Bears Camp | Optimism and Expectations
NFL Training Camp! The smell of fresh cut grass and football pads! Excited and overly optimistic fans pour into their respective teams' camps to see glimpses of their teams. Anything from new draft picks to the most recent free agent signing... we all want to see what's going on with our favorite teams.
For Chicago Bears fans, including myself, we fill the stands at Halas Hall to see this Chicago Bears team that is being retooled... since Poles doesn't like to use the word rebuild, I will acquiesce to his request. As a Bears fan I can testify that we are not dumb. Unfortunately, each and every one of us have come into camp with a degree of uncertainty over the last 30+ years. Before I get the picky Bears fan coming at me, yes, obviously there have been some sprinkles of success in there BUT the Charter Franchise of the NFL has been REBUILDING since 1985 (only reference I'll have to it, I promise).
Another year, another chance for disappointment but real expectations... As a fan, here are mine for each position room heading into the 2nd week of camp:
This goes without saying, if we see anyone OTHER than Fields play, it's a big "oh sh*t". In order for the Bears to have any marginal success they need to see the Fields everyone saw in the second half of week 9 in 2021 against the Steelers. Fields makes the leap this year that fans want to see and I'm banking on the data from his last five starts, according to Pro Football Focus's grade elevating to a 76.9, which was a top 10 qualifier.
Running Back Room
According to a survey done by The Athletic, fans voted the running back position fans are most confident in. Montgomery has been pretty damn consistent since he was drafted 73rd overall in 2019. Heading into 2022, his contract year, it is anticipated he gets back to his PFF grade from 2020 of 80.2. While last year Montgomery did miss 4 games, he still managed to rush for 849 yards. Montgomery surpasses that and shows why he is the most consistent offensive weapon Chicago has.
Not much to say here other than it is GREAT to see a legitimate fullback to help with the running game. Blasingame's success will be based upon blitz pickup and production of the running back position... just plow the A Gap and meet the middle linebacker baby!
Wide Receiver Room
Byron Pringle *N'Keal Harry
Velus Jones Jr. *Equanimeous St. Brown *Dazz Newsome
First thing that comes to mind... this group reminds me of the receiving core that was given to Jay Cutler which claimed that Hester was a number 1. Nother against Mooney because he, in my mind, is a better receiver than Hester but quaility depth are going to haunt Bears fans (and Fields) all year. Mooney goes over 1000 yards again because... who else will?
Tight End Room
The Knight in shining armor to help Fields this year, (and my TE of choice for fantasy football) Cole Kmet. This is the year of Kmet. With 93 targets last year and 60 receptions, Kmet will be the guy to bolster Fields' development.
Offensive Line Room
Sam Mustifer *Lucas Patrick (injured) | Doug Kramer
Many national analysts labeled this as potentially the weakest group on the Bears before the additions of Riley Reiff and Michael Schofield. To give context to the Reiff signing, in 2021 according to PFF, he played on 711 snaps allowing 4 sacks and amassing only 1 penalty. Schofield, on the other hand, according to PFF played on 907 snaps allowing 2 sacks and amassing 3 penalties. Now, I am no expert but just adding these two beasts will significantly improve the play from this offensive line. I believe this group will surprise a lot of people not to the point of top 10 but enough to let Fields throw for 3800 yards and Montgomery to run for over 1000.
Defensive Line Room
Travis Gibson *Al-Quadin Muhammed
Robert Quinn *Mario Edwards
After trading Khalil Mack to the Chargers most would think that there is no way this group will be better without him. I agree! They're not but the one astonishing stat is that Quinn was able to break Richard Dent's all-time sack record despite having Mack in only 6 games last year. Quinn would be widely appreciated more if the Bears won more games. The Bears d-line had 33.5 sacks last year and I do expect a dip in this because of the loss of Hicks along with a new scheme. It will be interesting to see how only rushing 4 down linemen get pressure on the quarterback with the Cover-2 Scheme.
Roquan Smith *Joe Thomas
Nicholas Morrow *Caleb Johnson
Let me start this off by saying I will be tremendously disappointed in this front office if they do not reach a deal with Roquan Smith and decide to trade him. Smith falls under the category of "if a team is winning he would have more accolades". By him being apart of the new scheme and moving to the Will Linebacker, it will give him more opportunities for tackles and potential to rush the quarterback a lot more. With the signing of Nicholas Morrow, you have a smart veteran that knows the system and can do all the signal calling. Strong group only IF Smith resigns.
Eddie Jackson * Elijah Hicks
Kyler Gordon *Duke Shelley
With the emphasis on takeaways the Chicago Bears drafted 2 ballhawks in Jaquan Brisker and Kyler Gordon with their first 2 picks in the 2022 NFL Draft. Jaylon Johnson, while solid in coverage, has not produced turnovers at a rate of top cornerbacks in the NFL. Hopefully with a scheme shift that will change for Johnson and for Jackson who found himself around the ball often in 2018 but has declined significantly since. Success of this group will be based upon the front 7 and their ability to produce pressure on the quarterback... I know, I know... cheesy answer but true nonetheless especially in a Cover-2 based defense. The Bears only forced 4 interceptions last year... only 2 were by the secondary. This will change this year... it has to... right?
Losing Pat O'Donnell in the punt game could hurt but as long as Santos continues his consistency on field goals, I'm happy and being honest, will pay no attention to this.
Well ya'll, can't wait for the season and to drop my completely inaccurate prediction article!
Until next time!