Bears 2022 preview: Will the arrow be pointing up in January?

Where will Justin Fields rank among the NFL’s QBs this year?

Middle of the pack — 16th in passer rating. Even without a stellar wide receiver corps, Fields will make good use of his tight ends and running backs — and his own legs — in Luke Getsy’s offense. He’ll have more high moments like the second half of the Steelers game in 2021 and fewer low moments like the nine-sack disaster against the Browns — but a lot in between. Overall, he’ll make enough progress to keep hope alive that reinforcements in 2023 will lead to a giant leap.

Did Ryan Poles do enough this offseason?

Yes, considering the limited resources he had. His biggest job was cleaning house and he did that well — just 19 of the 77 players he inherited from Ryan Pace are currently on the 53-man roster. You can argue he should have gone offense in the draft, but cornerback Kyler Gordon and safety Jaquan Brisker already look ready to make an impact. Then again, if Mitch Trubisky turns George Pickens into a superstar, it won’t reflect well on Poles.

The most glaring need the Bears have is …

A wide receiver who can take the pressure off Darnell Mooney. The Bears will diversify their passing offense with Cole Kmet, David Montgomery and others, but they need another dependable downfield target for Justin Fields. With modest candidates, the pressure is on Luke Getsy’s offense to create the opportunity for someone to fill that void.

A rookie who will make the biggest impact is ….

Safety Jaquan Brisker. He looked the part on paper as a good fit for Matt Eberflus’ defense, and didn’t disappoint in training camp or his lone preseason game. He figures to get a lot of opportunities to make plays in this defense.

The team MVP will be ….

Roquan Smith. The defense will be the Bears’ anchor, especially early and Smith is an elite player who should blossom in the 4-3 scheme under Eberflus and Alan Williams. The 3-technique and slot corner are particularly valuable in this defense, so keep an eye on Justin Jones and Gordon as well.

How will Roquan Smith fare in a prove-it year?

Every factor points toward him reaching another level in this defense. He’s in his prime at 25. He’s coming off a second consecutive All-Pro season. He’s in a position in Eberflus’ defense where Shaquille Leonard blossomed into an All-Pro and Defensive Rookie of the Year in his first season in 2018. And of course, he’s motivated.

What will the Bears’ record be in Matt Eberflus’ debut season?

6-11, with the arrow pointing up heading into 2023. After a promising preseason of progress, reality figures to hit the Bears in the regular season. But with a playable schedule and an offensive scheme that gives Fields room to grow, the Bears are more likely to be a surprise team this year than a disappointing one.

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