Camp approaches, which means it’s time for me to grade the roster. Like I’ve done the last few years, I’ll grade on a 1-10 scale, with 1 being the worst in the NFL, 10 being the best, and 5 being an average NFL unit. Let’s get right down to it.
Key Player: Justin Fields
Roster Depth: Trevor Siemian, Nathan Peterman
I should start here by noting that I’m grading based on past production and trying to minimize projecting what I personally think will happen in the future. Accordingly, Justin Fields was statistically one of the worst starting QBs in the NFL last year. That is common for rookie QBs. Underneath the really bad stats, there was actually quite a bit to like about Fields’ rookie season, so I’m excited to see how big of a sophomore leap he can make. Hopefully he will be viewed as at least an above-average starter by the end of 2022.
Trevor Siemian is a quality backup with plenty of experience, which helps the grade here a bit. Nathan Peterman has thrown 135 NFL passes, with less than 6x as many completions to his own team (71) as the opposing defense (12). I seriously hope I never have to watch him play a regular season snap for the Bears. I don’t understand why the Bears didn’t give that spot to an undrafted rookie, because we already know Peterman is terrible and doesn’t belong in the NFL.
Running Backs: 5
Key Players: David Montgomery, Khalil Herbert
Roster Depth: Triston Ebner, Darrynton Evans, Khari Blasingame, De’Montre Tuggle
David Montgomery has put up solid volume numbers through three NFL seasons, but a closer look at his performance reveals he’s been one of the least efficient high-usage running backs in the NFL. Khalil Herbert had a quality rookie season last year, and the Bears also brought in Darrynton Evans and Triston Ebner as guys who possess a different skill set than Chicago’s two lead backs. Fullback Khari Blasingame was also signed, and the Bears say they want to use him as more than just a blocker. It’s hard to give this group too high of a rating due to the lack of a premier player, but quality depth makes it a solid room overall. I fully expect we’ll see much more of a rotation this year than the last few seasons, which should be good for the offense overall.
Wide Receivers: 2
Key Players: Darnell Mooney, Velus Jones Jr., Byron Pringle
Roster Depth: Equanimeous St. Brown, N’Keal Harry, Dante Pettis, Tajae Sharp, David Moore, Dazz Newsome, Isaiah Coulter, Chris Finke, Kevin Shaa, Nsimba Webster
Mooney is a solid starting WR, though he has yet to prove he can be a top-end threat. He’s the kind of guy who can be a number one if you surround him with a strong WR room or is a number two you feel really good about. Unfortunately, he’s the former in Chicago, and the WR room around him is…less than stellar.
Byron Pringle was the 4th target in Kansas City last year, the first time he was ever really involved in an NFL offense, but he will be asked to take on an expanded role in Chicago. Velus Jones Jr. was a 3rd round draft pick, but history is not kind to WRs who took until they were 24 to do anything of note in college. Everybody else of note here is either a has been (Tajae Sharpe, Dante Pettis, David Moore) or never was (Equanimeous St. Brown, N’Keal Harry). This group is bad, but the Bears are hoping they’ll be able to squeeze enough production out of them in 2022.
Tight Ends: 5
Key Players: Cole Kmet, Ryan Griffin, James O’Shaughnessy
Roster Depth: Chase Allen, Rysen John, Jake Tonges
Cole Kmet put up solid volume stats last year, but a closer look at his production reveals that he was far from deserving of that kind of workload. He’ll need to make big strides to be counted on as even an average pass catching TE. The Bears brought in Ryan Griffin and James O’Shaughnessy this offseason, two experienced veterans who are pretty similar to Kmet in that they offer more as run blockers than pass catchers. Everybody else is a roster flyer. This group has really solid depth and should be an asset in the running game, which buoys their grade, but there are real concerns about how threatening they can be through the air, especially when you consider them alongside a poor WR group.
Offensive Tackles: 1
Key Players: Larry Borom, Braxton Jones, Teven Jenkins
Roster Depth: Julién Davenport, Lachavious Simmons, Jean Delance, Shon Coleman
I don’t know how to sugarcoat this: the Bears’ situation at offensive tackle might be the worst single position group on an NFL roster right now. The three contenders for starting jobs are Braxton Jones (5th round rookie from Southern Utah), Larry Borom (5th round pick from 2021 who was one of the worst OTs in the NFL last year), and Teven Jenkins (2nd round pick in 2021 who missed almost his entire rookie season with a back injury and got demoted to 2nd string in offseason workouts). The only other player worth mentioning here is Julién Davenport, a veteran with 32 starts at OT who is on his 4th team in 5 years, meaning he’s not good enough to stick anywhere. You can survive with one question mark at tackle, but right now the Bears have two giant ones, which is a major concern. They need a ton to go right just to have a run of the mill below average OT group in 2022.
Interior Offensive Line: 2
Key Players: Cody Whitehair, Lucas Patrick, Sam Mustipher, Zachary Thomas
Roster Depth: Doug Kramer, Ja’Tyre Carter, Willie Wright, Dieter Eiselen
While not as bad as Chicago’s tackle situation, the interior of the offensive line isn’t exactly a strength. At least the Bears somewhat know what they have here in two of the three spots, as veterans Cody Whitehair and Lucas Patrick have left guard and center locked down. Those are the clear strong points of the offensive line, which is not good when you consider they are both average (at best) players. The starting right guard is currently slated to be Sam Mustipher, who was possibly the worst starting center in the NFL last year. If he doesn’t win the starting job, 6th round pick Zachary Thomas likely will. There’s also not much depth to note behind any of those guys, as the next two guys on the depth chart are late round rookies (6th rounder Doug Kramer and 7th rounder Ja’Tyre Carter). The Bears will be ok-ish here if everybody stays healthy, but even one injury could turn this into a situation almost as bad as the OTs.
Overall Offense: 3
On paper, this looks like one of the worst offenses in the NFL, as the Bears have several glaring holes, few proven playmakers, and a whole lot of questions. All of that is worrisome before you get to a new offensive coordinator who has never called plays in the NFL. Add it all up, and it’s not hard to envision things going poorly for Chicago’s offense this year.
Of course, the majority of snaps are expected to go to players on their rookie contracts, so things could look a lot better if some of them step up in unexpected ways. And that’s really what this season is all about. When you look at the utter lack of investment of premium resources in this offense in both free agency and the draft, the Bears clearly didn’t approach this offseason with the goal of building the best possible offense for 2022. Instead, they have a lot of young players – most of whom are very lightly regarded – fighting to prove they belong. 2022 is about finding out who will be part of the team going forward and who needs to be replaced next offseason.
That includes Justin Fields, who this current management group has no ties to. The Bears have said all the right things about Fields publicly, but if they were truly committed to him as their long-term QB, they wouldn’t be putting him behind what is arguably the NFL’s worst offensive line and making him throw to what looks like one of the league’s worst collections of pass catchers. The Bears are putting a lot of pressure on Fields this year, as he’s going to have to be really, really good to keep Chicago’s offense from being really bad. If he can manage that, then the future looks quite bright. If he can’t, then the Bears will have a very high draft pick in 2023, and might be sorely tempted to draft Fields’ replacement.