Chicago Bears GM Ryan Poles first year has been a total failure

The Chicago Bears went into full tear-down mode under new general manager Ryan Poles and the defense paid the highest price.

The once-vaunted era Monster of the Midway defense is long gone as the Bears head into a new direction for the franchise’s future.   New general manager Ryan Poles traded away Khalil Mack, Roquan Smith and Robert Quinn in less than a year.  Collectively these three players represented the best players on the Bears defense from a year ago.

In their place, the Bears have zero players worthy of being starters in 2023.  The defensive front seven has been deplorable all season with zero ability to stop the run and even worse ability to rush the passer.    Currently the Bears leader is sacks is safety Jaquan Brisker with three.  Neither Trevis Gipson, Al-Quadin-Muhammed or Brian Robinson has shown much ability to generate a pass rush off the edge.  Even I couldn’t have imagined that the front seven would be this bad back in July.  

Justin Jones, Angelo Blackson, Mike Pennel Jr and Armon Watts have generated little help in run support nor shown an ability to rush the passer.   The lone small bright spot has been the occasional play from Justin Jones where he bursts into the backfield and drops the RB for a loss.  However Jones has not shown any level of consistency as a run-stopper.  Jones will make the slash play but then disappear for long stretches.  He’ll get his name on the stat sheet, but he doesn’t command enough attention for the linebackers behind him to make plays.

This leaves the Bears in a heck of a conundrum as they close out the 2022 regular season over the final five games.  Ryan Poles will once again be in tear-down mode trying to find talent to plug into the front seven to make the Bears average on defense.

No one should have any grand illusion that the Bears are going to move back towards defense being the primary water carrier of success, but the Bears will need to be able to stop other teams.

Jack Sanborn would seem like an emerging bright spot, but most of his tackles are made far beyond the line of scrimmage in pursuit or only when he’s playing downhill.  Even in the game against the Jets, most of what Sanborn showed on film was more pile-jumping tackles.  One must maintain a level of clarity with Sanborn, he is a hell of a story from the otherwise train wreck of a 2022 season.  However, what Sanborn is not, is a future starter on a playoff-caliber defense, which is ultimately the goal of this team, at least eventually.

So where is the bright spot in the front seven?  There doesn’t seem to be one and there likely isn’t going to be on that emerges over the final five games.  Bears fans can hope that Jones and Sanborn both play well enough to remain on the roster, but Ryan Poles will likely have to find minimally five more starters on the front seven for the 2023 season.

In the secondary Poles invested in two starters in Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker.  Brisker looks like a future stud, while Gordon looks like a collection of all of the negatives written about him leading up to the draft are far outweighing the positives of his play.  Gordon is lacking one key ingredient which may ultimately be his undoing, and that’s speed.  Gordon is not fast and lacks closing speed.  His instincts and agility aside, Gordon has been a victim of receivers getting massive separation on him because he can’t keep up.

Then there’s the Eddie Jackson problem.  Jackson has had a bit of a bounce back with four INTs this season, but the only reason Jackson likely remains on this roster is that he had a $21-million dead money cap hit in 2022.   There is still legitimate doubt that Jackson remains on the Bears after the 2022 season.

Also of priority will be extending CB Jaylon Johnson this off-season.  Johnson will gobble up a chunk of that $121-million in cap space the Bears have for 2023.  Meaning the draft will once again focus on Ryan Poles in finding defensive talent to fill out the starting front and the depth chart.

All of this while the Bears try to build an offensive line and find better play-makers for Justin Fields on offense.  The Bears are in a horrible situation and shouldn’t be counted on to take a huge step forward in 2023.  There’s just not talent on the roster right now, and there’s no sign that the Bears can bring enough talent to compete at a high level a year from now.

Needless to say Ryan Poles is in an unenviable situation.  He has thus far found one positive in the NFL Draft in Brisker, but has added zero talent to the players that were already here.  Poles has failed at every turn in bringing in help on offense as well.

Chase Claypool is a far worse version of Alshon Jeffery and it’s clear the Steelers got the best of Poles in that trade.  Braxton Jones looks like he might one day be serviceable at left tackle, but he’s not likely to be a long-term starter at the position.  Alex Leatherwood hasn’t yet broken through into any type of playing time, despite ample opportunity to do so.  Leatherwood make get a chance this weekend depending on the status of Larry Borom.  And Poles lost a sixth-round draft pick to the Rams when he prioritized Leatherwood ahead of Zach Thomas.

The Bears’ best players that are here now and are likely to be here in 2023 are all left over from Ryan Pace.  Teven Jenkins, Khalil Herbert, Cole Kmet, to a lesser extent Darnell Mooney, Jaylon Johnson and Justin Fields all represent the future of the franchise, and a little less than a year into the Poles era and he has found one player who projects as a long term starter.  Poles is going to have to work a miracle to have the Bears competitive in 2023, a tall order even with the draft capital and free agent money he’ll have available to him.

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