Chalk Talk

Chalk Talk: Which Bears players will improve most?

Wondering about a player, a past game or another issue involving the Bears? Senior writer Larry Mayer answers a variety of questions from fans on ChicagoBears.com.

Of the players currently on the Bears roster, which three are on your “watch list” for greatest improvement?
Neil A.
Portland, Oregon

When you’re talking about players who are most likely to improve, I think first of the 2018 draft picks who will be entering their second pro seasons. NFL players typically make a big leap from their first to second years in the league and I expect that to happen with the Bears’ top three picks from last year in linebacker Roquan Smith, guard James Daniels and receiver Anthony Miller. I think all three had strong rookie seasons while also showing a great potential for growth. I believe that Smith can become a perennial Pro Bowler if he takes the next step, while Daniels and Miller can both develop into above-average starters and possibly Pro Bowl-caliber players as well. Those would be the three I’d place on my “watch list” heading into the 2019 season.

I read a couple of newspaper columnists who expressed the belief that the Patriots delivered the best defensive performance in Super Bowl history. Did they conveniently forget about the 1985 Bears? How do the two defensive outings compare?
Phillip K.
Rancho Mirage, California

The Patriots’ defensive performance in last Sunday’s Super Bowl was impressive, no doubt about it, especially against a high-powered Rams offense. But I think it’s laughable for anyone to believe that it was better than what the Bears defense did (coincidentally to New England) in Super Bowl XX. The Bears gave up more points (10) than the Rams (3). But those came on a field goal after the defense did not allow a yard on three plays following a turnover, and a late “garbage time” touchdown against second-stringers when the Bears were leading 44-3. Comparing the Patriots defense in Super Bowl LIII to the Bears defense in Super Bowl XX, the Bears allowed fewer than half as many yards (123 versus 260) and fewer first downs (12-14) while producing more sacks (7-4), six times as many takeaways (6-1) and more points (9-0) with a Reggie Phillips interception return touchdown and a Henry Waechter safety. Facing the Bears on Jan. 26, 1986, the Patriots gained positive yards on just one of their first 15 plays. In the first half, they mustered only one first down, minus-five yards rushing and minus-14 yards passing. Starting quarterback Steve Grogan was benched in favor of Tony Eason after going 0-for-6 with three sacks.

When was the last time the Bears had a player voted to the Pro Bowl that they had acquired in a trade like Khalil Mack?
Vincent P.
Little Rock, Arkansas

The last player the Bears acquired via trade that was selected to the Pro Bowl was Brandon Marshall. The Bears dealt a pair of third-round picks to the Dolphins in March 2012 in exchange for the veteran receiver, and he was voted to the Pro Bowl in each of his first two seasons with the Bears.

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