Bears

Hub Arkush: What have we learned about Bears this offseason?

Chicago Bears head coach Matt Eberflus watches during an offseason practice May 17, 2022 at Halas Hall in Lake Forest.

So what have we learned about these new Chicago Bears with only three days of minicamp left this offseason before everyone takes off for their six-week summer vacation before reporting to training camp?

The biggest rookie mistakes to date have come from the general manager and head coach.

GM Ryan Poles’ first big organizational move after putting together his staff was to set about wiping the slate clean of expensive veterans to contend for the most cap space in the league by the end of the coming season and to refuse to sign any free agents that wouldn’t compete for bargain of the year, with one exception.

The only flyer Poles took all spring was on Larry Ogunjobi to the tune of $40-million plus because of the crucial nature of the 3-technique position in head coach Matt Eberflus’ defense and the lack of any strong candidates already on the roster.

Unfortunately, in the few days before announcing the Ogunjobi signing and the player eventually failing his physical, other 3-techniques signed elsewhere.

Whether Justin Jones, who eventually got the biggest free agent contract Poles gave out, was his second choice – or possibly third, fourth or fifth – we’ll never really know.

In fairness, there was no way Poles could have given Ogunjobi a physical any earlier in the process.

But did Poles and his staff do all the homework they could have on Ogunjobi’s health? Or did an exciting, bright, shiny object distract them?

In no way should this be viewed as a criticism of Jones, nor does it suggest he won’t be a great Bear.

He could become the next Akiem Hicks, who by the way got less guaranteed money from the Bucs than Jones got from the Bears.

Nor is it an indictment of Poles, who may not have had any tools available to allow him to act differently.

But it does go in the books as a rookie mistake he hopefully will learn from.

For Eberflus, it is costly at some level when you only get nine days for Organized Team Activities and you are penalized one for breaking the rules.

The good news, however, is it doesn’t appear he was in over his head at all or doesn’t know what he’s doing. It is highly unlikely the penalty will cost his team a single win this season or even a successful play.

The rule the team broke is miles beyond ambiguous and the experience should make him that much better informed and more cautious going forward.

Beyond that, we really haven’t learned much other than it is clear to everyone but the contrarians, who refuse to agree on anything, that Poles and Eberflus are in fact all-in on Justin Fields, at least for the coming season.

We do know now that Fields, David Montgomery, Darnell Mooney, Cole Kmet, Cody Whitehair, Lucas Patrick, Roquan Smith and Eddie Jackson probably are the only guys on the team guaranteed their starting spots, and Robert Quinn, of course, unless he’s traded between now and September.

And that sets up the most intriguing aspect of the mandatory minicamp and last three practices that begin Tuesday.

A number of players we assumed were likely starters – or vice versa likely weren’t – will be battling to end Thursday’s practice running with the first string.

Up until now Eberflus has insisted we not read too much into guys being elevated and demoted as he’s experimented with “different combinations” to get the best 22 in his starting lineup.

Fair enough.

But from here, the guys that go to training camp with the first string will have those jobs to lose, and guys running with the second or third string will need the guy in front of them to disappoint or get hurt for them to get a shot at taking those jobs away.

Who will be the most intriguing guys to watch once we get to training camp?

Teven Jenkins, Dakota Dozier, Byron Pringle, Nicholas Morrow, Tavon Young and rookies Kyler Gordon, Jaquan Brisker and Velus Jones Jr. all likely are to begin camp as starters, but somehow it just feels unlikely all will still have those jobs when we reach Week 1.

There still is so much more to learn.

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush is the Senior Bears Analyst for Shaw Local News Network and ShawLocal.com.