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Patrick Finley: Analyzing the Bears heading into the 2017 season

Bears running back Jordan Howard was named to the Pro Bowl. (AP)

The Chicago Sun-Times’ Patrick Finley breaks down the gains made and questions looming for the Bears heading into the 2017 season:

Mike Glennon will …

Be fine. His third preseason game was more indicative of what we’ll see in the regular season than his first two exhibition debacles. He won’t be the driving force behind Bears wins — their running backs and blockers are far more potent than their pass catchers — but he won’t be the reason they lose, either. He’ll be a caretaker, and that qualifies as an upgrade from last season. Matt Barkley, who started more games than any Bears quarterback last year, wasn’t good enough to make the 49ers’ 53-man roster Saturday.

Mitch Trubisky’s first start will come …

Because of injury. There are dates to target if the Bears want to promote him, sure — they have 10 days between Games 4 and 5 and a bye week after their eighth contest — but since when have the Bears had the luxury of health? When training camp started, the Bears weren’t sure that Trubisky could shine if called on midseason. They feel better about that now.

Biggest upgrade from 2016…

Bears tight ends not named Zach Miller had 24 catches for 186 receiving yards last season. By comparison, former Bear Greg Olsen tad 181 yards in a single game last year. The Bears, then, have nowhere to go but up. Miller is still around, and effective, despite offseason foot surgery. Dion Sims got $10 million guaranteed to block and give the Bears a reliable receiving option. Adam Shaheen, the second-round pick, is a work in progress, but still presents a better red zone target than any Bears wide receiver.

Biggest downgrade from 2016…

Receiver, and it’s not close. Alshon Jeffery had 821 receiving yards last year before the Bears let him walk via free agency. The five receivers on this year’s roster not named Kendall Wright? 769 yards combined in 2016.

The team MVP will be …

Jordan Howard. Running backs are fungible, the NFL groupthink goes, but the Bears will lean on last season’s second-leading rusher in the league even more this season. They have the blocking prowess to hand it off to Howard 300 times this year. He had 252 carries last season.

Biggest X-factor:

How will concerns about John Fox’s job affect the way the Bears treat Trubisky? Balancing the near-term desire for wins and the rookie’s long-term development — both with practice reps and, potentially later, game snaps — will be tricky.

Projected record:

6-10. Even if the Bears get throttled in their first four games, a 6-6 record the rest of the way —with Trubisky under center toward the end of the season — would qualify as progress. Steal one or two early and have some luck in the trainers’ room, and the Bears could fight for .500.

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