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This is the part of the offseason that tends to go quickly. Bears rookie minicamp is in the books. OTAs are next. That’s where we launch this week’s Bears Things column:
Brief look at all 3 phases
The Bears’ offseason roster is now full with 90 players, but that doesn’t mean they are done adding and subtracting. Next week, they’ll be able to get back on the practice field for OTAs and we’ll continue to get small glimpses at how the offense, defense and special teams are coming together under the new coaching staff.
With that in mind, here’s a look at how things stand for all three phases in early May:
I’ve been catching a little bit of heat for suggesting a little bit of optimism for a unit that doesn’t look all that exciting right now. But I’m really just arguing the Bears offense is capable of taking a step in the right direction in 2022. That’s really not far fetched if you consider just three simple things:
- Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy is able to run a functional unit (i.e. get in and out of the huddle, have 11 players on the same page, and limit penalties/unnecessary timeouts). That shouldn’t be asking for too much at the NFL level.
- The Bears improve in the red zone.
- Justin Fields gets better.
Would having a better offensive line and more wide receivers help accomplish all of this? Sure. But don’t underestimate coaching in the NFL. We know it wasn’t good last year. And while Getsy is still unproven as an offensive coordinator, it’s not crazy to think he and Fields can produce a more efficient offense this year, even if it isn’t an explosive offense.
And don’t sleep on the running game. The Bears have a legitimately good group of running backs.
“We emphasize 11 as one on every single play,” Getsy said. “It doesn’t matter if we’re in the run game, pass pro, or we’re throwing the rock. It’s 11 as one. It takes all 11 and for a young quarterback implementing that around him, that’s huge. So if you can run the ball, that helps you in your play-pass game. The hardest part of this game is dropping back to pass. Plain and simple, that’s the hardest thing to do in this league, so if you don’t have to do that as often, you’ve got a chance.”
The downside of using two second-round picks on the secondary is that Fields receives less help. The upside is that the biggest question mark on the defense — and one of the biggest questions on the entire team — was addressed with two likely plug-and-play starters. With cornerback Kyler Gordon and safety Jaquan Brisker in the mix, the entire complexion of the defense changed.
That being said, the slot cornerback and three-technique positions are very important in this defense and those two spots don’t feel solidified right now. Justin Jones and Tavon Young both need to prove they can stay healthy before the Bears can feel comfortable at those positions. I still wonder if the door is completely closed on Larry Ogunjobi still joining this team. And if a young player like Thomas Graham Jr. can rise up and seize the nickel spot, it would be a huge boost for the defense.
If a team makes 11 selections in the NFL Draft, chances are the special teams coordinator is going to be happy.
“Some drafts fall where you get some guys like (we did) and then there will also be some surprises with some guys you didn’t know. So that’s the exciting part about it,” Bears special teams coordinator Richard Hightower said.
The Bears came out of the draft with two returners (Velus Jones Jr and Trestan Ebner), a player capable of playing on four phases (Dominique Robinson) and a punter (Trenton Gill). That’s not a bad haul.
The big NFL schedule reveal is coming Thursday night and while we already know the Bears’ opponents, the order and times of the games obviously matter and can have an impact on wins and losses. Here are a few key questions to consider:
- How many primetime games will the Bears have?
No, the Bears do not appear to be a playoff contender. Yes, the Bears still rate well on television. It wouldn’t surprise me if they still have 3-4 primetime games, especially in the early months of the season.
2. Will the Bears play on Thanksgiving again?
The Bears have played the Lions on Thanksgiving in three of the last four years. They also travel to Dallas this year, which means that could be a Thanksgiving option too. It could also mean they play back-to-back Thursday games against those teams, which happened in 2014 and 2019 (although both of those games against the Cowboys were played in Chicago).
3. Will the Bears play back-to-back games in New Jersey?
They have road games against both the Giants and Jets this year and it’s not uncommon for the NFL to schedule those games in back-to-back weeks. That often happens for west coast teams that end up staying east in-between the games. The Bears probably wouldn’t need to do that, but in 2006, they actually played three straight road games against the Giants, Jets and Patriots. That’s theoretically possible again this year. The Bears also went to the Super Bowl that year, so … haha, just kidding.
4. How much will the NFL care about the 2021 quarterback class?
With the Patriots, Jets and 49ers all on the schedule, Fields could face Mac Jones, Zach Wilson and Trey Lance this season. Those four quarterbacks joined Trevor Lawrence as first-round picks in 2021. Maybe at least one of those games gets pegged for a primetime game?
- Even though the Bears didn’t use any high draft picks on offensive linemen, just seeing the five key rookies on the field last week (including UDFA Jean Delance) made a big difference. During last month’s voluntary minicamp — before the rookies were brought in — the lack of depth and competition on the offensive line was startling. The Bears at least have some fun battles to watch in camp now. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see a veteran guard added to the mix.
– With the Bears’ injury history with key draft picks, it was unsettling to see Gordon deal with cramps at rookie minicamp. If that’s all it was, then no big deal.
— Tom Brady isn’t done playing football, but when he is, he’ll join Fox as their lead analyst. I like it. Brady’s post-Patriots career has been very entertaining as he’s opened up in public life and become a great follow on social media. He’s pretty much good at everything, so why wouldn’t he be good on TV?
What you may have missed…
Make sure you check out all of our rookie minicamp coverage on AllCHGO.com.
What’s on deck…
A live Bears schedule show Thursday night at 7 p.m. CT on the CHGO YouTube channel. Don’t miss it!
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