An organization without a playoff win in over a decade, it’s been tough sledding for a long time for the Chicago Bears. A franchise surrounded by turmoil where even the smallest glimpse of success raises a false hope for fans, the immediate future moving into 2023 should allow Chicago faithful to feel legitimately excited with their long-term answer at quarterback in the building.
From the days of Mitchell Trubisky and Matt Barkley to a half decade’s worth of Jay Cutler and Kyle Orton, the most recent faces to align under center haven’t moved the needle at all as a player you’d want to hitch your wagon to. But now, and as we move forward into a crucial offseason, the presence of Justin Fields has placed the Bears in an opportune situation to improve a roster desperate for talent at a multitude of spots—but not their most important.
The Bears hold the first overall pick for the first time since 1947. The current leverage they have on the rest of the league looking to make a move up for a quarterback is astronomical. What is expected to be a QB-heavy first five picks, Chicago’s options are limitless as far as what they may look to do atop the draft totem pole.
But before we get too far ahead of ourselves in projecting potential trade backs or who they would select with said picks, recapping the 2022 campaign remains of the utmost importance. Let’s discuss the influx of young players that showcased well in their first taste of NFL action. The future in Chicago remains bright, and the young, spry talent on the defensive side of the football has me intrigued about what the performance ceiling is of this group. Corner Kyler Gordon, LB Jack Sanborn, and the play of safety Jaquan Brisker were nothing short of fantastic.
A second-round selection out of Penn State, Brisker looked like the Rookie Defensive Player of the Year in spurts, and quickly progressed into the leader for the defense following the departure of Roquan Smith. The transition from Happy Valley to Chicago was seamless, and while not everything was perfect, his fluidity in coverage, intelligent violence when attacking downhill, and advanced approach as a pass rusher—his four sacks led the team—was a joy to watch week in and week out. He looked beyond his years and will be a core athlete for the Bears’ defense for years to come.
On offense, second-year man Teven Jenkins and rookie fifth-rounder Braxton Jones did an excellent job from the opening whistle in Week 1 to the final seconds of Week 18. Were they perfect? No. But you turn on the tape of Jones from Week 5 to Week 15 where he allowed just one sack, and he’s an athlete general manager Ryan Poles found late in the draft process from a small school like Southern Utah that came into his own quickly in protecting the blindside for Justin Fields. Now, his pressure and sack numbers are a little skewed due to how often Fields looked to escape the pocket, but microscoping his game highlighted a player Chicago has received a ton of value out of in year one of a day-three rookie contract.
At right guard, Jenkins was fantastic in year two. Drafted to play tackle out of Oklahoma State before things went haywire in year one, he was as stout as any right guard in the league, allowing just two sacks and a minuscule 12 pressures in 304 pass pro reps. His technique improved, he stayed relatively healthy, and while he missed time late in the campaign due to a neck injury, 2023 should provide him another opportunity to prove himself despite rumors continuing to swirl about his future.
Moving forward, I like where the Bears are at. I like Fields, I believe Poles will add weapons on the outside for him to pepper with targets, and on defense, the Bears have more than $116M in cap space to work with (tops in the NFL) and should continue to build on a few of the pillars they have in place. Rebuilds aren’t fun, but with a quarterback in place to lead the masses back toward relevance, there’s light at the end of the tunnel for a team entering year two under Matt Eberflus.
- Jan 26, 2023
- Jan 26, 2023