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2022 Team Reports
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Chicago Bears Writers
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This offseason, the Bears hired quarterback coach Luke Getsy from the Green Bay Packers to serve as their offensive coordinator. Getsy is the latest addition from the buzzy Shanahan coaching tree and, like all members of the tree, prefers an offense that uses creative and aggressive wide zone rushing plays to bait the defense forward and open up the passing game.
Justin Fields struggled as a rookie quarterback in 2021 to a 2-8 record, throwing more interceptions than touchdowns. Plus, Fields completed a mere 58.9% of his passes in an NFL era where 60-65% is assumed for baseline positional play. Fields took three sacks per game and did not push the ball downfield either. Fields was a positive influence as a runner, averaging a hearty 35 yards per game. The key in 2022 will be to show progression as a passer despite losing Allen Robinson and the overall depth lacking beyond Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet.
Trevor Siemian joins the Bears' depth chart as a solid veteran backup with starting experience in the NFL. Siemian is a success story after nearly falling out of the 2015 NFL Draft, going in the seventh round. Siemian has 29 NFL starts under his belt and a positive touchdown-to-interception ratio for his career. If Justin Fields were to miss time, Siemian can allow Chicago to further evaluate the surrounding cast on offense while Siemian holds down the fort.
David Montgomery took a step back in 2021 off the heels of his career-year-to-date 2020 campaign of more than 1,500 total yards. Montgomery has a two-way skillset with prototypical size and 96 receptions over the past two seasons, despite missing four games over the span. Despite returning from injury midseason and Khalil Herbert filling in admirably as the starter, Montgomery's workload did not see a downturn. Montgomery is one of the more underrated starting running backs in the NFL, considering his control of the starting role and upside for double-digit touchdowns and 50 or more receptions.
Khalil Herbert showed well as a later Day 3 rookie in 2021. Herbert had two starts in David Montgomery's absence and 117 total touches. Herbert has quality long speed for his size but is more of a build-up runner and has some questions about his receiving upside for future foundation back upside. Darrynton Evans joins the depth chart after flaming out of Tennessee just two years after being a Round 3 NFL Draft selection. Evans was not overly productive in college, despite being at a lower level of competition, but has athletic upside if he can string together a healthy stretch in Chicago.
- Velus Jones [R], NKeal Harry, Equanimeous St. Brown, Dazz Newsome
Darnell Mooney took a significant step forward in 2020, his second in the NFL. Mooney turned into the top receiver for the Bears despite Allen Robinson playing most of the games during the season. Mooney had four games of at least 120 yards and collected a hearty 140 targets. This was on a Bears passing game where they were Bottom 10 in the NFL in attempts and yardage, plus posting the fourth-fewest passing touchdowns (16). Mooney projects for another strong volume season with Allen Robinson gone in free agency and minimal target competition. However, Mooney has been a low touchdown option through two seasons (eight scores on 142 receptions), and the level of quarterback play is a significant wildcard. Byron Pringle is the de facto WR2 for the Bears, added to the depth chart from Kansas City his first three NFL seasons. Pringle surged to a career-best 568 yards and five touchdowns last year as Mecole Hardman and Josh Gordon disappointed as potential secondary options. Pringle projects as one of the weakest WR2 roles in the NFL and moves from Patrick Mahomes II to Justin Fields under center.
Velus Jones was a surprise selection on Day 2 by the Bears in 2022. Jones, an athletic maven, was more of a special teams star in college than a pronounced producer on offense. Jones had one of the weakest production profiles of any wide receiver drafted in the top-100 since over the past two decades. Consider Jones a project with the WR3 role by no means a lock for the rookie despite the weak competition surrounding him.
N'Keal Harry was acquiring in July for a future seventh-round draft selection as the Patriots moved on from the former first-round pick. Harry has done little in his NFL career and is firmly on the NFL bubble and bust path. Chicago was one of the few depth charts in the NFL where Harry could, in a best-case scenario, see meaningful snaps or targets this season. An August ankle injury and corresponding surgery puts a timeline of midseason for Harry to return the field and potentially contribute this season.
Equanineous St.Brown moved on from the Packers after three eroding seasons. St.Brown was barely drafted (Round 7) in 2018 and has slumped to just 16 receptions and a single touchdown over the past two seasons despite questions on the Packers' wide receiver depth chart beyond Davante Adams. St.Brown is closer to being out of the NFL than a consistent target for the Bears in 2022.
