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The 10 most important Bears players for a successful 2016 season

Bears QB Jay Cutler (AP).

The Bears hired John Fox as their coach 18 months ago partly because of his ability to turn around a team quickly. But unlike in his second season with the Broncos in 2012, Fox’s second season with the Bears won’t feature the exploits of Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning.

On paper, the Bears are better in some areas than they were in 2015 (see the defensive front seven). But they’re weaker in others (see running back and

tight end).

With the Bears reporting to training camp Wednesday in Bourbonnais, here is the Sun-Times’ annual list of the 10 most important players for a successful season.

1. QB Jay Cutler

The onus on Cutler isn’t the same as it was under former general manager Phil Emery and former coach Marc Trestman. But 2016 will be different for Cutler than his first season under GM Ryan Pace and Fox was.

Cutler raised expectations by posting a career-high 92.3 passer rating and cutting down on his turnovers last season, and the Bears underscored their belief in him by promoting quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains to offensive coordinator in the name of continuity after Adam Gase left.

The Bears will do their best to help Cutler. Fox’s plan calls for complementary football. The Bears are significantly better defensively than they were under Trestman, and they will run the ball. The Bears ran the ball 468 times last season compared with 355 under Trestman in 2014.

But more will be expected from Cutler, even though he has less. On and off the field, he will guide a promising but inexperienced group of offensive players.

Youth defines the line and backfield after the Bears moved on from running back Matt Forte (free agent), tight end Martellus Bennett (trade), tackle Jermon Bushrod (release) and guard Matt Slauson (release) for different reasons.

The receiving foursome of Alshon Jeffery, Kevin White and Eddie Royal and tight end Zach Miller has potential, but there are also injury concerns.

Cutler overcame a spate of injuries to his weapons last season, but should he be expected to do it again?

2. ILB Danny Trevathan

Trevathan received the biggest deal from the Bears in free agency during the offseason, and that means he should make the biggest impression.

Trevathan was a tackling machine for the Broncos, with instincts Shea McClellin and other Bears linebackers rarely showed in the middle of the defense last season.

‘‘He’s got a good nose for the game,’’ defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said.

Trevathan has the same kind of demeanor outside linebacker Pernell McPhee added last season. And, like McPhee, he quickly has become a leader.

Trevathan also sounds motivated after becoming a Super Bowl champion with the Broncos last season.

‘‘Write it down, look yourself in the mirror, tell yourself what you want out of the day and go out there and attack,’’ he said.

3. OLB Pernell McPhee

McPhee was one of the best free-agent signings in the NFL last season. He changed the complexion and attitude of the Bears’ defense and produced, finishing with six sacks, 25 pressures, 10 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles and an interception.

McPhee’s value is clear, but his health isn’t. His production likely would have been even more impressive if he didn’t have a bothersome left knee, which required arthroscopic surgery during the offseason.

McPhee has worked out at Halas Hall, but he stayed off the field during organized team activities and minicamp. Starting with this week, his health requires significant attention. He’s just too valuable.

4. LT Charles Leno Jr.

Pro Football Focus didn’t view Leno’s first run as a starter favorably, but Pace, Fox and offensive line coach Dave Magazu did. It’s why the Bears invested elsewhere on the line during the offseason — right tackle Bobby Massie and guards Cody Whitehair and Ted Larsen — and not at left tackle.

Leno exudes confidence, and the Bears expect him to develop after his experiences last season.

‘‘I know if I’m confident in my technical abilities, which I am — and I’m still growing — I know I can play against anybody,’’ Leno said.

5. RB Jeremy Langford

Langford isn’t going replace Forte on his own. It’s an impossible task, and the Bears know it.

As always with Fox’s teams, there will be a committee of backs. But Langford has to be the best and most productive. The bulk of the snaps are his to lose entering camp.

Langford flashed his potential en route to 537 rushing yards, 279 receiving yards and seven touchdowns last season. But he has plenty to learn and prove if he’s going to be a featured back. It starts with becoming a more reliable receiver and a more sound blocker.

6. WR Alshon Jeffery

If Jeffery has the type of season he thinks he will after not getting a long-term deal from the Bears, he’ll be better off for it — and so will the team.

Jeffery is arguably the best receiver in the NFC North and is undoubtedly the Bears’ most proven offensive talent. His per-game average of 89.7 receiving yards last season was the seventh-best in the NFL.

But Jeffery’s health is everything after he missed seven games last season. His next contract depends on it, and so might a few victories.

7. TE Zach Miller

Tight end might be the Bears’ thinnest position. After Miller, Khari Lee, Rob Housler, Tony Moeaki, Gannon Sinclair, former defensive lineman Greg Scruggs and undrafted rookie Ben Braunecker round out the depth chart.

Miller broke out with 34 catches for 439 yards and five touchdowns last season. He also has Cutler’s confidence. But Miller still needs to prove he can stay healthy. If he doesn’t, the Bears will be in trouble.

8. ILB Jerrell Freeman

They have yet to play a game together, but Trevathan and Freeman are obvious upgrades over McClellin and Christian Jones, the starting inside linebackers at this point last season.

Like Trevathan, Freeman is brash and confident. He’s athletic and productive. And he leads.

‘‘That chip on my shoulder’s never going to get knocked off,’’ Freeman said.

Freeman’s story is one of triumph. He went from playing in Division III in college to the Canadian Football League to becoming one of the Colts’ leading tacklers the last two seasons.

9. S Adrian Amos

Amos was surprisingly steady as a rookie. Now secondary coach Ed Donatell wants big plays from him.

Amos led the Bears in tackles last season, according to coach reviews, but he didn’t have an interception and broke up only four passes.

His development is extremely important, especially with the second safety spot up for grabs.

10. DT Eddie Goldman

The Bears are eyeing a Pro Bowl-caliber season from Goldman after he had 4½ sacks and six tackles for loss as a rookie in 2015.

To reach that level, Goldman needs to play more. He was on the field for only 50.1 percent of the defensive snaps last season.

Goldman spent the offseason working on his conditioning and developing better eating habits. He played at about 340 pounds as a rookie, but the Bears want him at 325.

A look back at our 2015 list

1. OLB Pernell McPhee

2. WR Alshon Jeffery

3. RB Matt Forte

4. CB Kyle Fuller

5. QB Jay Cutler

6. OL Kyle Long

7. LB Shea McClellin

8. DT Eddie Goldman

9. WR Eddie Royal

10. S Antrel Rolle