The Chicago Bears season was…something
The Chicago Bears had a pretty dismal campaign in head coach Matt Eberflus’ first year. Eberflus said after the season that the foundation had been set for the culture he and general manager Ryan Poles are trying to build in Chicago. Let’s hope so because the path to rebuilding the Bears proved costly this season, as the team lost prestigious records and finished with the worst overall record in the league.
Looking at the roster that will likely come back in 2023, there’s more of that offseason hope to go around that those players will be foundational sound next season than actual reason to believe based on the product on the field this season.
The roster was bad all around. And the parts that were the best, like Justin Fields and a few rookies, still have miles of improvement to make before the Bears can be genuine competitors in the NFC. Here are three studs and duds from the Bears’ pitiful season.
Chicago Bears Studs
Justin Fields rushing attack
The Chicago Bears’ leading rusher in 2022 was Justin Fields. Fields broke numerous records running the ball this season. The Bears’ decision to pull Fields before Week 18 kept the second-year quarterback from breaking Lamar Jackson’s single-season rushing record for a quarterback. He finished with 1,143 yards rushing and eight touchdowns on the ground. Fields proved this season he can be dangerous as a running quarterback.
Justin Fields with the longest TD run of his young career
And. It. Was. Sick. pic.twitter.com/w68Vvx6Ljg
— Bears Nation (@BearsNationCHI) November 6, 2022
Chicago Bears signed Jack Sanborn as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2022 draft. The Wisconsin Badgers product proved he belonged in the draft class. When the Bears started him at middle linebacker following the Roquan Smith trade, Sanborn made excellent plays and tackles for the Bears before he ended the season on injured reserve.
His stats numbers mirrored what Smith produced for the Chicago Bears as the weakside linebacker in the first half of the season. Sanborn needs to improve in pass coverage and run defense when he’s not rushing gaps. Sanborn’s play should put him in the running to start next season, even after the Bears address Smith’s replacement in free agency or the draft.
Watch how quickly Jack Sanborn recognizes run and explodes downhill.
Sanborn had 15 tackles (10 solo) against the Jets on Sunday. #DaBears pic.twitter.com/OWuFJ0ckDY
— Josh DeLuca (@JoshDeLuca4) November 30, 2022
Eddie Jackson had a comeback season for the Chicago Bears. After acknowledging his struggles in 2021, the veteran safety returned to his former Pro Bowl-esque form. (Jackson was upset that a bad NFL policy prohibited his name from being on the Pro Bowl ballot.)
Jackson intercepted four passes this season in the 12 games he played in. (He finished the season on injured reserve.) Even with an injury-shortened season, Jackson finished with 80 tackles, the second-highest of his career.
Chicago Bears Duds
Justin Fields passing performance
Justin Fields was unstoppable in the running attack. He was pretty easy to beat in the passing game. In his defense, Fields didn’t have much help surrounding him this season. The Bears’ pass protection by the gutless wonders up front was atrocious. His wide receivers didn’t get much separation and dropped plenty of passes.
While the surrounding cast of NFL gap-year-cap misfits wasn’t his fault, Fields made plenty of mistakes on his own. Fields finished with just 2,242 yards passing with a 17-11 touchdown-to-interception ratio. The Chicago Bears finished ranked dead last in passing in the NFL. Their average was nearly 30 yards a game less (130.5) than the second worst, the Atlanta Falcons (158.8). That’s hard to do in the modern NFL, even with a lack of talent, because the rules are jerry-rigged in the offense’s favor.
Fields made some awful decisions when passing the ball. One play that will stick in my mind this offseason was the final throw of the first half against the Detroit Lions. Fields couldn’t have read the defense before the snap and threw a terrible interception to a rookie defensive lineman.
Interceptions this year
Aidan Hutchinson — 3
Jalen Ramsey — 2
— Barstool Sportsbook (@BSSportsbook) January 1, 2023
Next season Fields will have a better offensive line and wide receiver help through the draft or free agency. He must show improvement as a passer, or the Bears will likely move on after 2023.
Chicago Bears drafted rookies
Many Bears fans hoped Poles’ choices in the draft could be the team’s saving grace in 2022. (After he dismantled the best pillars of the 2021 roster and started the rebuild with limited cap space.) They didn’t do that.
Second-round picks Jaquan Brisker, and Kyler Gordon had their moments, but they struggled most of the season. How much of that was because of a feeble defensive line we’ll learn in the next couple of seasons. Pro Football Focus gave Brisker an overall grade of 67.8, but tackling was one part of his game that brought his score down. He made bizarre pursuit angles and gave up scores with his poor tackling this season.
Gordon finished with a 49.9 overall grade by PFF. He made strides toward the end of the season, at least until a pathetic Week 17 showing against the Lions. Gordon was burnt in pass coverage most of the season. He finished with three interceptions, but some of those were lucky with underthrown balls on routes he was well behind the receiver on.
While the secondary is tough to learn as a rookie, Brisker and Gordon were chosen over offensive help because Poles felt they were the best player to be taken at their respective position. While they have potential, neither were players you’d look at now and think the Bears got stellar value for. The Bears could have taken a wide receiver or lineman over them and still picked someone like Jack Jones, who for sure was overlooked in the draft.
Third-round wide receiver Velus Jones Jr. was a bust this season. He wasn’t helpful for Fields, and his turnovers cost the Bears games. The most you can say for Jones was that he helped the Bears get the number one draft pick. Left tackle Braxton Jones was a great run blocker. Horrible in pass protection. Six sacks and 30 pressures given up… Yikes.
The rest of the class, punter Trenton Gill excluded, were unmemorable. Dominique Robinson certainly didn’t provide much of a boost to the defensive line this season.
Chase Claypool Trade
I was hoping Chase Claypool would come in and have an immediate impact on Fields development and the Chicago Bears offense. I was wrong. Following his trade, he spent weeks learning how to line up in offensive coordinator Luke Getsy’s system. Getsy’s complicated offense is a bug, not a feature for the team going forward. Claypool finished with 140 yards receiving and no touchdowns after the trade.
I still think he will be a good player for the Bears. After he learns the offense this offseason and the Chicago Bears improve the offensive line, Claypool will have a chance to thrive with Fields. But none of that potential progress was evident this season.