CHISportsNation

The 2022 NFL Regular Season has concluded, and with that the Chicago Bears season has come to an end. The Bears finished 3-14, the worst record in the league. While their record was bad, and a lot of work needs to be done on this roster, there is reason for optimism with $120 million in cap space, about double the next highest team, and the number 1 pick to possibly be auctioned off as the Bears will likely stick with their QB Justin Fields. Now, one of the most important offseasons of the Bears history begins; and the first step is current player evaluation. Let’s break it down by position, just as the front office and coaches will.

 

QB

Justin Fields took a major leap with his legs this season and a minor leap with his arm. He finished the season with 1,143 yards rushing, second most by a QB in NFL history. At the same time, the passing volume was low as Fields only threw for more than 200 yards in a game three times, en route to 2,242 yards passing. But the flashes were there and more consistent. Fields continued to show how lethal his deep ball was. And after a very bad September, Fields and the Bears offense woke up and played pretty well in the middle two quarters of the season. Luke Getsy started using him like Lamar Jackson and it paid off both through the air and on the ground. The last quarter of the season there were more struggles, but the Bears played very good teams and Fields wasn’t making the same awful rookie mistakes from September. All in all, a lot of progress was shown. What we know now is while Fields still needs to improve on sacks and short-intermediate throws, his legs and deep ball are extremely game-breaking, meaning he deserves the opportunity to improve on the layups as a QB with a better supporting cast. Justin Fields is the QB of the future for the Chicago Bears.

RB

David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert both battled through some injuries, but still played well enough to have a big part in the best rushing offense in the NFL. Herbert has proven to be the more explosive outside the tackles runner, being a top RYOE performer and averaging 5.7 yards per carry. Montgomery proves to be the better goal line and short yardage and between the tackles runner. He is also a better receiver (34 receptions to Herbert’s 9) and pass blocker. They combined for 1532 yards rushing. Montgomery is a free agent and I could see him back on a short term deal that isn’t too expensive, but the Bears have the cap space to go after another explosive runner like Josh Jacobs or Tony Pollard (assuming Saquon Barkley gets tagged). Herbert will remain a big part of the Bears offense for at least two more seasons. The Bears will likely also go with a different RB3, as both Trestan Ebner and Darrynton Evans looked slow when they got their opportunities.

FB

Khari Blasingame was a nice surprise for the Bears; his blocking was a big reason the Bears rushing offense was so successful and ranked number 1 in the NFL in yardage. He wasn’t impactful in the passing game like Kyle Juszczyk or Patrick Ricard. Still, his elite FB blocking warrants an extension especially if the Bears continue to mimic the Lamar Jackson Ravens offense with Fields.

WR

After an awful September, Fields and Darnell Mooney rekindled their chemistry from 2021, and continued to show us moon balls almost every week. Mooney’s 40 catches for 493 yards isn’t too impressive even in the low volume passing offense, but considering it was basically all in an 8 game stretch after September and before his injury, Mooney appears to be the perfect WR2 for Justin Fields. Chase Claypool had just 12 catches after the midseason trade, making the trade look very bad right now, but to be fair, Claypool deserves a full offseason with the new team and the Bears could get a second back from trading down in the draft to make up for it. Claypool has to be better in 2023 because he is here and George Pickens, who looks like a stud, is not. All the WRs on the Bears battled injuries. Byron Pringle got hurt early and never got going, and he was supposed to be the Bears WR2 behind Mooney. Equanimeous St. Brown and Dante Pettis got a lot of opportunities, but both had trouble with drops. N’Keal Harry in very limited time made some nice catches but again barely played. Velus Jones Jr couldn’t hold onto the football at all on punts or on offense, but did have a couple of good plays in December and January to at least make it to training camp. The Bears WR room is putrid; they’ll need to double or even triple dip via the early rounds of the draft (Jaxson Smith-Njigba?), free agent market (Jakobi Meyers?), and trade market (DeAndre Hopkins?).

TE

Cole Kmet, also coming off a bad start in September, emerged as a solid TE for the Bears. He ended up as their leader in receptions (50), receiving yards (544), and receiving touchdowns (7). He looked faster and more agile as the season went on, and finally was properly used as a redzone threat. He showed he could do more than 5 yard curl routes, while continuing to be a very good blocker. Kmet may never be as good as Travis Kelce, but he can be a legitimate perennial top 10 TE. Behind him is a concern; Ryan Griffin got some opportunities and looked very slow, Trevon Wesco is young but very unproven, as is Jake Tonges. I’d expect a day 3 pick and a new veteran behind Kmet, but theyr are set with him as their TE1.

OT

Braxton Jones made PFF’s all-rookie team. He was the only Bear to play every single snap this season, an impressive feat. He did give up 7 sacks and had 12 penalties, both top 10 in the NFL which is bad, but it’s not surprising for a 5th round rookie LT without much help. He got a 75.4 grade and held up generally well compared to the rest of the OL. He was very solid in run blocking. Even with all the resources at their disposal, the Bears cannot get a star at every position, and Jones played well enough to get a second season. RT is a bigger issue. Larry Borom and Riley Reiff essentially split duties there, with Alex Leatherwood also playing a bit. They gave up 9 sacks combined, and had a cumulative PFF grade of 64. They were less penalized than Jones but were way worse. Borom was decent as a run blocker but Reiff really showed his age. That will be a big need for the Bears, as Borom will likely slot in as the swing tackle.

