cycle is broken, developing a QB in this town will always be a concern until

it’s not.

5. Stadium

Yeah, this is a loophole and doesn’t affect this year’s team but it’s probably the part of the organization where I’m least confident. When I saw Bears president Kevin Warren during rookie minicamp, I thanked him for joining us in our radio studio when we held his feet to fire on Waddle and Silvy.

He responded that it’s the only way he lives his life. I don’t expect those feet will cool down anytime soon. Your guess is as good as mine as to how this stadium journey ends, but the Bears’ plan is currently flawed and has been met with the cold shoulder in Springfield. I’d be surprised if this is resolved this football season. Warren is hellbent on building downtown, but Arlington Heights looks better and better with each passing day.

• Marc Silverman shares his opinions on the Bears weekly for Shaw Local. Tune in and listen to the “Waddle & Silvy” show weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m. on ESPN 1000.

Marc Silverman

Marc Silverman

Marc Silverman shares his opinions on the Bears weekly for Shaw Local. Tune in and listen to the Waddle & Silvy show weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m. on ESPN 1000.