LAKE FOREST – Who and what are these 2022 Chicago Bears?
I don’t play the predict-their-record game as soon as the schedule comes out.
I prefer to look only at talent on the roster and compare it to each of the other teams in the league.
It suddenly came to me standing on the practice field Wednesday and letting my mind wander back to the news of Teven Jenkins’ demotion to second string last week and the new Robert Quinn controversy that popped up Tuesday.
These Bears remind me most of an expansion team built around other teams’ expendable castoffs and average-at-best talent.
You’ll never hear Ryan Poles or Matt Eberflus say it publicly, but I can’t imagine how either might debate it in private.
I feel like I have to say this almost every day – both to be fair and to avoid the sewers of social media – but this is in no way an indictment of Poles, Eberflus or the organization.
They’ve decided to completely rebuild. That takes time and they deserve a chance to do it right.
This is simply an objective analysis of where they are right now and what kind of football we should expect to see this season.
Where players were drafted is not an airtight indication of the NFL players they’ll be, but it is a reasonable indicator of the level of talent on a roster.
Sadly one team the Bears aspire to mirror is the hated and perennial contending Green Bay Packers.
The Packers first and second strings currently include 11 first-round picks and five second-round choices.
The Bears have three first-round picks – one of which of course is Quinn – and seven former second-round picks.
Those second rounders include Jenkins, Dante Pettis, who is 50-50 to make the team, and Mario Edwards Jr., who’s lived on the edge of the depth chart the last couple years.
We can only guess what happens with Quinn, but it seems pretty obvious he must be thinking that he can’t have more than one more season like 2021 left in his tank – maybe two in a perfect world – and he doesn’t want to waste them on a team that isn’t going to win.
From the team’s perspective, other than hoping to get fair value for him, they know he’s not going to be part of the future, too.
That leaves them with only two players to build around, Justin Fields [they hope] and Roquan Smith, who will be a free agent at the end of the year.
Maybe they can hang their hats on their three second-round defensive backs and Eddie Jackson?
With the Jenkins demotion, there was something in Eberflus’ explanation I missed the first time around, as he made to point out other changes on the offensive line along with at wide receiver and on the defensive line.
Why those three units?
It’s because they are the three least talented groups on the roster and among the least talented groups at their positions in the league.
Beyond Darnell Mooney and possibly Velus Jones Jr. at wide receiver, maybe Cody Whitehair, Jenkins and Larry Borom on the offensive line – with the latter two a big maybe – and hopefully Trevis Gipson and Khyiris Tonga on the defensive line, how many others in those three units do you expect to be here when the team is ready to contend?
You have to admit the premise that Poles has established the foundation of his rebuild with this year’s Day 3 draft picks and bargain free agents is highly unlikely.
Right now Eberflus is just trying to find a way to keep his young QB from getting battered and beat down, and the back seven in his beloved ‘D’ from playing the entire season on it heels.
Don’t despair, there will be some joy this season in watching some of the kids arrive, the handful of games they should win and an occasional upset.
But the best thing about this year’s Bears probably will be the ocean of cap space it will produce and the top five draft pick it’s likely to yield for next spring when the Bears hope the real talent starts to arrive.