This is CHGO’s Chicago Bears 2022 player preview series. Learn more about each player and what to expect from them this year.
Tajae Sharpe is entering his sixth season in the NFL and his first with the Chicago Bears.
After being drafted by the Tennessee Titans in the fifth round of the 2016 draft, Sharpe played three seasons there and found moderate success with 92 catches, 1167 yards, and eight touchdowns.
In 2020, he signed with Minnesota in free agency where he failed to make any impact. Sharpe was rarely active for the Vikings and finished his single season there with zero catches on three targets.
Sharpe was able to recapture some success last season in Atlanta. He didn’t post career numbers, but the wideout did carve out a serviceable role in the Falcons’ offense.
Advanced Stat to Know: Sharpe’s yards per route run (Y/RR) of 2.9 last season was the ninth-lowest in the league among receivers who caught at least 10 passes. (PFF)
Best Game of 2021
Sharpe’s best game came Week 8 against the Carolina Panthers when he caught a season-high five catches for 58 yards. He provided the Falcons a presence in the intermediate passing game as his average depth of target was 13.8 yards downfield with his longest catch coming in at 17 yards.
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Can Tajae Sharpe make the team and find success in Chicago?
There’s a real opportunity for Sharpe here as the Bears desperately need to find playmakers for second-year quarterback Justin Fields. Outside of Darnell Mooney, Byron Pringle and perhaps rookie Velus Jones Jr., there are a couple of roster spots at wideout up for grabs.
Sharpe needs to prove to his coaches that he can produce as he did in Tennessee. He’s never been a featured piece of an NFL offense, averaging less than two receptions per game. Instead, Sharpe has found his success as a role player that doesn’t see a lot of looks.
He had 83 targets his rookie season, but only averaged 40 targets per season since (excluding his season in Minnesota).
Sharpe has talent the Bears can tap into.
As a crafty route runner, Sharpe can create separation with sudden double moves at the line of scrimmage. He has the speed to run past defenders. Plus, Sharpe can be an effective red-zone threat. In his final season in Tennessee, he was the team’s second-best receiver inside the 20 behind A.J. Brown, catching 80 percent of his targets and hauling in three touchdowns.
After not finding the end zone in two seasons, Sharpe must be itching to find pay dirt once again.
General manager Ryan Poles said at the combine that he wants players in free agency that have a chip on their shoulder and that have fought through adversity. After a lackluster season in Minnesota in 2021, the fact that Sharpe was able to bounce back last year in Atlanta demonstrates that Sharpe is capable of overcoming obstacles.
Sharpe also has versatility as he’s able to play outside or in the slot. The Bears are placing an emphasis on receivers being able to line up anywhere, and Sharpe fits that mold.
Choosing to sign with the Bears, Sharpe must see the very real opportunity in front of him to be an impact player like he once was.
First things first, he must make the team. That begins by making a strong impression in training camp and the preseason.
Sharpe must prove he can produce on offense in order to make the team as he provides no special teams value (nine career special teams snaps).
He will have every chance to make his case come late July and August. There’s no reason why he cannot beat out Dazz Newsome for a roster spot. His role could grow as large as he can handle, but it’s best to keep modest expectations heading into the season.
Prediction: Makes the team as WR4/5 (alongside Dante Pettis).
Stats: 25 Catches, 280 Yards, 2 Touchdowns.