Not much expected from wounded Bears in 2022

What should we expect from the Chicago Bears in 2022?

To no one’s surprise, the Bears decided to part ways with general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy after a dismal 6-11 season provided very little optimism for the future ahead. The McCaskey family will be hoping to reverse a trend that has seen the franchise suffer through a 10-year drought that includes just two playoff appearances and no playoff wins. In Pace’s seven-season tenure at Soldier Field, the Bears finished above .500 just once, and last season was their fourth since Pace arrived with double-digit losses. New GM Ryan Poles came in from the Chiefs’ personnel department to try and turn things around and alongside former Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus as head coach. Poles’ rebuilding plan has seemingly favoured veteran free agents with only a handful of newcomers receiving two-year deals, and none were more lengthy than that; it’s a risk but given the current state of affairs it might be a risk worth taking. While the Bears have some promising young talent to build around, they will not complete the turnaround in one season. Patience is a virtue and will be required by all parties in Chicago if this team is to take strides towards repairing the damage of the last seven years. 

Justin Fields will be the focal point for the Bears 

The Bears will not be on most analysts’ radar to do anything special this year; a Super Bowl appearance is farfetched and their chance of reaching the playoffs is a long shot. Their odds of winning the Super are slim at best according to these NFL betting sites and with good reason. However, what little chance they do have will likely hinge on the exploits of Justin Fields this year. Quarterback Fields, the 11th overall draft pick in 2021, will be the offensive centerpiece but needs the offensive line to significantly improve with more weapons at his disposal. It was pretty clear to everyone that Justin Fields would have a challenging rookie season and it proved to be the case. The rookie threw only seven TDs while giving away 10 interceptions. However, it was a tough situation to be in and there were glimpses of excellence; he threw 291 yards against the Steelers and 103 rushing yards against San Francisco. Despite his potential, it might prove another tough year for the youngster as there weren’t many upgrades to the offensive line this offseason. 

Eberflus showed his influence with the Bears’ first two Draft picks used on improving the defence. To add to that top receiver Allen Robinson II departed for the LA Rams while guard James Daniels signed on with the Pittsburgh Steelers. They picked up just one offensive player out of the 167 picks in the Draft this year in what is looking more and more like a make-or-break decision. But if Fields can develop his game further then maybe he will be rewarded with more resources around him in the following seasons as the rebuild starts to gain traction. The Bears would probably be happy with this season simply if Fields plays well, regardless of how many wins it produces. It’s looking like it could be a tricky season for the quarterback from the get-go but if Fields can manage to make the most of a seemingly bad situation, the building blocks placed elsewhere throughout the team could pay dividends and speed up the recovery in Chicago. 

Who will step up to help Fields?

There aren’t too many strengths to speak of in this Bears roster but one of them this season will be the running game. David Montgomery has had two solid seasons in a row and last season Khalil Herbert showed he is a starting-caliber player, but they will definitely need to improve after the offensive line gave up a league-high 58 sacks last year. Montgomery’s stats seem mundane but are much more impressive considering the subpar offensive lines he’s operated behind. That lack of support up front has forced him to display his elite tackle-breaking ability, and he’s a solid pass-catcher as well. Herbert filled in last season when Montgomery was injured and maintained the necessary level of performance with no discernible drop-off in his absence. In all honesty, though there won’t be much choice other than to run the ball with Darnell Mooney and tight end Cole Kmet likely to be the best receivers in the lineup this year. For what Chicago lacks in top-tier talent in the offensive line, maybe they can make up for it on defence. 

Eberflus’ Indianapolis defenses finished in the top 10 in forcing turnovers in each of his four seasons as coordinator, and he has emphasized the importance of turnovers from Day one. But he and defensive coordinator Alan Williams will be working with a watered-down version of the group that was a Bears strength in recent years. Despite that, the defensive line is where the Bears will be at their strongest with tackling machine Roquan Smith at the heart of the action. He has the athleticism to play coverage and the instincts and toughness to shut down the run but Smith’s supporting cast is far from settled and will need to up their game from last year.

A fleeting glance will tell you that Poles doesn’t see this rebuilding process as a quick one, so it would be wishful thinking to expect the Bears to contend in 2022, in fact, it’s more than likely going to be another losing season for them. This team has plenty of question marks. A new general manager and new head coach make everything more exciting and interesting but no one knows for sure how this group will do. Based on their spending and the names on the back of the uniforms, the Bears will likely struggle in 2022. Having said all that there is still hope for 2023. Justin Fields must prove himself as a dominant, franchise quarterback for years to come. The defense should be even better than it was in 2021 and there are enough solid new faces in very key roles. This Chicago Bears team is unlikely to surprise anyone this year but they can set themselves up for the future and a good crack at it in 2023.

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