Dazz Newsome finally saw action late in his rookie season, seeing punt return work and collecting five targets. Newsome is largely an unknown coming into his second season and on a wide open Chicago wide receiver depth chart. Newsome was a shoulder shrug Day 3 selection with a lackluster physical and production track record out of North Carolina.
Cole Kmet took a significant Year 2 jump, more than doubling his target total with 612 receiving yards, taking over the lead role from Jimmy Graham. Kmet was a good but not great prospect at the position coming out of Notre Dame and is on a good but not great career arc through two seasons. Historically, few tight ends peers to Kmet take a strong step into a top-12 producer in Year 3. Add the upside question mark of Justin Fields and Kmet points to a steady but lackluster overall option. On the promising side, Kmet is one of the better touchdown regression bets after being shut out of the end zone in 2021 on 60 receptions. Ryan Griffin is a sturdy veteran option still capable of filling in as a starter if needed. Griffin had moments of viability with the Jets over the past three seasons and more than 200 career receptions despite only 67 starts in nine years. Griffin projects as a higher floor option in the Bears' passing game than all but Darnell Mooney among their wide receivers.
- LT Braxton Jones [R]
- LG Cody Whitehair
- C Lucas Patrick
- RG Teven Jenkins
- RT Larry Borom
- Riley Reiff, Michael Schofield, Julien Davenport, Sam Mustipher, Lachavious Simmons
Left guard Cody Whitehair is a decent veteran leader, but this year he won't be alone in the role. The team also signed center Lucas Patrick to help mentor this young group. Left tackle Braxton Jones (Fifth round, Southern Utah) has been a gem all preseason, winning the job out of the gate. Right tackle Larry Borom is an underrated starter, being out Riley Reiff for the position. Right guard was a competition between vet Michael Schofield (LAC) and Teven Jenkins, which Jenkins won late in the summer. This is an exciting group but still ranked near the bottom.
After some ups and downs, including a three-year stint with Kansas City and three years as a journeyman, Santos seems to have found a home with the Bears. He wasn't quite as accurate as he was in his redemption season of 2020, going 26-of-30 on field goal attempts in 2021, but Santos didn't miss from under 40 yards and only missed one extra point attempt for the second straight year. The Bears don't trust his leg from distance, giving him only five attempts from 50+ in the last two years. He missed both of the tries he had from long range last year. Santos' upside is capped, rendering him a mere emergency kicker for fantasy.
- Khalil Herbert, Velus Jones
The Bears traded for Jakeem Grant to help shore up their return game last year but didn't reach an extension with him this offseason. As a result, running back Khalil Herbert is likely the frontrunner to field kickoffs for the Bears, though rookie third-rounder Velus Jones could also see some early playing time on special teams.
The Bears traded for Jakeem Grant to help shore up their return game last year, but didn't reach an extension with him this offseason. That leaves the Bears without many experienced options on punt returns, though rookies Trestan Ebner and Velus Jones Jr and veteran Dazz Newsome will all have a chance to earn the job over the offseason.
After years of dominance on the defensive side of the ball, the Bears stumbled a bit last year. Even with Khalil Mack, Robert Quinn, and Akiem Hicks all on the wrong side of 30 and battling through injuries, their pass rush was still their strength. They had the best sack rate in the league, which caused most teams to notice. Opponents dropped back to pass against the Bears just 52 percent of the time, the lowest rate in the league. With opponents opting for a conservative on-the-ground game plan, it really hurt the Bears' ability to generate turnovers, and they averaged less than one per game. Now, heading into 2022, they are without Mack. Hicks probably won't be re-signed. This defense lost a lot of firepower as the Bears inch closer and closer to a full-blown rebuild. Their defense will be anchored by Quinn, superstar linebacker Roquan Smith, and Eddie Jackson. Outside of that, there's little to get excited about. Unable to find a long-term defensive coordinator since the departure of Vic Fangio, the Bears will hand the keys to Alan Williams. Williams and newly-appointed head coach Matt Eberflus have a connection from their time together in Indianapolis. Eberflus was the Colts' defensive coordinator from 2018-2021 while Williams served as the defensive backs coach during that entire stint. The Colts had a steady and effective defense through the years and the Bears are hoping for similar production in Chicago. With so many needs on offense, the Bears are likely to ignore defense in the Draft and go into Week 1 with their current roster. The Bears operated in a base 4-2-5 nickel last year, but are assumed to switch to a 4-3 under the new regime. This scheme turned Colts' linebacker Darius Leonard into a superstar. With Roquan Smith's sideline-to-sideline speed, there's a good chance that he elevates his game even further this season. This scheme should also benefit Eddie Jackson who will be able to play to his strength as a center-field free safety who can attack the ball.
