While the 2018 season was a success for the Chicago Bears, there was room for improvement. And no I'm not referring to the missed field goal that ended their season in the first round of the playoffs back in January. I'm referring to a select group of players that could have done more last year. Now while these players didn't have terrible seasons, they were capable of having a bigger impact. Heading into the 2019 campaign, these athletes are looking to step their games up.
If the Bears want to reach the next level, getting an extra effort from these particular players will help in that regard.
Leonard Floyd, OLB
When the Georgia alum was chosen with the ninth overall pick back in 2016, he was labeled as the centerpiece of the pass rush in the Bears' new 3-4 scheme under then-defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. But so far the 26-year-old has yet to fulfill his full potential. Now it hasn't been all bad as last year was the first time that Floyd had played in all 16 games. A concussion ended his season at 12 games during his rookie year, and knee surgery shortened Floyd's 2017 campaign to 10 games. Last season also was when Floyd grabbed his first interception, scored his first defensive touchdown, and posted a career high in tackles (49).
But sacking the quarterback is why Floyd was brought to Chicago, and when Kahlil Mack came to town last year Floyd took a back seat as opposed to forming the one-two edge rushing punch that the Bears had hoped for. In early May the Bears exercised the fifth-year option on Floyd's rookie contract, which will pay him $13.2 million in 2020. It's only guaranteed for injury, however, so it's no stretch to say that if Floyd wants to see that money next year he better start producing this season.
Adam Shaheen, TE
Many felt that the Bears had reached by taking the Division II Ashland University product in the second round in 2017, and thus far the naysayers have been proven right. Shaheen has only played in 19 total games. And in those games he's caught 17 passes for 175 yards and three touchdowns, although he does work hard in other aspects. Injuries have certainly not helped him either.
The Bears are currently well stocked at the tight end position with eight on the roster as of early June, so Shaheen may not even be guaranteed a spot at this point. He will need to make the most of his opportunities this summer. Trey Burton (who is recovering from recent sports hernia surgery) is the clear-cut No. 1 on the depth chart but the rotation after him is to be determined. Shaheen can prove without a doubt he remains a big part of the Bears' plans, or he could be looking for another team.
Jonathan Bullard, DE
He was drafted two rounds after Leonard Floyd in 2016, and he's pretty much played a full season in each of his first three seasons. But it's his lack of presence in the box score that needs to improve. The former Florida product only has 46 tackles, two sacks, two passes defended and one forced fumble in 46 career games (five starts). The Bears' defensive line is anchored by Pro Bowler Akiem Hicks and also features Eddie Goldman as well as guys like Roy Robertson-Harris and Bilal Nichols. Bullard is entering the last year of his rookie contract, so he needs to provide more production if for any other reason to increase his outlook for 2020.
— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He's a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.