Khyiris Tonga exceeded expectations as a seventh-round rookie nose tackle for the Chicago Bears last season.
He was able to do so by making the most of his opportunities. Tonga started to make a name for himself during last year’s offseason program when former Bear Eddie Goldman didn’t attend. He also had himself a sound training camp and preseason, which propelled him to make the 53-man roster.
The 250th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft appeared in 15 games in his debut season and was a solid depth piece in the defensive line rotation.
Advanced Stat to Know: Tonga had the best average depth of tackle (AVDT) on the Bears’ defensive line last season of those that played at least 130 snaps with an AVDT of 2.3. (PFF)
Best Game of 2021
Tonga’s best game came in Week 3 against the Cleveland Browns where he played a season-high 29 snaps. He finished the game with a career-best four tackles, all of which constituted as stops for the Browns’ offense.
According to PFF, a “stop” is: “A play where a defender makes a tackle, and the location of the tackle means the play is a successful one for the defense.”
Can Khyiris Tonga adapt and become a fit in the Chicago Bears’ new defense?
Tonga will be asked to play a different role compared to last season. A nose tackle’s responsibilities are different in the team’s new 4-3 scheme compared to the old 3-4 defense.
Instead of being asked to eat double teams and allow the linebackers behind him to flow to the football, Tonga will be expected to shed blocks and make more plays himself.
Simply put, Tonga will have more responsibilities and be asked to make plays in the backfield.
That will be new for the second-year defensive tackle that only had one QB pressure and one tackle for loss his entire rookie season.
He played the run well last season, but he will need to become more of a pass-rushing threat too in order to take the next step.
Can Tonga evolve his game to align with the Bears’ new scheme and remain a part of the rotation upfront?
That’s what Coach Eberflus and his staff are waiting to find out.
Predicting what type of season Tonga will have in 2022 is a challenge. It’s difficult to fully assess what his role will be and how well he plays in the new defense until the pads come on in late July.
We can, however, look at what he was able to accomplish in his first season despite being drafted 12 slots away from Mr. Irrelevant.
There are reasons to believe Tonga could increase his production in 2022. There are also reasons to be hesitant and cautious when setting his expectations.
Let’s keep the bar relatively low, for now.
Prediction: 25 Total Tackles, 2 TFL, 1 Sack.
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