Caylor Arnold/USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Bears had second most rookie starts in 2016

The Chicago Bears executed a full-blown youth movement in 2016, with a combined 73 starts from the team's rookie class, which was second most in the NFL.

Following a franchise-worst 3-13 campaign in 2016, Chicago Bears fans were calling for the heads of GM Ryan Pace and head coach John Fox.

That refrain continues today, albeit somewhat muted, from diehards who feel the team is under the guidance of incompetents.

It's an understandable reaction following a season that was one snowballing disappointment, yet injuries must be accounted for when evaluating the Bears 2016 season.

Chicago finished with a league-high 19 players on IR. Sure, they didn't look great before the injuries but any in-season improvement -- which many NFL teams accomplish during a 16-game campaign -- was impossible due to mounting injuries to the team's best players.

The Bears were one of the oldest teams in the league when Fox and Pace took over in 2015. Just two years later, they have one of the youngest rosters in the league. Building through youth is a tried-and-true formula for long-term success in the NFL.

While last season was an embarrassment, the injuries resulted in extended playing time for a number of the club's young players. 

In 2016, 10 Bears rookies combined to start 73 games, which was second most in the league, behind only the Browns. Four of Chicago's rookies started eight games or more, which tied for the league-high: C Cody Whitehair, RB Jordan Howard, OLB Leonard Floyd and CB Cre'Von LeBlanc.

The growing pains were hard to watch at times last season but those rookie reps were critical and could pay off in the long run. At the very least, it definitely didn't hurt for the club's youngest players to receive extended field time.

RankTeamStartsPlayersEight-plus starts (round)
1 Cleveland 82 16 4 — DE Emmanuel Ogbah (second), 16; WR Corey Coleman (first), 10; G Spencer Drango (fifth), 9; QB Cody Kessler (third), 8.
2 Chicago 73 10 4 — G Cody Whitehair (second), 16; RB Jordan Howard (fifth), 13; LB Leonard Floyd (first), 12; CB Cre'Von LeBlanc (UDFA), 9.
3 Dallas 58 6 4 — QB Dak Prescott (fourth), 16; RB Ezekiel Elliott (first), 15; DT Maliek Collins (third), 14; CB Anthony Brown (sixth), 10.
3 Indianapolis 58 10 3 — C Ryan Kelly (first), 16; OT Joe Haeg (fifth), 14; LB Edwin Jackson (UDFA), 8.
5 Jacksonville 56 7 3 — CB Jalen Ramsey (first), 16; DE Yannick Ngakoue (third), 15; LB Myles Jack (second), 10.
6 Atlanta 51 7 4 — S Keanu Neal (first), 14; LB Deion Jones (second), 13; LB De'Vondre Campbell (fourth), 10; CB Brian Poole (UDFA), 9.
7 N.Y. Giants 50 9 3 — WR Sterling Shepard (second), 16; S Andrew Adams (UDFA), 13; CB Eli Apple (first), 11.
7 N.Y. Jets 50 13 3 — LB Jordan Jenkins (third), 11; LB Darron Lee (first), 9; WR Robby Anderson (UDFA), 8.
9 Pittsburgh 46 8 4 — NT Jacon Hargrave (third), 13; CB Artie Burns (first), 9; S Sean Davis (second), 8; WR Eli Rogers (UDFA), 8.
10 L.A. Chargers 41 9 2 — DE Joey Bosa (first), 11; TE Hunter Henry (second), 10.
11 Oakland 40 7 2 — DE Jihad Ward (second), 13; S Karl Joseph (first), 9.
12 Detroit 38 6 2 — OT Taylor Decker (first), 16; G/C Graham Glasgow (third), 11.
13 Tennessee 37 6 2 — OT Jack Conklin (first), 16; WR Tajae Sharpe (fifth), 10.
13 New Orleans 37 8 2 — S Vonn Bell (second), 13; WR Michael Thomas (second), 12.
15 San Francisco 36 5 2 — DE DeForest Buckner (first), 15; G Joshua Garnett (first), 11.
16 Baltimore 35 7 3 — OT Ronnie Stanley (first), 12; CB Tavon Young (fourth), 11; G Alex Lewis (fourth), 8.
16 New England 35 9 1 — G Joe Thuney (third), 16.
18 Philadelphia 34 7 1 — QB Carson Wentz (first).
19 Houston 33 5 1 — WR Will Fuller (first), 13.
19 Seattle 33 6 2 — G Germain Ifedi (first), 13; OT George Fant (UDFA), 10.
21 Carolina 30 4 2 — CB James Bradberry (sixth), 13; CB Daryl Worley (third), 11.
21 Miami 30 5 1 — OT Laremy Tunsil (first), 14.
23 Arizona 29 7 1 — OT D.J. Humphries (first), 13.
23 Tampa Bay 29 5 1 — CB Vernon Hargreaves.
25 Kansas City 26 6 1 — DT Chris Jones (second), 11.
26 L.A. Rams 25 7 None.
27 Denver 22 7 None.
28 Washington 18 3 1 — RB Rob Kelley (UDFA), 9.
29 Green Bay 17 6 1 — LB Blake Martinez (fourth), 9.
30 Buffalo 15 3 1 — DT Adolphus Washington (third), 11.
31 Minnesota 7 3 None.
32 Cincinnati 6 2 None.

**Thanks to Bill Huber at PackerReport.com for doing the research and compiling the numbers.

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