- Trevis Gipson, Jeremiah Attaochu, Dominique Robinson, Sam Kamara, LaCale London, Angelo Blackson, Auzoyah Alufohai, Mario Edwards Jr
Robert Quinn is the only standout player in this corps. His 18.5 sacks last year were second-most in the league behind only T.J. Watt. Approaching 32 years old, Quinn has already been tied to quite a few trade rumors and may not be on the Week 1 roster. The departures of Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, and Eddie Goldman are going to be tough to ignore. What was arguably the Bears' biggest strength in all three phases of the game is possibly their biggest weakness now. Al-Quadin Muhammad followed Eberflus and Williams from Indianapolis. He's recorded 11 sacks over the last three seasons with the Colts and should fit in as a Week 1 starter. Khyiris Tonga, a projected starter, played in almost every game as a rookie but failed to record a single sack.
Trevis Gipson could work his way into the starting lineup, but there's too much uncertainty to speculate now. Mario Edwards Jr has shown flashes but saw his snaps and overall numbers drop in 2021. There's a chance that the team adds more depth to this corps in the Draft, but there are more pressing needs. Jeremiah Attaochu will move from linebacker to defensive end under the new scheme and will hope to improve after a disappointing 2021 campaign.
Considering this corps had Khalil Mack, Danny Trevathan, and Alex Ogletree a part of it last year, there has been a significant falloff in talent heading into the 2022 season. Roquan Smith remains one of the best linebackers in the league but will have little help this season. Smith should excel in a 4-3 base as the team's middle linebacker while Bears fans nostalgically remember Brian Urlacher's success in that role. As far as fantasy purposes go, Smith is probably the only guy here who has any value.
With so many new names on the defensive end of the ball and a new coaching staff, it will take training camp to get a clearer idea of backup roles. Caleb Johnson and Noah Dawkins will probably never see the field as Roquan Smith will play almost every down. Ledarius Mack, the little brother of Khalil Mack, could get some snaps as an outside linebacker, but that is surely a position the Bears will look to address before Week 1.
- Duke Shelley, DeAndre Houston- Carson, Thomas Graham Jr, BoPete Keyes, Greg Stroman, Dane Cruikshank, Michael Joseph, Tavon Young, Kindle Vildor, Lamar Jackson, Elijah Hicks
The Bears made the head-scratching move of releasing Kyle Fuller last year. Fuller went on to struggle in Denver while second-year cornerback Jaylon Johnson stepped up in his absence. While he didn't cause a lot of turnovers (one interception and one forced fumble), he did a great job of covering his receiver and keeping the ball away from them. His number of passes defended dropped from 15 as a rookie to nine in 2021, but he did enough to secure his role as the team's CB1. The Bears shockingly spent their first two picks in the NFL Draft on defensive backs, snagging Kyler Gordon out of Washington and Jaquan Brisker out of Penn State. Gordon, a cornerback, should play opposite Johnson, while Brisker, a safety, will play strong safety. Eddie Jackson was forced to play a bit more coverage in last year's base scheme, but he should have a bit more of liberty as the free safety in this 4-3 system. After ten interceptions and three touchdowns in his first three seasons, Jackson has failed to record a single pick in his last two years. However, he was able to wrestle four fumbles loose.
Like last year, The Bears will likely rotate Duke Shelley, Tavon Young, and Kindle Vildor as no one player is a standout. After sliding in the 2021 draft, Thomas Graham Jr didn't see the field as a rookie until Week 15. He played decently enough in his limited opportunity that he should see extra work in Year 2. The Bears desperately need a CB2 to step up behind Johnson, and Graham is a dark horse to land that role.