OG

After all the offseason rumors, Teven Jenkins really had a great season. He had an 80.7 grade, only 3 penalties and 2 sacks allowed. He was an elite run blocker, and got better at pass blocking throughout the season. Jenkins really started emerging as the stud the Bears thought they stole in the second round in 2021. He is the only OLineman on the team who 100% will not be replaced in the offseason. Cody Whitehair at LG started the season decently, then got hurt and struggled when he returned. He is 31 and has one of the higher cap hits on the team; it’s possible he doesn’t return. At the very least, he won’t be handed the starting LG position. He gave up 4 sacks and had a 66 grade on PFF. The Bears should have kept James Daniels. Michael Schofield was not good in limited time.

C

Sam Mutipher and Lucas Patrick both should not return next season; they have both been awful. Patrick barely played but had a 55 grade on PFF; Mustipher had a 62 grade, but the eye test showed he was easily the weak link among weak links on the Bears OL, with most pressures constantly coming up the middle. Center is the Bears biggest need on offense, even bigger than WR and RT. Doug Kramer from Illinois is on the Bears roster too, but they shouldn’t expect him to be more than a quality backup. I expect a veteran center and possibly a newly drafted one too.

DE

After trading Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn, the Bears DE group went from the best in the league to the worst. Trevis Gipson had a breakout 2021 and started 2022 well but after the Quinn trade hardly did anything. Dominique Robinson played well at the beginning and end of the season but did little in between. Al-Quadin Muhammad was an ok run defender but did nothing rushing the passer. Combined they had 6 sacks. Not to mention Gipson and Robinson still do not know how to set the edge against the run. All 3 likely will be back with the Bears and can be quality backups, but the Bears need two new starting EDGEs. Gipson did at least get 18 pressures but that is still not nearly good enough.

DT

Justin Jones proved to be a solid player for the Bears, racking up 3 sacks and leading the team in TFLs with 12. At times he seemed to be the only one who could stop the run at all. Armon Watts, Mike Pennel, and Angelo Blackson, all pending free agents, combined for 7 TFL and 1 sack. Watts is young and still could improve, plus he was claimed by this regime so he could be back as a backup. The Bears will need at least one starting DT and one backup DT.

LB

The LB group after the Roquan Smith trade is pretty barren. They’ll need one-gap 4-3 LBs to replace him. Jack Sanborn really started showing out after the trade and likely locked up one starting spot. He had 64 tackles, 5 TFL, 2 sacks, and a pick in just 6 games started. Nicholas Morrow had 116 tackles and 11 TFL with a pick, but he has the same issues as Roquan Smith in this scheme, so I could see the Bears letting him leave in free agency and replace him. Joe Thomas also showed some flashes after the trade but is 31 so he’ll likely leave. Matt Adams is a core special teamer and played well in limited defensive snaps so expect him to be back. As a group though it was bad. The Bears will need two new starting LBs.

CB

The secondary for the Bears is young and strong. Jaylon Johnson took another step forward, and while he’s not quite on the level of a Jalen Ramsey or Sauce Gardner, he is making a strong case as a top 10 CB in the NFL. An extension is due. His battle with AJ Brown was very impressive. Johnson will continue to shadow opposing WR1s in man coverage. Kyler Gordon struggled out of the gate and was picked on a lot, but starting playing much better to end the year, even baiting and intercepting Jalen Hurts and Josh Allen in back to back weeks. He should be the full time CB2 next season. Kindle Vildor played well before his injury, making a spectacular recovery from an awful 2021 season. Jaylon Jones as the CB4 was forced into action and did an admirable job. Josh Blackwell made some good plays on special teams too. CB is far from a need for the Bears as they have both youth and depth.

S

Eddie Jackson played at an All-Pro FS level before his injury, with 4 interceptions and a genuine cover 4 threat, which he hadn’t done in almost two full seasons; there will be concern with him turning 29 off his foot injury, but his play left no doubts. Part of his resurgence was finally getting a SS who complemented him; last time it was Adrian Amos, and now it is Jaquan Brisker, both from Penn State. A surefire all-rookie member, Brisker led the Bears in sacks with 4 (lol), as well as having 104 tackles and one of the best interceptions of the season. This safety duo will terrorize the league for the next 5 seasons, book it. Behind them Elijah Hicks and DeAndre Houston-Carson got some playtime with their injuries.

ST

Cairo Santos weirdly struggled with PATs at home this year. He was mostly good otherwise so hopefully it isn’t something that will linger, but the Bears should bring in competition via the UDFA market. Trenton Gill was average, with some good pins but not a crazy leg. He’s good enough to get a second season. Patrick Scales will likely be back to keep the LS continuity.

 

There is our rundown of the Bears by position. We’ll see how they attack their many needs and fortify around their building blocks of Justin Fields and company.

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