If I were to ask who is the most important player on the Chicago Bears today and a single respondent answered anyone but Justin Fields I would be stunned and forced to question their knowledge, football smarts and perhaps even sanity.
I can’t imagine one of you interested in having a fun but serious debate about this will disagree about Fields.
Beyond the “Hunky” QB though – “Punky” is already taken and Fields is anything but that – which players matter the most?
Remember the organization has already made clear winning would be nice, but this year is being dedicated to rebuilding, starting with finding a core of young players who might eventually form the foundation of a legitimate championship contending team.
With that in mind here are my top 5 or so.
1. ROQUAN SMITH: Beyond being the best player on the team today, Smith just turned 25 in April, is already a two-time 2nd team All Pro, will most likely play the WILL Linebacker, one of the two most important positions in Matt Eberflus’ defense and will be in a contract year.
It is a near certainty a significant part of Ryan Poles’ cap clearing extravaganza for next season is spurred largely in the knowledge he will have to make Smith one of the five or six highest paid defenders in the game to keep him, and there’s every reason to believe he can be the face and focal point of the Bears next great defense.
2. DAVID MONTGOMERY: Even in this era of devalued running backs there should be no debate that Montgomery is the best offensive player on the team right now and he won’t turn 25 until next Tuesday.
He has already displayed Pro Bowl-level talent and with the combination of his running, receiving and low key, lead by example skills it’s as if he was built in a lab to be featured in Luke Getsy’s new offense while becoming Fields’ best asset.
He brings the same skills as Aaron Jones who has produced 2,987 yards rushing and 1,220 more receiving as Aaron Rodgers second favorite target to only Davante Adams over the last 3 seasons in the offense Getsy will model from Green Bay.
3. LARRY BOROM: OK, let the real debate start here!
I know this is putting a lot on a second-year fifth-round pick playing a position nobody even projected him at coming out of Mizzou. But a franchise QB without a high quality left tackle is a guy unable to reach his full potential and from where I sit Borom is the only player on the roster with that kind of ceiling at that position, not to mention how critical his run blocking skills will be to Getsy’s run first, play in space offense.
Teven Jenkins may have an even higher ceiling on the right side but I just can’t see him on the left, and if Borom emerges this year it will eliminate any need to consider using a likely top 10 pick in next year’s Draft at the position and possibly accelerate the rebuild by a full season.
4. JUSTIN JONES: If the WILL ‘backer isn’t the most important position in Eberflus’ “D” the three-technique is, that’s why Jones is here and if he can’t be a disrupter and at least occasional big play guy the defense is likely to struggle.
Right now because of the way the Tampa 2 is played he will be the only guy besides Robert Quinn likely to command extra attention up front – maybe Trevis Gipson in sub packages - and if he doesn’t teams will use as many blockers as necessary to take away Quinn.
5. Tie – Kyler Gordon, Jaquan Brisker and Velus Jones Jr.: They are the heart and soul of Ryan Poles’ first draft, all three are near certain rookie plug and play starters and if they haven’t shown at least quality starter traits and ceilings by the end of this season it will set the rebuild back at least a year or more and call into play Poles’ chops in the Draft and ability to make this rebuild work.
Those are my guys. I’d love to see/hear yours.