April 11, 2021


Hub Arkush: Are you willing to consider Ryan Pace, Matt Nagy just might know what they’re doing?

No matter how you slice and dice it the Chicago Bears haven’t been much fun the past few months.

So let’s have some.

Any time you hear Matt Nagy and/or Ryan Pace say they believe their club really “isn’t far away,” after you’re done moaning have you ever asked yourself what they might really mean?

Do you know a single soul that honestly can say they saw 2018 coming?

But what happened?

Kyle Fuller (26 years old), Eddie Jackson (25) and Tarik Cohen (23) made huge leaps from talented kids to First-Team All Pros. Akiem Hicks went from a nice asset to one of the game’s most dominant interior defenders. Eddie Goldman (24) and Cody Whitehair (26) suddenly reached Pro Bowl level play. Eighth-overall pick Roquan Smith made impactful contributions. And whether you’re willing to remember and admit it or not, sophomore Mitch Trubisky was a first alternate for the Pro Bowl and he deserved it.

Of course, then came the Khalil Mack trade to seal the deal, but would he have made near the impact if not for all the kids around him?

Could it be what Pace and Nagy are trying to sell is a new batch of young talent about to rise? Have we wasted so much time on things that were never going to happen and we’re just not looking in the right direction?

Probably not, but hey?

Just for snorts and giggles, if 2021 is to be 2018 all over again, who are the assets we need to be watching?

David Montgomery proved last year he’s a No. 1 running back. Can he be a guy you build an offense around?

At 5-10, 180, Darnell Mooney out of Tulane was a huge surprise in the fifth round of the draft, showing signs he can be a No. 2 receiver.

But I’ll bet you’ve forgotten that 5-10, 180-pound Antonio Brown was a sixth-round pick out of Central Michigan, who from 2013 through 2018 was a five-time Pro Bowler, four-time All Pro and the most dominant receiver in the game with nowhere near Mooney’s speed.

How high is Mooney’s ceiling?

Great tight ends are notoriously slow starters. While Rob Gronkowski had 10 TDs as a rookie, neither he nor George Kittle really emerged until year two. For Travis Kelce it was year four, and Zach Ertz a year after that.

Didn’t we see flashes of being special from Cole Kmet?

James Daniels was one of the most impressive young interior offensive lineman in the league until tearing his pectoral muscle last year and his ceiling is still much higher.

I believe the biggest mistake the Bears made with Kyle Long was not putting him at left tackle the day he arrived. At least things worked out great at guard.

Now, I know Alex Bars has been hidden for the most part, but if they’d just let him compete with Charles Leno, could the next Jason Peters be hiding in plain sight?

Goldman will be back, still only 27, healthy and rested, and while Bilal Nichols didn’t fit Goldman’s spot, big plays at the five-technique were multiplying quickly at the end of the year and who knows how high that ceiling is?

Smith already is a Second-Team All Pro, maybe this year he’ll be more.

Jackson disappeared last year, but why can’t he be the best safety in the game again?

Few corners in football are as physical as Fuller, but Jaylon Johnson wasn’t all that far from him in coverage as a rookie. And if his oft-damaged shoulders don’t fail him who knows how high that ceiling could be?

Of course, the odds are against each of these kids all taking big leaps together and a million things can go wrong.

But we’ve seen what can happen and with talent around them like Mack, Allen Robinson, Hicks (You hope!, You hope!), Jimmy Graham, Robert Quinn, Whitehair, Danny Trevathan and Cohen who says this has to be a disaster?

Listen, I don’t see another Mack trade out there. I have no faith in Andy Dalton and have a ton less in Nick Foles than I did a year ago.

I’m not saying what Pace and Nagy are selling is at all likely to happen.

I’m just telling you if this is what it is, it isn’t a lottery ticket either.

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush is a Bears/NFL Insider for Shaw Media