It’s been a long offseason for me. The last time I wrote something about the Bears was in May, recapping the team’s draft class. A lot has happened since then and I have certainly had thoughts about the makeup of this team. I just haven’t put pen to paper — or fingers to keypad, as it were.
The preseason is in the books and the Bears have emerged unscathed, for the most part. The roster has been shaped and we are now about a week out from our first official look at general manager Ryan Poles’ Bears under the guidance of head coach Matt Eberflus.
I’m not much of a prognosticator and nobody truly knows what we can expect from this year’s team. But based on what we’ve seen and heard, here are 10 things “I think” I think about the 2022 Chicago Bears.
1. I think … this Bears team will win 5-7 games and have Pick 8-12 in next year’s draft.
I’ve got some bad news for Bears fans who were hoping for a complete “blowup” of this team and a tank for one of the top picks in next year’s draft: I don’t see that coming. I think that Justin Fields is too talented and this Bears defense still has too many good pieces for a complete and utter collapse. I don’t see them competing for a playoff spot, but barring injury devastation, this team will win more games than expected and have a draft pick in the 8-12 range in next April’s draft.
2. I think … most games will be winnable in the fourth quarter.
As a continuation of the previous item, I don’t see a lot of blowouts for this Bears team. They might not win a lot of games, but I think they will be competitive enough to keep you on the edge of your seat into most fourth quarters. I think a combination of Fields’ playmaking ability plus an emphasis on the ground game, paired with a young, playmaking defense, will keep the clock moving and the score close.
3. I think … Justin Fields is going to be on the move a lot this season.
Whether by design or necessity, I think Fields is going to be running for his life this season. If it’s by design, good. That means the coaching staff will see what Fields can do best and realize that he throws a nice dart while on the move. He’ll also be moving and extending plays with his legs. And on the flip side, even if a play from the pocket is called, there’s a good chance this offensive line will break down and force Fields to evacuate like his pants are on fire.
4. I think … there will be a 2-headed monster at running back.
There has been some speculation that David Montgomery doesn’t exactly fit this new offensive scheme. I think it’s a bunch of hogwash, personally. Montgomery will have another strong year, presuming health. But whether or not those rumors are true, I still think we’ll see a ton of Khalil Herbert this year and the Bears will have one of the better 1-2 punches in the league.
5. I think … Darnell Mooney will have flashes, but will struggle as the full-time WR1.
I like Mooney a lot and I really want to buy into him as a legitimate No. 1 NFL receiver. And there is plenty to like about his game. He’s fast, elusive, can make plays with the ball after the catch and he can even go up and get it in traffic. But he also has a slight frame and will be heavily game-planned for by opposing defenses. There’s a good chance he gets squashed by a head-hunter on defense.
6. I think … Cole Kmet will show what he could have been sans Jimmy Graham — which is to say: really good.
Cole Kmet is a beast. Period, end of statement. Let’s move on to the next one. No, seriously, Kmet hasn’t been flawless in his first two years in the league, but he also has shown incredible flashes and has been held back behind Jimmy Graham. But now that Grandpa Jimmy has gotten a pair of white shoes and his AARP card and has made way for the younger Kmet, I think the former Golden Domer is going to shine. He could possibly be Fields’ No. 2 target and potentially a focus in the red zone — which would be a nice change for him.
7. I think … Velus Jones could get a heckuva lot of touches.
“He’s sooo old!” Yeah, boo-hoo, Bears fans. Everyone likes to make jokes about Jones’ age, and other Bears fans were ready to crucify general manager Ryan Poles immediately after the selection, but I couldn’t give a frog’s fat backside how old he is. He’s fast and versatile and will prove to be a valuable playmaker to this Bears offense. I think offensive coordinator Luke Getsy will scheme a lot of touches for him, whether it be bubble screens, end arounds, or straight-up carries out of the backfield. This man can do good things with the ball in his hands and he already has a good grasp on how this game is supposed to be played — yes, a byproduct of being advanced in years.
8. I think … Trevis Gipson will rise to the occasion.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not calling Gipson the next Khalil Mack. But the trade of Mack freed up more playing time for Gipson, and I expect big things from him. With Robert Quinn drawing attention on the other side and with the defense rotating players in and out of the lineup, I think Gipson is going to be fresh and is going to flash some serious talent for getting to the quarterback. He had seven sacks and four forced fumbles last year and I think he can improve upon those numbers.
9. I think … Roquan Smith will be a Pro Bowler.
In four seasons with the team, Smith has been an absolute beast. He’s recorded four-straight 100-plus tackle seasons. He had a 17-tackle game last year on his way to 163 for the season. And he has been awarded two straight second-team AP All-Pro selections. It’s high time this guy has gotten a Pro Bowl selection. With Roquan’s desire to earn a big pay day after this season, and with his name being all over the media due to his brief “hold in” at the outset of training camp, I think he’ll finally get the recognition he deserves and the votes to go with it.
10. I think … the secondary will turn some heads and gain some recognition.
I like Justin Fields a lot. I think he has incredible talent and quite possibly could be the long-awaited solution to the problem at quarterback. There is nothing more important than his development at quarterback. But shortly after him, the position I’m most looking forward to watching this season is that Bears secondary. Wowza, do the Bears have some young talent there. Jaylon Johnson is a potential Pro Bowler in waiting, and certainly one of the better young cover corners in the league. Veteran Eddie Jackson has not been as explosive as he once was, but is still a good player. Rookies Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker could wind up being absolute steals in the second round of this year’s draft. These four men will be flying around and making plays on the ball, presuming the front seven gets adequate pressure on the quarterback. There is an awful lot to be excited about in this secondary, both this year and beyond.