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Bears’ 2024 opponents are the perfect mix for Caleb Williams’ rookie development – NBC Sports Chicago
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Bears’ 2024 opponents are the perfect mix for Caleb Williams’ rookie development – NBC Sports Chicago

The Bears’ 2024 schedule will be released on May 15 after the NFL delayed the unveiling by a week due to unknown logistical issues.

While the cadence of the Bears’ schedule is unknown, we do know which opponents rookie quarterback Caleb Williams and the rapidly improving Bears will face this fall.

It’s a slate that will allow the No. 1 overall pick to face a variety of defenses — both in philosophy and quality — that should provide an ideal developmental launch pad for the future of the Bears franchise.

First a brief overview of the opponents:

At home
Packers
Vikings
Lions
Panthers
Patriots
Jaguars (expected in London)
Titans
Rams
Seahawks

Away
Lions
Vikings
Packers
Commanders
Texans
Foals
Cardinals
49ers

Of those 14 opponents, only one finished in the top 10 in scoring defense last season: the 49ers. But Minnesota, Green Bay, Houston, Tennessee and New England all finished in the top 15. Meanwhile, Washington, Arizona, Carolina and Indianapolis finished in the bottom five.

In terms of yards per game, Carolina and San Francisco finished in the top 10, while Washington and Seattle finished in the bottom five.

If you sort by defensive EPA (expected points added) per game, only the Patriots and 49ers defenses were in the top 10 last season. The Panthers, Commanders, Seahawks, Cardinals, Packers, Rams and Titans were in the bottom 10.

Williams will also face four of the most blitz-heavy teams in the NFL. The Vikings and defensive coordinator Brian Flores led the NFL with 51.5 percent of snaps, according to Pro Football Reference. The Patriots (35.2), Jaguars (30.0) and Packers (29.3) also ranked in the top 10. The Lions ranked 11th. Meanwhile, the Colts (15.7), 49ers (18.0) and Texans (21.0) all ranked in the bottom five.

It’s important to note that the Packers and 49ers have different defensive coordinators this season. The Commanders and Patriots have new defensive head coaches. Nearly every team on the schedule made significant personnel moves on that side of the ball.

The Vikings lost Danielle Hunter to the Texans, the Panthers traded Brian Burns, Aaron Donald retired and the 49ers cut Arik Armstead. The Lions drafted two cornerbacks with their first two picks, and the Packers used two of their first three picks on a linebacker and a safety.

Either way, the last-place Bears’ schedule and AFC South and NFC West crossover opponents will provide Williams with measuring stick opponents (49ers and Texans), potential cupcakes (Commanders, Titans and Cardinals) and needed NFL learning experiences (Vikings) .

But it’s a gentle mix that can help a talented young quarterback get his feet wet. The Browns, Jets, Ravens and Steelers do not appear on the schedule. The Chiefs and Cowboys are nowhere to be seen.

There will be some tough opponents, but there’s plenty of expected blech for Williams and the Bears’ new offense to pick apart. There should be plenty of opportunity to stack confidence-boosting performances around games against the 49ers, Texans, Packers and Lions (assuming they resolve their secondary issues).

An ideal start to the schedule includes an on-the-go measuring stick, a punching bag or two, and a lesson in beating the blitz.

Example first five games:
vs. Detroit
near Arizona
near Houston
vs. Tennessee
at/vs. Minnesota

Williams will face the normal bumps in his rookie year. He will have moments to forget against creative defensive coordinators and seasoned veteran defensemen.

But the Bears have created a situation where it’s almost impossible for him to fail. Facing a surging defense with top talent at all three levels every day in practice should only help accelerate his development in Year 1.

Add to that a schedule with the right mix of defensive tests and tomato cans, and Williams appears to have the right developmental launching pad in front of him — one that the Bears believe will begin his ascent to the kind of stardom that will change their franchise forever. .

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