Bears Down, Nerd Up: A preseason stat breakdown for the Chicago Bears

After about eight months, the Bears finally will return to the football field for a meaningful game Sunday. They begin the season by hosting the San Francisco 49ers at Soldier Field.

With the return of the season comes the return of “Bear Down, Nerd Up,” Shaw Local’s weekly Bears stats breakdown. Every week, we’ll take a deep dive into the numbers that made each Bears game unique. Here are some facts and figures to know heading into the season.

The Bears are 1-7 in their past eight season openers. The only win during that stretch came in a Mitch Trubisky-led comeback against the Detroit Lions in 2020.

Sunday will be the first game under new head coach Matt Eberflus. Former Bears coaches Matt Nagy, John Fox and Lovie Smith all lost their debuts as Bears head coach, while Marc Trestman won his.

Bears’ roster by the numbers: With the addition of receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette via waivers late last week, the Bears now have 53 players on the roster. General manager Ryan Poles has drastically overhauled the team, and he has only been in charge for half a calendar year.

Of the 53 players on the roster, only 19 remain from the previous regime. Of those 19 players, 14 were drafted by former GM Ryan Pace. One signed as an undrafted rookie and four signed as free agents. Robert Quinn, Cairo Santos, Patrick Scales and Angelo Blackson are the only free-agent signings remaining.

The Bears have a lot of young players. There’s 15 rookies on the roster, plus seven players who are in their second NFL season.

Poles traded Khalil Mack largely because he wanted to move Mack’s contract off the books next year. The Bears have $6.1 million in unused salary cap space in 2022 and are spending $62 million in dead money (paying players who no longer play for them, such as Mack). That cap space ranks as the 11th most among all 32 teams. Any unused space can roll over into next season. Looking ahead to next year, Poles has more than $107 million of available cap space with which to play. That is almost double the next closest team (the Giants have $61 million).

Rookie revolution: The Bears have a staggering 15 rookies on the 53-man roster. If that sounds like a lot, that’s because it is. Twenty-eight percent of the roster never has played a snap in an NFL regular-season game. The Bears have one additional rookie on injured reserve, plus three on the practice squad.

Those 15 rookies on the active roster are the most of any NFL team. According to NFL rosters as of Monday afternoon, NFL teams kept an average of 8.3 rookies on the 53-man roster. The Bears have three more rookies on the active roster than any other team.

The New Orleans Saints and the Cincinnati Bengals have only four rookies on their active rosters, least among all 32 teams. The team with the second-most rookies might come as a bit of a surprise – the Green Bay Packers. The Packers have 12 rookies. The fellow NFC North division rival Minnesota Vikings are tied for third with 11 rookies (tied with the Dallas Cowboys and Tennessee Titans).

Youth movement: Every year just before the season begins, the Philly Voice tabulates every NFL team’s average age. Not surprisingly, given the number of rookies, the Bears are significantly younger than a year ago.

The team shaved a year off its average age. The average Bears player is 26 years old, which ranks 23rd among 32 NFL teams. A year ago, the Bears’ average age was 27, and they were dead last among 32 teams.

With an average age of 25, the Browns are the youngest team in the NFL. At 27.1 years old, the Buccaneers have the oldest average age.

What’s ahead: Based on projected win totals from Vegas oddsmakers, the Bears have the fourth-easiest schedule in 2022, according to Sharp Football Analysis. Only the Giants, Eagles and Colts have easier paths ahead.

Still, an easy schedule doesn’t mean this will be easy for the Bears. They are the betting favorite in only two games this season.

Week 1 and Week 2, against the 49ers and Packers, respectively, are two of the tougher games on the schedule. Even if the Bears start out 0-2, they have winnable contests against the Texans, Giants, Vikings and Commanders during the following four weeks.

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for the Shaw Local News Network. He has covered the Bears since 2020. Prior to writing about the Bears, he covered high school sports for the Northwest Herald and contributed to Friday Night Drive. Sean joined Shaw Media in 2016.