Which players will form the foundation of the Bears' rebuilding project?

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky hands off to running back Jordan Howard during the October loss to the Vikings. The Bears have 11 players who could form the foundation of a successful rebuilding project including Howard and Trubisky.

    Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky hands off to running back Jordan Howard during the October loss to the Vikings. The Bears have 11 players who could form the foundation of a successful rebuilding project including Howard and Trubisky. Assocaited Press File Photo

 
 
Updated 12/10/2017 8:24 AM

Any candidate weighing the merits of an expected head coaching vacancy for the Chicago Bears will surely prioritize the talent on the existing roster.

But is that a good selling-point or a bad one for the McCaskey family?

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It depends on how quickly the owners expect expected the new coach to field a contender. Assuming it will take at least two years to dig out from the rubble of what will soon be four straight double-digit-loss seasons, it appears the Bears have 11 players who could form the foundation of a successful rebuilding project.

As yet, not one of them is a difference-maker that opponents must game plan against, but several are young enough that they could become such players.

• Outside linebacker Leonard Floyd (25) might have the most upside of anyone on the roster. He had 7 sacks as a rookie and 4 this season before a sprained knee sent him to injured reserve after 10 games. One can only imagine what a healthy Floyd could do over 16 games, because he has not come close to doing that. He played in 12 games as a rookie and was less than 100 percent in a couple of them.

• Defensive lineman Akiem Hicks (28) is not exactly a youngster, but he has been the Bears' most valuable defensive player in both of his seasons in Chicago and may not have reached his peak. He'll get Pro Bowl consideration this year, and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said he believes Hicks has room for growth. The closest thing to a difference-maker on this team is Hicks. If you believe the best way to build a contender is from the inside out, he's a nice cornerstone.

• Nose tackle Eddie Goldman (23) missed 10 games (ankle) last year and is doubtful this week with a hip injury. He doesn't get a lot of notoriety or post flashy stats because of the nature of his position. But a successful 3-4 base depends on a quality nose, and Goldman has been that when he's healthy. He'll have three years' experience before he turns 24, and the Bears have the foundation of an excellent D-line with Goldman and Hicks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

• Danny Trevathan (27) at inside linebacker is a productive player vs. the run and the pass when he's on the field. But he has missed 19 of the 44 games the Bears have played since he was signed as an unrestricted free agent. Trevathan plays hurt, comes back quickly from injuries, and he always seems to be around the ball. Much like Floyd, the Bears would love to see what kind of production he's capable of giving over 16 games.

• Safety Eddie Jackson (turns 25 on Sunday) demonstrated what he can do with the ball in his hands in his seventh game as a pro. He returned his first, and only, interception 76 yards for a TD and also scored on a 75-yard return of a recovered fumble. His play has been a bit underwhelming since then. He has playmaking ability, but he must make more plays on the ball, which should come as he matures.

• Quarterback Mitch Trubisky (23) has been put in the unenviable position of throwing to possibly the NFL's worst group of receivers. That has to be factored into his performance, which has been uneven, although he has done a better job of taking care of the ball than a lot of young quarterbacks with stronger supporting casts. It should only get easier for him going forward, and if tough times build character, he should have an abundance by the end of the year.

• Running back Jordan Howard (23) has struggled along with the rest of the offense the past two games, but he reached 2,000 rushing yards in 24 games -- fewer than anyone in franchise history. Like many featured running backs, Howard gets better with more work. Though he lacks great speed, Howard has three runs of 50 yards or longer this year.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

• Offensive guard Kyle Long (29) is a question mark because of back-to-back injury-plagued seasons and because he'll soon be a 30-year-old player with a surgical right ankle and left shoulder. But missing 14 games the past two seasons has reduced erosion on the parts of his body that didn't require surgery. Long also didn't suffer much wear and tear in his limited college career. By having his shoulder surgery before this season ends, Long could come back a healthier player in 2018.

• Offensive left tackle Charles Leno (26) was rewarded with a four-year, $38 million contract before the start of the regular season, so the Bears clearly believe he can be entrusted with protecting Trubisky's blind side. Leno doesn't have prototypical size, but he has ideal arm length, is a good athlete and has earned a reputation as a tireless worker.

• Center Cody Whitehair (25) has started every game since he was drafted in Round 2 in 2016, including one each at left guard and right guard. A college guard, he was moved to center a week before the opener of his rookie season and made the transition seamlessly. Trubisky is one of his biggest fans.

Running back Tarik Cohen (22) averages fewer than 10 touches a game from scrimmage and at his size (5-6, 181 pounds) that might be his optimum workload. But he also returns punts and kickoffs. He has a 70-yard reception, a 61-yard punt-return touchdown and a 46-yard run. A home-run threat whenever he touches the ball.

• Follow Bob's Bears reports on Twitter @BobLeGere.

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