Biggest Studs, Duds and Surprises of Chicago Bears' 2017 Season
For a rebuilding team such as the Chicago Bears, it isn't hard to find studs who have helped an otherwise drab three-win season seem encouraging.
It's easier to find duds, though.
Notable successes and failures during a rebuild are a natural part of the process. Not every draft pick and free-agent add will contribute in a positive manner. Unexpected names will shine and the core will start to emerge through it all.
That core is young and promising for the Bears, though it's clear the team needs another strong offseason to keep moving in the right direction.
As this stopgap season winds down, let's take a look at the studs, duds and surprises within both categories.
Dud: Mike Glennon
Who didn't see this coming?
Mike Glennon came to Chicago knowing his contract (a cool $45 million) would receive some criticism and he'd perhaps be a placeholder until a rookie was ready to go.
Turns out all this was true and Glennon didn't respond well in a rather dire situation. While he completed 66.4 percent of his 140 attempts, he threw for 833 yards and four touchdowns with five interceptions.
Given the injuries to the line and at wideout, Glennon wasn't put in the best situation. However, he rarely pushed the ball down the field and opponents capitalized to such an extent that the Bears decided to get rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky on the field.
Stud: Adrian Amos
How's this for a fun surprise?
Previously forgotten, Adrian Amos turned it on for the Bears in an actual role this year after free-agent add Quintin Demps went down with an injury.
Praise about Amos isn't hard to find, but Robert Zeglinski of the Rock River Times put it best recently: "What needs to be understood about Adrian Amos so you don’t overrate him (I'll also admit I was wrong): he can play. He's probably a long-term solid starter in the NFL. But he can't succeed on his own."
Amos has held up well in all phases, and his emergence suddenly hints at the Bears being able to ignore the position as opposed to addressing it in a big way.
If he keeps playing this way next to rookie Eddie Jackson, the Bears can spend cap and draft assets at other premium spots.
Dud: Dion Sims
Where is Dion Sims?
The 26-year-old looked like a great signing on paper this past offseason. Coming off the best receiving year of his career with the Miami Dolphins and already one of the best blocking tight ends in the NFL, Sims seemed like a smart add.
Going into Week 14, Sims had all of 21 targets on the season, of which he caught 11 for 115 yards and a score.
It's a hard situation to figure out. He's obviously blocking well, but with Zach Miller on injured reserve and a rookie quarterback under center, it wasn't unreasonable to expect more from Sims.
Instead, he joins the pile of ineffective free-agent signings.
Stud: Akiem Hicks
Few can do what Akiem Hicks does in the defensive trenches, so it isn't a surprise to see him pop up on a list such as this.
The Bears hit Hicks with an extension this year as a reward for his strong play, which features a stout resume against the run and an ability to put consistent pressure on quarterbacks.
And he clearly doesn't plan on slowing down, per the official Bears Twitter account: "I've got one thing to play for every week and that's my pride."
What's even more impressive is how consistent the 28-year-old has been since joining the Bears despite the chaos around him. He's not getting an end opposite him performing in a big way and Eddie Goldman has again been in and out of the lineup in the middle.
Hicks is a franchise cornerstone on one side of the football regardless, making him arguably the best player on the roster.
Dud: Markus Wheaton
One catch, 12 yards: Not exactly what the Bears had envisioned when they inked Markus Wheaton to a two-year deal worth $11 million this past offseason.
The 26-year-old has had problems staying healthy and has only seen 12 targets go his way, but it's not a line one would have guessed if knowing names on the depth chart such as Cameron Meredith and even Kevin White were lost for the season.
Rather than stretch the field and make a difference, Wheaton has been a non-factor despite the occasional big play for Pittsburgh to start his career.
Like a handful of the free agents signed over the offseason, he could be on his way out of Chicago early.
Stud: Prince Amukamara
In the surprise department, it doesn't get much better than this.
Teams rarely find a quality boundary corner in free agency who isn't a top name. But here are the Bears with Prince Amukamara, a bargain free agent on a prove-it deal who has been a superb fit in the defense.
He's also taking a notable leadership role.
"We've already talked about not quitting," Amukamara said, per Eric Edholm of Pro Football Weekly (via the Northwest Herald). "Coaches are doing it as a good, friendly reminder. This is a time around the league where you start to get teams not giving it their all. I think as professionals we know that we are paid to do a task and paid to do it no matter the circumstances."
Amukamara has likely turned plenty of heads around the NFL, which will make it harder than expected for the Bears to retain him. But they should—this is a premium position some teams never fill this well. Maybe he isn't "lockdown" by definition, but few are.
Dud: Marcus Cooper
How about a surprise in the worst way?
At the time, Marcus Cooper looked like a good signing. He had spent 2016 in Arizona and played well despite defenses going at him while avoiding other names such as Patrick Peterson.
After arriving in Chicago, though, Cooper has fallen off the map, except opponents know how to find him when he gets on the field, as JJ Stankevitz of NBC Sports Chicago illustrated recently: "Marcus Cooper comes in and Jimmy Garoppolo immediately targets him, finding Marquise Goodwin for a 10-yard gain on third and 8."
As mentioned, finding quality corners in free agency isn't easy. The 27-year-old looked like one, though, and the idea was to at least get solid play out of him as insurance in case Kyle Fuller again struggled to make an impact.
Funnily enough, Fuller has turned it around and Cooper tanked, which isn't what many would have dared predict before the season.
Stud: Jordan Howard
Jordan Howard is a star: Even that's almost an understatement at this point.
Howard could have been a one-hit wonder and succumbed to the iffy circumstances in Chicago this year. Instead, he has been his usual self while tallying 885 yards and five touchdowns on a 4.2 per-carry average through 12 games.
The numbers pale in comparison to the fact he's propping up a miserable passing offense while dealing with injuries to his line—and who can forget him fighting through a shoulder injury to secure the game-winning touchdown over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 3?
Howard isn't just making life easier on a rookie trying to develop at the pro level. He's also giving fans flashes of the future and what more might be possible when the talent level surrounding him continues to improve.